Australia, New Zealand report record COVID-19 cases

As they both battle the highly transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant, COVID-19 cases in Australia and New Zealand reached new daily highs.

In other developments, Vietnam is sending troops to help with a surge in one of its main manufacturing hubs, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced steps to ramp up vaccine production in Latin America.

Delta keeps big cities on lockdown

In Australia, cases in New South Wales state, home to the nation’s hot spot of Sydney, reported 1,029 cases today, topping 1,000 for the first time, according to Reuters. Two hospitals in the city’s western suburbs have set up tents to screen patients.

Victoria state, home to Melbourne, reported a sharp rise in cases, with 80 new infections, including 67 linked to known outbreaks, Australia’s ABC News reported.

More than half of the country is on lockdown, which mainly affects its major cities. Federal officials are crafting plans to loosen restrictions once vaccination levels approach and exceed 70%. Currently, about 32% of those over age 16 are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, neighboring New Zealand reported 68 new cases today, also a record daily high, according to the New Zealand Herald. Most cases continue to be reported from Auckland, though some have been detected in Wellington.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cases are likely to remain high but the country’s COVID-19 measures are working, with cases limited to the two cities.

More global headlines

  • In Vietnam, a surge of cases in the manufacturing hub of Binh Duong province—expected to worsen over the next 2 weeks—prompted the government to deploy troops to help with outbreak response, according to Reuters. Binh Duong is near Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s worst hot spot, and it is home to several factories that make products for international companies.
  • PAHO said during a briefing yesterday that it launched a new collaboration to work on ways to produce COVID-19 vaccine in Latin America and the Caribbean regions, part of an effort to ease the shortage and more equitably distribute supplies. Leaders from financial organizations, governments, and public health groups will meet for the first time tomorrow to discuss technology transfer issues and how to maximize current production of mRNA vaccines. Similar efforts are under way to boost vaccine production in the African region.
  • About 40,000 people recently evacuated from Afghanistan are being temporarily housed at a US Army base in Qatar, and today Qatar’s foreign ministry said all evacuees not immediately transported to other countries will be provided polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19. In a statement, the ministry said that they will also be given the COVID-19 vaccine if they request it.
  • In China, more than two dozen cities have warned citizens who refuse vaccination that they will be held accountable if they are linked to outbreaks or come into contact with infected people, according to the Washington Post.
  • The global total today topped 214 million, rising to 214,071,676, with at least 4,464,081 deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

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