NSW state premier says restrictions need to remain in place until at least July 30 after 97 new local cases confirmed.
Authorities have extended a lockdown in Sydney by at least 14 more days, as an outbreak of COVID-19 continued to grow even after three weeks of restrictions in Australia’s largest city.
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday that the curbs would need to remain in place until at least July 30 after she announced 97 new locally transmitted cases, a slight increase from a day earlier.
“I appreciate people are stressed and upset about what is going on, myself included,” Berejiklian said.
“None of us want to be in this situation.
“We want to get out of this lockdown as soon as we can and that is why we have the settings in place that we have,” the state premier said.
Of the 97 new cases, 24 people were infectious in the community. A total of 61 of the cases are linked to known clusters and 36 are under investigation.
More than 65,000 people came forward for testing in the past 24 hours, authorities said.
Berejiklian has repeatedly said that the lockdown, in place since June 26, will only be lifted when the number of newly reported cases circulating in the community while infectious came close to zero.
The harbour city of five million residents was plunged into an initial two-week lockdown in late June as the highly contagious Delta variant started to take hold.
Many non-essential businesses are closed, and most school students are staying at home, with residents only allowed out for essential activities and some exercise.
Surge in hospitalisations
There are now 71 COVID-19 patients in hospital as a result of the Sydney outbreak, with 20 people in intensive care units (ICU), including one person in their 20s and two in their 30s.
“Yes it is less likely to lead to hospitalisations in younger age groups but it still can be a serious illness admission to ICU so it’s important to keep ourselves and loved ones safe so please follow the public health advice,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
The shutdown has now been extended on two occasions after restrictions failed to curb daily case numbers.
Total infections since the first case was detected in the city’s eastern suburbs in mid-June now stand at just under 900. Two deaths have been reported, the first for the country this year.
The virus appears to have spread to previously unaffected parts of the city, according to a list of potential exposure sites published by health authorities overnight.
The outbreak has also spread to regional areas, with a case detected in Goulburn, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of Sydney, and has crossed the border to Victoria state where three cases were reported on Tuesday.
Snap lockdowns, speedy contact tracing and tough social distancing rules have otherwise helped Australia keep COVID-19 numbers lower than many other developed countries, with just over 31,300 cases and 912 deaths.
A sluggish vaccination programme has meant that fewer than 10 percent of the population has received two vaccine doses.
In New South Wales, health workers have administered just over 2.7 million vaccine doses, authorities said on Wednesday.