Saturday, January 16, 2021
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Australia battles Covid-19 outbreak as suppression success foiled


#Australian authorities are scrambling to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has broken #Melbourne’s 61-day run without local transmission and threatens one of the world’s most successful efforts to suppress the pandemic.

#Officials reported 15 total infections in #Sydney and #Melbourne on #Thursday, pushing the total number of cases identified since an outbreak detected in #Sydney on #December 3 beyond 140.

#Authorities have reimposed social distancing restrictions in the nation’s most populous states of #New #South #Wales and #Victoria, cancelled #New #Year’s #Eve fireworks in #Melbourne and scaled back celebrations nationwide. The #Victoria state government also said on #Thursday afternoon it would close its border with NSW from 11.59pm on #Friday.

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#However, #Sydney will host a shortened fireworks display on #New #Year’s #Eve and is planning to allow spectators at an #Australia-India cricket match beginning on #January 7 — a decision that has been criticised by epidemiologists and the opposition #Labor party.

#Australia’s decision early in the pandemic to close its international borders and impose strict lockdowns has been praised by health experts for limiting the number of deaths to 909, a fraction of the death toll in the UK, US and smaller #European countries such as #Belgium.

The country had gone more than three weeks without reporting a single case of the virus outside of the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for international arrivals before the latest outbreak. #Authorities suspect the new clusters are linked to overseas travellers, although they warn the exact cause may never be identified.

The spread of the virus to #Melbourne has alarmed health experts, many of whom had unsuccessfully advocated for the NSW government to impose tougher social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing.

#Images of hundreds of backpackers partying on #Sydney’s #Bronte beach on #Christmas #Day enraged the federal government, which has threatened to deport foreign citizens deemed to be threatening public safety by ignoring distancing rules.

#This week, the NSW government persuaded #Cricket #Australia to push ahead with plans to hold the traditional #New #Year’s #Test match in #Sydney despite the new outbreak.

“We stand by our decision to make sure we’re able to provide a #Covid-safe event,” #Gladys #Berejiklian, NSW premier, told reporters when asked about #Labor’s call to host the #Test match without spectators.

#Hassan #Vally, an epidemiologist as #La #Trobe #University, said the situation in NSW was concerning because of the gaps in understanding of the epidemiology of the new #Covid-19 clusters.

“Given recent developments, and from a purely health perspective, I’m not comfortable with the #Sydney #Test match going ahead with the measures currently in place,” he said.

#Video: #Coronavirus in 2021: what we do and don’t know



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https://www.ft.com/content/48a5d306-a5ad-4229-a968-1fb7a88884b3

##Australia #battles ##Covid19 #outbreak #suppression #success #foiled

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