Authorities in Sydney have extended the city’s lockdown for another month as the New South Wales capital faces surging cases caused by the Delta variant.
Tougher restrictions, including a nighttime curfew in 12 of Sydney’s worst affected suburbs, will also be introduced, as well as an outdoor mask mandate.
Two million of Sydney’s five million people will be affected by the curfew, which will run from 9pm to 5am from Monday. The measure was aimed at “reducing the movement of young people”, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
People living in those areas will also be limited to just one hour of exercise daily.
The lockdown in Australia’s most populous city, which was first imposed in late June, was due to end on 28 August, but will now continue until 30 September.
“I apologise to the vast majority of people in those communities who are doing the right thing but for our health and safety moving forward we need to make these difficult decisions,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Daily cases across New South Wales have exceeded 400 for the past seven days despite Sydney have been locked down for the past two months. New South Wales reported 644 new cases on Friday, the majority of which were in the capital.
The rest of New South Wales has also been locked down since last week after cases spread beyond the city, but the shutdown will end in the rest of the state at the end of August as previously planned.
The new measures introduced on Friday will require people across New South Wales state to wear masks in public outdoor spaces.
The development comes after Australia recorded 754 cases on Thursday – its highest daily number of infections since the onset of the pandemic.
More than half of Australia’s population are currently under lockdown, following outbreaks in Melbourne and Canberra. Thursday marked the 200th day Melbourne residents have been under stay-at-home order since the pandemic began.
The country of 25 million has suffered a far lower death toll compared with many other nations, recording 971 deaths from Covid since the pandemic, with Australia has relying on extended lockdowns and strict border policies for its pandemic response.
Although the vaccine rollout’s pace has significantly increased in recent weeks, there has been frustration over its slow progress. Half (50.2 per cent) of over-16s in Australia have had a first vaccine dose, while just 28.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The government’s vaccination targets have shifted over time, but it now aims to have 80 per cent of over-16s vaccinated by December.