SYDNEY, July 29 (Reuters) – Australia’s largest city Sydney on Thursday recorded a record one-day increase in local COVID-19 cases and warned the outbreak would worsen, as authorities were seeking military help to impose a lockdown on 6 million people ready to enter its sixth week.
Australia has struggled to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in and around Sydney in recent weeks, which threatens to push the country’s economy to A $ 2 trillion (A $ 1.5 trillion). dollars) in its second recession in as many years.
Despite a prolonged lockdown of Sydney, the state capital, New South Wales has recorded 239 locally acquired cases in the past 24 hours, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.
“We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better given the amount of infectious people in the community,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Berejiklian said another person had died from COVID-19, bringing the death toll from the current outbreak to 13 and the national total to 921.
With little sign that recent restrictions are reducing the number of cases, Berejiklian said further restrictions would be imposed in areas southwest and west of Sydney where the majority of COVID-19 cases are found.
More than two million residents of eight Sydney hotspots will now be forced to wear masks outside and will have to stay within 5 km (3 miles) of their homes.
With even tighter restrictions set to begin on Friday, NSW Police said they had asked for 300 military personnel to help enforce lockdown orders.
“With an increase in law enforcement activities over the coming week, I have now made a formal request to the Prime Minister to have (Australian Defense Force) personnel assist with this operation,” said NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller in an emailed statement.
A spokesperson for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Berejiklian extended the Sydney lockdown for another month on Wednesday, but allowed the majority of construction projects to resume until workers come into contact with residents.
The restrictions are expected to take a heavy economic toll, with New South Wales accounting for over a third of Australia’s economy.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he expected the national economy to contract in the September quarter, but the ability to avoid a technical recession would depend on the ability of New South Wales to avoid a longer locking.
“As for the December quarter, it depends to a large extent on the success of New South Wales, our largest state economy, in getting this virus under control,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp .
Berejiklian said restrictions should remain because too few people in Sydney are vaccinated amid tight stocks of Pfizer (PFE.N) vaccines, which Canberra hoped to inoculate on everyone under 60.
All adults in Sydney have now been urged to research an AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine. But citing rare blood clots, many are reluctant and would rather wait several months when Australia is expected to receive additional supplies from Pfizer.
Only around 17% of people over 16 are fully vaccinated in New South Wales.
More than 2,800 cases have been detected to date, with 182 people hospitalized. Fifty-four are in intensive care, 22 of which require ventilation. Two new deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 13.
The epidemic in Sydney leaves a lot to do except watch the Olympics, and Australian athletes have said they hope they can bring some joy to their performances.
“Just extremely grateful and happy that we maybe sparked some joy in some people’s living rooms or something to celebrate at the time of the lockdown,” Australian rower and four gold medalist Spencer Turrin told reporters. men at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo.
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Reporting by Renju Jose and Colin Packham in Canberra; additional reporting by Xihao Jiang in Tokyo; Editing by Michael Perry and Lincoln Feast
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