Australia extends mask mandate for Sydney as virus cluster growsjessie tan
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), on Tuesday (June 22) reported its biggest increase in new locally acquired Covid-19 cases in nearly a week, raising prospects of more tough restrictions in the country’s largest city, Sydney.
Ten new locally acquired cases were reported in NSW on Tuesday, as officials fight to contain a latest cluster of the highly infectious Delta virus variant.
Eight of the 10 are household contacts of previous cases in isolation.
“There is no doubt there is an increased level of concern, given the additional numbers of cases, but… given how absolutely contagious the virus is, we expected household contacts already in isolation were likely to get the virus,” NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Masks will be mandatory indoors in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, for another week from Thursday morning although officials stopped short of announcing further curbs as the cluster increased to 21 infections in six days.
“At this stage, we feel that the response we are having is proportionate to the risk,” Ms Berejiklian said, although she expects more cases among household contacts.
Tuesday’s data includes seven cases recorded after the 8pm cut-off deadline, which will be included in Wednesday’s numbers. Six of the seven infections are household contacts of previous cases who have been in isolation.
Authorities linked a driver who transports overseas airline crew members to the latest outbreak, the first in the state in more than a month, which has swelled to 21 infections in six days.
In its efforts to quash the outbreak, the NSW government made masks mandatory in Sydney’s buses, trains and ferries for five days while urging the city’s five million residents to use masks indoors.
Swift tracing systems, tough social distancing rules and a high community compliance have kept Australia’s Covid-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,350 cases and 910 deaths. It has reported zero local cases for most days this year.