Australia | The “zero COVID-19” strategy threatened by the delta variant

(Sydney) Long spared from the pandemic, Australia is now hit by an outbreak of contamination carried by the Delta variant, which threatens its zero-COVID-19 strategy and now requires living with the virus .

Posted on 8/6/2021 11:39 AM

Andrew BEATTY Agence France-Presse

After long periods of no contamination, 4,610 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Sydney, a city of five million people, since this new wave of epidemics hit. The island continent records new records of infection every day, although almost two thirds of its 25 million inhabitants are currently imprisoned.

Local authorities are starting to consider simply containing the virus, a real change of course after 18 months of defending the “zero COVID-19” strategy.

“Given the numbers and developments overseas, we have to live with the Delta variant either way, that’s obvious,” said Gladys Berejiklian, the country’s prime minister. “State of New South Wales.

“We’re not going to go back to zero COVID-19,” Emma McBryde, an infectious disease specialist at James Cook University, told AFP.

Like most experts, she recognizes that Australia’s drastic strategy to fight the virus through an intense screening and tracing campaign, lockdowns and near-closing of its borders is still essential, if less effective.

“The goal now should be to keep COVID-19 under control long enough to get vaccinated,” she said.

Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, also estimated on public broadcaster ABC that Australia would “probably never” return to eradicating local transmission cases.

PHOTO DANIEL POCKETT, AAP IMAGE OVER AP

A mobile screening clinic has been set up in the parking lot of a college in Melbourne.

Game change

With the exception of a few isolated islands in the Pacific and New Zealand, few countries survived the first 18 months of the coronavirus outbreak as well as Australia.

While COVID-19 has claimed more than 4 million lives and infected more than 200 million people worldwide despite health restrictions, Australians have for the most part lived normally and continued to visit bars, restaurants and beaches. The country has recorded a total of 35,390 cases, including 932 deaths.

The rare cases of contamination have been linked to hotels in large cities where travelers from abroad are being quarantined.

But that has changed the appearance of the highly contagious Delta variant.

In mid-June, a driver who took over the flight crew tested positive for this variant. Since then, despite the Sydney containment that entered week six, the number of daily infections has risen steadily and epidemic outbreaks have occurred across the country.

Almost 16 million Australians are currently being forced to stay at home as Europe and North America lift restrictions.

“Escape the worst”

NSW policies have been criticized by some Australian states and the government, saying that Sydney’s containment is either too late or not tight enough.

Authorities in the states of Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland continue to have policies to prevent new cases from occurring, a goal that is more difficult to achieve.

“Australia’s zero COVID-19 strategy has enabled us to escape the worst pandemic yet: the death toll was one of the lowest in the world, our recession one of the shortest,” said a report by the ‘Institut Grattan’ Panzer .

“We are faced with fewer restrictions in our daily life than almost anywhere else. But we paid a heavy price. We are cut off from the rest of the world and often locked up, ”this report underlines. “The Australians supported strict policies but are also tired and frustrated.”

Today, many agree that vaccination is the only way out now, but with just over 16% of Australians fully vaccinated, partly due to poor care, there is still a long way to go.

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