Sydney, Australia, on Saturday night began a two-week lockdown amid a surge in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was “the scariest time that I felt since the pandemic started,” as she announced the lockdown and associated stay-at-home orders for Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.
The new restrictions follow smaller lockdowns in parts of the city that began Friday in an effort to stem an outbreak of the highly contagious variant.
“Everyone in Greater Sydney must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason,” Berejiklian said in a statement outlining the restrictions.
Under the order, which will be in place through at least July 9, residents are only permitted to leave their homes for essential work, education, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, to seek medical care, outdoor exercise and to shop for food or other essential items. Those who wish to exercise outdoors may only do so in groups of 10 or fewer.
Notice of the lockdown prompted some residents to swarm local markets.
At least 29 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the 24 hours prior to the lockdown taking effect, according to the state’s ministry of health. That includes 17 new infections that were announced Friday morning.
As an outbreak of the most contagious COVID-19 variant identified yet continues to spread, “we have always indicated we will not hesitate to go further with restrictions to protect the people of NSW,” Berejiklian said.