Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, has ordered a shutdown of building sites and most shops, and is banning workers from leaving several Covid-19 hotspots. The city of 5 million people has been under lockdown since June 26 as authorities race to contain the spread of the delta variant. The state of Victoria is also in lockdown.
Twelve million Australians – or about half of the population – are in COVID-19 lockdown.
In New South Wales, the most populous state, authorities recorded 111 new cases in the previous 24 hours, up from 97 the day before.
Health officials have said that around 80% of the infections are from three areas in Sydney. In response, the government has imposed some of Australia’s toughest lockdown regulations.
Residents in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool areas, which have a total population of more than 600,000 people, will be banned from leaving their district for work unless they have jobs in the health or emergency services sectors. Those permitted to leave face compulsory coronavirus tests every three days, regardless of symptoms. The lockdown measures are in place until at least July 30.
Companies that force staff to go to the office, and don’t allow them to work from home, could be fined $7,400.
Stores that can remain open in Sydney include supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware outlets.
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian says all building work must stop.
“Now, the next decision was a difficult one, but until July 30 – until midnight on July 30 – there will be a pause on all construction, large or small,” Berejiklian said. “Nonurgent repairs, any form of building, renovation, construction, maintenance, including cleaners into the home or workers into the home, will not be allowed for all of Greater Sydney. We know this is a big decision.”
Neighboring Victoria state also reported a jump in daily COVID-19 cases to 19 Saturday, from six the previous day, raising fears it may extend a short lockdown that was scheduled to end on Tuesday.
Once again, Australian states and territories are reimposing internal border controls on regions affected by rising numbers of COVID-19 infections.
Australia has recorded 31,632 coronavirus cases and 913 deaths since the pandemic began, but its vaccination rollout has been slow compared to many other countries.
Only about 10% of Australians are fully vaccinated.
Most foreign nationals were banned in March of last year, and Australia’s international borders are expected to remain closed until well into 2022.