Australian authorities began doling out emergency COVID-19 vaccine supplies on Thursday (August 19) in the Sydney suburbs hardest hit by an outbreak of the Delta strain, as the country reported its biggest ever one-day rise in COVID-19 infections.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the ramp-up in shots in Australia's largest city was providing some hope as it battles its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.
"Put it this way, COVID never had a rule book. The Delta strain is no rulebook on steroids. We are in uncharted territory as far as Australia is concerned. But we've seen what Delta has done overseas, we've seen how communities have responded. And we also know what best practice in other communities looks like, and high vaccination rates are absolutely critical to having communities stay out of hospital, to having people stay alive and well, but also live life more freely."
Officials across the country reported a daily combined total of 754 cases on Thursday.
New South Wales accounted for the bulk of the cases, with 681 infections, and most of those were found in Sydney's western suburbs. The state also recorded one new death.
Cases also more than doubled in Melbourne, the country's second-largest city, to 57.
Health officials have warned the country is vulnerable to more deaths and hospitalizations, given just 27.5% of the national population is fully vaccinated.
State leaders are divided on their approach to the pandemic, with some still pushing for elimination, while others, including Berejiklian, advocate finding an acceptable level of exposure.
''As the Doherty report says, once you get to 80% double doses and you have to open up, everybody's going to have to learn to live with Delta.''
She's yet to formally extend the Sydney lockdown, which is currently due to end at the end of the month.
But has made it clear that 70% of the state's population over the age of 16 must be vaccinated, a target she expects to reach by the end of October.