Australia’s Capital Locking Down as Delta Ends Covid-Free Status
(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s capital Canberra will enter a snap seven-day lockdown on Thursday after detecting one Covid-19 case, as the delta outbreak that’s roiling Sydney spreads to regional areas of the nation.
Canberra and the surrounding Australian Capital Territory will start its lockdown from 5.p.m. Thursday, local health authorities said in an emailed statement. The national capital’s case was the first recorded there outside of the hotel-quarantine system in more than a year; it is currently unknown how the person was infected.
“This is by far the most serious public health risk the ACT has faced in the past 12 months,” the territory’s Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in the statement. “We have seen that a short and immediate lockdown limits the potential spread of the virus, and is the best path to avoiding longer and more damaging lockdowns.”
It will be Canberra’s first lockdown for more than a year, since the first wave of the pandemic. The inland city of about 500,000 people is some 170 miles from Sydney, which has been in lockdown for almost seven weeks; Melbourne is also currently enforcing stay-at-home orders.
New South Wales, Australia’s biggest state economy, recorded 345 new cases Thursday, the vast bulk in Sydney. Daily case numbers have generally been on a steady incline since the outbreak started in Australia’s largest city in mid-June.
Two more people in Sydney have died. Both were men in their 90s and had received at least one vaccine dose.
Three more local government areas of Sydney will face tighter social-distancing and movement restrictions, while the lockdown in the Hunter Valley region of the state -- including the city of Newcastle -- will be extended for at least another week, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday.
With the nation’s capital and two largest cities in lockdown, as well as an increasing number of regional areas, the delta variant of the coronavirus is placing increased pressure on Australia’s so-called “Covid Zero” strategy, which has relied on closed international borders and rigorous testing to eliminate community transmission of the virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is aiming to ramp up a tardy vaccine rollout in a bid to start reopening international borders next year, that have only been tightened over the course of the past year.
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