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Around 15 million Australians—nearly 60% of the country’s population—are currently under a strict lockdown as the country on Saturday reported its highest single day rise in Covid-19 cases this year as the highly infectious delta variant continues to spread through three of its most populous states New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The state of New South Wales (NSW) reported 319 new locally acquired cases on Saturday, a number which is both an all time high for the state and higher than the previous record for the entire country’s single day rise in cases in 2021.
On Friday, the entire country reported 308 new cases—the previous record for this year—most of which were concentrated in and around Sydney, the capital of NSW and the country’s most populous urban center.
According to the NSW government there are currently 345 people admitted to hospitals across the state with Covid-19 with 56 in ICUs and 23 under ventilations.
The neighbouring state of Victoria recorded its highest jump in cases this year, with 29 new locally acquired infections, Reuters reported.
Queensland reported only 13 new cases—only one who had interactions with the community during their infectious period—raising hopes that the state may be able to end its lockdown as planned on Sunday.
The growing delta variant-fueled outbreak has brought the Australia’s Covid-zero policy—which aims to completely eliminate local transmission of the virus—under scrutiny.
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews warned that case numbers could quickly get out of control if people failed to adhere to lockdown rules, stating: “This Delta variant spreads so fast. 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.”
Earlier this week, NSW authorities reported the death of 27-year-old Aude Alaskar, the youngest person in the country to die from Covid-19. The newly-wed man from Sydney is believed to have caught the virus from his wife—a disability worker—while they were isolating at their home. Alaskar, who reportedly had no underlying health issues, took a rapid turn for the worse after several days of mild symptoms. Alaskar had not been vaccinated as Australia’s sluggish immunization program is currently focussed on older people, with only 10.5% of people in the 25-29 age group being fully inoculated.
17.62%. That’s the total population of Australia that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s tracker. Last month, NSW authorities urged the federal government and other state governments to redirect their supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to Sydney, which is the epicenter of the current outbreak. This idea was largely dismissed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who insisted that the other vaccine made by AstraZeneca was both safe and effective. The AstraZeneca shot was initially not recommended for Australians under the age of 50 over fears that it caused rare blood clotting events. Australian authorities have been criticised for their mixed messaging on vaccines, which experts believe has caused hesitancy among its population.