MELBOURNE: Australia, struggling to quell its worst wave of COVID-19, reported 1,756 infections on Saturday, another record high, and officials warned that worse is yet to come, urging people to get vaccinated.
Most of the cases were again in New South Wales, which has been fighting an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant since mid-June. The state reported 1,533 new cases and four further deaths.
Neighbouring Victoria reported 190 cases, the Australian Capital Territory 32 and Queensland one. Recent daily infections are running about double the levels of Australia’s previous worst wave of the pandemic a year ago.
Believing this outbreak cannot be eliminated - a successful strategy used by states and territories in earlier waves - New South Wales and Victoria authorities have focussed on speeding inoculations to make the cases less virulent.
Although infections in Victoria, in its sixth lockdown, dropped slightly from Friday’s 208, health authorities said the outbreak has not peaked.
“The overall trend is a slow and steady increase. That’s why vaccination is so critical, as is following the rules,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told a press conference.
New South Wales, the most populous state and home to Sydney, expects more than 1,000 new cases a day for at least two more weeks, with hospital admissions likely to peak in October. On Saturday, health officials said 137 of the 173 people in intensive care in hospitals were not vaccinated.
Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, together home to nearly 60% of Australia’s 25 million people, have been under strict lockdown for weeks.
That is expected to continue until 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated. At the current pace, Australia may reach that threshold in late October or early November.
Only about a third of those aged 16 and over have been vaccinated, although the pace has picked up considerably, with the federal government racing to secure more Pfizer shots.
Australia has recorded just under 60,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,036 deaths, far fewer than many comparable countries.