SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 22 April 2024, Monday |

Sydney extends lockdown by 4 weeks as Australia COVID-19 cases surge

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, extended a lockdown by four weeks on Wednesday after an already lengthy stay-at-home order failed to contain a COVID-19 epidemic, with officials threatening harsher police if non-compliance is not addressed.

Following continuously high case counts since a flare-up of the deadly Delta variety began last month, the city of 5 million people and adjacent regional centers covering 200 kilometers (120 miles) of shoreline were warned to stay home until Aug. 28.

The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 177 new cases for Tuesday, from 172 on Monday. That is the biggest increase since an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver was said to have sparked the current outbreak. The state also reported the death of a woman in her 90s, the 11th death of the outbreak.

Of particular concern, at least 46 of the new cases were people active in the community before being diagnosed, raising the likelihood of transmission, said authorities. They have cautioned that active community transmission must be near zero before rules are relaxed.

Berejiklian added police would boost enforcement of wide-ranging social distancing rules and urged people to report suspected wrongdoing, saying “we cannot put up with people continuing to do the wrong thing because it is setting us all back”.

In one case, a mourning ceremony attended by 50 people in violation of lockdown rules resulted in 45 infections, she said.

The extension turns what was initially intended to be a “snap” lockdown of Australia’s most populous city into one of the country’s longest since the start of the pandemic, and may spark the second recession of the A$2 trillion ($1.47 trillion) national economy in two years, according to economists.

“It’s getting really difficult, day in and out, day by day, for us to continue running the same business,” said Raihan Ahmed, a convenience store owner at Bankstown, one of the main affected suburbs. “Somehow we have to survive, and we are trying our best.”

FEDERAL FALLOUT

Opinion polls have showed slipping support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government amid criticism of a slow vaccination roll-out that has been blamed on changing regulatory advice and supply shortages.

All Australians who wanted to vaccination would receive it by the end of the year, and “I would expect by Christmas that we would be seeing a very different Australia to what we are seeing now,” he added.

The NSW government said it was redirecting Pfizer Inc vaccine doses, which have so far been restricted to people aged 40-60, from relatively unaffected regional areas to final-year school students in the worst-affected Sydney neighborhoods.

The state and federal governments also said they were expanding relief funding to enable affected companies to keep paying wages through the closure.

In contrast to New South Wales, the states of Victoria and South Australia began their first day out of shorter lockdowns that halted outbreaks there. Victoria reported eight new cases, all of them isolated throughout their infectious period, and another case still under investigation.

Australia has kept its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 33,200 cases and 921 deaths, out of a population of about 25 million, since the pandemic began.

    Source:
  • Reuters