Sydney residents bracing more COVID-19 cases, extended lockdown

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australian authorities warned Sydney residents to brace for an extended period of lockdown as another record daily number of COVID-19 infections in the country’s largest city was expected to be announced Tuesday.

The Sydney outbreak, fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, has been expanding rapidly despite the city of more than 5 million people entering its third week of lockdown.

“We haven’t hit the peak,” New South Wales state Deputy Premier John Barilaro told TV broadcaster Nine Network. “There is no reason to suspect anything less than the same numbers as yesterday, maybe a tad higher.”

State officials reported 112 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Monday, the biggest daily rise for the entire country this year.

Most concerning to health officials was the fact that many people were moving around in the community while infectious, a trend that is likely to see Sydney’s lockdown extend beyond the scheduled end date of Friday.

Barilaro said he expected the stay-at-home orders to be “weeks in the making”.

New South Wales officials are scheduled to report daily case numbers at 11 a.m. local time (0100 GMT).

Around fifty venues, including a bank, clinic and a butcher, were listed overnight as places visited by infectious people, prompting officials to urge hundreds of people to test and isolate.

Infections are nearing 700, less than a month since the first was detected in a limousine driver who transported overseas airline crew.

Neighbouring Victoria and South Australia states are on alert after two people from Sydney travelled through the state for work while unknowingly infectious.

Snap lockdowns, speedy contact tracing and tough social distancing rules have helped Australia contain past outbreaks and keep COVID-19 numbers lower than many other developed countries with just over 31,200 cases and 911 deaths.