Australian authorities extended a lockdown in Sydney on Wednesday for another two weeks, after three weeks of initial restrictions failed to stamp out an outbreak of COVID-19 in the country’s largest city.
New South Wales State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that restrictions would need to remain in place until July 30 after 97 new locally transmitted cases have been reported.
Australia’s largest city Sydney is already in its third week of a partial lockdown and struggling to bring a fast-spreading outbreak of the coronavirus Delta variant under control.
In the past 24 hours, 97 new cases were recorded, more than the 89 reported the previous day.
Australia had been widely lauded for its early handling of the pandemic.
But a painfully slow vaccine rollout has left less than 10 percent of the population protected as much of the world gingerly reopens.
“It always hurts to say this, but we need to extend the lockdown, at least a further two weeks,” said Berejiklian.
Under Australia’s “Covid zero” strategy, authorities are trying to stamp out community transmission completely.
Sydney’s lockdown was due to end on July 16, but that date has now been pushed back until July 30.
“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. But it is our job to keep the community safe.”
Most Sydney residents are allowed to leave home for exercise, essential shopping, work or health reasons, but schools are closed and people are encouraged to remain at home.
Authorities have rejected calls for the lockdown to be more stringent, with critics pointing out that “essential work” rules allow stores such as Ikea and Louis Vuitton to remain open.
“I appreciate there are a lot of opinions out there, but please know every decision we take is based on that expert health advice,” said Berejiklian.
Some hotspot areas are subject to tighter restrictions, including a Bondi apartment block that was fully locked down after nine cases were detected, reports said.
On Tuesday, police guarded the front and rear of the building to prevent residents from leaving. A sign taped to one apartment window read “Send Beer”.
Berejiklian did not rule out more stringent citywide restrictions if cases continued to rise.