MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia, struggling to contain the worst wave of the novel coronavirus, reported 1,756 infections on Saturday, another record high and officials warned the worst was yet to come and urged people to get vaccinated.
Most of the cases were again in New South Wales, which has been struggling with a highly contagious Delta-type outbreak since mid-June. The state reported 1,533 new cases and four more deaths.
Neighboring Victoria has reported 190 cases, the Australian Capital Territory 32 and Queensland one. The latest daily infections are twice the level of the worst previous wave of the epidemic in Australia a year ago.
Believing this outbreak could not be eradicated – a successful strategy that states and territories had used in previous waves – the NSW and Victorian authorities focused on rapid vaccinations to make cases less virulent.
Although the number of infections in Victoria fell slightly from 208 on Friday during the sixth lockdown, health authorities said the outbreak had not yet reached its peak.
The general trend is a slow and steady increase. “This is why vaccination is so important, as is following the rules,” Victoria State Health Officer Brett Sutton told a news conference.
New South Wales, the most populous state and home to Sydney, is expecting more than 1,000 new cases per day for at least another two weeks, with hospital admissions peaking in October. On Saturday, health officials said 137 of the 173 people in intensive care in hospitals had not been vaccinated.
Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which together make up nearly 60% of Australia’s population of 25 million, have been under strict confinement for weeks.
This is expected to remain so until 70% of the population is fully vaccinated. At the current rate, Australia could get that far in late October or early November.
Only about a third of individuals age 16 or older have been vaccinated, although the rate of vaccination has accelerated dramatically, with the federal government racing to get more Pfizer shots.
Australia has recorded just under 60,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,036 deaths, far fewer than many similar countries.
(Reporting by Lydia Kelly) Editing by Leslie Adler, Grant McCall and William Mallard
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