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    Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, enters its sixth coronavirus lockdown

    Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, went into its sixth coronavirus lockdown Thursday, with a state government leader blaming the nation’s slow COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

    Melbourne joins Sydney and Brisbane, Australia’s most populous and third-most populous cities, respectively, in locking down because of the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

    Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state will lock down for seven days after eight new infections were detected, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

    Andrews gave less than four hours’ notice that the state would lock down from 8 p.m. He said his government had no other choice because only 20% of Australian adults had been fully vaccinated by Wednesday.

    “To be really frank, we don’t have enough people that have been vaccinated and, therefore, this is the only option available to us,” Andrews said. “The time will come when we have many more options. But that isn’t now.”

    Andrews has accused neighboring New South Wales state of taking too long to lock down Sydney after a limousine driver who became infected while taking a U.S. air crew from Sydney Airport tested positive for the Delta variant June 16.

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    The protests come as COVID-19 case numbers spike in the Australian state of New South Wales. Greater Sydney has been locked down for four weeks.

    New South Wales on Thursday reported its worst day since the Sydney lockdown began June 26, with a record 262 new local infections and five deaths.

    New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said four of the dead had not been vaccinated. One had a single dose of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine in late May.

    Australian authorities have urged people in Sydney not to wait for the optimal 12 weeks before getting their second AstraZeneca dose.

    “No one who has died has had both doses of vaccine. I cannot stress enough how it’s so important for everybody of all ages to come forward and get the vaccine,” Berejiklian said.

    An Australian court has rejected a challenge to the government’s near-blanket ban on residents traveling abroad.

    AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech are the only vaccines available in Australia.

    There have been 21 COVID-19 deaths reported in Sydney since the latest outbreak began. There have been 78 deaths confirmed in New South Wales since the pandemic began.

    The government reported 262 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period. Another six cases were diagnosed in hotel quarantine and are not considered threats to the community.

    When Victoria ended its fifth lockdown last week, Andrews said he believed the state was the only jurisdiction in the world that had beaten a Delta outbreak twice.

    Melbourne was the center of the pandemic in Australia last year, when new infections peaked at 725 in a day in August. Of Australia’s 925 COVID-19 reported deaths since the pandemic began, 820 have occurred in Victoria.

    Authorities were gaining confidence Thursday that Brisbane and surrounding cities in Queensland state will end an eight-day lockdown Sunday as planned.

    Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said efforts to suppress the spread had surpassed expectations.

    All 16 new locally acquired cases reported Thursday have been directly linked to known exposure sites.

    But doubts are growing that Sydney’s lockdown will end Aug. 28 as planned, as case numbers there continue to grow.

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