Sydney’s Delta strain outbreak could increase to over 3,000 new infections per day, according to one prominent microbiologist, who is calling for restrictions in the region to be extended.
Professor Brendan Crabb, director of the medical research body, the Burnet Institute, issued the warning on Aug. 19. He said the situation in Australia’s most populous state—New South Wales (NSW)—could escalate into a “catastrophe” and that it was of national concern.
“We are in a steam train that is heading towards a cliff, not heading towards a station, which is where we should be going,” Crabb told the Today show.
“Last time I spoke on this program, we had 97 cases 30 days ago. We are now at 600. If we speak again in 30 days, it will be three to 4,000 cases,” he added.
“That is what we’re on track for at the moment,” he said. “That’s a catastrophe from a health point of view. This is when our health system is now straining, really straining.”
Crabb called for a “reset” of uniform restrictions to extend across the entire state, rather than the previous approach of targeted lockdowns on suburbs or local government areas (LGAs) with infections.
“I think we need to draw a line and reset around a program of uniformity, where everything is the same for every person, of clarity, simple set of rules force every person and every business,” he said.
“Without this, we face being like Italy was in March 2020. Like the UK was through much of 2020. Like we have seen in places where hospital beds are overflowing and devastating the whole community. That can happen here.”
On Aug. 19, NSW recorded its highest case count at 681 new infections. Most of the state is currently under lockdown.
The Greater Sydney region was originally placed under a five-week lockdown due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
However, this lockdown was extended by another four weeks on July 28, with the government citing low vaccination rates as the reason behind the stay-at-home orders.
As of this week, police have also ramped up enforcement of public health orders, with the government granting extra powers, including the power to shut non-compliant businesses and to issue $5,000 fines.
Despite the prolonged lockdown and increasing vaccination rates, infections are still growing.
The federal government has also had to step in, and along with the NSW government, provide support grants to businesses impacted—or forced to close—under the lockdowns.
Most of the Australian population is currently under lockdown, with NSW, Greater Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory, Melbourne, and the Australian Capital Territory implementing tough lockdowns in an attempt to contain the Delta outbreak.
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 the population.
Lifeline Australia, a suicide prevention and mental health hotline, recorded its highest ever volume of calls on Aug. 2, at 3,345 calls
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