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Three Australian cities lock down in fight against Delta COVID-19 variant

An outbreak in NSW capital Sydney linked to the variant has grown to nearly 150 cases. Worries the strain could touch off major outbreaks have forced lockdowns in three major cities and some form of curbs in several others - affecting more than 20 million Australians, or about 80% of the population.

June 29, 2021 / 09:13 AM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported a slight rise in locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while officials tightened curbs to contain flare-ups of the highly infectious Delta variant in several other regions.

An outbreak in NSW capital Sydney linked to the variant has grown to nearly 150 cases. Worries the strain could touch off major outbreaks have forced lockdowns in three major cities and some form of curbs in several others - affecting more than 20 million Australians, or about 80% of the population.

Perth, capital of Western Australia, began a four-day lockdown starting Tuesday, joining Sydney and Darwin. Queensland will impose a snap three-day lockdown in capital Brisbane and some neighbouring regions from Tuesday evening.

"The risk is real and we need to act quickly, we need to go hard, we need to go fast," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. The state reported two new local cases.

Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia's 25 million population, is under a two-week lockdown until July 9 while the lockdown in the northern city of Darwin was extended for another 72 hours until Friday. Tough restrictions, including mandatory masks and fewer gatherings, are in place elsewhere.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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NSW reported 19 new locally acquired infections, detected from a record 67,000 tests, versus 18 cases a day ago.

To head off infections, Australia late on Monday announced steps to increase COVID-19 vaccinations such as mandatory shots for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels as well as making the AstraZeneca vaccine available to people under the age of 60.

Officials had earlier limited the use of the AstraZeneca shot only to people above 60 due to blood clot worries while recommending Pfizer shots to everyone under 60 in a major change that slowed Australia's immunisation drive.

Authorities have now said people under 60 could request the AstraZeneca vaccine if approved by their doctors, who will be covered by a no-fault indemnity scheme matching a wider practice seen overseas.

Health officials say the AstraZeneca vaccine offers a high level of protection against COVID-19 and its benefits far outweigh any risks.

Lockdowns, swift contact tracing and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,500 cases and 910 deaths, even as its vaccine rollout has hit several roadblocks.



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Reuters
first published: Jun 29, 2021 09:03 am
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