New South Wales State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions should remain in place until at least July 30 after reporting 97 new locally transmitted cases, a slight increase from the previous day .
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“It always hurts to say this, but we have to extend the lockdown for at least two more weeks,” Berejiklian said in Sydney on Wednesday.
“We want to get out of this lockdown as soon as we can and that is why we have put in place the parameters that we have. “
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Of the 97 new cases, 24 people were contagious in the community.
Berejiklian has repeatedly said the lockdown, in place since June 26, will only be lifted when the number of new reported cases circulating in the community while infectious is close to zero.
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The port city of 5 million people was plunged into a first two-week lockdown in late June as the highly contagious Delta variant began to take hold in a country that has otherwise largely avoided mass infections.
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Many non-essential businesses are closed and most students stay at home, with residents only allowed out of their homes for essential activities and certain exercises.
There are now 71 COVID-19 patients in hospital following the Sydney outbreak, with 20 people in intensive care units (ICUs), including one in their 20s and two in their 30s.
“Yes it is less likely to lead to hospitalizations in younger age groups, but it can still be a critical illness admission to intensive care, so it is important to protect ourselves and our loved ones, so please follow public health advice. Said Kerry Chant.
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The shutdown has now been extended twice after restrictions failed to reduce the number of daily cases. The total number of infections since the first was first detected in the city’s eastern suburbs in mid-June now stands at just under 900. Two deaths have been reported, the first for the country this year.
The virus appears to have spread to previously unaffected parts of the city, according to a list of potential exposure sites released by health officials overnight. The outbreak has also spread to regional areas, with one case detected in Goulburn, about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Sydney, and crossed the border into the state of Victoria where three cases were reported Tuesday.
The outbreak has started to put pressure on health services, with queues for COVID-19 tests in Fairfield, southwest Sydney stretching for miles overnight due to news health orders requiring people leaving the suburbs for work to be tested regularly.
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Instant lockdowns, rapid contact tracing and strict social distancing rules have also helped Australia keep COVID-19 numbers lower than many other developed countries, with just over 31,300 cases and 912 death.
A slow vaccination program meant that less than 10 percent of the population received two doses of the vaccine.
Health workers in New South Wales have administered just over 2.7 million doses of the vaccine, authorities said on Wednesday.