As infections in New South Wales reach a new high for the second day, Australia’s largest metropolis is fighting to contain an outbreak that began in June.
As New South Wales state reported another record surge in daily cases, Australian officials have begun handing out emergency supplies of COVID-19 vaccines in the Sydney suburbs hardest impacted by an outbreak of the fast-moving Delta form.
Gladys Berejiklian, the state premier, said the increase in vaccinations in Australia’s largest city on Thursday gave her hope as the city battled its worst epidemic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“The next few weeks will be hard, but no doubt that once we get those high vaccination rates life will feel much better, it will look much rosier,” Berejiklian told reporters.
“I know these are challenging times, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
On Thursday, Berejiklian reported 681 new locally acquired cases, the majority of which were in Sydney, surpassing the previous daily high of 633 instances set on Wednesday. A total of 119,000 persons volunteered to get tested.
One more fatality was reported, this time a man in his 80s, bringing the total number of deaths from the outbreak, which began in mid-June, to 61.
Officials are scrambling to boost vaccination rates across New South Wales in order to combat the virus’ spread and loosen lockdown restrictions.
Berejiklian has yet to publicly prolong the lockdown, which is set to finish at the end of the month, but she has stated that 70 percent of the state’s population over the age of 16 must be vaccinated by the end of October, a goal she hopes to achieve.
About 28.5 percent of people in the state are completely vaccinated, which is somewhat more than the national average, and about 52 percent have had at least one dose.
More than half of an emergency supply of Pfizer vaccines purchased from Poland, amounting to nearly 500,000 doses, has been distributed to Sydney’s 12 worst-affected neighbourhoods. They will be used to vaccinate persons under the age of 40 during the next two weeks.
Delta’s Impact on Your Life
Lockdowns have been imposed on more than half of Australia’s 25 million people, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra, the nation’s capital.
While the country’s overall pandemic exposure is significantly lower than many other countries – with just over 41,400 illnesses and 971 deaths – the latest outbreak is proving more difficult to suppress.
On Thursday, the number of cases in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, more than doubled to 57. There have been 16 new cases recorded in Canberra.
The outbreak has also extended to New Zealand, with genome sequencing establishing a link to Sydney.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the analysis found the current positive cases were a close match to someone who flew in from Sydney on August 7 after disclosing 11 additional cases over the past day.
On August 9, the person tested positive for COVID-19 and was transferred to a quarantine facility. He was admitted to the hospital a week later.
“This is a significant development. It means now we can be fairly certain how and when the virus entered the country,” Ardern said at a news conference.
Given that only 27.5 percent of the population is completely vaccinated, health officials have warned that Australia is at risk of additional deaths and hospital admissions. At least one dose has been given to around half of the population.
State authorities have become increasingly divided on how to deal with the pandemic, with some arguing for its abolition and others urging for a safe degree of exposure.
“Everyone will have to learn to live with Delta and in New South Wales, we are learning that earlier than others,” Berejiklian said.
Source: AL JAZEERA