Australia, on lockdown, reports slight drop in COVID-19 cases
SYDNEY -Australia’s two largest states reported slight news declines on Sunday COVID-19 infections, prompting authorities to say it could be days before strict lockdown measures show progress in containing the spread of the Delta variant.
The country’s most populous city, Sydney, and the entire state of Victoria – totaling nearly half of the country’s 25 million people – are on stay-at-home orders after an outbreak of the highly infectious viral strain started last month.
New South Wales (New South Wales), of which Sydney is the capital, reported 105 new cases the day before, up from 111 the day before, while Victoria registered 16 new cases, up from 19.
New South Wales also recorded one additional death from the virus, bringing the total to four since the start of the year and the national total to 914 since the start of the pandemic.
“By working together we will start to see these numbers increase and we are devoting all of our resources and efforts to making that happen,” said New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian at a televised press conference.
“We want to make sure that we allow families and businesses in particular to bounce back as soon as possible and that is why we are doing everything in the next two weeks.”
A day earlier, Berejiklian tightened restrictions on the city of five million people, including stopping all maintenance work on buildings and property and banning some 600,000 people from the suburbs most affected to leave their immediate neighborhood to work.
Authorities are particularly concerned about the number of people circulating in the community before being diagnosed, which stood at 27 on Sunday, which roughly matches the last few days. Berejiklian said it seemed unlikely the number would be near zero by a July 30 target to lift the restrictions.
She added that the number would likely start dropping in five days “because there is a mismatch in the data” and she would not rule out further changing the restrictions.
Neighboring Victoria, with 7 million people under a five-day lockdown due to end on Tuesday, said the 16 new cases were linked to known chains of transmission.
Australia has avoided the high number of infections and deaths of many other countries in the early stages of the pandemic due to swift border restrictions, stay-at-home orders and economic stimulus measures.
But a year and a half later, the federal government is under pressure over a slow rollout of the vaccine, blamed by some experts on changing regulatory advice for the AstraZeneca vaccine and limited supply of the drug Pfizer Inc.
Just over 10% of Australia’s 25 million people are fully vaccinated, a fraction of the rates in the United States and Britain.