Australia

Australia tightens COVID curbs as Brisbane extends lockdown, army patrols Sydney

A worker disposes of waste outside a quarantine hotel where returning travelers are kept in isolation for a period to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia

Australia’s Queensland state on Monday extended a COVID-19 lockdown in Brisbane, while soldiers began patrolling Sydney to enforce stay-at-home rules as Australia struggles to stop the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreading.

Queensland said it had detected 13 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours – the biggest one-day rise the state has recorded in a year. The lockdown of Brisbane, Australia’s third-biggest city, was due to end on Tuesday but will now stay in place until late on Sunday.

“It’s starting to become clear that the initial lockdown will be insufficient for the outbreak,” Queensland state Deputy Premier Steven Miles told reporters in Brisbane.

Queensland has yet to establish how a school child acquired the virus, but has forced students at several schools and their families, including that of Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton, to stay home.

Dutton said on Monday he would miss two weeks of parliament after he was told he must quarantine at home for 14 days as his two sons attend a school linked to the outbreak.

The rising new case numbers in two of the country’s biggest cities come as disquiet grows on how the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is handling the pandemic.

Although Australia’s vaccination drive has lagged many other developed economies, it has so far fared much better in keeping its coronavirus numbers relatively low, with just under 34,400 cases. The death toll rose to 925 after a man in his 90s died in Sydney.

Australia is going through a cycle of stop-start lockdowns in several cities after the emergence of the fast-moving Delta strain, and such restrictions are likely to persist until the country reaches a much higher level of vaccination coverage.

Prime Minister Morrison has promised lockdowns would be “less likely” once the country inoculates 70% of its population above 16 years of age – up from 19% now. Morrison expects to hit the 70% mark by the end of the year.

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