Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported a double-digit rise in new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 for the third straight day as a state government minister tested positive and health minister moved into self-isolation.
Eleven new local cases were reported on Thursday, taking the total infections in the latest outbreak to more than 40. Thursday’s data includes six cases detected after the 8 p.m. cut-off deadline, which will be included in Friday’s tally.
NSW is fighting to contain a fresh outbreak of the highly contagious Delta virus variant in Sydney, Australia’s largest city and home to a fifth of the country’s 25 million population, with health officials saying transmission could be happening even through minimal contact with infected persons.
NSW state Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said in a statement he had tested positive for COVID-19. Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was asked to self-isolate after he was deemed to be a possible close contact of a positive case, raising worries of a virus spread in the state parliament.
State parliament on Thursday released a restricted list of politicians allowed into the chamber.
NSW authorities have imposed mandatory masks in all indoor locations in Sydney, including offices, restricted residents in seven council areas in Sydney’s east and inner west from leaving the city, and limited home gatherings to five to contain the state’s first outbreak in more than a month.
NSW has been effectively isolated from the rest of the country after some states slammed their borders shut while others introduced tough border rules.
Snap lockdowns, tough social distancing rules and swift contact tracing have helped Australia to successfully suppress past outbreaks but NSW officials have so far resisted calls for a hard lockdown in the state.
Australia has reported just under 30,400 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.
Neighbouring Queensland state reported three new local cases and Victoria state detected one, but officials at both states said the cases pose low-risk to the community as the infected persons were in isolation when they contracted the virus.