Saturday’s data includes 17 infections in the country’s most populous state that were already announced on Friday, bringing the number of infections linked to the Bondi outbreak to 80.
More than a million people in Sydney city center and the eastern suburbs of Australia’s largest city were already stranded due to the outbreak, but health officials said they had to extend the curbs after more infections have been recorded, the sites of exposure increase beyond the initial areas of concern.
“Even though we don’t want to impose charges unless we absolutely have to, unfortunately this is a situation where we have to,” said New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian .
Australia has been more successful in dealing with the pandemic than many other advanced economies thanks to swift border closures, social distancing rules and high community respect with them, reporting just over 30,400 cases and 910 deaths due to COVID-19.
But the country has experienced considerable difficulties with the deployment of vaccination and small epidemics continue.
The government granted interim approval for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday, potentially expanding its supply options.
Berejiklian said she would hold an emergency government meeting with health officials later on Saturday.
“The situation is getting worse beyond what we would have liked to see this morning, and the reason is that the new exhibition sites are outside the areas of concern that we had highlighted,” Berejiklian said during of a press briefing.
“There is concern that some of these cases were exposed for several days without the person knowing they had the virus, and that is where our concern lies. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in the next few hours.
Saturday’s lockdown in New South Wales will also include areas of the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong, which surround Sydney.
Under the rules in effect until July 9, people can leave their homes for essential work, medical care, study or shopping. The rest of the state will have limits on public gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.
“There was no point doing it for three or five days because it wouldn’t have done the job,” Berejiklian said.
His conservative state government was reluctant to impose the lockdown, but a growing number of health experts have called for it, as Australia remains largely unvaccinated.