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Australia reports record COVID-19 cases, majority in New South Wales; New Zealand reports 82 new cases

Australia reports record COVID-19 cases, majority in New South Wales; New Zealand reports 82 new cases

FILE PHOTO: A lone passenger wearing a protective face mask walks from a deserted train platform at Flinders Street during morning commute hours on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

SYDNEY: Australia reported a record 1,126 coronavirus infectious on Saturday (Aug 28), the vast majority in New South Wales, the epicentre of the Delta-fuelled outbreak.

More than half of Australians have been in weeks-long lockdowns as officials in Sydney and Melbourne, the country's largest cities, and the capital Canberra struggle to quell the outbreak.

New South Wales, the most populous state and home to Sydney, reported 1,035 locally acquired COVID-19 infections, breaking Thursday's record of 1,029 as the outbreak that started in mid-June continues to grow.

Victoria reported 64 cases, mostly in its capital Melbourne, and Australian Capital Territory that includes Canberra had 26 infections. Queensland had one, Australia's deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said during a briefing.

Despite the record in New South Wales, the state's conservative Liberal Party government said it would ease some restrictions next week, allowing for five-guest weddings.

The state's management of the outbreak - which has nearly 14,700 active cases - has been criticised by officials in neighbouring Victoria, who have imposed stricter restrictions, believing the outbreak there can be suppressed.

"I'm not sure 1,000 cases a day is a sign of hope," Victoria's health minister Martin Foley said of the New South Wales infections. "I'm pretty sure that if you ask those intensive care nurses in Sydney hospitals at the moment how they saw the situation, it wouldn't be a hugely rosy picture."

After months of supply delays with the Pfizer shots and public unease about the AstraZeneca vaccine, Australia has been racing in recent weeks to inoculate its population. At current rates, 80 per cent could be vaccinated by mid-November.

The federal government announced a plan last month that envisaged lockdowns as a key to quelling outbreaks until 70 per cent percent of the population gets vaccinated and a gradual re-opening of Australia's borders when the number reaches 80 per cent.

Just 33.7 per cent of people above age 16 have been fully vaccinated, but with some 49,800 cases and 993 deaths, Australia has kept its COVID-19 numbers relatively low.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which had been largely virus-free this year, is also fighting a Delta outbreak, reporting 82 new locally acquired cases on Saturday, all in the epicentre Auckland, as the nation remains under a strict lockdown.

This brings the number of cases of the community outbreak to 429. There are 415 active cases in Auckland and the remaining 14 in the capital city Wellington.

Twenty-five of the patients are in hospital with two in intensive care, the health ministry said in a statement. 

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Source: Reuters/ng

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