MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, on Saturday reported a new daily high of COVID-19 infections for a third straight day this year, in a worsening outbreak that the state warned could jeopardise the rest of the country.
New South Wales reported 163 locally acquired cases of COVID-19, up from 136 the previous day, with 37 patients in intensive care, in the outbreak centered in Sydney.
State Health Minister Brad Hazzard renewed a call for other states to give up some Pfizer vaccines so that younger people in Sydney’s hotspots could be vaccinated, after having been rebuffed at a national cabinet meeting on Friday.
He reminded neighbouring states about the help New South Wales had provided them during other crises as he urged them to hand over some of their vaccines, which he said they did not need as desperately.
“I can’t quite see the difference between beating back fires and beating back … floods and beating back this COVID virus that could actually, if it gets worse here in New South Wales, could actually create massive problems for the whole country,” Hazzard told reporters.
Hazzard said he was unaware of a promise on Saturday from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to boost vaccine supply to New South Wales.
“At the moment it’s like fighting a war with both arms behind your back,” he said.
But the minister of health of Victoria state, Martin Foley, said it would not send any of its vaccines to New South Wales, but would fully support the federal government sending any spare vaccines from a national stockpile to New South Wales, as it was clearly the state in greatest need.
Of the new cases in New South Wales, at least 45 of them spent time in the community while infectious, state health authorities said. That figure is being closely watched as the state weighs whether to extend a lockdown due to end on July 30.
Aparticular problem was the spread of the virus through family visits, despite stay-at-home orders, Hazzard said. In one worrying example, 18 cases have been linked to a gathering after a family tragedy, NSW Health director Jeremy McAnulty said.
“We really need our community, particularly in south western and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home,” Hazzard said.
Victoria reported 12 locally acquired cases of coronavirus on Saturday, down from 14 a day earlier, in a promising sign as the second most populous state weighs whether to lift a hard lockdown from Tuesday night.
All of the cases were linked to known outbreaks and 10 of the 12 were in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period, the state’s health department said.
Foley said the falling number of cases that were out in the community while infectious was a “reassuring trend” as officials consider easing restrictions.
South Australia, also in lockdown, reported one new case, linked to a known outbreak.
Despite its struggle with spikes of infection, mostly of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Australia has managed to keep its epidemic largely under control with a total of about 32,600 cases and 916 deaths.Reporting by Sonali Paul; editing by Grant McCool, robert Birsel
Photo – Protesters throw plastic bottles and pot plants at mounted police at Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 24 July 2021. EPA-EFE/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT