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Police patrol at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday amid stay-at-home orders for residents in COVID hot spots. Photo: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison was convening an emergency COVID-19 meeting with state and territory leaders Monday afternoon, as outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant saw restrictions return across the country.

Why it matters: This is the first time in months that cases have emerged in multiple parts of Australia simultaneously. Some 18 million Australians, roughly 70% of the population, are now under some form of pandemic restriction, Reuters notes.

  • This includes the country's most populous city, Sydney, which locked down for the first time on Saturday as the Delta coronavirus variant continues to spread.
  • Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday: "I think we are entering a new phase of this pandemic, with the more contagious Delta strain."

What's happening: The state of New South Wales is the coronavirus epicenter, with 130 community cases — 124 in the Sydney Bondi cluster. Greater Sydney residents are now under a two-week stay-at-home order.

The big picture: Australia had largely suppressed outbreaks before the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant emerged. The country has shared a quarantine-free "travel bubble" with New Zealand since April, but NZ paused this until late Tuesday in response to Australia's outbreaks.

  • New Zealand raised its COVID-19 alert level in the capital, Wellington, after a visitor from Sydney tested positive for the Delta strain upon his return home last week.
  • NZ has not reported a local infection since Feb. 28, but authorities are testing hundreds of people potentially exposed to the Australian traveler to determine whether there are any cases in the community.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Age is still a huge coronavirus risk factor — Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns.
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Oct 5, 2021 - Health

HHS: Vaccination linked to lower COVID cases and deaths among seniors

A resident care associate sits outside with residents at a Benchmark Senior Living facility in Woburn, Massachusetts. Photo: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

COVID vaccinations were linked to a reduction of roughly 265,000 COVID-19 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May this year, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Why it matters: The findings reflect the "devastating effect COVID-19 has had on our vulnerable seniors and demonstrates that efforts to prioritize and vaccinate this group directly correlate to saving lives," the agency said.

Oct 5, 2021 - Health

Arizona can't use COVID aid for anti-mask education grants, Treasury says

Deer Valley High School in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Treasury Department informed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) Tuesday that he cannot use federal COVID-19 funding on education grants directed at discouraging mask mandate in schools, AP reports.

Why it matters: In a letter to Ducey, the department said Arizona was misusing the funds by utilizing them to undermine compliance with public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, per the New York Times.