SYDNEY, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Sydney reported its worst day of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday with five deaths and a record rise in locally acquired infections as a weeks-long hard lockdown is struggling to contain the highly contagious Delta strain of the coronavirus.
Four of the five people that died were unvaccinated while one had one dose, New South Wales state health authorities said, as they implored residents to get inoculated as early as possible.
Authorities also announced a one-week lockdown from Thursday in the region surrounding the state’s second-largest city of Newcastle, 140 km (87 miles) north of Sydney, after six cases were reported there.
That will place an additional 615,000 people under lockdown, raising the total in New South Wales under strict stay-home restrictions to 6 million people out of 8 million in the state, or about a quarter of Australia’s population.
The authorities suspect the outbreak began with a beach party near Newcastle after people travelled from Sydney, an apparent violation of the city’s lockdown.
“Our strongest focus … is getting to the bottom of how the disease was transmitted and introduced into Newcastle,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told reporters, as most cases were still being detected in Sydney, the state capital and Australia’s largest city.
There were 259 new COVID-19 cases in Sydney, out of 262 in all of New South Wales, health authorities said, daily records for the city and the state, which reported a previous high of 239 on Sunday.
There have been more than 4,300 cases in New South Wales during the latest surge that began seven weeks ago after the first case of the Delta variant was detected in an unvaccinated, unmasked limousine driver who transported overseas airline crew.