Australia extends lockdown to seven cities as country scrambles to contain Covid outbreak

The state officials have also been raising concerns about the slower vaccine rollout amid concerns of rising cases

<p>A traffic control worker walks across a deserted street in Brisbane, Australia as lockdown restrictions have been extended by 72 hours for the city</p>

A traffic control worker walks across a deserted street in Brisbane, Australia as lockdown restrictions have been extended by 72 hours for the city

Australia has announced to extend lockdown and social distancing restrictions to more parts of the country with seven cities now under a lockdown, as cases of highly contagious Delta variant rise.

The announcement of the extension came on Wednesday, following the rise in reported cases in Australia to more than 200.

Cities like Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Townsville and the Gold Coast have already been in lockdown, with around half of the Australian population living under stay-at-home orders.

With more than five million residents of greater Sydney under a two-week lockdown until July 9, New South Wales state reported 22 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all linked to prior infections.

On Wednesday, the town of Alice Springs also entered lockdown after cases emerged in South Australia. Officials issued stay-at-home orders for the town after a potentially infected traveller used the airport.

A 72-hour restriction has been imposed on the central Australian town, as an “extreme precautionary” measure designed to protect a large Indigenous population, a state official said.

Australia, which has successfully dealt with Covid-19 so far with strict measures, and reported just over 30,550 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began, is now under pressure due to a slower vaccination drive. State officials have hit out at the federal government demanding better clarity. But less than 5 per cent of its 20 million adult population has been fully vaccinated.

The federal government on Monday, in a U-turn, announced it would indemnify doctors who administer AstraZeneca’s vaccine shots to people under 60, after previously preferencing Pfizer doses for that age group due to blood clot concerns. However, there have been increased questions about the availability of enough shots of Pfizer.

Two deaths have been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, a 52-year-old woman and a 48-year-old woman.

However, Queensland state authorities said they would not endorse the move, saying it would unnecessarily put their younger population at risk.

“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got Covid probably wouldn’t die,” Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said in a media conference.

Additional reporting by agencies

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