After a slow start, Australia is ramping up its Covid-19 vaccination rollout. But a surge in delta variant cases in its most populous state shows that the country still faces further pain from the virus even as hundreds of thousands of people line up for their shots each day.
The delta outbreak that’s placed Sydney into lockdown for more than two months shows no sign of slowing, with a new daily record of 919 infections posted in New South Wales on Wednesday — more than the previous high of 830 cases on Sunday.
The wave has seen authorities enforce stay-at-home orders for more than half the nation’s 26 million people and is set to keep much of Australia locked down for weeks to come, if not months.
Still, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to sell lockdown-weary Australians a message of hope. He wants Covid-19 precautions to start to ease when vaccination rates hit certain thresholds. Depending on whether state and territory leaders agree, that could see lockdowns removed when 70% of adult Australians have both shots — a rate expected to be reached well before the end of the year.
A challenge for Morrison is some state leaders’ insistence that the outbreak may push them into remaining isolated from the rest of Australia whether or not his vaccination thresholds are reached, as they try to maintain a “Covid Zero” status that’s proven popular with voters.