Sydney posts fresh COVID record as Melbourne races to trace outbreak
Australia's state of New South Wales reported another record day of COVID-19 cases Saturday, as authorities in the country's second city of Melbourne rushed to trace the source of its outbreaks.
Australia's three largest cities were in lockdown on Saturday, as New South Wales recorded 319 community cases of the virus and five more deaths—a third straight day of record case numbers.
With the virus continuing to spread through Sydney's sprawling suburbs, despite the city heading into its seventh week of lockdown, state Health Minister Brad Hazzard expressed frustration that people appeared to be ignoring restrictions and urged residents to stay at home.
"That is the biggest thing you can do for all of us and for yourself, to make sure that we beat this Delta virus that is wreaking havoc across the world," Hazzard told media.
He also announced that the city of Armidale, about six hours' drive northwest of Sydney, would join around 60 percent of Australia's 25 million residents already under stay-at-home orders.
Contact tracers in Melbourne's state of Victoria, which on Thursday returned to lockdown for the sixth time since the pandemic began, were still working to track down the source of its outbreaks.
"This is very, very significant to see this many cases ... we don't know where those two outbreaks started," state premier Daniel Andrews said, announcing 29 new cases of the virus.
A lack of supply and pockets of vaccine hesitancy has throttled efforts to immunise Australians, with just over 20 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
The nation managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic for the past 18 months, but the effectiveness of its "COVID zero" policy had been called into question as lockdowns struggle to stamp out the highly-infection Delta variant.
© 2021 AFP