Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday apologised to his country for the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccination campaign, even as cases due to the virus outbreak continue to see a spike amid lockdown.
Talking to reporters, Morrison said, “I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year.”
The country has been inoculating less than 150,000 Covid-19 vaccine jabs a day – much behind other developed countries.
Two of the country’s largest states – New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria – logged sharp increases in the daily infection rates on Wednesday. While NSW, which houses Australia’s largest city Sydney, recorded 110 new cases – up from 78 on the preceding day – Victoria clocked 22 fresh cases. Sydney was put under lockdown on June 26, and the same will remain enforced until at least July 30. Meanwhile, Victoria is staring at an almost two-week lockdown.
Speaking at a televised news conference on Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “Had we not gone into a lockdown a few weeks ago, the 110 number today would undoubtedly have been thousands and thousands.”
However, Berejiklian has urged the people of NSW to get vaccinated and “brace” amid anticipations that “case numbers will continue to go up before they start coming down”.
She further stated that whether NSW will exit the lockdown by July 30 target cannot be confirmed until the following week due to rise in coronavirus cases.
The Australian government has said that it will meet its target of vaccinating its adult population by the end of 2021 as millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a third state – South Australia – began its first day of a week-long lockdown on Wednesday. Furthermore, NSW’s neighbouring state Queensland has closed its border with the former due to the spike in cases, thereby shutting off one of Australia’s most travelled routes.
The highly virulent and transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 has been confirmed in 124 countries now, including Australia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. First detected in India, the variant is “expected” to “rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months,” the global health agency stated in its weekly epidemiological update.
Notably, the Delta variant accounts for over 75 per cent of coronavirus cases in multiple nations, including Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, Russia, Singapore, and India, among others. The US health officials on Tuesday confirmed that the variant is responsible for nearly 83 per cent of the cases in the country.
(With inputs from agencies)