More police are being sent to Sydney’s COVID-19 hot spots as delta variant cases continue to surge in Australia’s biggest city. State health authorities in New South Wales have said a lack of compliance with lockdown rules in districts with large migrant populations has been fueling the outbreak.
Extra police are being sent to Sydney’s worst-hit suburbs as authorities urge people to be vaccinated. With Australia’s two biggest cities — Sydney and Melbourne — in lockdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the situation is dire.
“We are in a tough, tough fight with this delta strain,” Morrison said.
A senior state government minister in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has said a lack of compliance in some migrant-heavy neighborhoods has made the outbreak worse.
About three-quarters of New South Wales state's nearly 5,000 active cases come from nine Sydney local government districts in the city's west, where there are many migrants live.
On Wednesday, officials reported 344 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, including a man in his 30s.
Brad Hazzard, the New South Wales health minister, says some areas of Sydney with large immigrant populations continue to ignore the regulations.
“There are other communities, other people from other backgrounds who do not seem to think that it is necessary to comply with the law and who really don’t give great consideration to what they do in terms of its impact on the rest of the community,” Hazzard said.
However, community leaders, including local politicians in migrant areas and asylum-seeker organizations, believe that proper lockdown guidelines have been lacking for many non-English speaking migrants.
They want more help to promote public health messages and to encourage more people to be vaccinated.
Only 23% of Australians are fully inoculated. Authorities say that figure needs to be 80% before life can start to return to normal, but that might not happen until mid-November.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says some restrictions could be eased if vaccination targets are met.
“With six-million jabs by the end of August, if we achieve that, there will be opportunities for us in some parts of the community where case numbers are low and vaccination rates are high to allow people to do more than what they do today,” Berejiklian said.
Research by the University of Melbourne has shown that lockdowns in the states of New South Wales and Victoria have sharply reduced the rate of vaccine hesitancy across Australia from 33% in May to 21.5% in July.
Stay-at-home orders were set to be lifted in Melbourne on Thursday, but because of more COVID-19 infections, the restrictions have been extended by a week.
Sydney’s lockdown began on June 26 and is in place until at least August 28.
Australia has recorded 37,000 coronavirus infections and 941 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the health department.