17 Jul, 2021 01:10 AM4 minutes to read
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said officials “had no choice” but to put the state into a snap lockdown. Video / Sky News Australia
Almost half of Australia’s population is under lockdown as health authorities in Victoria race to contain a new outbreak and NSW struggles to get its own under control.
Victoria recorded 19 new community cases of Covid-19 overnight, all linked to current clusters, bringing the state’s total active cases to 54.
Victorian health authorities have warned the public over the possibility of fleeting transmission, announcing more than 165 new exposure sites.
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Professor Michael Toole remained optimistic Melbourne could squash the latest spike, but warned the wide spread of the latest cases could mean an outbreak had already begun making its way across the city.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Omar Khorshid told reporters on Friday afternoon that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews did the “right thing” by sending the entire state into a five-day snap lockdown to halt the spread of the virus.
“We have seen in Sydney just how hard it is to get ahead of delta, so we have to give them every possible chance. The lockdown is the right call in Victoria,” Khorshid said.
In New South Wales, where 111 community cases of Covid-19 were recorded today, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced tougher restrictions in the Greater Sydney region.
From midnight tonight, only “critical retail stores” can remain open.
“We have a list of what is critical retail,” Berejiklian said. “Obviously things like supermarkets, pharmacists, they will retain face-to-face retail. But anything which is regarded as non-critical retail will not be able to have face-to-face.”
Berejiklian said until July 30 there will be a pause on all non-urgent construction in the Sydney region.
In addition, harsher penalties will be applied to employers who require workers to travel to the office.
Berejiklian said the delta variant of the virus had been “a challenge for every single nation on the planet” and the new restrictions were necessary.
A woman walks through the empty Sydney Central Business District during the city’s lockdown. Photo / Getty ImagesNSW chief health officer Kerry Chant endorsed the tougher restrictions, saying the daily case rise was still “far too high”.
“We are seeing some cases still diagnosed late, but we need to see that number get down,” she said. “It is far too high and that is the basis for why we have recommended much more extensive actions to reduce those interactions.”
Chant urged communities in regional NSW to be on high alert as the delta strain continues its spread throughout the state.
She confirmed a man in his 80s from southwest Sydney died overnight after contracting Covid-19.
Health workers at a drive-through Covid-19 clinic in Sydney, Australia. Photo / Getty ImagesPressure had been mounting for days on the NSW Government to introduce stricter lockdown conditions.
Dr Danielle McMullan, the NSW president of the Australian Medical Association, said NSW’s earlier decision to keep non-essential shops open “sends the wrong message to the community” when it is meant to be in lockdown.
On Friday NSW recorded 97 new cases of Covid-19, with 29 infectious in the community before receiving their positive test on Thursday.
“That number of people being infectious in the community keeps going up,” Berejiklian said yesterday afternoon. “We really want to stress to everybody, please stay at home, follow the orders.”
Modelling from the Burnet Institute predicted Greater Sydney would still be seeing more than 40 cases a day until September if the restrictions were not intensified.
In the Northern Territory, an urgent alert was issued for 11 suburbs across Darwin after Covid-19 fragments were detected in sewage.
Health authorities issued the warning on Friday night after samples taken from the Ludmilla Treatment Plant on July 14 returned positive traces.
This is where the outbreak stands across the country: NSW outbreak has grown to 1137; Victoria’s new cases take the state’s total infections to 54; and Queensland recorded no new cases today, keeping total infections in the state at four.