Top line

Australia’s most populous state New South Wales, particularly its capital Sydney, is facing a growing outbreak of Covid-19 fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant as the region has reported an increase to two Figures of new cases acquired locally for the third day in a row, mounting fears that the country’s early success of the pandemic may be jeopardized by slow vaccine deployment and more infectious variants.

Highlights

New South Wales reported eleven new locally acquired cases on Thursday, pushing the tally of the latest outbreak above 40 cases, Reuters reports.

The outbreak has also hit state leaders, with Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall testing positive on Thursday, forcing the New South Wales parliament to close.

State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian – who tested negative on Thursday – told reporters the state was going through its “scariest time” since the start of the pandemic.

Berejiklian has resisted calls for a strict lockdown in the state and said the current restrictions in place in Greater Sydney are adequate at this point.

Authorities have banned residents of seven municipal areas in Sydney from leaving the city, home gatherings are limited to five people, and masks have been made mandatory in all indoor locations in Sydney.

New South Wales has effectively been cut off from the rest of the country as neighboring states have either closed their borders or imposed major restrictions on travelers from the state.

Large number

2.98%. It is the total population of New South Wales that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s tracker. While over 21% of the population received at least one dose, the delta variant was found to significantly blunt the effectiveness of a single dose.

Key context

Australia has been largely successful in curbing the spread of Covid-19 within its borders using a mix of contact tracing, movement restrictions and strict quarantine measures for inbound travelers. A similar tactic was used by neighboring Victoria, New South Wales, after a “highly infectious” epidemic struck Melbourne last month. Mark McGowan, the Prime Minister of Western Australia, also urged authorities in New South Wales to take a similar approach to “crush and kill” the virus and warned that “light” measures could result in a larger epidemic. While the vaccine rollout in Australia has accelerated over the past month, it still faces supply constraints. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortages are expected to slow deployment until the end of July. Australia has so far administered around 7 million doses of the vaccine and around 24% of its population has received at least one dose.

Further reading

Sydney faces ‘scariest time’ of pandemic amid Delta outbreak (Reuters)

NSW Covid update: State faces ‘scariest time’ as Sydney registers 11 new Covid cases (The Guardian)

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