Sydney lockdown extended after highly infectious Delta variant cases rise

Sydney has gone into a two-week lockdown after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases.

More than one million people in central and eastern suburbs were already under restrictions imposed on Friday following a jump in cases.

The lockdown now covers the whole city and some surrounding areas, and is extended from one week to two.

More than 80 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant were confirmed in the city in recent days.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said stay-at-home orders would be in place until 9 July for all of Greater Sydney and surrounding regions of Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong.

“When you have a contagious variant, like the Delta virus, a three-day lockdown doesn’t work – if we’re going to do this we need to do it properly,” she said.

“We do need to brace ourselves for a potentially large number of cases in the following days.”

Police have said they will use number plate recognition technology to monitor vehicles and ensure people have not strayed out of their lockdown zone.

On Saturday, New Zealand paused its quarantine-free travel bubble with all of Australia for three days because of the latest outbreak.

The travel corridor between the two neighbours was opened in April. Travel between New Zealand and specific Australian regions has been closed for short periods as outbreaks occurred, but this is the first time the bubble has been shut with all of Australia.

Australia has consistently maintained very low rates of Covid transmission and this is the first lockdown in Sydney since December.

The outbreak of new infections emerged a week ago in Bondi, the famous beach suburb, and spread first into the city centre and then to its western fringes.

It has been linked to a driver who transported international arrivals from the airport.

In a video message, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked residents for their patience and forbearance, adding: “Together, Sydney, we’ll get through this.”

“This pandemic, sadly, is still raging all around the world and from time to time it will have its impact here in Australia,” he said.

The latest outbreak has fuelled criticism of the federal government’s slow vaccination rollout.

So far, just over 3% of the adult population have been fully vaccinated and about 25% of Australians have received a first dose.