A lockdown in Australia’s largest city was extended throughout September and tougher measures to curb the coronavirus’s delta variant were imposed Friday, including a curfew and a mask mandate outdoors. New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, reported 642 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period, the fourth consecutive day of tallies exceeding 600.
Sydney has been locked down since late June after the more contagious delta variant was detected in a limousine driver who became infected while transporting a US cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.
Since then, 65 people have died from COVID-19 in New South Wales, included four overnight. The Sydney lockdown was to end on August 28, but the state government announced it will continue until September 30.
The entire state has been in lockdown since last week because the virus had spread from the city.
A curfew will apply from 9 pm to 5 pm from Monday in the worst-affected Sydney suburbs. Wearing masks will be compulsory across the state outside homes. Previously, masks weren’t compulsory in all circumstances outdoors.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:
New Zealand’s first virus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington. Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. They said the outbreak had grown to 31 cases, and that some patients were being diverted from an Auckland hospital after one patient may have unknowingly been infectious while being treated. The government on Tuesday hurriedly put the entire nation into a strict lockdown after the first community case was found in Auckland. Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities don’t yet know how the virus escaped quarantine. New Zealand is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy aimed at wiping out the virus entirely.
South Korea’s new infections exceeded 2,000 for the second straight day as officials extended the highest level of social distancing restrictions short of a lockdown in large population centers. Seoul, Busan, Daejeon and the southern resort island of Jeju will remain under the strongest social distancing rules for at least another two weeks. The rules prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and force nightclubs and churches to close. Senior Health Ministry official Lee Ki-il said indoor dining hours at restaurants and cafes will be reduced by an hour to until 9 p.m. Some experts say officials should tighten social distancing even further, such as forcing more white-collar workers to work from home and expanding the gathering restrictions to daytime hours.