Australia Covid; Victoria in lockdown as NSW logs record cases

Australia Covid; Victoria in lockdown as NSW logs record cases
Australia Covid; Victoria in lockdown as NSW logs record cases

Australia's second-most populous state has been slammed into another Covid lockdown after just a handful of cases were detected even as Sydney logged record infections despite being under strict measures for six weeks.

Victoria, home to the country's second city of Melbourne, will go into strict stay-at-home orders starting 8pm Thursday and lasting for at least a week after just eight 'mystery' cases with no known source were uncovered.

It marks the sixth time Victoria has been locked down, with state premier Dan Andrews telling weary residents he had 'no choice' but to act - despite Australia being one of just a few countries still pursuing a 'zero Covid' strategy.

Meanwhile New South Wales, home to the country's largest city of Sydney, registered 262 cases of Covid on Thursday - its highest toll since the pandemic began, despite large parts being under stay-at-home orders since June.

The lockdown is officially due to last until August 28 but is now almost certain to be extended beyond that, as measures were extended to the city of Newcastle and surrounding Hunter Valley after five cases were found there.

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State leader Gladys Berejiklian warned on Wednesday that driving up vaccination rates is now the only viable route out of lockdown.

Victoria, home of Australia's second city Melbourne, will go into lockdown from 8pm Thursday after just eight cases of Covid were found (pictured, officers enforce lockdown in Sydney)

Victoria, home of Australia's second city Melbourne, will go into lockdown from 8pm Thursday after just eight cases of Covid were found (pictured, officers enforce lockdown in Sydney)

'We will not get through this numbers until we see high rates of vaccination,' she told a press conference on Wednesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has pursued a so-called 'zero Covid' strategy - shutting infections out of the country using tough border quarantines and stamping out infections within its borders using snap lockdowns.

That has allowed the country to keep case and death numbers relatively low - 35,000 cases and 925 deaths - and has allowed life to continue relatively undisturbed between the lockdowns.

But border shutdowns have failed to keep out the more-infectious Delta strain while snap lockdowns are struggling to combat its spread - hampered by the fact that just 16 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the world.

That has meant either repeated returns to lockdown measures, or extended periods under harsh restrictions that is crippling the country's economy and leading to sometimes-violent protests. 

Ministers are now signalling a shift away from the 'zero Covid' policy by linking the easing of lockdowns with the number of people vaccinated.

Ms Berejiklian has said measures can start easing in Sydney once more than 50 per cent of people have been jabbed, which she hopes to achieve by mid-September.

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