New South Wales has been forced into a sudden statewide shutdown after enduring its worst day of the Covid-19 pandemic yet, with 466 new cases and four deaths.
Australia’s most populous state has tightened restrictions and imposed new fines of $ 5,000 for lockdown violations, before numbers expected to worsen in the coming days.
The statewide lockdown will last at least seven days starting at 5pm Saturday and New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the new penalties are “some of the biggest fines I’ve seen.” New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced that an additional 500 Australian Defense Force personnel would be deployed in addition to the 300 already in New South Wales.
The death toll from the current outbreak is now 40 – nearly 400 people are hospitalized with the virus, 64 of whom are in intensive care and 29 on ventilators. There have been nearly 12,000 cases in New South Wales since this outbreak started in late June.
Increasingly, the Delta outbreak is putting younger patients in intensive care: of those currently in the ICU, four are in their 20s and 30s, six are in their 30s, and seven are in their 40s.
Berejikilian called the situation in New South Wales “dire” and warned that the state faced months of lockdown while low vaccination rates (currently around 26% of adults have received two doses) rise to around 70 %.
“This is literally a war, and we know it has been a war for some time, but never to this point,” he said. “The Delta strain is devilish.
“Even when you throw in all the money … cases keep popping up.
“September and October will be difficult. At the end of October we will have 70% double doses of the vaccine and by mid-November we will have two doses of the vaccine administered to 80% of adults ”.
As of midnight Sunday, police have powers to issue $ 5,000 on-site fines for anyone who violates self-isolation orders, with identical penalties for lying to obtain a travel permit or lying to a contact tracker.
Individuals can be fined $ 3,000 for exercising in groups of more than two or for violating the rules about attempting to enter the New South Wales region.
The current Delta outbreak, which began in the coastal suburb of Bondi, has steadily spread westward through Sydney, increasing dramatically over the past week.
Authorities are trying to contain it in the greater Sydney basin, restricting movement out of the capital, particularly to Sydney families traveling to the holiday regions.
“The movement, particularly in Greater Sydney, was too high … in terms of what we were trying to achieve, to bring NSW Health ahead of the Delta variant,” Fuller said.
“He is limited to five kilometers from his home in the greater Sydney area. We will enforce it. “
The president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association said the state closure was necessary because the state health system “can no longer handle the alarming increase in the number of cases” and “the gradual approach .. . is not working”.
“Doctors across New South Wales are exhausted and concerned for their community,” said the president of the AMA in New South Wales, Dr. Danielle McMullen said. “Our already fragile rural and regional health system will not be able to cope with the increase in cases.”
Outside of Sydney, there is great concern about the outbreak worsening in the Dubbo and Walgett communities, where local health services are competing to increase vaccinations and testing.
The region, with a significant Aboriginal population identified as a priority group for vaccination 18 months ago, now has a total of 42 cases.
Western Local Health District Executive Director Scott MacFarlane said the “vast majority” of the new cases were Aboriginal, including children.
The vaccination rate among the indigenous community in the region is barely half that of the general population.
Less than 20% of the Aboriginal population aged 16 and over in western New South Wales had received a dose of any vaccine, and only 8% were fully vaccinated, said Naccho, the lead agency for Aboriginal medical services in the United States. country.
Overall, across the region, 37% of all people have received at least one dose and 16% of all people are fully vaccinated.
Australia had previously had an enviable track record, by global standards, in suppressing the coronavirus, taking advantage of geographic isolation and border closures to keep infection rates comparatively low.
But now it is struggling to contain the Delta outbreaks due to low vaccination rates and repeated leaks from hotel quarantine.
Only a quarter of Australians over the age of 16 have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Hesitation around the AstraZeneca vaccine, in particular, has suppressed demand.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians to “do the right thing among themselves.”
“We have to do the right thing for our neighbors, our communities, our city, our country,” he said. “You can do that by following the rules, staying home, getting vaccinated, and getting tested.”
Berejiklian admitted that there were errors in the government’s responses, but said that no government had reacted beyond reproach to the changing crises of the coronavirus outbreaks.
“There is no perfect way to go,” he said. “We are going to make more mistakes, of course we will, we are going to frustrate people, but it is a journey that we do together, and I feel it every day and I want to assure people that, I feel what we are imposing on ourselves. citizens, and I feel the fear, like everyone else. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism