Australia battles several clusters in new pandemic phase
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia was battling to contain several COVID-19 clusters around the country on Monday in what some experts have described as the nation’s most dangerous stage of the pandemic since the earliest days.
Sydney in the east and Darwin in the north were locked down on Monday. Perth in the west made masks compulsory for three days and warned a lockdown could follow after a resident tested positive after visiting Sydney more than a week ago.
Brisbane and Canberra have or will soon make wearing masks compulsory. South Australia state announced new statewide restrictions from Tuesday.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases since the pandemic began. But the new clusters have highlighted the nation’s slow vaccine rollout with only 5% of the population fully vaccinated.
Most of the new cases stem from a Sydney limousine driver who tested positive on June 16 to the delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious. He was not vaccinated, reportedly did not wear a mask and is suspected to have been infected while transporting a foreign air crew from Sydney Airport.
New South Wales state on Monday reported 18 new cases in the latest 24-hour period. The tally was fewer than 30 cases recorded on Sunday and 29 on Saturday.
Authorities warned that a two-week Sydney lockdown that began on Friday would not reduce infection rates for another five days.
“We have to be prepared for the numbers to bounce around and we also have to be prepared for the numbers to go up considerably,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Health policy adviser Bill Bowtell, who was the architect of Australia’s first AIDS response in the 1980s, said the government needed to consider...