In a bid to control the ongoing outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19, authorities have extended the Greater Sydney lockdown until the end of September and implemented tighter restrictions on local government areas (LGA) of concern.
New South Wales (NSW)—Australia’s most populous state—recorded 642 new infections and four deaths on Thursday.
Greater Sydney was originally placed under a five-week lockdown in late June due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
This lockdown was extended by another four weeks until Aug. 28 and was further extended until Sept. 30 on Friday.
LGA’s of concern will face a raft of new restrictions, including a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (except for authorised and emergency workers); a one-hour limit on leaving home for exercise; all exams and professional development activities must be done online; and while certain retail premises must close barring “click and collect.”
These include garden centres and plant nurseries, office supplies, hardware and building supplies, landscaping material supplies, rural supplies, and pet supplies (except for tradespeople).
Police will also have the power to lockdown apartment complexes if cases are discovered.
The Sydney LGAs of concern are Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith.
A permit system will also come into force this weekend for people travelling between Greater Sydney and regional NSW.
“While the evidence of curfews is mixed, the evidence to a lot of these things is mixed,” State Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. “But I do not want us to have to look back and say we did not try, we did not put everything into it.”
Curfews in Australia are not new, with Victorian authorities implementing them in Greater Melbourne’s current three-week lockdown.
Masks will also be mandated in NSW for individuals leaving home.
“This is also for police; it makes it easy for them to make sure that everybody is sticking to the rules, so this (means) mask-wearing outdoors unless you’re exercising,” the premier added.
Berejiklian has resisted calls for tight lockdowns over the past year, instead of relying on contact tracing measures that would allow the economy to stay open.
However, the emergence of Delta has changed the equation, with NSW authorities ramping up efforts to stem the spread of the COVID variant, which they say is due to the low vaccination rates in the country.
Most of the Australian population is currently under lockdown, with NSW, Greater Melbourne, Greater Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory under tight restrictions.
Australia and New Zealand have enjoyed relatively low infection and death rates from COVID-19 by global standards; this—along with public support for tough measures—has motivated state leaders to more readily implement lockdowns, restrictions, and border closures.
However, evidence is emerging that prolonged lockdowns are causing serious mental health issues for Australians, with Lifeline Australia, the suicide prevention and mental health hotline, recording its highest ever volume of calls for help on Aug. 20.
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