Sydney outbreak a ‘national emergency’ as COVID-19 cases surge

Sydney’s fast-growing COVID-19 outbreak has become a “national emergency,” said state leaders as Australia’s largest city reported another record number of new infections.

“We have an obligation on behalf of the nation to contain the virus,” said New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian. “There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the right direction.” 

With the virus “spreading everywhere” and half the country’s 25 million people currently in lockdown, Berejiklian said the government must “refocus” its glacial vaccine rollout. 

Just 12 per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated.

“We need, at least, more first doses of Pfizer,” Berejiklian said while warning Sydney’s five million residents that restrictions could run until October.

Also read | Sydney tightens lockdown amid a spike in cases

She further announced that non-essential workers in specific areas of Sydney would now be barred from leaving, tightening a lockdown that is almost certain to be formally extended next week. 

“It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero (cases) next Friday,” Berejiklian said. “We will have a clearer view next week on what August, September, and October look like.” 

Earlier, Australian authorities ordered more businesses to along with a slew of new restrictions in the country’s largest city as a weeks-long lockdown failed to bring down the outbreak of COVID-19.

Authorities clamped down on people’s movements out of virus hotspots in the city’s southwest. Also, locals were banned from leaving their neighbourhoods unless they worked in emergency services or health care.

Melbourne has been the epicentre of the virus in Australia with several areas listed for virus exposure including sports stadiums and shopping centres. The city recorded 18 new COVID-19 cases worrying health officials.