Australia's slow Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been criticised by a US epidemiologist as the Delta variant outbreak continues to grow in New South Wales and other states.
NSW has recorded 18 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections in the state to 130.
In recent days, new infections have emerged in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin, with states and territories scrambling to announce tough restrictions in response.
New Zealand announced a three-day suspension of its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia on Saturday night.
The highly contagious Delta variant first identified in India is expected to become the dominant strain worldwide.
In the US, the Delta variant now represents at least 20 per cent of Covid cases in a country where 46 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
In the UK, which has a similar vaccination rate as the US, the Delta variant has driven an explosion of new cases. The latest new infections are up 60 per cent from a week ago, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist who frequently comments on the pandemic to his half a million Twitter followers, slammed Australia's "abysmally low" vaccination response.
According to ourworldindata.org, 4.7 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated, while 23.9 per cent of the population has had at least one dose.
By comparison, data shows New Zealand has fully vaccinated 7.8 per cent of its population, with 13 per cent receiving one dose.
In a Twitter thread over the weekend, Feigl-Ding warned that New South Wales had no choice but to lock down in the wake of the latest outbreak.
"Sydney has to do a lockdown because its vaccination rate is abysmally low due to low vaccine supply," Feigl-Ding tweeted. "Australia vaccination rate is roughly India's."
He continued: "If you don't lock down, India and UK are what you get … but Australia's vaccination rates are closer to India than to UK. So that's not good."
He said despite the UK having a 46 per cent fully vaccinated rate in its population, 10 per cent of hospitalisations are from people who have had two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Feigl-Ding then posted footage of a NSW health minister lamenting the lack of vaccine supplies. "Australia govt should have ordered more faster. If even non-wealthy South American countries can order millions, so can Australia. Cmon."
When followers argued that Australia had been hit by vaccine production delays, Feigl-Ding replied: "It's now June 2021. Every major wealthy country has plentiful vaccines. Even many poorer LMIC countries have half their country 1 shot vaccinated (eg Chile).
"Australia is in deep trouble if this lockdown doesn't stop Delta fast," he said.
The epidemiologist brought the thread to a close by sending a message directly to Australia's PM Scott Morrison.
"Dear @ScottMorrisonMP, Australia's vaccination rate is abysmal … your slow vaccine acquisition & rollout has jeopardised your county. The current vaccination level is not enough to stop #DeltaVariant without sharper lockdowns and faster action with masks & ventilation."
Today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian expressed her frustration at the slow vaccine rollout, hitting out at the Federal government for not providing enough doses.
"I have been calling on this for weeks and weeks if not months. Our GPs want to do more. They want more doses and they want more GPs to come online. That is necessary, that is not something the New South Wales government can control," Berejiklian said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to call an urgent national cabinet meeting to discuss the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country.
In another Twitter thread, Fiegl-Deng also sent a warning to US authorities.
"The US has just one month to act before US becomes full-blown Delta variant dominant. 1 month to slow it down. 1 month to fully vaccinate. Or else," he tweeted.
Other US infectious disease experts have also raised alarm about the Delta variant in the States.
"The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the US to our attempt to eliminate Covid-19," Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing on the virus last week.
"Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the Delta variant," he added. "We have the tools. So let's use them, and crush the outbreak."