Australia is pursuing a faster reopening through higher vaccination rates despite persistent infections, largely in its two biggest cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Along with the capital Canberra, both cities are in a weeks-long lockdown.
The Delta-fuelled outbreak has divided state and territory leaders, with some presiding over virus-free parts of the country indicating they will defy a federal plan to reopen internal borders once the adult population reaches 80 per cent vaccination, expected in November. The national vaccine rate is currently around 52 per cent.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the New South Wales roadmap and urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"The strongest possible reason to be vaccinated is to save your life," Hunt said.
CASES TOP 100,000
The number of COVID-19 cases recorded by Australia since the beginning of the pandemic topped 100,000 on Tuesday, with around 70 per cent of those detected since a Delta-variant fuelled wave hit the country in mid-June.
New South Wales reported 863 new cases on Tuesday, up from 787 a day earlier, and seven new deaths. Neighbouring Victoria reported 867 new cases, its biggest daily rise ever, and four deaths.
The northeast state of Queensland reported four cases, including its first mystery case in almost two months. Officials are racing to trace the source after an aviation worker, who has not travelled interstate or overseas recently, contracted the virus.
While the state is on high alert, officials stopped short of enforcing a lockdown.
Australia had been faring relatively well until the latest wave, but a sluggish vaccine roll-out left it vulnerable to the more virulent Delta strain. Deaths stand at 1,256 but the mortality rate from Delta is lower than last year due to higher vaccination rates among the vulnerable population.
In New South Wales, the number of people hospitalised dipped to 1,155 from 1,266 a week ago as dual-dose vaccination levels in people aged over 16 topped 60 per cent in the state.