Australia

COVID-19: Sydney seeks military help amid record rise in cases

Published : July 30, 2021 13:26 IST

Sydney has been in a lockdown for weeks, with measures set to continue until the end of August. Photo: Joel Carrett/dpa/picture alliance

Australia's largest city has been hit hard by a major outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant in recent weeks.

Police in Sydney have requested military help to enforce a coronavirus lockdown that is poised to enter its sixth week. Mick Fuller, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales, said he had asked for 300 Australian Defense Force personnel to be deployed "to boost [the police force's] operational footprint."

The request for assistance comes at a time when authorities are struggling to curb a surge in new infections in the state's capital, Sydney. On July 29, the city said it had registered 239 new cases over the past 24 hours, the biggest daily rise since the pandemic began.

The city of 5 million people has been in a lockdown for weeks, and it's set to continue until the end of August.

How can the military help?

Australia's federal government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has yet to announce a decision on whether to deploy the military to enforce the lockdown in Sydney. And if deployed, it's not yet clear how the military would be helping civilian authorities.

New South Wales' neighboring Victoria state previously used military personnel to help with running testing centers and checking if people were adhering to COVID-related restrictions on public gatherings and movement.

How is the COVID situation in Sydney?

Sydney has been hit hard by a major outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant, first detected in India, in recent weeks. Despite strict lockdown measures, the spread of the virus has continued. As case numbers rise, authorities are considering imposing even tighter restrictions, particularly in the southwestern and western areas of the city where the majority of infections are being recorded.

Furthermore, over 2 million residents in eight Sydney hot spots will have to wear masks outdoors and must stay within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of their homes.

What about compliance and vaccination?

At the moment, Sydney residents are only allowed to leave their homes for exercise, essential work, medical reasons and to shop for necessities such as food. But for weeks, parks and beaches have been filled with people, pointing to the patchy public compliance of rules. Last weekend, thousands of people protested against the COVID measures, and further demonstrations are under discussion.

Meanwhile, the number of people vaccinated in the city and the region remains low, with only about 17 per cent of people above 16 years of age fully inoculated in New South Wales.

Widespread skepticism among Australians about the AstraZeneca shot has contributed to the slow vaccine rollout. Citing rare blood clots, many are hesitant to take the jab, and supplies of the BioNTech-Pfizer doses to the country have so far been inadequate to accelerate the immunization drive.

sri/nm (Reuters, AFP)

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