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Sydney extends lockdown as other Australian cities reopen

SYDNEY, Australia: The authorities have extended Sydney’s lockdown by another month as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

Australia’s largest city has been under lockdown orders since late June due to an outbreak of the Delta variant.

More than 2,500 people have been infected in Sydney’s worst outbreak this year.

New South Wales – of which Sydney is the capital – reported 177 new cases on Wednesday, the most in a day since March 2020.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the city couldn’t exit lockdown on Friday as had been planned.

She announced further curbs on movement – including a 10-kilometre limit on essential shopping.

Victoria and South Australia both came out of lockdowns on Wednesday, after containing smaller outbreaks.

Sydney’s five million residents had enjoyed a fairly normal lifestyle this year until the outbreak happened.

For most of the pandemic, Australia has kept infections relatively low by closing its borders and ordering hotel quarantine for arrivals.

State governments have plunged cities into rapid lockdowns to curb outbreaks, using aggressive contact tracing. There have been over a dozen snap lockdowns in the past year.

But experts warn that restrictions in Sydney could last until September or even later.

Authorities say they cannot re-open until the transmission rate is back to near zero.

At least one in three cases from the past week had been infectious in the community. Reasons included undertaking critical work and grocery shopping.

The highly policed lockdown has fuelled discontent among some in the community.

Several thousand people staged “freedom” protests in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities on the weekend.

It has also highlighted the nation’s bungled vaccine programme, which began in February.

Just 16% of Australia’s adult population is vaccinated.

Critics have blamed the low rate on the federal government’s failure to secure more supplies of the Pfizer vaccine.

They also attribute it to confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine being undermined by mixed messaging about its rare blood clot risk.

The national regulator has recently updated its guidance to urge Sydney residents to get the AstraZeneca jab, of which Australia has a large supply.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised for his government’s handling of the rollout last week, following months of criticism.

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