Officials in Sydney, Australia, warned on Monday that the city’s lockdown could be extended as an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus showed no signs of slowing down.
The city, Australia’s most populous, entered lockdown more than two weeks ago after an airport limousine driver contracted the virus, which then spread rapidly. On Monday, officials reported 112 new cases, the highest one-day total yet in an outbreak that has grown to 678 cases since it began in mid-June.
“We are at an absolutely critical phase of this disease,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney.
Although Ms. Berejiklian did not say whether the lockdown would be lifted on Friday as scheduled, she stressed that it was contingent on minimizing the number of people who were moving about while infectious.
“All of us want to get out of this lockdown,” Ms. Berejiklian said. “It’s up to all of us to see that number of exposures in the community go down.”
Though Australia has been relatively successful in managing the virus through strict border closures and contact tracing, only about 9 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, and the rapid spread of the Delta variant is a major concern. Studies suggest that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant.
On Monday, citing the outbreak, Sydney officials said that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be made available to people as young as 40. That is a break from national health guidance, which recommends the AstraZeneca shots only for those over 60 because of blood clotting concerns. For younger people, the guidance is to use the Pfizer vaccine.