A lockdown of Australia’s largest city Sydney has been extended to the end of September as authorities struggle to contain a wave of Delta cases.

The city’s five million residents have been under stay-at-home orders since late June.

Infections have more than doubled in the past week. There were 642 new cases on Friday, after 681 on Thursday.

From Monday, two million residents in the city’s worst-hit suburbs will live under a daily curfew from 21.00-05.00.

“I apologise to the vast majority of people in those communities who are doing the right thing but for our health and safety moving forward we need to make these difficult decisions,” said New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Australia set a record on Thursday for its highest daily infections since the pandemic began.

Currently over half of Australia’s 25 million people are living in lockdown, amid Delta outbreaks also in Melbourne and Canberra.

Sydney remains the biggest concern. So far, its outbreak has killed 65 people.

The rest of NSW is also in lockdown, but Ms Berejiklian said restrictions outside Sydney would be eased on 28 August.

The harshest rules target Sydneysiders living in 12 particular areas of concern.

Along with the curfew, people in those suburbs – which are among Sydney’s poorest and most ethnically diverse – will be limited to just one hour of exercise daily.

The measures were designed to prevent more people “losing loved ones”, the premier said.

Critics say the state government could have acted more effectively to tackle the outbreak early on.

Australia has recorded 971 deaths from Covid, fewer than many nations.

But Delta’s entry into Australia in early June has challenged a nation initially widely praised for its pandemic response.

Frustration has built over strict border policies and frequent lockdowns.

Residents in Melbourne on Thursday marked their 200th day of lockdown since the pandemic began.

Critics have also accused the federal government of complacency over its slow vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is under significant pressure, and has scrambled to secure more doses in recent times.

Vaccinations have picked up in recent weeks. More than a quarter of Australians are fully vaccinated.

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