MELBOURNE, July 11 (Reuters) – Australia on Sunday reported its first coronavirus-related death of the year and a 2021 record of 77 new cases of the virus in the state of New South Wales, battling an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta strain.
State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said numbers in and around the country’s largest city, Sydney, already under a harsh lockdown, are expected to rise.
“I will be shocked if there are less than 100 of additional new cases by this time tomorrow,” Berejiklian told a televised briefing.
On Saturday, there were 50 cases, the previous record of 2021. The recent outbreak stands at 566 cases.
Of Sunday’s cases, 33 were people who had spent time in the community while contagious, increasing the likelihood that the three-week lockdown of more than 5 million people in the Sydney area will be extended.
“Given where we are and given that the lockdown was supposed to be lifted on Friday, everyone can see it is highly unlikely at this stage,” Berejiklian said.
There have been 52 hospitalized cases, or about one in 10 people infected during the current outbreak. Fifteen people are in intensive care, five need a ventilator. The death, the first localized case in the country since December, involved a woman in her 90s.
Australia has far outperformed many other developed countries in keeping the number of COVID-19 relatively low, with just over 31,000 cases since the start of the pandemic and 911 deaths.
However, the rollout of vaccinations has been slow due to supply restrictions and changing medical advice for the mainstay AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shots.
Vaccinations are currently only available to people over 40 and groups at risk because of their health or exposure to the virus at work. Of those hospitalized in Sydney, 11 are under the age of 35 and more than three-quarters of patients have had no doses, health authorities said.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Jacqueline Wong
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