With just one coronavirus death recorded for all of 2021, Australia, on the surface, looks like the success story of Covid-19 control.

But the more transmissible delta variant has brought a new wave of lockdowns that have again raised questions about both the country’s over-reliance on tight border controls and the pace of the vaccine rollout.

Cases traced to strict quarantine hotels have allowed the new variant, first identified in India, to spread widely.

Once inside the country, Covid-19 has a good chance of spreading unchecked as Australia limps towards just 5 per cent of its population being vaccinated.

A single gold miner who is thought to have contracted the virus in a quarantine hotel is believed to be the key to clusters appearing in many major cities.

Australia Delta variant outbreak from Outback Gold Mine

After travelling to an Alice Springs gold mine, he is now linked directly to a cluster in Darwin 1,500kms away. All miners who travelled to either locations are now in isolation, while authorities desperately attempt to trace 900 other "fly-in, fly-out" workers across Australia.

This week the country’s biggest city, Sydney, and other state capitals Perth, Darwin and Brisbane, were sent into lockdown as new outbreaks emerged, while many other Western countries are moving towards normality after vaccinating the majority of their adult population.

About 10 million Australians are now under lockdown.

The outbreak has triggered memories of the 2020 Melbourne lockdown lasting more than 100 days when health workers and contact tracers battled to suppress a second wave of infections, killing hundreds of people in the state of Victoria.

Slow roll: How Australia vaccine roll-out stacks up

As that nightmare came to an end, the experience seemed to reinforce the consensus that lockdowns and hard borders were temporary measures designed to buy time for the development, acquisition and distribution of effective vaccines against the coronavirus.

However, the Australian Government’s handling of the vaccine has been disastrous. The Government was slow to secure a supply, slow to plan and execute distribution, and seemingly overlooked the need to prioritise health, care home, border and quarantine workers as recipients for the vaccine.

Targets were set and missed again and again. Deadlines were moved multiple times as authorities floundered. Only 4.8 per cent of the population has now been fully vaccinated, ranking Australia below scores of other countries, many of which have much larger populations.

Critics say the Government made no serious attempt to encourage people to get vaccinated. Indeed, Greg Hunt, the health minister, fuelled fears connected to the tiny risk of clotting associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine by telling the public they could "wait for Pfizer" if they had concerns.

More than five million people in Greater Sydney and its surrounding areas have gone into a 14-day lockdown

Credit: MICK TSIKAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

On Tuesday, the Government announced that Covid vaccines will be mandatory for all care home workers and for anyone transporting airline workers. It also moved towards offering vaccines and regular Covid testing to the families and close contacts of quarantine workers.

The Government equally announced that anyone could now get the AstraZeneca vaccine, having previously limited it to older people with the approval of their GP; a move rejected by the Australian Medical Association.

Dr Omar Khorshid, the AMA president, said the announcement took him by surprise, and Jeannette Young, Queensland’s chief health officer, said: "There are some people asking to get AstraZeneca although the clinical advice is they should not."

The advice from the independent Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation that Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for under-60s due to an increased risk of rare clotting events linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, remains unchanged.

Residents in Perth, Darwin and Brisbane are currently facing lockdowns of between four and five days

Credit: TREVOR COLLENS/AFP/Getty Images

Mohammed Massoud Morsi, a Perth resident, told The Telegraph that he had recently attempted to book a vaccination appointment but "no booking slots" were available.

"If the rate is 2,000 people per day, it will take years. Egypt, as an example, has already vaccinated more than Australia’s population. My dad has already had his two shots. No point in trying to get a booking time in Western Australia… It’s pathetic," he said.

Schools and day care centres continue to operate in locked-down Australian cities despite teachers and staff not being prioritised in the vaccine roll-out.

The cluster of new cases in Bondi has now grown to over 140 cases, the biggest in the country, and Sydney will be locked down for at least two weeks, while Perth, Darwin and Brisbane are currently locked down for four to five days.

Abeer Mahendroo, a resident of Sydney, told The Telegraph that even with the slow roll-out, lockdowns could have been avoided.

Travel countries on the red, green and amber list

"We seem to have regressed… Even Sydney now has ludicrous police enforced rules around not ‘lingering’ outdoors, when outdoor gatherings were allowed during the Northern Beaches lockdown… I’m very disappointed," he said.

Two of the cases thought to have triggered the latest wave have been traced to quarantine hotels. They are among 10 cases to have emanated from the hotel system, which has processed about 370,000 people entering the country.

Experts say the air circulation between rooms may not have been good enough to prevent transmission of the new variant, despite travellers being housed in separate rooms.

Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, has said he will reopen borders when the country reaches herd immunity, believed to be about 80 per cent of the population vaccinated. Earlier in June he refused to commit to doing so before Christmas 2022.

On Monday, Mr Morrison cited the UK’s death toll as he vowed to keep borders closed. 

Police on Tuesday caught Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, without a face mask. He was fined £110.