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CANBERRA/SYDNEY -Australia's biggest city of Sydney recorded its deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday as troops and police set up roadblocks to limit the movement of people, while Melbourne faced a nightly curfew and a further two weeks of lockdown.
Sydney, which is in its eighth week of lockdown, is the epicentre of Australia's third COVID-19 wave https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps that threatens to push the country's A$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) economy into its second recession in as many years.
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said seven people in Sydney had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, surpassing the state's previous record daily toll from earlier this month.
Berejiklian said New South Wales had detected 478 infections, the highest one-day rise since the pandemic began.
"Our community transmission numbers are disturbingly high," Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
"Every death is a person who has loved ones, who has died in tragic circumstances," she added.
Authorities also confirmed the death of a 15-year-old boy from Sydney, who had pneumococcal meningitis and COVID-19.
Australia has confirmed 55 deaths since July 11, breaking a run of more than three months without any fatalities. In total, Australia has recorded 966 COVID-19 deaths.
The toll rose as 200 military personnel were deployed across Sydney to set up roadblocks in the hardest-hit areas, amid persistent reports of people flouting lockdown rules. The latest deployment comes on top of 500 troops deployed last month.
With only 26% of people above 16 years of age fully vaccinated, Australia is vulnerable to the highly infectious Delta variant that has steadily spread across the country.
While Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Darwin - which entered into lockdown on Monday - are all under tight restrictions, cases have steadily risen.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Melbourne's 5 million residents would be subjected to a nightly curfew and the city would remain in a lockdown until Sept. 2 after recording 22 new COVID-19 cases.
"We are at a tipping point. There is simply no option today but to further strengthen this lockdown," Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
A spike in cases had been driven by people breaking lockdown rules, he said. In one instance, police fined 69 people A$5,500 ($4,034) each for attending an engagement party in breach of the lockdown.
National capital Canberra recorded 19 new cases as it extended its lockdown for a further two weeks.
Australia's economy rebounded strongly from the initial wave of the pandemic, with unemployment hitting its lowest levels in more than a decade at 4.9% in June.
But with its two most populated cities Sydney and Melbourne in lockdown, economists expect a heavy toll.