Coronavirus: Sydney lockdown extended until end of September

Outdoor mask mandate imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19 Delta variant

Workers conduct deep clean at Ferncourt Public School at Marrickville Sydney. Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

Workers conduct deep clean at Ferncourt Public School at Marrickville Sydney. Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

 

A lockdown in Australia’s largest city was extended until at least the end of September as tougher measures including a curfew and an outdoor mask mandate were imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19’s Delta variant.

New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, reported 642 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period on Friday, the fourth consecutive day of tallies exceeding 600.

Sydney has been locked down since late June after the more contagious Delta variant was detected in a limousine driver who became infected while transporting a US cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.

Since then, 65 people have died from Covid-19 in New South Wales, included four overnight.

The Sydney lockdown was to end on August 28th, but the state government announced it will continue until September 30th.

The entire state has been in lockdown since last week because the virus had spread from Sydney.

A curfew will apply from 9pm to 5pm from Monday in the worst-affected Sydney suburbs.

Wearing masks will be compulsory across the state outside homes, after previously masks were not compulsory in all circumstances outdoors.

Melbourne

Meanwhile, an Australian state leader has warned that Melbourne may be losing control of a Covid-19 Delta variant outbreak that began in Sydney and has also spread to the New Zealand capital.

The fast-moving outbreak was first detected in mid-June in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, which has reported more than 600 new infections in each of the last four days.

The virus has spread to Melbourne, the nation’s second-most populous city, and has seeded New Zealand’s first outbreak in six months.

The neighbouring nations have succeeded in using lockdowns to stamp out clusters throughout the pandemic. But the Delta variant is proving more challenging.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said he is losing hope of eliminating the latest outbreak in Melbourne, which entered its sixth lockdown on August 5th.

Victoria reported 55 new community infections on Friday. But most new patients were infectious before they began isolating, making “today a bad day,” Mr Andrews said.

“We are right on the edge of this getting away from us and it’s not because contact tracing aren’t doing everything they can; they are. It’s not because we didn’t lock down fast enough; we did,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s this Delta variant. It’s so wildly infectious it will find every breach of every rule and it will potentially spread because of that,” he said.

A previous outbreak in Melbourne swelled to 725 cases in a day in August last year before a suppression strategy drove daily infections down to zero in October.

New Zealand

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday she is determined to eliminate the new outbreak from her country.

The virus, first detected in New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland on Tuesday, has spread to the capital, Wellington.

Health authorities said three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive.

The outbreak has grown to 31 cases, and some patients were diverted from an Auckland hospital after one person may have unknowingly been infectious while being treated there, officials said.

New Zealand’s government on Tuesday hurriedly put the entire nation into a strict lockdown after the first community case was found.

Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveller who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined. Authorities do not yet know how the virus escaped quarantine.

All of New Zealand will remain in lockdown until at least next Tuesday.

Sydney’s lockdown was extended through September on Friday and tougher restrictions were imposed, including a curfew and compulsory mask-wearing outdoors.

The city of five million has been locked down since June 26th, 10 days after the Delta variant was first detected in an unvaccinated limousine driver who became infected while transporting a US cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.

New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said increasing vaccination rates is key to easing the city’s pandemic restrictions.

The new restrictions were the result of her asking police and health officials for a final list of “what else can we throw at this,” she said.

“I don’t want us to ever look back and say we didn’t try, we didn’t put everything into this,” Ms Berejiklian said. – AP