A recent spike in Covid cases has Australian authorities scrambling to contain the delta variant, which was first detected in India, APA reports citing Xinhua.
The country has handled the coronavirus pandemic relatively better than most, with fewer than 31,000 total cases due to strict social distancing rules, border restrictions, contract tracing and lockdowns.
Several major cities were locked down last week, including Sydney — the capital of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, and home to more than five million residents.
On Monday, New South Wales reported 35 new local cases as authorities clamp down on individuals and businesses for flouting restrictions. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian reportedly warned that the situation over the next couple of days would decide if the two-week lockdown in Sydney will be extended beyond July 9.
Last week, Australia’s national cabinet agreed to halve the number of international arrivals allowed into the country by July 14 as part of a four-phase recovery plan. Non-residents are mostly barred from entering the country, with few exceptions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a trial program would allow some vaccinated travelers to self-isolate at home, in an effort to reduce the pressure on Australia’s quarantine system.
Australia is still in the first phase of its plan, which emphasizes vaccines and social restrictions to minimize community transmission, according to the cabinet’s assessment. The next three phases would be post-vaccination, consolidation and, lastly, the reopening of borders.
The federal recovery plan needs more precision, which would provide greater certainty for Australian businesses looking to reopen, according to Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia.