SYDNEY: Australia's New South Wales state, home to Sydney and a third of Australia's 25 million population, will reinstate restrictions including shutting nightclubs and cancelling non-urgent surgeries because of record COVID-19 infections, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday (Jan 7).
The measures are expected to be approved by the state government's economic recovery committee on Friday in a bid to ease pressure on hospitals, the report said, citing senior government sources.
Cafes and restaurants will have capacity limits and all patrons must be seated, while singing and dancing at pubs will be banned, the newspaper said. Restrictions will be branded as safety measures rather than a lockdown.
New South Wales, the worst-affected Australian state from the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, has registered record daily infections over the past few days. The surge is overwhelming its testing facilities, emergency services and hospitals.
People admitted to New South Wales hospitals with COVID-19 have nearly doubled to a record 1,609 in just over a week. There were around 150 daily cases in the state in late November, when the first Omicron case was detected. That shot up to 35,000 on Thursday.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet had steadfastly refused to bring back restrictions, dismissing calls by doctors and health workers, saying it was time to live with COVID-19.
The premier's office did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the Herald report.
Neighbouring Victoria state a day earlier brought back restrictions that would limit people at pubs and clubs.
Having successfully kept a lid in its COVID-19 caseload through snap lockdowns, tough border rules and strict social distancing rules earlier in the pandemic, Australia is suffering infections rates far higher than elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Authorities have warned those numbers would rise further over the next several weeks.
Australia has recorded more than 684,000 cases and 2,301 deaths since the pandemic began, with more than half of those infections reported over the past two weeks.