Australia’s largest city and some surrounding areas will enter a hard two-week COVID-19 lockdown on Saturday as authorities struggle to control a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly infectious delta variant that has grown to 80 cases.
Parts of Sydney were already under lockdown due to the outbreak, but health authorities said cases and exposure sites were increasing too rapidly.
“Even though we don’t want to impose burdens unless we absolutely have to, unfortunately this is a situation where we have to,” said New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Australia has been more successful in managing the pandemic than many other advanced economies through swift border closures, physical-distancing rules and high compliance, reporting just over 30,400 cases and 910 COVID-19 deaths.
But the country has confronted small outbreaks in recent months. These have been contained through speedy contact tracing, isolation of thousands of people at a time or snap hard lockdowns.
Saturday’s lockdown in New South Wales will also include the regions of Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong — which surround Sydney, a city of five million people.
Under the rules in place through July 9, people may leave home for essential work, medical care, education or shopping. The rest of the state will have limits on public gatherings, and masks will be obligatory indoors.
New Zealand on Saturday halted quarantine-free travel from Australia for three days, saying there were too many cases and outbreaks. The two neighbours, which have kept their borders closed to the rest of the world, began free travel in April.
Berejiklian’s conservative state government was reluctant to impose the lockdown, but a growing number of health experts called for it, as Australia struggled with its vaccination rollout.
Michael Kidd, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, said 28 per cent of people aged 16 or older have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. Of the 7.2 million administered doses, 5.8 million were first doses.
Although free, vaccines are available for now only to people over 40 and those in risk groups either due to their health or work. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered to people 40 to 59 years old and the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot to those who are older.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,412,706 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 9,057 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 26,210. More than 34.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
Thrilled to receive my 2nd <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19Vaccine?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19Vaccine</a> dose today (Moderna this time)! Thank you <a href=”https://twitter.com/OttawaHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@OttawaHealth</a> and to everyone rolling their <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SleevesUp?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SleevesUp</a> for their first or second doses! We are making great progress together! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/VaxToTheMax?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#VaxToTheMax</a> 📷 : Darren Brown <a href=”https://t.co/eZ8NleBggw”>pic.twitter.com/eZ8NleBggw</a>
Starting Saturday, people in Ontario aged 12 to 17 who live in designated hot spots for COVID-19’s delta variant can book accelerated second vaccine dose appointments.
Health officials in the province reported 13 additional deaths from COVID-19 and 346 new cases on Saturday.
In Quebec on Friday, health officials further eased some public health restrictions ahead of a broader reopening on Monday. The changes on Friday came ahead of an updated daily report, which showed no new deaths and 88 new cases of COVID-19.
Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services says the province’s new daily case counts will now be released from Monday to Friday only, and not on the weekends or public holidays.
In Atlantic Canada on Saturday, New Brunswick reported one new case related to travel involving a person in their 40s in the Bathurst region.
Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases on Saturday.
Prince Edward Island, which did not update its numbers Friday, will open up to more travellers from Atlantic Canada as of Sunday. P.E.I. has not had a new case in more than three weeks.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador reported it had no new cases on Friday.
In the Prairies, Manitoba reported one new death and 85 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Following a surge in infections and hospitalization rates last month, the numbers have been steadily dropping, and the province will be loosening some restrictions on Saturday around gathering sizes, businesses and indoor and outdoor activities.
The province has also opened second-dose vaccination appointments to all eligible residents.
Saskatchewan reported no new deaths and 56 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Meanwhile, Alberta reported an estimated 100 new known cases of COVID-19; however, the actual numbers will not be known until early next week because of technical difficulties.
In British Columbia, health officials in the Lower Mainland say cooling centres will be open this weekend as the region copes with extreme heat. Vancouver Coastal Health says no one should be denied access to the centres over physical distancing or crowding concerns.
The province reported two new deaths and 72 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. B.C.’s seven-day rolling average of new cases is now at its lowest point since mid-August 2020.
In the North, Yukon‘s top doctor has called for a “social firebreak” after the territory reported 22 new cases, bringing active cases to 111. Dr. Brendan Hanley, chief medical officer of health, said it’s time to slow down on social gatherings regardless of vaccination status. He said they should be limited to no more than six people.
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq tweeted on Saturday that “there remain no cases of COVID-19” in the territory.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 180.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.9 million.
In Europe, a central Russian region on Saturday suspended COVID-19 vaccinations for two days due to a shortage of doses, local officials said, as the country reported its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since mid-January.
Following shortages that suspended inoculation campaigns beginning Friday at some centres in the Bashkiria and Khabarovsk regions, health officials in the central Udmurtia region said vaccinations would stop until Monday due to a supply crunch.
Russia is facing a surge in new cases that authorities blame on the highly infectious delta variant and slow progress on vaccinating people. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said cases of the delta variant were on the increase in the city.
So far, 21 million of Russia’s 144 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Friday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia recorded its biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases on Saturday with 21,095 new cases, taking the total tally to 2,093,962, according to data from the country’s Health Ministry.
The data showed 358 new deaths overnight, taking the total to 56,729. Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Southeast Asia.
In Africa, COVID-19 cases are surging in Uganda, with just one per cent of its population of 44 million now fully vaccinated against the virus. In the last three days, 126 people have died of COVID-19, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
The climb in cases is making scarce hospital beds even more expensive in a country without a national health insurance plan. Hospitals in cities including the capital, Kampala, are reporting difficulties in finding bottled oxygen.
The delta variant appears to have started dominating COVID-19 infections in South Africa, top local scientist Tulio de Oliveira told a news conference on Saturday.
In the Americas, the total case count for COVID-19 in the United States rose to over 33.6 million on Friday, with the death toll reaching 603,523. The country reported 12,825 new confirmed cases and 386 additional deaths. The U.S. leads the world in the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.