Sydney posts record COVID-19 cases as lockdown is widened

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05: A general view of the Raging Waters theme park in Prospect, which is temporarily closed due to government COVID-19 restrictions on August 05, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in hot spot local government areas have increased with masks required outdoors at all times and residents limited to movement within a 5 kilometre radius of their homes. Greater Sydney is in lockdown through August 28th to contain the highly contagious Covid-19 delta variant. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 05: A general view of the Raging Waters theme park in Prospect, which is temporarily closed due to government COVID-19 restrictions on August 05, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Sydney reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases and five virus deaths Thursday, as authorities expanded the lockdown in Australia’s largest city to neighbouring regions.

Six weeks after Sydney’s five million residents were told to stay home, the number of new infections in New South Wales state grew to 262, the largest daily tally since the pandemic began.

Health officials said almost all the new cases were in Sydney, but a handful of infections in other districts prompted state premier Gladys Berejiklian to widen stay-at-home restrictions.

Five positive tests in Newcastle — a coastal city of 320,000 people north of Sydney — prompted authorities to shutter schools and tell residents to stay home for at least a week.

Five people aged in their 60s-80s have died in Sydney in the past 24 hours, none of whom were fully vaccinated.

“I cannot stress enough how it’s so important for everybody of all ages to come forward and get the vaccine,” Berejiklian said.

Barely 20 percent of Australians have been fully vaccinated, due to acute supply problems and pockets of vaccine hesitancy.

Until now, Australia has dodged the worst ravages of the pandemic.

But the country is struggling to contain an outbreak of the quick-spreading Delta variant.

Since a Sydney driver was infected by an international flight crew in mid-June, New South Wales has recorded 4,319 locally acquired cases and half the country’s 25 million people have been in some form of lockdown.