The streets of Sydney were nearly empty on Saturday, at the start of a two-week lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 in Australia’s largest city.
The confinement, which had already been in force since midnight Friday in four districts of the city, begins to apply on Saturday from 6 p.m. (0800 GMT) to the whole of the metropolis, announced the Prime Minister of the State of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian.
More than 80 people have tested positive this week, all linked to a driver who drove airline crews from Sydney Airport to quarantine hotels.
“The Delta variant is proving to be a particularly formidable enemy,” State Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters. “Whatever defensive measures are taken, the virus seems to know how to counterattack,” he added.
The discovery of these new cases came as a shock to Australia’s largest metropolis with more than five million inhabitants, where life had almost returned to normal.
“When you have a variant as contagious as the Delta virus, a three-day lockdown doesn’t work,” said Gladys Berejiklian, defending the decision to impose a two-week lockdown.
“The transmissibility is at least double of the previous variants, so we must prepare for a potentially high number of cases in the days to come,” she added.
For two weeks, residents will only be able to go out to buy essentials, get medical care, exercise, go to school or work if they cannot work from home.
Anyone in the country who has also been to Sydney since Monday must also self-isolate for fourteen days.
Australia, which has so far contained the spread of Covid-19 instead well on its soil, has totaled since the start of the pandemic less than 30,000 cases of Covid-19 and less than a thousand deaths for 25 million ‘inhabitants.