A staff member works at a COVID-19 testing center at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on June 17, 2021. Locally acquired COVID-19 cases increased in Australia's largest city of Sydney after a man tested positive on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)
Australia's biggest city of Sydney will enter a week-long lockdown for some major areas as local health authorities are struggling to contain an outbreak caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.
The restrictions, which will take effect from midnight Friday to 11:59 p.m. July 2, will affect more than 1 million Australian who live or work in four densely-populated areas in Sydney including Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and City of Sydney Councils.
Under the new restrictions, people will only be able to leave their homes for essential shopping, providing medical care, outdoor exercise and essential work or education.
"We understand this is a difficult time for everyone, however we need to take these steps now to get on top of this outbreak. People should only enter the four local government areas for essential purposes," said a statement from Premier of New South Wales (NSW) Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
The decision came after a continued surge of the local transmission. The state recorded 11 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8:00 p.m. Thursday, among which six were announced on Thursday morning, and another 17 local cases that will be counted into Saturday's numbers.
There are now 65 total cases linked to the initial cluster in Sydney's eastern suburb which was caused by a driver, who was infected with the Delta variant and tested positive earlier this month.
The health authorities have listed 55 close contact venues, over 80 casual contact venues and 15 public transport routes, among which many are densely populated venues such as shopping centers, cafes and fitness clubs.
Due to the high virility of the virus, Berejiklian said the state is "likely to see more cases in coming days, mainly from household contacts".
At the same time, the partial lockdown, which may see people who work in the designated areas but live outside will be under different restrictions than their neighbors, prompting many to question its effectiveness and called for a broader lockdown.
The Australian Medical Association(AMA), the peak professional body for doctors in the country, called on the NSW government to immediately lockdown all of Metropolitan Sydney to give it a better chance of tackling the outbreak of the new dangerous Delta strain.
"What we really need are clear rules for all Sydneysiders that say stay home so that we can get ahead of the virus and stop further transmission," AMA President Dr. Omar Khorshid told the press on Wednesday.
"The Delta strain is different. It is being transmitted far more easily and everyone has acknowledged this. Sydney has not faced this before and this means a different approach is required."
In response to the latest announcement, the neighboring states of Queensland and Victoria both warned their residents not to go to NSW and non-residents from hotspots in Sydney were not allowed to enter.
Queensland also required all people returning from the designated areas in Syndey to follow the same lockdown rules.