A curfew placed on more than two million people in the 12 Sydney suburbs severely afflicted by the spread of the coronavirus Delta strain would be lifted on Wednesday night, authorities announced, but stopped short of removing additional lockdown restrictions.
Officials said that the first-dose COVID-19 immunisation rate has reached 80 percent of the adult population in New South Wales (NSW), while the dual-dose rate is presently at 48 percent in Sydney’s home state. This is higher than the national average of 43 percent, but well below the 70 percent threshold that will trigger the relaxation of other restrictions set three months ago.
Authorities expect to achieve the 70% rate around the middle of next month, and plans to relax more restrictions once it has climbed to 80%.
“The stabilisation and decline in some areas of concern are pleasing and we are at a critical stage … but the best advice we have is that it’s too early and too risky to do anything further today,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a media conference in Sydney.
Despite recent Delta outbreaks, Australia’s coronavirus numbers remain low compared with many other countries, with some 78,600 cases and 1,116 deaths.
Berejiklian has warned that it will be illegal for the unvaccinated to visit any public venues after the state reaches 70 percent, when the fully vaccinated will be granted more freedom.
“It’s only in black and white. You can’t go to a restaurant or a cafe if you haven’t been vaccinated “She urged the unvaccinated to get their injections as soon as possible.
New South Wales, the epicentre of Australia’s Delta outbreak, reported a modest increase in new infections, with the bulk occuring in Sydney, to 1,259 from 1,127 on Tuesday, as well as 12 deaths.
Australia is struggling to quell a third wave of infections that has hit its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra, forcing nearly half the country’s 25 million people into strict stay-at-home restrictions.
On Wednesday, neighbouring Victoria state reported a drop in new cases for the second day in a row, to 423 new cases, as its first-dose vaccination rate approached 70%, nearly a week ahead of schedule, where certain restrictions on travel and outdoor activity will be lifted.
Meanwhile, Ballarat, a small town 115 kilometres (71 miles) north-west of Melbourne, will go into lockdown on Wednesday night after four additional cases were discovered, according to officials.
Melbourne, the state capital, is under extended lockdown, although most of Victoria’s regional towns were released from severe stay-at-home restrictions last week.