Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, said it would temporarily lay off 2,500 employees as travel plunges in response to the ballooning coronavirus outbreak in Sydney.
A city of five million people, Sydney has been under strict lockdown orders for weeks as cases of the more virulent Delta strain of the coronavirus surged. On Tuesday, the authorities reported 199 new cases. Some infectious disease experts have predicted the outbreak will last months.
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of the Qantas Group, said in a statement released on Tuesday that the decision to lay off workers was indicative of looming challenges for businesses across the state of New South Wales, whose capital is Sydney.
The company said the laid-off workers would be paid until mid-August, and that the job losses were not expected to be permanent.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying, and that means no work for a number of our people,” Mr. Joyce said, adding that he expected Sydney’s borders to remain closed for at least the next two months.
Mr. Joyce said that while the company expected domestic travel to pick up once Australia improved on its sluggish vaccination rollout, the “challenge around opening international borders remains,” with stringent restrictions in place.
Just 15 percent of Australia’s 26 million people are fully vaccinated, according to New York Times data, a figure that lags far behind most wealthy nations.
In other news coronavirus around the world:
Two cases of the Delta Plus variant have been detected in South Korea, the country’s authorities said on Tuesday. The Delta Plus variant is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant that has been detected in several Indian states and about a dozen other countries, including the United States and Britain.
A top European Union official said on Tuesday that there was not enough proof that booster shots for a coronavirus vaccine were necessary. The statement came a day after Germany announced that it would offer booster shots starting in September to a wide spectrum of people who were considered vulnerable to a breakthrough infection. The official — Emer Cooke, the head of the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator — said in an interview with Politico Europe on Tuesday that while some populations might require an extra dose of the coronavirus vaccine, that “does not mean that there’s a need universally across the population.”
Scotland will lift social distancing requirements and limits on the size of social gatherings beginning on Monday, after coronavirus cases fell from a peak in July, the country’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Tuesday. In addition, she said, Scotland will ease some isolation rules for adults and schoolchilden. Masks, Ms. Sturgeon said, will continue to be required in many indoor settings.