MELBOURNE (Dispatches) – Australia saw a record daily number of new coronavirus cases this year on Saturday, with the country’s most populous states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland recording a total of 361 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant.
With about 15 million people in the three states, or 60 percent of Australia’s population, under a strict lockdown, the country also reported five coronavirus-related deaths, one of the highest tolls this year.
NSW reported 319 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, the most since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, with Sydney and neighboring regional centers spanning 200km (120 miles) of coastline under a stay-at-home order for six weeks already.
There are 345 people in hospital in NSW, with 56 in intensive care and 23 on ventilators, state authorities said.
With the virus continuing to spread through Sydney’s sprawling suburbs, state Health Minister Brad Hazzard expressed frustration that people appeared to be ignoring restrictions and urged residents to stay at home.
“That is the biggest thing you can do for all of us and for yourself, to make sure that we beat this Delta virus that is wreaking havoc across the world,” Hazzard told media.
Neighboring Victoria saw the highest daily jump in cases this year, with 29 new infections, as the state remains under a snap seven-day lockdown imposed earlier this week, the state’s sixth since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, returning to a milestone last seen during the winter surge in yet another bleak reminder of how quickly the delta variant has spread through the country.
The U.S. was averaging about 11,000 cases a day in late June. Now the number is 107,143.
It took the U.S. about nine months to cross the 100,000 average case number in November before peaking at about 250,000 in early January. Cases bottomed out in June but took about six weeks to go back above 100,000, despite a vaccine that has been given to more than 70% of the adult population.
The seven-day average for daily new deaths also increased, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It rose over the past two weeks from about 270 deaths per day to nearly 500 a day as of Friday.
The virus is spreading quickly through unvaccinated populations, especially in the South where hospitals have been overrun with patients.
In England, hundreds of fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized with the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, scientists said on Friday.
In its latest COVID-19 update, Public Health England (PHE) also warned there were early signs that people who have been inoculated may be able to transmit the Delta strain as easily as those who have not received any jabs, Al Jazeera reported.
From July 19 to August 2, 55.1 percent of the 1,467 people hospitalized with the Delta variant were unvaccinated, PHE said, while 34.9 percent – or 512 people – had received two doses.