3 straight days of double-digit rise in virus cases in New South Wales

11 cases reported as officials say transmissions could be happening even through minimal contact

SYDNEY : Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, reported a double-digit rise in new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 for the third straight day as officials fight to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Eleven cases were reported, taking the total infections in the latest outbreak to more than 40.

Yesterday's data includes six cases detected after the 8pm cut-off deadline, which will be included in today's tally.

Meanwhile, the state's Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall tested positive while Health Minister Brad Hazzard went into isolation after he was deemed to be a possible close contact of a positive case.

"Since the pandemic has started, this is perhaps the scariest period that New South Wales is going through," state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in Sydney.

The state has imposed tough restrictions in Sydney, Australia's largest city and home to a fifth of the country's 25 million, with health officials saying transmission could be happening even via minimal contact with infected people.

State authorities have imposed mandatory masks in all indoor locations in Sydney, including offices, restricted residents in seven council areas in Sydney's east and inner west from leaving the city, and limited home gatherings to five to contain the state's first outbreak in more than a month.

Officials have so far resisted calls for a hard lockdown although Australia has a good record of successfully suppressing past outbreaks through snap lockdowns, tough social distancing rules and swift contact tracing. Australia has just under 30,400 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has urged New South Wales authorities to place the state in a lockdown to "crush and kill" the virus, warning "light touch" curbs could trigger a spike in infections.

Western Australia has closed its border with the state.

Ms Berejiklian said despite the virus variant being very infectious, her government was "at this stage comfortable" with the current level of restrictions.

Victoria, which shares its border with New South Wales, yesterday reported its first case likely linked to its neighbour's outbreak. It reported another case earlier in the day linked to an existing cluster. Queensland state reported three new local cases.- REUTERS