SYDNEY — More than eight million Australians have emerged from lockdown, but a growing coronavirus outbreak in Sydney fuels fears of a prolonged crisis.
Harsh restrictions in South Australia and Victoria have eased, while three regional towns in the southeastern state, New South Wales, also exited lockdown on July 28.
“From midnight tonight, if you live in Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Campbelltown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta. You are not allowed to leave your Local Government Area for work unless you are an authorized worker,” tweeted the health department of New South Wales.
Additional restrictions across Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong, and Shellharbour, have also been initiated, as per the New South Wales health department.
But Sydney faces a grim outlook with an outbreak-high 172 new local cases recorded across the city on July 27.
Immunization rates continue to tick higher, with 16.7 percent of Australians now fully vaccinated against the disease, final three months killing 920 people nationally.
The Morrison government has added pharmacists to the priority skilled migrant list ahead of thousands of chemists joining the immunization effort.
“It’s all hands to the pump as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues,” said Alex Hawke, Immigration Minister.
But there are fresh concerns about the federal government’s vaccine portfolio with questions over mooted Moderna and Novavax.
Between 87,000 and 125,000 weekly doses of Moderna were forecast to join the rollout in September if the medicines regulator approves it for use.
That is expected to rise from 430,000 to 615,000 a week in the year’s final three months.
However, South Korea, which has a contract for 40 million Moderna doses, has revealed its delivery schedule will be delayed because of manufacturing issues in Europe.
South Korean health officials said the company had told them the issue would affect other countries.
Earlier in the week, Health Minister Greg Hunt expressed confidence in Moderna deliveries.
He also confirmed initial doses of Novavax, which is also yet to be approved, were on track to arrive in Australia before the end of 2021.
Novavax is now seen as a booster rather than a primary vaccine which it was previously considered.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the change in strategy showed the vast bulk of that vaccine would not arrive until next year.
“This is a further setback in terms of vaccinating the numbers in the population that we need to avoid lockdowns,” he said. “That is costing jobs. That is costing our economy.”
Pfizer imports and locally produced AstraZeneca shots are the cornerstones of the vaccine strategy, months killing with people encouraged to receive jabs.
More than 185,000 of the 11.3 million doses administered were injected on July 27, five months after the rollout started.
Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra
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