- NSW records largest increase in cases in a week
- New Zealand to restart non-quarantine travel with Victoria
- Masks mandatory indoors until the end of next week
SYDNEY, June 22 (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state on Tuesday reported its biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in nearly a week and extended the wearing of masks inside buildings, while New Zealand has suspended non-quarantine travel with the state.
Ten new locally acquired cases have been reported in the state of New South Wales as authorities fight to contain a cluster of the highly infectious variant of the Delta virus. Eight of the 10 were household contacts of isolated previous cases.
“Considering the absolute contagiousness of the virus, we expected that already isolated family contacts would be susceptible to contracting the virus,” Prime Minister of the State Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Masks will be mandatory inside Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million people, for another week from Thursday morning, though authorities have stopped imposing further restrictions then that the cluster grew to 21 infections in six days.
New Zealand, which in April began allowing Australian visitors to enter the country without undergoing hotel quarantine, said it was suspending the ‘travel bubble’ for three days for people coming from NSW . The most popular flight between the countries is between Sydney and Auckland.
The Delta variant, which has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the four COVID-19 variants of concern, most likely caused the latest devastating outbreak in India.
New South Wales authorities say the first infections in the state in more than a month have been linked to a driver who is carrying airline crew members overseas and who has visited several locations including a shopping center in Bondi, a popular tourist hotspot.
Neighboring Victoria state, which emerged from a strict COVID-19 lockdown more than a week ago, reported no local cases on Tuesday, prompting New Zealand to resume travel without quarantine with the state starting Tuesday evening.
The low number of cases in Victoria over the past week has also encouraged states in South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory to start easing border restrictions.
Strict border controls, rapid tracing systems, strict social distancing rules and high community compliance have kept Australia’s COVID-19 count relatively low, with just over 30,350 cases and 910 deaths.
Australia closed its borders to everyone except citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 and overseas travelers must undergo two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine upon their return.
Australia’s Tokyo Olympics team medical director David Hughes said on Tuesday that monitoring infection rates among fully vaccinated Australian athletes and officials returning from the Olympics could help inform future policy on trip. Read more
Report by Renju José. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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