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What’s happening in Sydney? Lockdowns could last for months

Australia had the pandemic under control. Then the delta variant came along. What’s happening now?

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People prepare for a COVID-19 test in Australia.

A couple prepare to receive a COVID-19 test at a testing station in Nelson Bay, Australia, Monday, June 28, 2021.

Mark Baker, Associated Press

Australia had its COVID-19 outbreaks under control for months. Then, in mid-June, the delta variant came along, reported the Deseret News. The variant — and low domestic vaccination rates — led to lockdowns across Australia.

  • But what began as a short “snap” lockdown in Sydney has now become the city’s longest lockdown since the start of the pandemic, reported CNBC.

Australia’s most populous city may stay under lockdown for months, reported The Guardian. Here’s what’s going on in Sydney and across the country.

What are COVID-19 outbreaks like in Australia?

For weeks, more than half of Australia's 25 million population has been under lockdown, reported The Guardian. The lockdowns came after an outbreak driven by the delta variant began in Sydney and quickly spread to other states.

  • Two Australian states managed to contain the mid-June delta outbreak and prevented the outbreaks from worsening into community transmission, reported The New York Times.
  • Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, and South Australia state will come out of their lockdowns on Wednesday, per CNBC.

The state of New South Wales — whose capital is Sydney — has not managed to contain the outbreak, reported The Associated Press.

Why did Sydney extend its lockdown? How long will the lockdown last?

In Sydney, the recent delta outbreak has shown no sign of slowing down, reported The New York Times. Case numbers have been persistently high throughout the five-week lockdown and have reached new highs just this week.

  • Tuesday, Sydney recorded 172 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of cases since the start of the delta outbreaks, per CNBC.
  • Wednesday, Sydney set a new record with 177 new cases, per CNBC.

Because case numbers continue to climb, local authorities extended the state lockdown another four weeks. The decision comes after Sydney and other major cities experienced large antilockdown protests over the weekend, per The New York Times.

  • State officials have warned that they will not tolerate further protests which violate lockdown restrictions, per The Guardian.
  • Sydney will have tougher policing to control for noncompliance, per CNBC.

“I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality,” said the State Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday, per the AP.

Why is Australia struggling to contain coronavirus now?

Previously, Australia managed to keep COVID-19 cases low with contact tracing, social distancing and locking down. Recently, the Australian public has become increasingly wary of the government’s handling of the pandemic and the vaccination campaign, per CNBC.

  • Only 13% of Australia’s population has been fully vaccinated, reported The New York Times.
  • Australia has struggled to secure vaccines and now faces further delays in its supply, per The Guardian.

“There is no other shortcut, there is no other way through, we have to just hunker down and push through,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday, per CNBC. “There will be lots of criticisms, there will be lots of hindsight, but this delta strain is very unpredictable.”