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Australia’s Covid recovery plans remain uncertain due to delta variant


A person exercises at the Sydney Opera House during a foggy start to the day on June 30, 2021 in Sydney Australia. Lockdown restrictions continue as NSW health authorities work to contain a growing Covid-19 cluster.

Brook Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A recent spike in Covid cases has Australian authorities scrambling to contain the delta variant, which was first detected in India.

The country has handled the coronavirus pandemic relatively better than most, with fewer than 31,000 total cases due to strict social distancing rules, border restrictions, contract tracing and lockdowns.

Several major cities were locked down last week, including Sydney — the capital of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, and home to more than five million residents.

On Monday, New South Wales reported 35 new local cases as authorities clamp down on individuals and businesses for flouting restrictions. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian reportedly warned that the situation over the next couple of days would decide if the two-week lockdown in Sydney will be extended beyond July 9.

Last week, Australia’s national cabinet agreed to halve the number of international arrivals allowed into the country by July 14 as part of a four-phase recovery plan. Non-residents are mostly barred from entering the country, with few exceptions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a trial program would allow some vaccinated travelers to self-isolate at home, in an effort to reduce the pressure on Australia’s quarantine system.

Australia is still in the first phase of its plan, which emphasizes vaccines and social restrictions to minimize community transmission, according to the cabinet’s assessment. The next three phases would be post-vaccination, consolidation and, lastly, the reopening of borders.

Uncertainty remains

The federal recovery plan needs more precision, which would provide greater certainty for Australian businesses looking to reopen, according to Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia.

Sluggish vaccine rollout

“The federal government should have backed AstraZeneca very strongly from the very beginning, really should have been promoting it. It is a very safe vaccine,” Clements said, pointing out that only a minuscule number of people have had a severe reaction to the shot.

“We should be encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and to take the vaccine that’s available to them, regardless of whether it’s AstraZeneca or Pfizer,” he said.



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