Five deaths have been reported as being linked to the CCP virus Delta variant outbreak in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), as authorities move to extend the lockdown measures beyond the boundaries of Greater Sydney to the Hunter region north of the city.
From 5 p.m. Thursday, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton, and Muswellbrook will go into lockdown after high loads of viral fragments and new infections were detected in the Hunter region on Wednesday.
The lockdown will remain in place until midnight next Thursday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously said that the harsh lockdown restrictions her government has imposed are a result of low vaccination rates, and on Thursday enticed residents to get vaccinated, saying the lockdown would end if 6 million doses are administered by Aug. 29—that is 80 percent of the state’s population.
“I am urging everyone to come forward and get vaccinated. It does not matter which vaccine you’re offered,” she said. “If we all work hard, we can get to that 6 million target by the end of August.”
She also offered her condolences to the families of the deceased, saying the loss was horrible, while noting that four out of the five had not been vaccinated and one only had one dose.
“I can’t stress enough how it is so important for everybody, of all ages, to come forward and get the vaccine,” she said.
The NSW government said it has a large supply of AstraZeneca vaccine, and an extra 180,000 Pfizer doses are expected from the federal government in the next fortnight.
The premier is also considering the idea of offering incentives to induce people to get vaccinated—what Prime Minister Scott Morrison has deemed “freedom incentives.”
This may include allowing some employees back to work or a new “Dine and Discover” program for the vaccinated.
“Vaccines protect life and keep people out of the hospital … every jurisdiction around the world is finding Delta challenging,” Berejiklian said.
“We can try and eliminate it, but we know the vaccine is critical to stopping the spread and allowing us to consider options moving forward.”
However, other politicians, in the NSW premier’s and the prime minister’s own party, have spoken out against this.
The state recorded 262 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
Concerningly for authorities, 45 of the new cases had been out and about in the community while in their infectious period.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant said that five people had caught COVID-19 at a gathering at Blacksmiths Beach south of Newcastle on Friday, July 30, where some guests are believed to have travelled from the Greater Sydney region.
Lake Munmorah Public School is closed for cleaning after two students were detected with the virus, as well as one student at Morisset High School.
Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.