Another major Australian city is under a coronavirus lockdown as local officials clash with the federal government over which age group should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The city of Alice Springs entered a three-day lockdown effective Tuesday after an infected gold mine worker spent several hours in the city’s airport before flying from the Northern Territory state to his home in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, where he tested positive after his arrival.
Alice Springs joins Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane and Perth on the list of cities who have imposed lockdowns to blunt the spread of the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19. The latest outbreak has been traced to a Sydney airport limousine driver who had been transporting international air crews.
Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 due to aggressive lockdown efforts, posting just 30,602 total confirmed cases and 910 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. But it has proved vulnerable to fresh outbreaks due to a slow rollout of its vaccination campaign and confusing requirements involving the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the dominant vaccine in its stockpile.
Health officials had limited AstraZeneca to all adults under 60 years old due to concerns of a rare blood clotting condition that has been blamed for the deaths of two people. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday that AstraZeneca will be available for adults under 40 years of age who request it.
Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young pushed back against the prime minister’s announcement Tuesday, saying it was not worth the risk for healthy young Australians, even though the chances of developing the blood clotting condition are rare.
“I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn't die,” Young said.
Western Australian state Premier Mark McGowan also openly opposed Morrison’s announcement, citing advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, the government’s vaccine advisor, to recommend only the two-shot Pfizer vaccine for adults younger than 60 years old. Pfizer is in far less supply in Australia than the AstraZeneca shot.
The Indonesian Red Cross is warning the delta variant has caused a surge of new infections that is pushing the nation towards “the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe.”
Indonesia has reported more than 20,000 new COVID-19 infections in recent days, including a record 21,342 new cases on Sunday, including more than 400 new deaths. The Red Cross says hospitals in the capital, Jakarta, are more than 90 percent occupied, while less than 5% of its 270 million citizens have been vaccinated.
Russia reported a single-day record 669 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, breaking the previous record set just the day before of 643 deaths.
The fast-moving spread of the delta variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in India and has now been identified in more than 80 countries, has prompted the World Health Organization to urge people to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions, even if they are fully vaccinated. Officials in Los Angeles County, California said Monday they are strongly recommending residents wear a mask indoors because of the delta variant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened nearly 182 million people around the globe since it was first detected in late 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, including nearly 4 million deaths. A report issued Wednesday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the U.N. World Tourism Organization said the pandemic caused as much as $2.4 trillion in losses to international tourism and other related sectors in 2020, a decline of 73% from pre-pandemic levels the year before.
The report predicts roughly the same amount of losses for 2021, with global tourism to fall anywhere between 63% and 75%, resulting in losses between $1.7-2.4 trillion dollars.