The government’s pandemic response committee is holding an emergency meeting as more Delta variant cases appear.
Australia’s COVID-19 response committee will hold an emergency meeting on Monday when outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant will appear across the country, leading to a blockade in Sydney and a stronger restriction of movement elsewhere. affecting about 18 million people.
“I think we are entering a new phase of this pandemic, with the most contagious Delta strain,” Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Monday, adding that Australia was facing a “critical moment” in its fight against COVID-19.
The national security committee, chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will be briefed by the country’s chief medical officer later Monday, Frydenberg said.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city and home to one-fifth of Australia’s 25 million people, was closed for two weeks over the weekend.
Eighteen new local cases were reported in the state of New South Wales on Monday, compared to 30 a day earlier. Most cases were related to a cluster centered in the popular Bondi beach neighborhood.
Sydney’s latest outbreak began when a driver of an international flight crew tested positive for the Delta variant in mid-June.
“We need to be prepared for the numbers to bounce back and we need to be prepared for the numbers to rise considerably,” NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
“With this strain, we’re seeing almost 100% transmission in homes.”
Elsewhere, the northern town of Darwin is in a two-day closure that began on Sunday, after a gold mine worker was diagnosed with the Delta variant, while the state of Queensland on Monday reintroduced mandatory masks and limited home meetings in several areas, including the state capital, Brisbane, following a similar move by Western Australian officials to Perth. Restrictions remain on the state capital of Victoria, Melbourne, and the national capital, Canberra.
A health alert was issued for hundreds of passengers over the weekend after a cabin crew member from Virgin Australia who had worked on five different flights confirmed positive with the virus.
Previously, Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in combating the spread of coronavirus, reporting more than 30,450 cases and 910 deaths.
Blockades, difficult social distancing rules and quick follow-up of contacts have helped the country successfully suppress previous outbreaks, but the fast-moving Delta variant has alarmed health authorities.