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Australia on COVID-19 Alert as Sydney’s Delta Crisis Intensifies


FILE - Sydney commuters wear protective face masks on public transit amid new public health regulations from the state of New South Wales, as the city grapples with an outbreak of COVID-19 June 23, 2021.

For the first time in Australia, a state government has said visitors from virus-hit parts of the country must be vaccinated to enter. The state of Western Australia has insisted the tough measures, imposed on travelers from New South Wales, are designed to curb the spread of the delta variant as a record number of infections were reported Saturday in Sydney.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the delta outbreak in neighboring New South Wales is a threat to the entire country.

“New South Wales needs to have a clear plan for containment,” Palaszczuk said. “This is of serious concern to the rest of the nation.”

On Saturday, a record number of 466 new infections were reported in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state.

The outbreak has prompted the state of Western Australia to impose its toughest-ever internal border controls. Entry to visitors from New South Wales now requires proof of a vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

“This hasn’t been done before in Australia,” said Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan. “We haven’t actually ever said you have to be vaccinated to travel between the states, you have to be tested if you want to travel between the states. No one has ever done this before, but I think it is entirely fair.”

Millions of Australians are in lockdown, including those in the city of Melbourne.

Sydney, and surrounding regions, have been under strict stay-at-home orders since June 26. Authorities have said all of New South Wales will be locked down starting Saturday for a week to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Sydney residents will need a permit to leave the city. Fines for people caught breaching lockdown orders are increasing from the equivalent of $735 to more than $3,600. Police will launch “Operation Stay at Home” Sunday with the support of 500 soldiers.

Brad Hazzard, the New South Wales health minister, is urging people to obey the rules.

“Delta is an extremely dangerous weapon, and some people are allowing it to be used as a weapon because of their ignorance, their stupidity,” he said.

Australia has recorded 38,000 coronavirus cases and 948 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

About a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated.

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