Sydney’s Delta infections keep climbing 7 weeks into lockdown


The Delta variant outbreak roiling Sydney has reached a fresh record, even as Australia’s most populous city is well into the seventh week of a lockdown ordering residents to stay-at-home.

New South Wales, Australia’s biggest state economy, recorded 356 new cases on Tuesday—the highest tally since this outbreak started in Sydney in mid-June and up from 283 the day before.

The clusters are largely concentrated in parts of the city’s south-western areas. The state recorded three more deaths, bringing total fatalities of the current outbreak to 32.

“We know New South Wales is going through challenging times but we also know that vaccination is a key tool in reducing the spread and preventing hospitalization,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday. About a third of the new people infected on Tuesday were infectious while in the community, raising fears Sydney’s outbreak could worsen.

With the nation’s two largest cities in lockdown, the Delta variant of the coronavirus is placing increased pressure on Australia’s so-called “Covid Zero” strategy, which has relied on closed international borders and rigorous testing to eliminate community transmission of the virus. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is aiming to ramp up a tardy vaccine rollout in a bid to start reopening international borders next year.

The creeping spread of the variant into regional New South Wales has forced authorities to enforce snap lockdowns in areas hundreds of miles from Sydney, including Tamworth and Byron Bay.

Meanwhile, Victoria state recorded 20 new infections with the majority in the community while infectious. Melbourne may need to extend its lockdown, which is due to end on Thursday.

Support for Morrison’s handling of the crisis has fallen from 85 percent in April last year—when his conservative government imposed strict border controls that helped keep virus fatalities to less than 1,000—to 48 percent, according to a Newspoll survey published in the Australian newspaper on Monday.

Key developments:

China’s outbreak expands

China’s latest Covid outbreak continues to expand, with more than 100 symptomatic cases reported on Tuesday. With 50 new confirmed infections found in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the latest resurgence has spread to around 1,000 people across more than half of the mainland’s provinces.

China is battling the Delta variant with some of the most aggressive measures in the world, even though the majority of the population is vaccinated. Mass testing and targeted lockdowns in some cities are key parts of its playbook, and the capital Beijing has banned residents from “high-risk” cities from returning.

Meanwhile, Hebei province’s biggest cold-chain market has suspended the movement of imported frozen food in and out of cold storage due to the worsening Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Hebei News Network, which is backed by the provincial government.

Record deaths in Thailand

Thailand recorded 235 fatalities from the coronavirus, the nation’s highest daily level, according to government data Tuesday. The country reported 19,843 new Covid-19 cases, while the number of total daily recoveries were 22,806. The worsening outbreak may scuttle plans to reopen borders to fully vaccinated tourists from mid-October and jumpstart the tourism-reliant economy.

US cases surge to February levels

Fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, new coronavirus cases in the US rose to 761,216 in the week ended Sunday, the highest total since early February, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The death toll climbed 49 percent to 3,486 for same period. It was the biggest weekly increase since December. Overall, more than 616,800 Americans have been killed by the virus.

On Sunday, Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious-disease doctor, said he’s “strongly in favor” of speeding booster shots to people with weakened immune systems, a further sign of how the Delta variant is shifting the strategies for curbing the pandemic.

Indonesia’s plan to live with Covid

Indonesia will gradually ease restrictions in several cities, including the capital Jakarta, as it sets out a roadmap for life with the coronavirus for the next few years.

Those who are vaccinated can go to shopping centers and places of worship in Jakarta and other major cities, with the capacity set at maximum 25 percent, said Luhut Panjaitan, the government minister overseeing the pandemic response. Bali’s situation remains concerning, he added.

The restrictions for Java and Bali are in place until August 16, while curbs for other islands apply until August 23.

Singapore 70 percent vaccinated

Singapore said 70 percent of its population has been fully vaccinated, and 79 percent have received at least one dose, giving the city-state one of the best vaccination rates in the world as it starts to ease social distancing restrictions and restart parts of the economy.

Singapore began allowing dining in to resume and is raising group sizes to five for those who’ve been fully vaccinated. Work from home rules are expected to ease next week.

The country is targeting vaccinating 80 percent of its population by early September in order to start relaxing some of its toughest restrictions, including allowing quarantine-free travel for vaccinated travelers where frequent testing could replace mandatory stay-home rules on arrival.

India finds benefits in dose mixing

Inadvertently mixing a first dose of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covishield vaccine with a second dose of Covaxin—a vaccine made by an Indian drugmaker—led to a higher antibody response in 18 people in a north Indian state against the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants, according to a recent study by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

India, which has fully inoculated only 8.2 percent its population, recorded 35,499 Covid-19 cases Monday, taking the total tally to almost 32 million. Deaths rose by 447 in a day to 428,309, according to health ministry data.

Canada extends India curbs

Canada is extending its restrictions on direct commercial and private passenger flights from India to September 21 because of Covid-19. The government will also extend testing requirements for passengers arriving from India via an indirect flight.

US sending vaccines to Mexico

The US is preparing to send Mexico vaccines from Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc in coming days to bolster its southern neighbor’s fight against Covid-19, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Vaccines are set to be discussed on a Monday afternoon phone call between Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

Lopez Obrador said at his morning press briefing two weeks ago that Mexico had a new offer for more vaccines from the US after he had requested 5 million vaccines in April. AstraZeneca shipments were delayed due to problems at manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions Inc. in Baltimore.

CDC raises advisory for Israel, France

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the travel advisory for France and Israel to the highest level. The agency lowered the advisory for Canada to level 2, or moderate.  Bloomberg News

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