Australian authorities announced an extension of the Covid-19 lockdown in the state of Victoria, and its capital Melbourne, as the country’s two most populous cities and their surrounding areas fight to control a Delta variant-fueled outbreak that threatens to upend Australia’s earlier success in controlling the pandemic.
Victoria, which was previously scheduled to exit lockdown at midnight on Tuesday, recorded 13 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19.
While announcing the extension, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said the decision on when the lockdown will end will be made on Tuesday after further testing and tracing of cases have taken place.
Andrews noted that lockdown rules will not be lifted while local cases were still being detected.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, reported 98 new locally acquired cases, most of them in and around its capital Sydney.
At least 20 of the new cases had interactions with the community during their infectious period, which are expected to lead to more positive cases.
The lockdown in Australia’s two biggest urban regions means that nearly half of the country’s population of 25 million is currently under lockdown.
11%. That’s the total population of Australia that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s tracker. Experts have blamed Australia’s sluggish vaccine rollout as a key reason behind the fresh outbreaks.
The slow vaccine rollout appears to be affecting the popularity of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government. According to a poll published by The Australian, Morrison’s approval rating dropped two points to 51% over the past two weeks. The approval numbers are at their lowest level since the Australian leader faced major criticism early last year over his response to devastating bushfires that engulfed parts of the country. Support for Morrison’s governing coalition of the Liberal and National parties has also slumped, while support for the opposition Labor party has gone up. Some 39% of respondents say they would vote for the coalition in the next election, while 39% have voiced support for Labor.
Australia had initially managed to almost clamp down on the local spread of Covid-19 by using a mix of contact tracing, movement curbs, and strict quarantine measures for incoming travelers. However, at the start of the latest outbreak in Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government were hesitant to impose a strict lockdown. Berejiklian’s decision to delay the lockdown has been severely criticized, but she has received support from the country’s federal government. The federal government’s strong support for Berejiklian has prompted dissent from leaders of other states. Last week, NSW was forced to extend lockdown in Sydney and surrounding areas by an additional two weeks as cases numbers continued to remain high.
Department of International Relations and European Studies https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-international-relations-and-european-studies/#