Sydney lockdown extended, masks required outside

The Sydney lockdown was to end on Aug. 28, but the state government announced it will continue until Sept. 30.

Sydney: A lockdown in Australia’s largest city was extended through September and tougher measures to curb the coronavirus’s delta variant were imposed Friday, including a curfew and a mask mandate outdoors.

New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, reported 642 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period, the fourth consecutive day of tallies exceeding 600.

Sydney has been locked down since late June after the more contagious delta variant was detected in a limousine driver who became infected while transporting a U.S. cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.

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Since then, 65 people have died from COVID-19 in New South Wales, included four overnight.

The Sydney lockdown was to end on Aug. 28, but the state government announced it will continue until Sept. 30.

The entire state has been in lockdown since last week because the virus had spread from the city.

A curfew will apply from 9 pm to 5 pm from Monday in the worst-affected Sydney suburbs. Wearing masks will be compulsory across the state outside homes. Previously, masks weren’t compulsory in all circumstances outdoors.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region: New Zealand’s first virus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington.

Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. They said the outbreak had grown to 31 cases.

The government also expanded the lockdown that had been put in place Tuesday after the first community case was found in Auckland. All of New Zealand will remain in lockdown until at least next Tuesday. Previously it had been a three-day lockdown for the nation and a seven-day lockdown only for certain areas.

Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities don’t yet know how the virus escaped quarantine. New Zealand is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy aimed at wiping out the virus entirely.

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