Australia reported another record Covid cases today and the outbreak is set to worsen until at least next week, despite strict local lockdown measures.
The county’s daily case count reached 1,900 for the first time in the pandemic on Friday, as the outbreak — fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant — continued to gain ground in the sealed-off Sydney and Melbourne, the largest cities.
Australia is in the throes of a third wave of infections, with the Delta outbreak forcing officials to abandon their COVID-zero strategy in favor of suppressing the virus.
They now want to start easing strict restrictions after reaching a larger segment of the population with double-dose vaccinations.
Pictured: People in face masks walk in front of the Opera House in Sydney on September 10, 2021, as Australia registered a new record daily number of coronavirus cases
New South Wales (NSW), the epicenter of the country’s worst outbreak, reported 1,542 new daily local cases, surpassing the previous record of 1,533 last week. Nine new deaths were recorded.
“So far this trajectory has been what has been predicted,” NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told a media briefing in Sydney, the state’s capital, which is expected to peak in the coming week.
Berejiklian said the daily COVID-19 media briefing would be dropped from Monday and updates would be detailed in an online video, an approach previously used when the number of cases was low.
Rising cases in Sydney have increased the burden on paramedics, with the number of COVID-19 patients transported in the past two weeks doubling to a total of nearly 6,000, officials said.
About 1,156 people have been hospitalized in the state, 207 of whom are in intensive care, 89 of whom require ventilators.
Members of the public at a Covid-19 vaccine pop-up clinic in Sydney’s Ashfield, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. NSW authorities said on Thursday Sydney’s businesses could reopen once 70 percent of the state’s adult population is full vaccinated
Pictured: A chart showing Australia’s new coronavirus cases by day
Despite cases lingering near record levels, NSW authorities said on Thursday Sydney’s businesses could reopen once 70 percent of the state’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, a target to be met by mid-October.
So far, 76 percent of people over 16 in the state have received at least one dose, while 44 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The state of Victoria registered 334 new cases, the biggest increase for this year and one death. Some restrictions in the capital Melbourne will be eased when 70 percent of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, expected around Sept. 23.
A four-stage national reopening plan unveiled by the federal government in July aims to ease some tough restrictions once the country hits a 70-80 percent immunization target from 40 percent now.
However, some virus-free states have indicated that they can delay the easing of interstate travel and other restrictions.
The total number of infections in Australia is about 70,000 cases, including 1,076 deaths. Higher vaccinations have kept the death rate in the Delta outbreak at 0.41 percent, data shows, among previous outbreaks.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian arrives to address the media at a press conference in Sydney, Friday, September 10, 2021. Berejiklian. said the daily COVID-19 media briefing would be canceled from Monday
Sydney’s cafes, restaurants and pubs are set to reopen in the second half of October after months of strict lockdown, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s warning that higher numbers of cases will follow the easing of curbs.
Leaders need to “restrain their nerves,” he said.
Authorities said bars and eateries in Sydney, as well as gyms, could reopen with reduced capacity in the city of five million people within days once New South Wales (NSW) reaches a 70 per cent double vaccination target.
Stay-at-home orders for fully vaccinated individuals will be lifted on Monday after the target is reached, officials said.
“Living with COVID means you have a cautious and phased reopening once you reach that high vaccination coverage in your adult population,” Berejiklian said at a media briefing in Sydney.
Under the plan, pubs and cafes in Sydney could reopen to the schools, which will begin classes for younger age groups from 25 October.
“The date (school reopening) is set because we need to provide security and planning to school communities… but for adults, we have the capacity to be more flexible,” she said.
Fans line up to enter the stadium ahead of the Rugby Championship match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies in Perth, Australia, on Sunday, September 5, 2021. While the cities of Sydney and Melbourne to the east are on strict lockdown , The Australian capital Perth has remained largely open for business behind the closed border
Berejiklian had initially pursued a COVID-zero strategy to quell an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant that began in mid-June, but has since shifted to increasing inoculation rates.
About 43 percent of the population over 16 in the state, Australia’s most populous state, is fully vaccinated, slightly more than the national average of 40 percent.
Sydney’s staggered reopening plans offer some certainty for businesses, with lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, threatening to push the A$2 trillion ($1.47 trillion) economy into its second recession in as many years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that New South Wales’ reopening efforts are in line with the four-phase national plan unveiled in July that promised more freedoms once the country reaches 70-80 percent immunization rates.
“The next phase will be difficult … we will see the number of cases rise and that will be a challenge,” Morrison said in Canberra. “But if you want to live with the virus, you inevitably have to go through that tunnel.”
Morrison urged state leaders to “bring their nerves” as they begin to live with the virus, although some virus-free states have suggested they could delay their reopening even after achieving higher vaccination rates.