- Brisbane will enter three-day lockdown
- Sydney outbreak linked to Delta variant in almost 150 cases
- Australian Deputy Prime Minister fined for not wearing a mask
SYDNEY, June 29 (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported a slight increase in COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, as authorities tightened restrictions and pushed for vaccination to contain outbreaks of the highly infectious delta a variant.
Australia is fighting the Delta strain, first detected in India in five of its eight states and territories, since the first case was discovered in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, two weeks ago at a limousine driver who was transporting airline crew members abroad.
Concerns that the strain could trigger major epidemics have forced closures in three major cities and some form of restrictions in several others – affecting more than 20 million Australians, or around 80% of the population.
Queensland is expected to impose an instant three-day lockdown in the capital Brisbane and some neighboring areas from Tuesday evening. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, began a four-day lockdown on Tuesday, joining Sydney and Darwin.
“The risk is real and we have to act quickly, we have to go strong, we have to go fast,” Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said. The state has reported two new local cases.
Sydney is on a two-week lockdown until July 9, while the lockdown on the northern city of Darwin has been extended for 72 hours until Friday. An outbreak in Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million people, linked to the Delta variant has grown to nearly 150 cases.
Strict restrictions, including mandatory masks and fewer gatherings, are also in place across Australia.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was fined Australian dollars ($ 150) by NSW police for not wearing a mask inside a gas station, media reported, the highest government official to be fined for violating COVID-19 rules.
Although the police report did not identify Joyce, he confirmed the incident in an interview Monday with News Corp-owned cable broadcaster Sky News.
NSW reported 19 new locally acquired infections, detected from a record 67,000 tests, up from 18 cases a day ago.
Western Australia has not reported any cases while the Northern Territory has detected two new cases.
Australia is seeking to step up COVID-19 vaccinations and has announced mandatory injections for high-risk elderly care workers and quarantine hotel workers.
It has also made the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine available to people under the age of 60.
Authorities previously limited the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60 due to blood clot problems, while recommending Pfizer vaccines to all people under 60, a major change that slowed the campaign. Australian Vaccination Program.
Authorities have now said people under the age of 60 could apply for the AstraZeneca vaccine if approved by their doctors, who will be covered by a no-fault compensation scheme consistent with a wider practice seen overseas.
Health officials say the AstraZeneca vaccine offers a high level of protection and its benefits far outweigh the risks.
Lockdowns, contact tracing and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia keep its COVID-19 count relatively low, with just over 30,500 cases and 910 deaths, but the Delta variant, according to the Premier Minister Scott Morrison, presents “very different challenges.”
Neighboring New Zealand has said it will resume non-quarantine travel with the states of South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory next week as it lifts COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday. in the capital Wellington.
New Zealand on Saturday ended its “travel bubble” with Australia in response to the Sydney epidemic. Social distancing restrictions were imposed on Wellington a week ago after an Australian tourist who visited the city tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home.
Reporting by Renju Jose Editing by Shri Navaratnam
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.