Australia’s largest city, Sydney, and some of its surrounding areas on Saturday began a fairly strict two-week lockdown, as authorities struggle to control the epidemic caused by the highly contagious and fast-spreading Covid-19 virus. The number of cases in the region has reached 80.
Parts of Sydney were already under lockdown, but health officials argue that cases and sites of exposure have risen too quickly.
“While we don’t want to impose restrictions unless absolutely necessary, unfortunately this is the situation we have to go through,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Australia is a country more successful in managing the pandemic than many other advanced economies. The government has set the rapid closure of borders and social distancing rules while residents are committed to controlling the disease. The country has recorded just over 30,400 cases and 910 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
But Australia has faced small outbreaks of the disease in recent months. It was eventually contained through rapid contact tracing, the isolation of thousands of people at once, and a severe lockdown.
The closure from Saturday in New South Wales will include the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and Wollongong, which border Sydney, a city of 5 million people.
Under current rules, until July 9, people can leave home for essential work, medical care, education or shopping. The rest of the state will impose restrictions on public meetings and masks will be mandatory indoors.
“There’s no point in doing it for three or five days because it doesn’t work,” Berejiklian said at a news conference.
New Zealand on Saturday suspended non-quarantine travel to and from Australia for three days, saying the neighbor had many cases. The two countries, which kept their borders closed to the rest of the world, began allowing unrestricted travel in April.
Michael Kidd, the Australian government’s deputy chief medical officer, said 28 percent of people aged 16 and over had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Of the 7.2 million doses taken, 5.8 million were the first.
On Saturday, a case of infection in a worker at a granite gold mine, in the Tanami Desert, in the Northern Territory, led local authorities to order the isolation of more than 1,600 people in three states who had contact with the man.
The mine, owned by the Newmont Company, was closed.
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