Australia records one of its youngest COVID-19 deaths as Sydney outbreak grows
By Byron Kaye and Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's New South Wales on Wednesday reported one of the country's recent deaths from COVID-19 as the daily infections are close to a 16 month long despite the lockdown of 5 million people in the state capital, Sydney in the sixth week The highs remained.
The nameless man in his twenties, who had no underlying health problems and was unvaccinated, died at his home in the city, authorities said. It was deteriorating rapidly after previously complaining of only mild symptoms, they added.
The death underscores the risk to Australia's largest city, which is struggling to contain a highly contagious Delta variant outbreak when fewer than 20% of Sydney's residents are vaccinated.
Last year, neighboring Victoria state said an unnamed man in his twenties died of COVID-19, although a coroner is still investigating the exact cause of death.
The young man was one of two COVID-19 deaths reported in New South Wales (NSW) in the past 24 hours. NSW also saw 233 new cases, near a 16-month high reported last week, and Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said case numbers were likely to rise.
"I am not going to rule out that the number of cases will not worsen, I even believe that they will worsen," Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
"If you look at the number of infected people in the community, it suggests that we may not have peaked yet."
Berejiklian is under intense pressure to ease the restrictions on movement that are threatening to drive Australia into its second recession in as many years. However, she said that at least 50% of the state's population would need to be vaccinated in order for the curbs to be loosened in late August.
Still, due to a rare blood clotting problem, many remain cautious about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine, the most numerous of the two vaccines approved in the country.
In addition, government models released Tuesday showed that at least 70% of the state's population would need to be vaccinated to slow the spread.
Authorities have warned people not to wait for an increase in Pfizer shipments expected in the next month as case numbers prove difficult to cut and sewage tests suggest that the coronavirus may have spread north.
New South Wales has taken aggressive countermeasures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, including cordoning off high-risk suburbs and urging the military to help police enforce lockdown rules.
A total of 17 people have died in Sydney during the current outbreak, which began on June 16. During that time, the surge has brought the total number of cases in NSW to more than 4,000.
Nationally, Australia has recorded 927 deaths since the pandemic began, with just over 35,000 cases out of 22 million people.
Queensland reported 16 locally acquired cases on Wednesday, just like the day before, prompting authorities to declare it the state's worst outbreak since the pandemic began and warn that a lockdown in the capital, Brisbane, could be extended beyond Sunday .
"If we don't do anything really, really, really special in Queensland, we'll be extending the lockdown," Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young told reporters in Brisbane.
(Reporting on Byron Kaye and Renju Jose in Sydney and Colin Packham in Canberra; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Christian Schmollinger)
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