Two million Sydney residents forced to wear face masks outdoors as military called up to enforce lockdown

·2-min read
Sunbathers on Bondi Beach as Sydney’s lockdown approaches sixth week (AFP via Getty Images)
Sunbathers on Bondi Beach as Sydney’s lockdown approaches sixth week (AFP via Getty Images)

Sydney posted a record one-day rise in local Covid-19 cases on Thursday and warned the outbreak would get worse - as authorities sought military help to enforce a lockdown poised to enter its sixth week.

Australia has struggled to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in and around its biggest city in recent weeks, which threatens to push the country’s economy into its second recession in as many years.

Despite an extended lockdown of Sydney, New South Wales recorded 239 locally acquired cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest daily rise since the pandemic begun.

"We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better given the quantity of people infectious in the community," New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Ms Berejiklian said one more person had died from Covid-19, taking the death toll from the current outbreak to 13 and the overall national total to 921.

With little sign that recent restrictions are reducing case numbers, Ms Berejiklian said new curbs would be imposed on the southwestern and western areas of Sydney where the majority of cases are being found.

More than two million residents in eight Sydney hotspots will now be forced to wear masks outdoors and must stay within three miles of their homes.

With even tighter restrictions set to begin on Friday, New South Wales Police said it had asked for 300 military personnel to help enforce lockdown orders.

“With an increase in enforcement activity over the coming week, I have now made a formal request to the prime minister for (Australian Defence Force) personnel to assist with that operation," New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said in an emailed statement.

It was not clear what the military personnel would be doing if deployed, but neighbouring Victoria state used a similar number of troops to assist with running testing centres and checking to see whether people under strict stay at home orders were abiding by the requests.

Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday extended the Sydney lockdown by another month, but allowed the majority of construction projects to resume as long as workers do not come into contact with residents.

The restrictions are likely to take a heavy economic toll, with New South Wales accounting for more than a third of Australia's economy.

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