Australia expands COVID restrictions over viral spread fears

Australia has expanded a COVID-19 lockdown as fears have grown that the virus has spread from Sydney to the northern tip of the country’s most populous state.

Tamworth, a farming town 414 km (257 miles) northwest of Sydney, and Byron Bay, a tourist spot about 770 km north of Sydney, will both enter a seven-day lockdown, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Neither Tamworth nor Byron Bay has yet recorded a COVID-19 case, but Berejiklian said two infected people had contravened travel bans and travelled there.

“As a precaution, the health experts have recommended we lock down Tamworth for one week,” Berejiklian told reporters.

In Brisbane, capital of Queensland, authorities reported four new local cases on Monday, the first day after the city came out of stay-at-home restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under fire for a sluggish vaccine rollout, with only 22% of Australians above 16 fully vaccinated.

Morrison acknowledged mounting frustrations but urged people to be patient.

“I know they’re sick of it, I know they’re angry and I know they want it to stop and for life to get back to where they knew it,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“But there can be no short cuts.”

Australia has reported about 36,250 cases and 939 deaths, including a woman in her 90s whose death in Sydney was reported on Monday.

Morrison has said all Australians over 16 will be offered a vaccine by the end of the year, with prospects for achieving that boosted on Monday when the pharmaceutical regulator gave provisional approval for the Moderna shot.

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