New South Wales reported at least 11 new cases overnight as state premier hints at possible new lockdown if rise continues.
The government in New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, warned people on Thursday to brace for more COVID-19 cases, as a state minister tested positive, the health minister went into self isolation and new curbs came into force designed to slow the spread of the Delta variant.
The state recorded at least 11 new cases overnight, bringing the total number in the current outbreak to 49.
At least 36 of the cases have been traced to one event in the beachside suburb of Bondi.
Among them was NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall, who confirmed his positive test result in a statement on Thursday.
The news was greeted with concern and alarm by his colleagues at the state parliament.
At least three other state parliament members had also attended an event with Marshall on Monday night at a restaurant where someone later confirmed positive and linked to the Bondi cluster had also dined.
Earlier on Thursday, NSW state Health Minister Brad Hazzard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), that more cases should be expected.
Hazzard told the public service broadcaster he had been directed to self-isolate after he was deemed to be a possible close contact of a positive case.‘On the brink of another lockdown’
On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian indicated that Sydney was on the brink of another lockdown as officials try to trace the missing links in the city’s newly diagnosed cases.
As part of the state’s contact-tracing effort, the state government stepped up its mass testing with 48,402 tested on Wednesday, up from 44,640 people the day before.
Berejiklian told parliament that her government “will not hesitate to go further and harder if we have to” with restrictions.
Sydney, the state capital and home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million population, has been effectively isolated from the rest of the country after some states closed their borders while others tightened entry rules.
Passengers wearing face masks on public transport in Sydney on Wednesday [Saeed Khan/AFP]On Wednesday, Queensland shut its land border with NSW due to the emergence of new cases.
Also on Wednesday, the NSW state government imposed new movement restrictions, banning travel outside the metropolitan Sydney area while requiring residents to continue using face masks at public areas until next week.
Visitors to private homes have also been limited to five, while capacity at sporting events have halved.
NSW officials have warned that the transmission of the Delta variant, first detected in India, could be faster and take place even after minimal contact with an infected person.
Snap lockdowns, tough social distancing rules and swift contact tracing have so far helped Australia successfully suppress past outbreaks.
The country has been among the world’s most successful in containing the pandemic, allowing it to reopen its border to New Zealand.
But the new cases are testing the travel bubble between the neighbours.
As of Thursday, Australia had recorded more than 30,300 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began in 2020.
So far, there have been 6.72 million vaccine doses administered across Australia with 1.09 million people – 4.3 percent of the country’s total population – fully vaccinated, according to Our World Data.
Al Jazeera and news agencies