Australia's largest state records two new local COVID-19 cases

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vehicles wait in line at the Bondi Beach drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre in the wake of new positive cases in Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s largest state New South Wales (NSW) recorded two locally acquired coronavirus cases on Saturday, as concerns grow over the further spread of infections amid an increase in exposure sites.

The point of transmission of the new infections hasn’t been determined, but authorities believed they are linked to the first case of the Sydney cluster of the highly-infectious coronavirus Delta variant, which now stands at six cases.

“This Delta virus would appear to be a near and present danger to anybody who is in the vicinity,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

The list of exposure sites has been updated to now include 20 venues across Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

The latest cluster in NSW, which is home to more than 8 million people, is the state’s first in more than a month. It was traced back to a driver who occasionally used to transport overseas airline crew.

The state of Victoria, which battled a small outbreak of the Delta variant earlier this month, recorded one new locally acquired case.

Australia has successfully contained all past outbreaks through tough social distancing rules, snap lockdowns and internal border controls helping keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated on Saturday that his government is in no rush to reopen the country’s borders, telling The Australian daily that “we have to be ­patient” to see how vaccinations work.

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Australia closed its borders in March of 2020 and allows only a small number of people, mostly its citizens and permanent residents to return. All, except from New Zealand, must undergo two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.

A survey conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by research company Resolve Strategic, showed that 36% of Australians want the number of arrivals to be cut.

(Writing in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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