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Australia Reports Record-high Number of COVID-19 Cases


Medical personnel take details at a drive-through COVID-19 testing station in Melbourne on August 19, 2021.

Australia reported record-high numbers of COVID-19 cases in two of its most heavily populated states Thursday, prompting new lockdowns.

New South Wales, the most populous state, reported 681 cases in a 24-hour span.

Victoria reported 57 new infections in Melbourne, its capital. The city has entered its sixth lockdown of the pandemic as Australia battles new surges of the delta variant.

On Wednesday, 747 new cases were confirmed — a record high for the country.

Roughly 22% of Australians are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

FILE - A person walks past a public health warning for passengers to wear face masks at a city center transit station during a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney, Australia, August 17, 2021.
FILE - A person walks past a public health warning for passengers to wear face masks at a city center transit station during a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney, Australia, August 17, 2021.

While many countries struggle to get one shot in the arms of their citizens, others have announced programs to provide booster shots to their most vulnerable populations.

Israel, which began administering booster shots to those over 60 in July, announced Thursday that all teachers and anyone over age 40 would be eligible for booster shots.

The announcement comes a day after the United States said it would begin booster shots for vulnerable populations next month.

The announcements defy the World Health Organization's call for a moratorium on booster shot discussions until more of the global population is vaccinated.

In Washington on Thursday, three senators announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated.

Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado and independent Angus King of Maine revealed that they had breakthrough infections, and all said they remained confident the vaccine had lessened the severity of their illness.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is clear that profits are trumping humanity when vaccine producers make product distribution decisions.

The IFRC statement was a response to a report in The New York Times that said most doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine produced at a plant in South Africa are being exported to Europe.

FILE - A policeman receives his COVID-19 vaccine in Soweto, South Africa, July 5 2021.
FILE - A policeman receives his COVID-19 vaccine in Soweto, South Africa, July 5 2021.

"We have long been calling for companies to consider manufacturing doses in regions that remain inequitably served of COVID-19 vaccines," said Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the IFRC. "That they should then be exported to regions that have vaccinated a majority of their population is incomprehensible. The African continent is still the most underserved in terms of receiving doses — barely 2% of people across the region have been vaccinated."

Pope Francis said people who get the coronavirus vaccine would be committing "an act of love" toward their fellow men and women.

The pontiff made the personal appeal in a filmed public service message that was released Wednesday online and on television.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Wednesday that a 58-year-old man, the first person in the country to test positive for COVID-19 since February, was infected with the highly contagious delta variant. The news was announced on the first day of a strict three-day nationwide lockdown imposed by Ardern. Auckland, the country's largest city, and the coastal town of Coromandel, which the infected man had visited, will be shut down for a full week.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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