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Sydney posts record COVID-19 cases as Delta variant outbreak continues

Click to play video: 'Australia’s COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend' Australia’s COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend
WATCH: Australia's COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend - July 23, 2021

Australian officials on Friday warned Sydney residents to brace for a surge in COVID-19 cases after the country’s largest city logged record infections for the second straight day despite a weeks-long lockdown to stamp out an outbreak of Delta variant.

“Just based on the trend in the last few days and where things are going, I am expecting higher case numbers in the next few days and I just want everyone to be prepared for that,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney, the state capital.

Read more: 3rd Australian state announces lockdown as Delta variant fuels COVID-19 spread

Sydney reported a record 279 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, up from the previous high of 259 the day before. New South Wales reported a record 291 cases, up from 262, with one new death, raising the state total to 22 in the latest outbreak, all in Sydney.

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Of particular concern is the growing number of people positive with the highly infectious Delta strain moving around in the community, particularly in Sydney’s southwestern suburbs. Around one-fifth of Friday’s cases have spent time outside while infectious.

More than 60 per cent of Australia’s 25 million citizens are in hard lockdowns on Friday to try to contain the latest surge, including the country’s three largest cities Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The current outbreak centered around the Delta strain is testing Australia’s largely successful handling of the coronavirus crisis that has kept its exposure relatively low with just over 35,600 cases and 933 deaths.

Click to play video: 'Australia’s COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend' Australia’s COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend
Australia’s COVID-19 emergency escalates as Sydney lockdown to likely extend – Jul 23, 2021

But stop-and-start lockdowns amid a sluggish vaccination rollout, with only about 21 per cent of people above 16 fully vaccinated, have frustrated residents.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under fire for the slow rollout, has blamed the delay on changing medical advice over concerns of rare blood clots from locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines and supply constraints with Pfizer shots.

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Victoria, next to New South Wales and home to nearly 7 million people, on Thursday entered its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began, just weeks after exiting its last, jolting residents and triggering an anti-lockdown rally in state capital Melbourne.

It reported six locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Friday, a day after several unlinked new infections in Melbourne suddenly emerged, down from eight a day earlier.

Read more: Australia sees spike in COVID-19 cases despite lockdown

Of Friday’s cases, all are linked to previously reported ones but were not in quarantine during their infectious period, the state’s health department said.

In Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, the authorities reported 10 new cases, down from 16 the day before, and added that they were hopeful a lockdown would be lifted as planned on Sunday since all but two cases were isolated before testing positive.

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