COVID-19: Despite lockdown, Sydney sees highest caseload in months

Despite imposition of lockdown and curbs, Australia's New South Wales on Thursday reported year's highest covid-19 cases in a single day as officials struggle to stamp out a growing cluster of the highly infectious Delta variant.

With a spike in cases after two weeks of a hard lockdown in Sydney, raised the chances of a further extension in restrictions, with officials blaming illegal family visits for a continuing rise in infections.

New South Wales reported 38 new local cases, up from 27 on July 7, with 11 of those having spent time in the community while infectious.

Given the rise in cases, authorities say household visits and meet-ups between friends were still driving the virus' spread. They have pleaded with residents to follow the rules more strictly.

"We just need people to stop interacting for this lockdown to work," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday, which saw the highest figures in a day in the last 14 months. Please stop visiting people indoors, outside your family, your household. Your immediate family means those you live with, it doesn't mean extended family or friends," she said.

Australia's biggest city, home to five million people, is under a stay-at-home order until 17 July. The neighbouring Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Shoalhaven regions are also affected.

Under the direction, people are allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons like shopping, exercise and care-giving. Businesses such as restaurants offering takeaway and many retail shops remain open.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government would ensure adequate economic support if the lockdown was extended, saying the state was on "shifting sands" and urged patience.

The state's police force will deploy 100 additional officers in Sydney's south west, from Friday to ensure that residents are wearing masks and not breaking COVID-19 restrictions.

Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping COVID-19 numbers low, with just under 30,900 cases and 910 deaths, however, the country's slow vaccination rollout has taken some of the shine off this success.

(With agency inputs)

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