After three weeks of initial restrictions failed to contain a COVID-19 epidemic in Australia's largest city, officials in Sydney extended the lockdown by at least 14 days on Wednesday.
After reporting 97 new locally transmitted cases, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions would need to be in place until at least July 30, a modest rise from the day before.
On Wednesday, Berejiklian stated in Sydney, “It always hurts to say this, but we need to extend the lockdown for at least another two weeks.”
“We want to get out of this lockdown as quickly as possible, which is why we have the settings we have.”
Of the 97 new cases, 24 people in the community were infected.
Berejiklian has stated repeatedly that the lockdown, which has been in effect since June 26, will be removed only when the number of newly reported cases circulating in the community while infectious is close to zero.
In late June, the port metropolis of 5 million people was placed on a two-week lockdown as the extremely dangerous Delta variety began to spread in a country that had previously escaped widespread epidemics.
Many non-essential businesses are closed, and most school pupils are staying home. Residents are only permitted to leave their houses for vital activities and some exercise.
As a result of the Sydney outbreak, 71 COVID-19 patients are now in hospitals, with 20 of them in critical care units (ICUs), including one person in their 20s and two in their 30s.
“Yes, it's less likely to result in hospitalization in younger age groups, but it can still result in a serious illness admission to ICU, so it's important to keep ourselves and loved ones safe, so please follow the public health advice,” said Kerry Chant, the New South Wales Chief Health Officer.
After limitations failed to reduce daily case numbers, the shutdown has been prolonged on two occasions. Since the first illness was discovered in the city's eastern suburbs in mid-June, the total number of infections has risen to slightly under 900. There have been two deaths reported, the first in the country this year.
According to a list of potential exposure sites provided by health authorities overnight, the virus appears to have expanded to previously unaffected areas of the city. The outbreak has also expanded to regional areas, with a case being discovered in Goulburn, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Sydney, and has crossed the state border into Victoria, where three cases were confirmed on Tuesday.
The epidemic has put a strain on health services, with COVID-19 test lines stretching for kilometers in Fairfield, in Sydney's southwest, overnight due to new health directives forcing residents who leave the neighborhood for work to be tested on a regular basis.
With just over 31,300 cases and 912 deaths, Australia has kept COVID-19 numbers lower than many other affluent countries, thanks to quick lockdowns, quick contact tracing, and strict social distancing measures.
Due to a sluggish immunization effort, only about 10% of the population has received two vaccine doses.
Health professionals in New South Wales have given out little over 2.7 million vaccination doses, according to authorities.