Strict home stay orders will be kept until July 16, while Sydney schools will move to remote learning next week.
Residents of Australia’s largest city will spend at least another week in jail, authorities announced on Wednesday, after detecting dozens of new cases of coronavirus.
Sydney, home to one-fifth of Australia’s 25 million people, first went into lockdown on June 26 amid an outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Although strict home stay orders were due to end in the city on Friday, they will now remain in effect until July 16th.
“This Delta variety changes the game, it is extremely transmissible and more contagious than any other form of the virus we have seen,” New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told the Sydney press.
“The reason we have extended the blockade is because of a number of cases that are still infectious in the community,” he said, and “we don’t want to be in a position where we have to constantly move between blocking, not blocking, blocking, without blocking ”.
A total of 27 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday in NSW, up from 18 the day before. Of the new cases, 20 were isolated for all or part of the infectious period, while seven cases spent time in the community while they were infectious.
Berejiklian said an extension – which includes school closures – was “the best opportunity to make sure this is the only blockade we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated.”
So far only 9% of Australian adults have been fully vaccinated, raising fears that the Delta variant could spread rapidly without control.
Last week, almost half the population of Australia it closed, with cities on the east, west and north coasts tightening pandemic restrictions due to clusters. Some of these blockades were as short as three days.
Sydney and its environs are the only part of Australia that is still closed.
The city is battling its worst outbreak of the year to date, with infections exceeding 350 since the first case was detected three weeks ago in the Bondi Beach neighborhood after a limousine driver driving a foreign air crew give positive.
Berejiklian and health officials warned Sydney residents they expected more cases to increase in the next 24 hours and urged residents in three areas of the west of the city (Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool, all seeing an increase in cases) to avoid leaving your home and visiting indoor areas.
“Please stay home … Don’t visit your loved ones, try to get involved in digital media,” said Kerry Chant, NSW’s state health director. “Try to avoid any unnecessary contact with other additional homes and limit your movements to any indoor environment. So you only need one person to go shopping.”
Meanwhile, Sydney schools will move to remote learning starting next week, after ending the southern hemisphere winter holidays on Friday, to eliminate overcrowding as parents drop out and pick up children.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, recording less than 31,000 cases and 910 deaths in total.
The country has recorded a single death from COVID-19 since October: an 80-year-old man who died in April after being infected abroad and diagnosed in hotel quarantine.
But there are now 37 cases of COVID-19 in Sydney hospitals. Of these, seven are in intensive care, the youngest in their thirties.