Sydney Lockdown Extended by One Week as Delta Outbreak Spreads

A two-week lockdown of Sydney will be extended for at least another seven days as authorities race to stamp out an outbreak of the delta variant that’s grown to more than 350 cases since mid-June and has spread to an aged-care facility.

Current stay-at-home orders -- except for exercise, essential shopping and medical care -- will remain in place in Greater Sydney until midnight on July 16, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Wednesday. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Friday.

Sydney Lockdown Extended by One Week as Delta Outbreak Spreads

“This delta strain is a game changer,” Berejiklian said when announcing the extension. “What we want to do is give us our best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated. We know the vaccine is the key to our freedom.”

Covid-Hero Australia Now Vaccine Laggard as Lockdowns Bite

Sydney recorded 27 new cases in the community from the day before, with 13 of those in isolation during their infectious period. The infections include one resident and one staff member of an aged-care facility; Berejiklian said her government is considering whether to take “further actions” to restrict movements in areas of Sydney where the city’s new cases are most concentrated.

Sydney Lockdown Extended by One Week as Delta Outbreak Spreads

The lingering lockdown of some 6 million Australians during school holidays is a blow to the domestic tourism industry and yet again shows the limitations of the government’s strategy of trying to eliminate community transmission of the virus. While economies such as the U.K. and U.S. are preparing to open up, Australia’s international borders remain largely closed to non-residents and comparatively small clusters of the coronavirus make even domestic travel difficult as states and territories pull up the drawbridge.

The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix that was scheduled to take place in Melbourne in late November has been canceled “due to restrictions and logistical challenges” relating to the pandemic, organizers said in a statement Tuesday.

A sluggish vaccine rollout is being blamed for the ongoing disruption. The nation has administered 8.4 million doses, only enough to fully cover an estimated 16.5% of the population, according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker. That compares with the U.S. at 51.7% and the U.K. at 59.4%.

The program has been hampered by confused messaging over the health risks of the AstraZeneca Plc. shot and supply-chain hold-ups from contracted drug-makers. The government has announced a four-phase plan to move from its current “Covid-zero” strategy to fully re-opening borders and living with the virus, but has provided no timeline.

That’s putting Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faces elections next year, under pressure. Morrison’s personal approval rating has slipped from 57% to 51%, a Guardian Essential poll published Tuesday showed. A Newspoll published last week showed his conservative coalition had slipped 2 percentage points to trail the main opposition Labor party, 49% to 51%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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