The five million residents of Sydney, Australia will remain under strict lockdown orders for another four weeks as the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to rise.
The extension for Australia's largest city was announced Wednesday when authorities in New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 177 new infections over a 24-hour period, slightly higher than the previous record of 172 new cases posted on Tuesday.
"I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality," New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters during a news conference.
The latest outbreak has been traced to a Sydney airport limousine driver who tested positive for the delta variant after transporting international air crews in late June. At least 11 people have died as a result of the surge, including a woman in her 90s on Wednesday.
Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 through aggressive lockdown efforts, posting just 33,473 total confirmed cases and 921 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. But it has proved vulnerable to fresh outbreaks due to a slow rollout of its vaccination campaign, with only 13% of its citizens fully vaccinated.
In Japan, the Kyodo news agency is reporting that Tokyo, the host city of the pandemic-delayed Summer Olympics, recorded just over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, breaking the single-day record of 2,848 new infections posted on Tuesday. Olympics organizers also confirmed 16 new coronavirus infections related to the Games on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 169. The Japanese capital is under a fourth state of emergency that will remain in effect until August 22.
South Korea also reported a new single-day record of 1,896 infections on Wednesday, surpassing the 1,842 recorded last Wednesday. South Korea now has a total of 193,427 COVID-19 infections, including 2,083 deaths.
In the United States, President Joe Biden is expected to issue an order Thursday for all federal government employees to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing, according to anonymous administration officials. The president told reporters Tuesday the policy was "under consideration" during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates 1,700 medical centers and outpatient clinics for retired military personnel, became the first U.S. federal agency on Monday to impose such a demand on its employees, mainly on its health care providers.
The order would be part of a new overall strategy by the White House to encourage more Americans to get inoculated due to a steady rise of new infections, primarily among unvaccinated people, which has led to a repeat of hospitals overflowing with new coronavirus patients first seen at the start of the pandemic.
The latest figures from Johns Hopkins say 195.3 million people around the globe have been infected with COVID-19 since the first cases were detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, including 4.1 million deaths. The United States leads both categories with 34.6 million infections and 611,288 deaths. A total of 3,926,883,424 vaccine doses have been administered around the world.
(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and AFP.)