MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s New South Wales state recorded its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 infections this year, even as residents in several major cities across the country were released from snap lockdowns on Saturday.
Sydney, the New South Wales state capital and home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million population, has been hit hardest in a flurry of outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant around the country over the past two weeks.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported 35 new cases, 29 of which were linked to previous cases. That eclipsed the 31 cases reported a day earlier, taking total infections under the current outbreak to more than 250.
“While the number of cases are going up, we are seeing a greater proportion of those in isolation which is what we want to see,” Berejiklian told a press conference.
“We haven’t seen a huge surge in cases … (but) we know the next few days are critical.”
Sydney is halfway through a two-week lockdown. Berejiklian said it was still too early to make a decision on whether to extend the lockdown.
“Health experts are giving myself and my colleagues advice on a daily basis,” she said. “I anticipate that obviously some time next week we’ll be in a position to tell the community where things are at.”
Elsewhere in the country, residents enjoyed a taste of freedom as the weekend got underway after lockdowns in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and some areas of Queensland state were lifted on Friday night.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed that a lockdown in Brisbane would be lifted later on Saturday as she reported five new COVID-19 cases in the state.
Lockdowns, swift contact tracing and tough social distancing rules have helped Australia to suppress prior outbreaks, but the fast-moving Delta strain has alarmed authorities amid a sluggish nationwide vaccination drive.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Jane Wardell)