Australia’s Canberra has extended its hard lockdown by a further two weeks as the capital city struggles to contain a surge in the highly infectious Delta variant.
Much of Australia’s east coast has been under strict movement restrictions for weeks, hitting the local economy. With cases still rising, Canberra said on Tuesday that it will remain in lockdown until at least September 17.
“We are bending the curve down and are getting on top of the outbreak. However, it is a slow process and it will take more time,” Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr told reporters in Canberra.
On Tuesday, the capital city reported 13 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Canberra has been in lockdown for three weeks after a spate of cases believed to have spread from the state of New South Wales, the epicentre of Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak.
New South Wales on Tuesday reported 1,164 new infections, down slightly from a record 1,290 cases the previous day.
The extension of Canberra’s lockdown is likely to soon be followed by a similar move by Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria.
Now in lockdown for five weeks, Victoria on Tuesday reported 76 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, up marginally from 73 cases reported the previous day.
State Premier Dan Andrews said too many people remain unvaccinated to significantly ease restrictions but that Victoria would outline on Wednesday a plan to reduce curbs as vaccination levels rise.
Australia has used a system of strict lockdowns and quarantine to keep coronavirus infection and death rates lower than in most comparable nations but the Delta variant is now pressuring health services amid a slow vaccination rollout.
Australia has recorded nearly 54,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,006 deaths since the start of the pandemic.