Sydney in Two-Week Lockdown, ‘Delta’ Variant Cases Increase

Australia’s largest and most populous city, Sydney, has brought in a new two-week lockdown amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Authorities had already imposed coronavirus restrictions in central and eastern suburbs, where more than a million people reside, after cases skyrocketed. But the latest stay-at-home order extends to the entire city and some other surrounding areas.

The move comes as Sydney registered more than 80 cases of the highly infectious ‘Delta’ variant.

New South Wales State Premier Gladys Berejiklian explained that the lockdown orders would be in effect until July 9 across Greater Sydney, home for around five million people, and the surrounding regions of the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, and Wollongong.

“When you have a contagious variant, like the Delta virus, a three-day lockdown doesn’t work – if we’re going to do this we need to do it properly,” she said.

“We do need to brace ourselves for a potentially large number of cases in the following days,” she added. Besides, the police said they would monitor vehicles through tools with number plate recognition technology to ensure that people do not leave their lockdown zone.

Australia has maintained low rates of COVID-19 transmission since the pandemic began.

However, the latest outbreak of coronavirus cases triggered the first lockdown in Sydney since December and affected the country’s travel agreements with other nations. On Saturday, New Zealand announced that it would stop the travel corridor between the two neighbors for at least three days.

The non-quarantine travel bubble opened in April, allowing travel between New Zealand and Australia with relaxed restrictions.

Since it was launched, travel in specific Australian regions has been closed for short periods as clusters emerged, but this is the first time the travel bubble has been fully suspended.

The outbreak that currently hits Sydney emerged a week ago in the famous beachside suburb Bondi before spreading to the city center and its western fringes.

According to State Health Minister Brad Hazzard, the Delta variant -first detected in India- is a “very formidable foe.”

“No matter what defensive steps we’re taking at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter-attack,” he added. Moreover, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked the Australians for their patience, saying: “Together, Sydney, we’ll get through this.”

“This pandemic, sadly, is still raging all around the world and from time to time it will have its impact here in Australia,” he went on.