CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s capital will go into lockdown for a week from Thursday after a single case of COVID-19 was detected and the virus was found in wastewater.
Canberra joins Sydney, Melbourne and several cities in New South Wales state that are locked down due to the Delta variant.
Canberra residents can only leave home for essential reasons from 5pm on Thursday, general retail stores will be closed and hospitality venues will only to able to sell takeout, an Australian Capital Territory government statement said.
Schools will be open to students who cannot stay at home.
The infection is the first locally-acquired case in the city of 460,000 since July 10 last year.
A Canberra resident, a man aged in his 20s, had been infectious in Canberra since Sunday and tested positive on Thursday, Australian Capital Territory Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said.
The source of the infection was unknown, she said. Coronavirus was detected in wastewater late Wednesday, she said.
The lockdown starts on the final day of a two-week sitting of the Federal Parliament.
Meanwhile, extra Australian military personnel may be called in to ensure compliance with lockdown rules in Sydney, the New South Wales state government said on Thursday, as the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant spreads into regional areas.
Australia is battling to get on top of the fast-moving Delta strain that has plunged two of its largest cities - Sydney and Melbourne - into hard lockdowns.
“We are making sure that we do not leave any stone unturned in relation to extra (military) resources,” New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a media conference in Sydney, the state capital.
A spokesperson for Defence Minister Peter Dutton told Reuters the NSW government has indicated it would soon formally request additional military support.
Some 580 unarmed army personnel are already helping police enforce home-quarantine orders on affected households in the worst-affected suburbs of Sydney, Australia’s most populous city.
Several regional towns scattered across NSW have also been forced into snap lockdowns after fresh cases, raising fears the virus is spreading out of control.
Despite seven weeks of lockdown in Sydney, daily infections continue to hover near record highs. NSW on Thursday reported 345 new locally acquired cases, most of them in Sydney, up from 344 a day earlier.
Lockdown rules were tightened in three more local council areas in Sydney, limiting the movement of people to within 5 km (3 miles) of their homes.
Joe Awada, the mayor of Bayside Council, one of the areas placed under additional restrictions, questioned why more targeted curbs were not introduced.
“I mean to lockdown 200,000 residents because of three suburbs is not acceptable to me,” Awada told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Officials also reported two deaths, two men in their 90s, taking the total deaths in the latest outbreak to 36. A total of 374 cases are in hospitals, with 62 in intensive care, 29 of whom require ventilation.
Victoria state on Thursday reported 21 new locally acquired cases, up from 20 a day earlier, as 5 million residents of Melbourne, the state capital, prepare to enter a second week of lockdown.
Of the new cases, six spent time outdoors while infectious, a number which authorities have said must return to near zero before restrictions can be eased.
Authorities on Wednesday extended the lockdown in Melbourne for another seven days until August 19.
Australia has largely avoided the high coronavirus numbers seen in many other countries, with just over 37,700 cases and 946 deaths, and several states remain almost COVID-free despite the outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne.
But the rapid spread of the Delta variant in New South Wales and a slow vaccine rollout has left the country vulnerable to a new wave of infections.
Only around 24% of people above 16 years of age are fully vaccinated, and experts see Australia heading into a cycle of stop-and-start lockdowns until a higher vaccination coverage is reached.