Sydney Lockdown Extended as Delta Spreads to Another City

Sydney extended its lockdown for a further two weeks as Australia’s most-populous city battles an outbreak of the delta strain of the coronavirus, with health authorities increasingly concerned after the outbreak crossed into Melbourne.

Stay-at-home orders for Sydney will remain until at least July 30, prolonging a lockdown that’s already kept it isolated from the rest of the nation for three weeks, New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Wednesday. The city recorded 97 new cases yesterday, including at least 24 who were infectious in the community despite being told to stay at home.

Sydney Lockdown Extended as Delta Spreads to Another City

“It always hurts to say this, but we need to extend the lockdown for at least another two weeks,” Berejiklian said. “We will assess the situation at the end of those two weeks and provide information beyond that.”

Sydney’s outbreak has now spread to Melbourne, the nation’s second-largest city which shuttered for two weeks in late-May to halt a spread of the delta strain and last year endured one of the world’s longest and strict lockdowns. Eight new infections were detected in Victoria state in the past 24 hours, up from two on Tuesday.

Authorities have asked more than 2,000 people who watched an Australian Rules football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground over the weekend to isolate and get tested. The Victoria government says the virus was again seeded in the state via removalists who shifted furniture from Sydney to the city while infected.

Sydney Lockdown Extended as Delta Spreads to Another City

“This is clearly a very rapidly moving situation,” the state’s Covid-19 Commander, Jeroen Weimar, told reporters in Melbourne. “We are very keen to make sure we get a very firm grip of this as soon as we possibly can.”

Australia’s tardy vaccine roll-out -- the second-slowest among the 38 OECD nations -- has made the country particularly vulnerable to the delta variant, which has increasingly leaked out of the quarantine system for overseas arrivals. While economies such as the U.K. and U.S. are opening up, Australia’s international borders remain largely closed, and comparatively small clusters of the coronavirus make even domestic travel difficult as states and territories pull up the drawbridge.

Sydney Lockdown Extended as Delta Spreads to Another City

Australia on Tuesday increased support to companies and workers affected by extended lockdowns, providing leeway for the state’s pro-business government to increase measures to curb the virus spread as authorities grow concerned people aren’t following lockdown rules. The latest surge, which has topped 864 cases, spread from an un-vaccinated chauffeur who was infected while transporting airline crew last month.

Sydney Lockdown Extended as Delta Spreads to Another City

Even still, the effects of locking down Sydney, which contributes about a third of Australia’s annual economic output, will be felt. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on Tuesday cut its growth forecast for Australia for the third quarter to 0.6%, from the 1% seen earlier, should the city be shuttered for a further three weeks.

Commonwealth Bank estimates each week of Sydney’s lockdown costs the Australian economy A$1 billion ($744 million), it said in a report Wednesday. The lockdown has significantly increased the level of economic uncertainty for the near term, but when restrictions are eased the economy should rebound swiftly, it said.

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