Police in Australia have warned that more anti-lockdown protests won’t be tolerated after thousands of people defied COVID-19 public health orders in Sydney Saturday. Health officials fear the illegal demonstration could become a super-spreader event as an outbreak of the delta variant in Sydney gets worse.
The hunt for the ringleaders of Saturday’s anti-lockdown demonstrations in Sydney is continuing. Dozens have been charged after confrontations with the police and riot officers.
Some protesters brought their children, and few were wearing masks. Police warn they will arrest people over unlawful activity. Health officials said the protests Saturday in three Australian cities, including Melbourne and Brisbane, would put lives at risk. Authorities have said that up to 3,500 people took part in the rally in Sydney.
After the protest, New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said any repeat of the unrest would be met with a significant show of force.
“There is some information on the internet at the moment about a potential protest this Saturday. Can I just put this warning out now to everyone that we will be taking the ground very early. You will be arrested … the premier has spoken about that behavior, and it won’t be tolerated again,” Fuller said.
About 14 million Australians are under strict lockdown restrictions in three states as cases surge in the country. But the restrictions in South Australia will end on Tuesday, and a decision on Victoria’s lockdown is expected in the next 24-hours. However, there are fears that stay-at-home orders that have been in place for more than a month in Sydney and three surrounding regions will again be extended.
New South Wales officials announced 145 new coronavirus cases Monday. Australia has recorded 33,000 COVID-19 infections and 918 deaths since the pandemic began.
Efforts are underway to boost low rates of vaccinations. Only about 16% of Australians are fully inoculated.
There has been widespread hesitancy in the community about Australia’s main vaccine, AstraZeneca, after it was linked to a very small number of blood clots. However, the company that makes the AstraZeneca vaccine has denied the link, saying there is “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots in connection with the vaccine. Supplies of the Pfizer vaccine have also been limited.