Officials in Sydney announced on Saturday that Australia’s largest city would enter a full lockdown until July 9 as an outbreak linked to the Delta variant continued to grow.
The decision expands a partial lockdown ordered a day earlier, when Sydney’s central business district and eastern suburbs were ordered to close for at least a week.
Officials in New South Wales, which includes Sydney and is Australia’s most populous state, announced an additional 22 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 65, the city’s largest outbreak in six months. They warned that many more cases were likely to emerge in the coming days because of a cluster centered on a hair salon that some 900 clients visited while several employees were infectious.
The lockdown will affect Sydney’s five million residents and follows a return to mandatory mask wearing and a ban on travel outside the city, which were announced this week.
The new restrictions reflect a mix of widening concern about the infectiousness of the Delta variant — some of the confirmed infections appear to have occurred after only a few seconds of contact — and an effort to keep the outbreak contained.
“We don’t want to see this situation linger for weeks,” the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, said on Friday. “We would like to see this situation end sooner rather than later.”
Officials are especially worried about a handful of possible superspreader locations, including a child’s birthday party last weekend where at least 17 attendees had tested positive as of Thursday evening. The rest of the people at the party are also expected to be infected, along with the household contacts of nearly everyone there.
The hair salon has the potential to add dozens or hundreds more cases. Everyone who passed through over the past several days has been asked to get tested and to isolate.