Public health authorities in Australia have continued to confirm small numbers of new COVID cases despite Sydney's latest economy-crushing lockdown. And with the Delta "scariant" helping to keep COVID paranoia at a fever pitch, authorities have decided to extend what was supposed to be a two-week lockdown for another two weeks.
Authorities cited the "vulnerability" of Australia's mostly unvaccinated population as the reason why such draconian measures must be extended, despite pleas from restauranteurs and other small business owners pleading with the government to consider other strategies.
Parents are also griping since the extension also means school-age children won't return to school next week.
"The situation we're in now is largely because we haven’t been able to get the vaccine that we need," New South Wales state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Only 9% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision to extend the lockdown through July 16 was made on the advice of the government's advisors.
Of 27 new infections attributed to the delta variant reported in latest 24-hour period on Wednesday, only 13 had managed to isolate while infectious, officials said, raising the risk of further spread. The delta variant is considered more contagious than the original coronavirus or other variants.
Sydney isn't the only part of Australia facing lockdown. Last week, almost 50% of Australia's population was locked down as cities on the east, west and north coasts tightening pandemic restrictions due to clusters. However, most of those lockdowns have now been lifted. Sydney and its suburbs, representing a sizable piece of New South Wales, the country's largest state, are the only part of Australia still facing lockdown restrictions.
By the standards of most developed nations, Australia has done remarkably well. Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31K cases, and only 910 deaths total. Of those, Australia has recorded only a single COVID-19 death since October: an 80-year-old man who died in April after being infected overseas and diagnosed in hotel quarantine.
Of the 27 new infections of the delta variant reported during the last 24 hours, only 13 had been in isolation while infectious, officials said, which raises the risk that the variant might be spreading more quickly than authorities realize.
Additionally, there are 37 COVID-19 cases in Sydney hospitals. Of those, seven are in intensive care, the youngest in their 30s.