Australia saw a record daily number of new coronavirus cases this year yesterday, with the country’s most populous states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland recording a total of 361 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant. With about 15mn people in the three states, or 60% of Australia’s population, under a strict lockdown, the country also reported five coronavirus-related deaths, one of the highest this year. NSW suffered its worst pandemic day, reporting 319 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases, with Sydney and neighbouring regional centres spanning 200km of coastline under a stay-at-home order for six weeks already. There are 345 people admitted to hospital in NSW, with 56 in intensive care and 23 under ventilation. NSW authorities, who had been reluctant to put Sydney into a lockdown, said lack of observance of rules has been a problem. “What we have happening right now is some people are not complying,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. “Just stay at home - that is the circuit breaker. Stay at home and get vaccinated.” Neighbouring Victoria saw the highest daily jump in cases this year, with 29 new infections, as the state remains under a snap seven-day lockdown imposed earlier this week, the state’s sixth since the start of the pandemic. Victoria Premier Dan Andrews urged people to follow the public health rules that allow residents to leave their house only for essential work, shopping, care, vaccination or two hours of outdoor exercise. “This Delta variant spreads so fast,” Andrews said. “We don’t have enough of people vaccinated, we will finish up with younger people in the hospital, otherwise fit and healthy people. Our system will be overrun if we don’t bring this under control.” A resident receives her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination centre in Sydney.
Australia’s coveted status as a haven from the pandemic could be at an end, with experts warning that a sustained Delta outbreak makes a return to “Covid zero” unlikely. After long stretches with zero local cases - what Australians once jokingly referred to as “doughnut days” - a Sydney outbreak has now grown to 4,610. Record numbers of new cases are being reported each day despite widespread lockdowns. Slowly but surely, some local authorities have shifted to talking about containing the virus rather than beating it. “Given where numbers are, given the experience of Delta overseas, we now have to live with Delta one way or another, and that is pretty obvious,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian. After 18 months of advocating “Covid zero”, that represents a step-change in the country’s approach. For experts like Emma McBryde, an infectious diseases and statistical modelling expert at James Cook University, the shift in tone is a reflection of the new reality that Delta has brought. “We’re buying time, not getting back to Covid zero,” she told AFP. Like most experts she agrees that Australia’s old virus toolbox — aggressive tracing and testing, snap lockdowns and extensive travel restrictions — while less effective, is still essential to stop exponential virus spread. But, she said: “The goal now should be keeping Covid in check for long enough to get vaccinated.” Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, echoed those comments, telling public broadcaster ABC that Australia will “probably never” get back to zero transmission. Barring a few isolated Pacific islands and neighbouring New Zealand, few countries weathered the first 18 months of the coronavirus quite as well as Australia. As the rest of the world hunkered down, got sick and lost loved ones, Australians flocked to bars, restaurants and the beach. Occasionally, the virus jumped from hotel quarantine facilities into the community but aggressive tracing and testing, snap local lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions kept it in check. Then came Delta. In mid-June, a US flight crew infected a Sydney driver with the highly transmissible variant first detected in India. Since then, the number of daily infections has climbed steadily despite a Sydney lockdown, now in its sixth week. The outbreak has grown and clusters have popped up across the country. Roughly 16mn Australians - almost two-thirds of the population - are now staying at home, just as Europe and North America emerge from virus-enforced hibernation. The outbreak and strategy shift by New South Wales has spurred recriminations among Australian states and the federal government in Canberra. Leaders have bickered about whether Sydney locked down too slowly, or too lightly. Authorities in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland continue to try to stamp out new cases entirely. But even those who advocate aggressive suppression admit the costs are rising and it has become harder. “Australia’s ‘Zero Covid’ strategy has allowed us to escape the worst of the pandemic so far: our death toll has been among the world’s lowest, our recession among the shortest,” said a recent report from the Grattan Institute, a public policy think tank. “We’ve faced fewer restrictions on our daily lives than almost anywhere else. But we have paid a heavy price. We are shut off from the rest of the world, and we have frequently been locked down.” “The more infectious Delta variant is making Zero Covid even harder to maintain. Australians have supported a hard-line approach, but they are also tired and frustrated.” Despite the bickering, most mainstream voices are united in seeing vaccines as the ultimate way out. But barely 20% of Australians are vaccinated, in part because of poor planning, in part bad luck. The government bet on a University of Queensland vaccine that — while likely effective — was dropped because it caused a false positive HIV test in recipients. It also bet on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is produced locally and is in plentiful supply but is seen by many Australians as inferior to Pfizer, which was ordered in small numbers. Masked people sit by the waterfront in downtown Melbourne amid a sixth lockdown. A deserted shopping arcade in downtown Melbourne yesterday amid a sixth lockdown for the city in efforts to bring the Delta outbreak to heel.
Troops hit Sydney's streets on Monday to help enforce its prolonged lockdown, as stay-at-home orders in Australia's third-largest city Brisbane were extended to curb a worsening outbreak. About 300 Australian Defence Force personnel will be deployed to the country's largest city after New South Wales state police requested military help to enforce Covid-19 rules. Authorities have been struggling to stop the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant in Sydney -- and ensure that residents follow containment rules -- with more than 3,600 cases recorded since mid-June. With thousands of close contacts of Covid cases told to test and stay at home for 14 days, police said they lacked the manpower to make sure everyone was complying. Troops are expected to help police deliver food parcels, conduct "welfare door-knocks" and check people are complying with self-isolation orders. "I want to stress up front again that we will be under control of the NSW police," said Brigadier Mick Garraway. "We are not a law enforcement agency and we will do tasks that are supportive in nature." More than five million people in Sydney and surrounding areas are entering their sixth week of a lockdown set to run until the end of August. Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for exercise, essential work, medical reasons, and to shop for necessities such as food. But compliance has been patchy and police have increasingly been doling out fines to those violating the restrictions. The defence force said the latest deployment was in addition to the 250 military personnel already working at hotels and airports in New South Wales. In Brisbane and several surrounding regions, millions of people will remain under lockdown until Sunday after an "escalating" outbreak grew to 29 cases. Those stay-at-home orders had been scheduled to lift on Tuesday. "That will make it an eight-day lockdown. And we desperately hope that that will be sufficient for our contact tracers to get into home quarantine absolutely anyone who could have been exposed to the Delta strain," acting Queensland state premier Steven Miles said. The outbreak was linked to a Brisbane school student, with pupils and teachers at several schools subsequently placed into isolation. Defence Minister Peter Dutton's sons attend one of the schools hit, so he is among those being forced to quarantine at home for 14 days. "Having had Covid and being fully vaccinated, I have also tested negative this morning," he said in a statement. With about 15 percent of Australia's 25 million people fully vaccinated, authorities are still relying on lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has outlined a long road out of restrictions -- setting a target of 80 percent of the eligible population to be fully vaccinated before borders are reopened and lockdowns eliminated. Australia has recorded more than 34,000 cases and 925 deaths so far during the pandemic.
Australia’s third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state entered a snap Covid-19 lockdown from yesterday as authorities raced to contain an emerging outbreak of the Delta strain. Millions of residents in the city and several other areas were placed under stay-at-home orders from Saturday afternoon for three days, state Deputy Premier Steven Miles said. “The only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” Miles said. Six new cases were reported yesterday in a cluster of the Delta variant initially linked to a school student, resulting in pupils and teachers at two schools being placed into isolation. Genome sequencing had connected the cluster to returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine but the exact source of transmission remained unclear, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said. In the “strictest lockdown” the city has enforced, residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons, including buying groceries and exercising. “We cannot afford to be complacent just because we have done so well so far. We all we have to comply with these restrictions,” Miles said. Sydney recorded 210 new local cases yesterday, slightly down from the record number reached earlier in the week. Police were out in force around the city, attempting to prevent anti-lockdown protesters from gathering after thousands poured through the streets and sparked violent clashes with officers last week. With close to just 14% of the population fully vaccinated, authorities around the country continue to rely on lockdowns to reduce people’s movements and slow the spread of the virus. On Friday, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined a long road out of restrictions — setting a target of 80% of the population to be fully vaccinated before the government would reopen borders and end lockdowns. New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 210 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 yesterday, as police cordoned off downtown Sydney with multiple checkpoints to prevent a planned anti-lockdown protest. Sydney and its vicinities have been under a weeks-long strict lockdown that is to last at least until the end of August while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Saturday’s numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases. About 1,000 police officers have been deployed around Sydney to prevent an unauthorised demonstration against the lockdown and the police have been issuing prohibition notices to taxi and rideshare services banning them from taking passengers to demonstrations, the NSW police said. Protests last weekend resulted in a series of arrests and clashes with police. A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed, however, that only 7% of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia’s success in managing the pandemic. In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14. Parts of the neighbouring state Queensland will enter into a three-day snap lockdown on yesterday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the Delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.
• Daily cases fall for first time in nearly a week; Military called to help enforce lockdown Australia will reopen its borders and end lockdowns when 80% of the population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed yesterday, sketching a long road out of “Fortress Australia” virus restrictions. A year-and-a-half after Australia cocooned itself off from the rest of the pandemic-ravaged world, Morrison unveiled a series of targets he said could begin to be reached by the end of the year. In March 2020, Australia took the unprecedented step of almost entirely closing its borders to foreign visitors and banning its globetrotting citizens from leaving. Sixteen months and several lockdowns on, there are currently around 6mn Australians under stay-at-home orders - most residing in Covid-hit Sydney - as authorities battle to get back to “Covid zero.” Scarcely 14% of the population has been fully vaccinated, prompting growing anger. Hoping to give restriction-weary Australians some prospect of a return to normality, Morrison set out a series of targets for the gradual easing of restrictions. The conservative prime minister indicated that when 70% of eligible adults have received two doses, vaccinated residents will have more freedom from domestic restrictions and a limited number of international students and economic visa holders will be allowed to enter the country. “I believe we can get there by the end of the year,” Morrison said, without setting a firm target date. When 80% of eligible adults have been fully jabbed, vaccinated Australians will again be allowed to travel to safe countries overseas. Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received one of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and mandatory two-week hotel quarantine requirements will be eased. Morrison - who faces reelection within the year - avoided setting a timeframe for the targets, insisting it would depend on when Australians choose to get vaccinated. “The timelines are now in the hands of all Australians,” Morrison said. The country’s glacial vaccine rollout has been beset by government missteps, an acute shortage of Pfizer vaccines and scepticism about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine - which Australia has in large amounts and produces domestically. “Every single vaccine will take us closer to achieving each of these steps,” Morrison said. “As Australians, we have to take each step together. And that starts with walking in the door of that vaccine clinic.” Border closures have prompted the first population decline since World War I and tens of thousands of Australian citizens have been stranded overseas. While hundreds of thousands of Australian residents remain separated from family overseas. As the pandemic drags on, there are growing concerns about the impact of prolonged restrictions that have kept the country largely Covid-free, with Australia recording just under 34,000 cases.There are also growing fears that Sydney’s prolonged lockdown - now in its fifth week and expected to last until the end of August - could send Australia into a second recession in as many years. In early 2020, the global Covid slowdown helped tip Australia’s already teetering economy into its first recession in three decades. Before the latest Sydney outbreak, the recovery had been quicker than expected, with GDP passing pre-pandemic levels. A man walks past a garment shop closed due to Covid-19 restrictions in western Sydney.
* Daily cases fall for first time in nearly a week * Military called to help enforce lockdown * Queensland on alert after new mystery case Sydney's poorest neighbourhoods on Friday braced for military enforcement of the city's toughest and longest lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic as the infection numbers held persistently high five weeks since restrictions began. With the city of 5 million people ordered to stay home amid an outbreak of the highly transmissable Delta variant, authorities outlined even tighter restrictions for the worst affected suburbs, including mandatory testing and mask-wearing outdoors. From Monday, some 300 Australian army personnel will help police door-knock people who have tested positive to the virus to ensure they are isolating, New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said at a televised news conference. "The sheer volume of increase over the last week (means) the level of compliance (enforcement) has gone from hundreds into thousands," he said. The amped-up military and police presence would cover the breadth of Australia's largest city but mainly eight local government districts in the city's west - home to 2 million people - where most new cases have been reported. As the city entered its sixth week of a planned nine-week lockdown, New South Wales state reported 170 new local cases, most in the state capital Sydney, down from a record 239 a day earlier. Of the new cases, at least 42 spent time in the community while infectious. While new cases fell, state premier Gladys Berejiklian said the high number of infectious people in the community meant "we are expecting to see those numbers bounce around". At the same news conference, state health minister Brad Hazzard said people were waiting too long to get tested after developing symptoms, and that "we are seeing more families coming in with a family member who is presenting not alive but dead". While some people in migrant communities may be distrustful of government, "we are here to support you and our health system is here to support you," he added. Since the outbreak began with an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver last month, NSW has reported 13 deaths, taking the national total to 923 since the pandemic began. The epicentre of the outbreak has crossed Sydney from the affluent beachside suburb of Bondi to the western suburbs, where local leaders said residents felt unfairly targeted by the heightened enforcement. "They've got no other ideas than to bring in the military as a last resort because they're lost for answers on issues they created," said Steve Christou, mayor of the Cumberland local government area, where 60% of its 240,000 residents were born overseas. "They are a poor community, they are a vulnerable community, and they don't deserve these lockdowns or these extended and harsh measures that they have now been targeted with," he added in a telephone interview. People living in the western suburbs must stay within 5 km of home and have a virus test every three days in order to be allowed to do essential work outside the area. Already police have been given sweeping new powers to close businesses breaking rules. Military officers won't be armed and will be under police command, police commissioner Fuller said on Friday. They will also aim to work with community leaders on enforcement strategies, he said. An emergency Covid cabinet of state and federal leaders meanwhile began a regular meeting on Friday, with plans to discuss exit strategies from the pandemic - widely expected to centre around getting more people vaccinated. Until recently, Australia had handled the coronavirus crisis much better than many other developed countries, with just over 34,000 cases and less than 1,000 dead. But that standing has been shaken by a sluggish immunisation program that has left just 18% of people aged over 16 fully vaccinated. Until that number rises substantially, the country will rely on lockdowns to keep new infections under control, lawmakers have said. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said this week he hoped enough people would be vaccinated by the end of the year to do away with lockdowns for good.
Australia’s military will help enforce a lockdown in Sydney after the city of 6mn posted a record daily rise in Covid-19 cases yesterday and state authorities said the outbreak was likely to get worse. The lockdown of Australia’s biggest city has increased pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is now trailing in opinion polls, and heightened concern that Australia’s A$2tn ($1.5tn) economy could slide into recession. Despite an extended lockdown in Sydney since an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, 239 new locally acquired coronavirus cases were recorded in the city over a 24-hour period, the biggest daily rise since the pandemic began. “We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better given the quantity of people infectious in the community,” said Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital. Berejiklian said one new death took the toll from the latest outbreak to 13 and the national total was now 921. With little sign that of restrictions reducing infections, Berejiklian said new curbs would be imposed on the southwestern and western areas of Sydney where the majority of Covid-19 cases are being found. Residents there will be forced to wear masks outdoors and to stay within 5km of their homes. With even tighter restrictions set to begin today, New South Wales Police said it had asked for 300 military personnel to help enforce lockdown orders. The personnel will deploy today, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said, and will begin assisting police with ensuring compliance with restrictions next week. Berejiklian extended the Sydney lockdown by another month on Wednesday. New South Wales accounts for over a third of Australia’s economy. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he expected the national economy to shrink in the September quarter but the ability to avoid a technical recession would depend on whether New South Wales can avoid a longer lockdown. “With respect to the December quarter, that does depend to a large extent how successful New South Wales, our largest state economy, is in getting on top of this virus,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Berejiklian has said restrictions need to remain as too few people in Sydney are vaccinated amid tight supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with which Australia had hoped to inoculate everyone under 60 years old. All adults in Sydney have been urged to seek an AstraZeneca vaccine. Some, citing rare blood clots, are reluctant and would prefer to wait several months when Australia is expected to receive additional Pfizer supplies.
The Australian city of Sydney extended a lockdown by four weeks yesterday after an already protracted stay-at-home order failed to douse a Covid-19 outbreak, with the authorities warning of tougher policing to stamp out non-compliance. Far from a planned exit from lockdown in three days, the city of 5mn people and neighbouring regional centres spanning 200km of coastline were told to stay home until Aug 28 following persistently high case numbers since a flare-up of the virulent Delta variant began last month. The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 177 new cases for Tuesday, from 172 on Monday. That is the biggest increase since an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver was said to have sparked the current outbreak. The state also reported the death of a woman in her 90s, the 11th death of the outbreak. Of particular concern, at least 46 of the new cases were people active in the community before being diagnosed, raising the likelihood of transmission, said the authorities, who have cautioned that active community transmission must be near zero before relaxing the rules. “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 NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a televised news conference. Berejiklian added that police would boost enforcement of wide-ranging social distancing rules and urged people to report suspected wrongdoing, saying “we cannot put up with people continuing to do the wrong thing because it is setting us all back”. In one case, a mourning ceremony attended by 50 people in violation of lockdown rules resulted in 45 infections, she said. The extension turns what was initially intended to be a “snap” lockdown of Australia’s most populous city into one of the country’s longest since the start of the pandemic, and may spark the second recession of the A$2tn ($1.47tn) national economy in two years, according to economists. To minimise the economic impact, the NSW government said it would lift a ban on non-occupied construction in most of Sydney. However, it expanded a list of local government areas within the city where the ban would stay because of the prevalence of Covid-19 cases there. The popularity of the federal government may suffer from the extended lockdown. Polls show slipping support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government amid criticism of a slow vaccination roll-out that has been blamed on changing regulatory advice and supply shortages. “There is no other shortcut, there is no other way through, we have to just hunker down and push through,” said Morrison during a televised news conference in the national capital Canberra. He acknowledged his own family was caught up in the Sydney lockdown. “There will be lots of criticisms, there will be lots of hindsight, but this Delta strain is very unpredictable.” Yesterday, the NSW government said it was redirecting Pfizer Inc vaccine doses, which have so far been restricted to people aged 40 to 60, from relatively unaffected regional areas to final-year school students in the worst-affected Sydney neighbourhoods. The state and federal governments also said they were expanding a relief funding package to enable affected companies to keep paying wages through the closure. In contrast to NSW, the states of Victoria and South Australia began their first day out of shorter lockdowns that halted outbreaks there. Victoria reported eight new cases, all of them isolated throughout their infectious period, and another case still under investigation. Queensland state reported one new case, a man who completed the country’s mandatory two weeks of hotel quarantine then tested positive nine days later. The authorities said they were trying to track down people who may have been in close contact with him, including occupants of a youth hostel where he stayed. Australia has kept its Covid-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 33,200 cases and 921 deaths, out of a population of about 25mn, since the pandemic began, but the fast-moving Delta strain and low vaccination coverage have frustrated residents.
Australia’s Victoria state said yesterday it will lift a strict lockdown after curtailing the spread of Covid-19, but neighbouring New South Wales faces an extension of restrictions after daily new cases spiked to a 16-month peak. More than half of Australia’s near 26mn population has been in lockdown in recent weeks after an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant took hold in the New South Wales capital of Sydney and spread to three states. New South Wales reported 172 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, up from 145 a day earlier, with at least 60 spending time in the community while infectious. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a decision whether to extend the five-week lockdown will be taken this week. But with less than 13% of the state’s population fully vaccinated, curbs are expected to remain. “We know we’ve put in the hard yards for five weeks and we don’t want to waste all the good work that we’ve done by opening too early and then having the virus spread again,” Berejiklian told a media conference. In contrast, Victoria state said most restrictions imposed on July 15 will be removed from Wednesday after recording just 10 infections of people already in quarantine. “All in all, this is a good day,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne. Victoria’s 5mn residents will now be allowed to leave home freely and schools will reopen, though households will not be permitted to have visitors. South Australia said it will also lift a lockdown today after it recorded zero Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours. Lockdowns have raised the prospect of Australia recording its second recession in as many years, though Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday talk of this was premature. Frydenberg said last week the country’s A$2tn ($1.5tn) economy is expected to shrink in the latest GDP figures, with lockdowns costing about A$300mn daily. Easing lockdowns will soften the economic toll, but New South Wales is Australia’s biggest state economy and accounts for about a third of national output. Swift contact tracing, tough social distancing rules and lockdowns have helped Australia to keep its Covid-19 numbers low, with just under 33,100 cases and 920 deaths since the pandemic first appeared in early 2020. The outbreak in Sydney, however, has seen a wave of hospitalisations and 10 deaths in recent weeks. New South Wales said 169 people are in hospital with the virus, of which 46 are in intensive care. Amid heightened concerns about a spate of hospitalisations of younger people, Australia has urged people to take AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine after struggling to secure enough supplies of Pfizer’s inoculations. Authorities had previously recommended only over 60s should take the AstraZeneca shot after rare but serious blood clotting cases. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the BBC Australia’s vaccine rollout has been “a colossal failure” because the government failed to buy enough vaccines. “It’s the biggest failure of public administration I can recall,” Turnbull said. Faced with being unable to secure a Pfizer vaccine until at least September, tens of thousands of people have opted to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine – though many others have said they will wait. “I’m kind of opposed to getting AstraZeneca due to the information that was provided earlier about the blood clots,” said Rebecca Carlisle, who works in human resources in Sydney. “I’m not willing to get AstraZeneca.”
Australia's most populous state reported a rise in new Covid-19 cases on Monday despite a weeks-long stay-at-home order, while police vowed to crack down on any repeat of a anti-lockdown protest which turned violent at the weekend. New South Wales, which has had more than 5 million people in Sydney city under lockdown for a month, reported 145 new cases of the virus, from 141 a day earlier, as it struggles to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. The state also reported two new deaths, a man and a woman both in their 80s, taking its total fatalities to 10 since the flare-up began a month ago and the national total to 920 since the start of the pandemic. Of particular concern, 51 of the newly diagnosed were active in the community before testing positive, raising the risk of transmission. The authorities have said they want that number near zero before lifting the city's most restrictive lockdown of the pandemic at a July 30 target date. "We might need to go harder in some areas and release some settings in others," state premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a televised news conference, apparently referencing five government areas of Sydney's suburbs at the epicentre of the outbreak. Berejiklian added that she would give an update on movement restrictions in the next few days. At the weekend, thousands of people marched in an anti-lockdown protest which turned violent in central Sydney, an event that state chief health officer Kerry Chant called "distressing". As images and videos of the protest circulated on social media, including one image of a man apparently punching a police horse in the head, state police commissioner Mick Fuller said some 10,000 people had called the police hotline to report people suspected of breaking lockdown orders. The calls to police were "an amazing outcry by the community, not just in terms of their disgust at the protest but at the way the police were treated", said Fuller. Police knew of plans for a repeat protest and similar behaviour "won't be tolerated again", he added. Victoria state, also under lockdown, reported 11 new cases, although all were in quarantine during their infectious period. Authorities said they would decide the next day whether to lift restrictions as hoped. Neighbouring South Australia said it was on track to exit its snap one-week lockdown on Wednesday, after reporting one new local case, also in quarantine through their infectious period. VACCINE RUSH: The outbreak, sparked by an infected airport transit driver in Sydney, has resulted in thousands of new cases of the fast-moving Delta variant and reimposed lockdown on more than half the country's 25 million population. With only about 16% of Australians aged over 16 years so far fully vaccinated, the country's main drug regulator on the weekend changed its recommendation to encourage wider takeup of the AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) vaccine. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had previously recommended restricting the AstraZeneca shot, the main vaccine in the country's immunisation arsenal, to people aged over 60 due to an extremely rare risk of blood clots in younger people. Many Australians including those over 60 had opted to wait for an alternative made by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) which has had its use restricted to people aged 40 to 60 due to supply constraints. ATAGI on the weekend recommended that all adults in Sydney should now "strongly consider the benefits of earlier protection" with the AstraZeneca jab. The move was supported by lawmakers, with Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg telling reporters that "getting vaccinated is our ticket out of this crisis". AstraZeneca welcomed the change, saying regulators around the world had "stated that the benefit(s) of using our vaccine significantly outweigh the risks". With about 32,900 cases and less than 1,000 deaths, Australia has kept its coronavirus numbers relatively low although the Delta strain and low vaccination numbers among developed economies have worried residents.
Thousands marched through Australia’s two biggest cities in anti-lockdown protests yesterday, sparking violent clashes with police in Sydney. Dozens of protesters were arrested after an unauthorised march flouted public health orders in Sydney, while several confrontations with police broke out during the hours-long rally. Officers were pelted with pot plants and bottles of water as opponents of Sydney’s month-long stay-at-home order took to the streets in numbers. Thousands also crowded several streets in Melbourne after gathering outside the state parliament in the early afternoon. The largely maskless protesters were flouting rules on non-essential travel and public gatherings, a day after authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October. “I am utterly disgusted by the illegal protesters in the city today whose selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us,” the premier of Sydney’s state of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, said in a statement. “The protesters have shown utter contempt for their fellow citizens who are currently doing it tough.” Hundreds of police responded to the Sydney protest, with several demonstrators pulled from the crowd in handcuffs by officers. Police said they issued nearly 100 fines and arrested 57 people. Police in Melbourne said six people were arrested. New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said a team of detectives would be scouring footage to identify and charge as many people as possible in the coming days. “What we saw today in Sydney is unfortunately something that we’ve seen in cities that we all shake our head at,” Elliott told media after the protest. “It’s quite clear that you know, Sydney isn’t immune from morons as well.” He also said he expected the gathering to drive a spike in Covid-19 cases and urged all those who attended to get tested and isolate. Organisers had dubbed the protest a “freedom” rally and publicised it on social media pages frequently used to spread vaccine disinformation and conspiracy theories. Attendees carried signs and banners reading “Wake up Australia” and “Drain the Swamp” -- echoing messages seen in similar demonstrations overseas. Helicopters buzzed above the streets of Sydney, a city of over 5mn people that is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant. The state of New South Wales reported 163 new infections yesterday to bring its total in the current outbreak to nearly 2,000. After escaping much of the early pandemic unscathed, around half of Australia’s 25 million people are now in lockdown across several cities. There is growing anger at the restrictions and the conservative government’s failure to provide adequate vaccine supplies. Just 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Australia’s New South Wales state yesterday reported its biggest daily rise in new Covid-19 cases this year, prompting a tighter lockdown in Sydney and a request for additional vaccine doses which was rebuffed by other state leaders. State premier Gladys Berejiklian characterised the escalating virus outbreak as a “national emergency” and raised the likelihood that stay-home orders for the country’s biggest city would be extended beyond the current end-date of July 30. “There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage,” Berejiklian said as she announced 136 new cases in the New South Wales. The state had urged the federal government to divert additional vaccine doses to Sydney, a request Prime Minister Morrison turned down following a national cabinet meeting with all state heads. Australia boasted another record day for Covid-19 vaccination with almost 200,000 doses delivered in one day. Morrison, who on Thursday apologised for the slow pace of inoculation, said the latest data signalled the country’s vaccination rollout had turned a corner. “We are not going to disrupt the vaccination programme around the rest of the country,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. Total infections in Australia’s worst outbreak this year have jumped to just over 1,900 since the first case was detected in a Sydney limousine driver transporting international flight crews in mid-June. Crucially, at least 53 of the new cases in Sydney were infectious in the community before being diagnosed. Authorities have said that figure needs to be near zero for the lockdown to be lifted. The outbreak of the fast-moving Delta variant was carried to Victoria and South Australia states, forcing authorities to put more than half the country’s population in lockdown. That has shut down large sectors of the economy, even as other parts of the world, including Britain and the United States, open up. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday suspended for at least eight weeks the so-called “travel bubble” with Australia that allows movement between the two countries without quarantine. The Trans-Tasman bubble was a rare quarantine-free arrangement in Asia, where countries have kept their borders mostly closed during the pandemic. Berejiklian said her health officials have advised that the situation in Sydney was a “national emergency,” which would typically unlock federal funding and other assistance and would have to be formally declared by the federal government. There are 137 Covid-19 cases in hospital in New South Wales, with 32 people in intensive care, 14 of whom require ventilation. Providing some relief, Victoria state officials reported a fall in new daily cases on Friday to 14, adding that 10 of those were in quarantine during their entire infectious period. Stay-home orders in both Victoria and South Australia are expected to be lifted on July 27. With just over 32,500 Covid-19 cases and 916 deaths, Australia has fared much better than many other developed economies, but stop-and-start lockdowns and a sluggish vaccine rollout have frustrated residents. About 15% of adult Australians have been fully vaccinated, a rate that is well behind many other developed nations, partly after health advice changed over the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to rare cases of blood clots among some recipients. The government is targeting full vaccination of the adult population by the end of the year. The vaccine programme could be further complicated after New South Wales health authorities said they may need to push out the interval between doses of Pfizer from three to six weeks, in order to free up more first doses, a stance Morrison backed on Friday afternoon. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country’s drug regulator has approved the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 to 15. A general view of the closed restaurants during the lockdown at the Opera House in Sydney. A lone pedestrian walks through the quiet streets of the central business district of Sydney yesterday.
Sydney's fast-growing coronavirus outbreak has become a "national emergency," state leaders said Friday, as Australia's largest city reported another record number of new infections. Admitting a month-long lockdown had failed to stop a Delta-variant outbreak, the state of New South Wales pleaded for Canberra to urgently send more vaccines and resources. Calling the outbreak a national emergency could pave the way for more federal government involvement in stemming the crisis. "We have an obligation on behalf of the nation to contain the virus," said New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian. "There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the right direction." Her state on Friday reported 136 new cases, a record for this outbreak, which now totals 1,782. With the virus "spreading everywhere" and half the country's 25 million people currently in lockdown, Berejiklian said the government must "refocus" its glacial vaccine rollout. Just 12 percent of Australians have been fully vaccinated, due to problems with supplies of Pfizer jabs and scepticism about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. "We need, at least, more first doses of Pfizer," Berejiklian said, while warning Sydney's five million residents that restrictions could run until October. But a request to channel vaccines to hard-hit areas was rebuffed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. "We're not going to disrupt the vaccination programme around the rest of the country," Morrison said, insisting his home city will make it through this crisis. Berejiklian also announced non-essential workers in specific areas of Sydney would now be barred from leaving, tightening a lockdown that is almost certain to be formally extended next week. "It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero (cases) next Friday," Berejiklian said. "We will have a clearer view next week on what August, September, and October look like." Morrison on Thursday apologised for the country's slow vaccine rollout, admitting targets had not been met. "I take responsibility for the vaccination programme. I also take responsibility for the challenges we've had," he said. "Obviously, some things are within our control, some things that are not." With Sydney cases spiralling, Victoria state premier Dan Andrews called for a "ring of steel" to be thrown up around the city, banning any travel in or out. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that a travel bubble between the two countries would be suspended for at least eight weeks. Australians will no longer have quarantine-free entry to New Zealand, and return flights will be arranged for New Zealanders in Australia. "There are now multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown," Ardern said. "The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing... now is the time for a suspension to ensure New Zealanders aren't put at undue risk from Covid-19 and to ensure we retain our hard-won gains." Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia began in April after more than a year of closed borders and was hailed by tourism operators as a "saviour for businesses". However, New Zealand has several times since halted the bubble with individual states and territories as outbreaks erupted in Australia.
Australia’s prime minister yesterday apologised for a sluggish Covid-19 vaccination programme, while the country’s most populous state reported its biggest one-day spike in infections in 16 months and warned cases would likely rise further. Australia was widely lauded for containing the pandemic in 2020, but it has struggled this year to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant even with more than half its 25mn population under a weeks-long lockdown. The curbs, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said was costing the economy about A$300mn ($220mn) daily, and the likelihood that they will stay in place with less than 15% of the adult population fully vaccinated have stoked public anger. “I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra. Australia has been administering less than 150,000 vaccines each day, well behind other developed nations. The government says it will meet its target to inoculate its adult population by end-2021 as millions of vaccine doses arrive from Pfizer and Moderna in the coming weeks. Earlier in the day, New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, reported 124 new Covid-19 cases, versus 110 a day ago, the highest in 16 months. Most of the infections were reported in NSW capital Sydney, which is in its fourth week of lockdown. Victoria state, entering a second week of stay-at-home orders, logged 26 new cases, up from 22. “We anticipate case numbers will continue to go up before they start coming down and we need to brace ourselves for that,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of NSW. The biggest concern is the number of people moving around in the community before being diagnosed, which was 48 on Wednesday in NSW, state health authorities say. Sydney is due to exit lockdown on July 30 but Berejiklian has said cases in the community must be near zero first. She urged people to get vaccinated. “The vaccine is key to our freedom.” In Victoria, to the south of NSW, all the 26 new cases were linked to known chains of transmission and 24 were in quarantine throughout their infectious period, the state authorities said. Neighbouring Queensland state closed its border to NSW, citing the outbreak, shutting off one of the most travelled routes in the country. South Australia state, also under lockdown, reported two new cases as officials track two “superspread events”.
Australian authorities said Victoria state would extend a Covid-19 lockdown beyond today to slow the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, despite a slight drop in new infections in the state and nationwide. Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said lockdown rules would not be lifted as cases were still being detected in the community, promising more details would be provided today, when the lockdown had been due to end. “It would be perhaps a few days of sunshine and then there is a very high chance that we’d be back in lockdown again. That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” Andrews told a news conference in Melbourne, the state capital. Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, yesterday reported 13 locally acquired cases, down from 16 a day earlier. All new local cases are linked. Nearly half of Australia’s 25mn people are living under lockdowns imposed to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has become the worst this year. Sydney, the country’s largest city and the state capital of New South Wales, is set to end a five-week lockdown on July 30, though the end-date has been pushed back twice already. New South Wales reported the death of a woman in her 50s yesterday, taking the state’s death toll to five during the latest outbreak. The state logged 98 new locally-acquired cases, down from 105 a day earlier. At least 20 of the new cases were infectious while still in the community. NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a televised media conference that the “closer we get that number to zero, the sooner we can end the lockdown.” There are currently 82 people in hospitals, with 24 in intensive care, seven of whom require ventilation. Berejiklian said the state would not see the effects of the hard lockdown for “another four or five days” and pleaded with people not mingle with extended family as most infections are occurring within families. Breaches of social distancing rules in Sydney prompted state police to begin “high-visibility patrols” along the coast, including the popular tourist spots of Bondi and Manly. South Australia state tightened restrictions yesterday afternoon, cancelling large events and closing indoor dining, gyms and non essential retail, one step short of issuing a full lockdown. The state reported three cases of local transmission yesterday. Swift contact tracing, and public compliance with tough social distancing rules and lockdowns have helped Australia quash past outbreaks and keep its Covid-19 numbers relatively low. Since the pandemic first struck more than a year ago, Australia has reported over 31,900 cases including 915 deaths. Vaccination has been slow however, with just 13% of adults fully vaccinated. The country could suffer more stop-and-start lockdowns until vaccination coverage becomes far higher towards the end of the year, experts have said. A poll by the Australian newspaper showed unhappiness with the slow immunisation drive was a factor behind Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings falling to their lowest in more than a year. Australia took delivery overnight of nearly 1mn Pfizer vaccine doses, officials said, after the federal government reached an agreement to bring forward weekly shipments scheduled from September, tripling the current supply.
Australia has cancelled far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins’s visa after she boasted about flouting the country’s strict hotel quarantine rules, a senior official said on Monday. Hopkins had flown into Sydney to appear on a reality television show when she posted a video on Instagram talking about answering the door maskless to workers delivering meals to her hotel room. International arrivals to Australia are required to complete 14 days in mandatory isolation in a hotel, under rules designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Australia’s border agency “acted quickly to make sure that the visa on which she entered was cancelled” after the footage appeared. “We will be getting her out of the country as soon as we can possibly arrange that,” Andrews told public broadcaster ABC. “She’s clearly not someone that we want to keep in this country for a second longer than we have to.” Police later yesterday said a 46-year-old woman had been fined A$1,000 (£537) for not wearing a face covering, and transferred to the airport for deportation. Hopkins has long caused controversy by spouting racist, anti-migrant views, and regularly speaks out against coronavirus measures such as lockdowns. Andrews said Hopkins had been granted a visa with the support of a state government on the basis it would potentially be of economic benefit to the country. “The fact that she was out there boasting about breaching quarantine was appalling,” Andrews said. “It was a slap in the face for all those Australians who are currently in lockdown, and it’s just unacceptable behaviour. So, personally, I’m very pleased she’ll be leaving.” About 12mn Australians are currently under lockdown to curb outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The Australian state of Victoria was ordered into a five-day lockdown yesterday following a spike in Covid-19 infections, joining Sydney as the country’s two main population hubs battle an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. From midnight, the state of 6.6mn people was told to stay home except for grocery shopping, essential work, exercise, healthcare and getting vaccinated. The lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne is its fifth since the pandemic began a year-and-a-half ago. Combined with a stay-home order already in force in Sydney, the measure means nearly half Australia’s 25mn population is under lockdown. “You only get one chance to go hard and go fast,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference. “If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier. I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now only to find ourselves in a five-week or a five-month lockdown.” Melbourne spent about third of 2020 under curfew as the epicentre of the country’s initial outbreak, suffering most of Australia’s 31,400 cases and 912 deaths to date. But it had largely avoided new infections while an outbreak in a Sydney beachfront suburb — 900km north — quickly spread through that city and surrounding areas last month. That changed this week when a team of Sydney furniture movers travelled to Melbourne while infectious and introduced the virus to an apartment building. By yesterday, dozens of Melbourne venues were listed as virus-exposed including a shopping centre, public transport routes and the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground stadium during a football match attended by thousands of people.
* Sydney faces lockdown extension * Daily cases at record highs, total infections near 700 * Public vaccine guidance changes The prospect of an extended lockdown in Sydney loomed on Monday as Australian health officials reported yet another record daily rise in Covid-19 cases for the year, fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant. New South Wales state reported 112 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, almost all of them in Sydney, despite the country's biggest city entering its third week of lockdown. Case numbers have been at record levels for at least three days. There was, however, a glimmer of light as the number of newly-infected people who were out in the community while infectious dropped to 34 from 45 on Sunday. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the progress of that figure in coming days would determine whether Sydney's lockdown, due to end on Friday, would be extended. ‘That's the number we need to get as close to zero as possible,’ Berejiklian said during her daily televised briefing. ‘It is really up to us. The health expert advice will be based on what those numbers look like. I can't be clearer than that.’ Berejiklian said a majority of Monday's cases were family members or close friends of already infected persons, and pleaded with residents to comply with lockdown rules, which were tightened over the weekend. Schools in Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia's 25 million population, are closed, public gatherings are limited to two people and residents may only leave home for essential business, including work and grocery shopping. Australia has previously successfully suppressed Covid-19 flare-ups through snap lockdowns, speedy contact tracing and tough social distancing rules. With a total of around 31,200 cases and 911 deaths since the pandemic began, the country has fared better than many other developed economies. However, the Delta variant fuelled Sydney outbreak has spiralled quickly. Total infections are nearing 700 since the first was detected in mid-June. Sixty-three people are in hospital, with 18 in intensive care, officials said, while a woman in her 90s became the first Covid-19 fatality for the country this year. VACCINE CRITICISMS The Sydney outbreak has put Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout under the microscope. Only around 11% of Australia's adult population of just over 20.5 million have been fully vaccinated. Critics have pointed to confusing public advice as well as vaccine shortages. Official federal health guidance recommends the locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine be restricted to people aged over 60 because of blood clot concerns, while the imported Pfizer vaccine is currently limited to people aged 40 to 60 due to supply constraints. However, New South Wales officials on Monday said the state's vaccination centres and pharmacies would be authorised to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over 40. The federal government, meanwhile, has said anyone under 40 who wants to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine can do so following consultation with their doctor. Lieutenant General John Frewen, head of the Covid-19 vaccination taskforce, on Monday defended a newly-released advertisement showing a youthful-looking intubated woman in a hospital bed struggling to breathe and urging people to get vaccinated. ‘The conditions in Sydney right now we felt warranted that commercial,’ Frewen said. ‘It is absolutely confronting and we didn't use it lightly.’ The federal government doubled its order for Pfizer shots in April to 40 million, enough for four-fifths of the population. It has so far received around 4.4 million doses, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported. From next week, it will receive weekly shipments of around one million doses. Australia has also ordered 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with the first million due to be delivered in September.
Australian authorities yesterday pleaded with Sydney’s 5mn residents to stay home, warning a three-week lockdown may be extended as they struggle to control a Covid-19 outbreak, with the city reporting the biggest rise in local cases in 2021. Hundreds of extra police patrolled parts of Sydney to enforce the city’s lockdown orders imposed to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant which now has a total of more than 400 cases. “New South Wales (state) is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “At the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction.” “Please do not leave your house. Do not leave your home, unless you absolutely have to,” Berejiklian said. Fourty-four locally acquired cases were reported yesterday in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, eclipsing 38 a day earlier, with 29 of those having spent time in the community while infected. There are currently 43 cases in hospital, with 10 people in intensive care, four of whom require ventilation. The rise in cases is despite a two week lockdown of Australia’s largest city, which has now been extended to a third week ending July 16. In Sydney’s southwestern suburbs, now the epicentre of the outbreak, streets were virtually deserted yesterday, with groups of police patrolling the suburbs. In efforts to further restrict people’s interaction, from yesterday evening public gatherings were limited to two people and residents are only allowed to travel 10kms from their home. Berejiklian also rejected reports the government was considering a shift of policy to “living with the virus”, citing low vaccine coverage in Australia. “If we choose to live with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9%, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and deaths,” Berejiklian said. Although Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping its Covid-19 numbers relatively low, its vaccination rollout has been among the slowest due to supply constraints and changing medical advice for its mainstay AstraZeneca shots. Australia has relied on the Astrazenica vaccine to fight the pandemic, but now limits it to people aged over 60 in its mass vaccination centres due to the risk of bloodclots, leaving short supplies of Pfizer for people 40-60 years of age.
* NSW faces ‘biggest challenge’ in pandemic * Reports biggest daily rise in cases for 2021 * Extra police patrols parts of Sydney Australian authorities on Friday pleaded with Sydney's five million residents to stay home, warning a three-week lockdown may be extended as they struggle to control a Covid-19 outbreak, with the city reporting the biggest rise in local cases in 2021. Hundreds of extra police patrolled parts of Sydney to enforce the city's lockdown orders imposed to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant which now has a total of more than 400 cases. ‘New South Wales (state) is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,’ state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. ‘At the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction.’ ‘Please do not leave your house. Do not leave your home, unless you absolutely have to,’ Berejiklian said. Fourty-four locally acquired cases were reported on Friday in NSW, Australia's most populous state, eclipsing 38 a day earlier, with 29 of those having spent time in the community while infected. There are currently 43 cases in hospital, with 10 people in intensive care, four of whom require ventilation. The rise in cases is despite a two week lockdown of Australia's largest city, which has now been extended to a third week ending July 16. In Sydney's southwestern suburbs, now the epicentre of the outbreak, streets were virtually deserted on Friday, with groups of police patrolling the suburbs. In efforts to further restrict people's interaction, from Friday evening public gatherings will be limited to two people and residents will only be allowed to travel 10 kms (6 miles) from their home. Berejiklian also rejected reports the government was considering a shift of policy to ‘living with the virus’, citing low vaccine coverage in Australia. ‘If we choose to live with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9%, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and deaths,’ Berejiklian said. Although Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping its Covid-19 numbers relatively low, its vaccination rollout has been among the slowest due to supply constraints and changing medical advice for its mainstay AstraZeneca shots. Australia has relied on the Astrazenica vaccine to fight the pandemic, but now limits it to people aged over 60 in its mass vaccination centres due to the risk of bloodclots, leaving short supplies of Pfizer for people 40 to 60 years of age. Roughly a quarter of hospitalisations in the Sydney outbreak are people aged 35 and under, an age bracket not yet eligible for vaccinations under the government's programme. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said Pfizer would increase Covid-19 vaccine delivery to about one million doses a week from July 19, more than tripling current shipments, but said no decision had been made on making it available for those under 40. ‘That puts us in a very strong place to be able to get this job done as we move towards the end of the year and indeed perhaps sooner,’ he said. Pfizer said the total number of 40 million doses it is contracted to deliver to Australia over 2021 had not changed. Morrison said Pfizer was bringing forward vaccine deliveries to Australia from September to August. The state of South Australia would meanwhile run a trial of home quarantine, Morrison said, following criticism of the two-week hotel quarantine required of all people entering the country. Hotel quarantine virus leaks have been the source of Australia's community outbreaks, after the country effectively eliminated the virus by shutting its international borders. Jamal Rifi, a general practitioner from a Sydney district where infection numbers are rising, said many residents had misunderstood the Delta variant risk but were gaining awareness as cases increased. ‘The word has spread in the community and I reckon you'll see more people now limiting their movement, taking this Delta variant more seriously.’