On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Australia’s largest cities, defying lockdown measures as the country registers its highest daily number of Covid-19 cases.
The states of New South Wales (NSW) -where Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, is located- and Victoria reported 886 infections yesterday amid its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began.
Australia is facing a significant increase in cases dominated by the Delta variant.
Unmasked protesters marched through Melbourne’s central business district, where they clashed with police.
Shortly after, authorities announced a snap lockdown across the state of Victoria.
Police officers reportedly fired pepper ball rounds and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
Local media reported that over 4,000 people attended the demonstration, where at least 218 people were arrested, including three who assaulted agents.
Hundreds of fines were also imposed for violating sanitary control measures, Victoria police said.
According to a police statement, six officers were hospitalized after the protests for allegedly suffering from broken noses, concussions, and a broken thumb.
NSW Police also said an officer was treated for head and neck injuries at a Sydney protest, where 47 people were detained.
In NSW, besides the record number of 825 cases detected in the last 24 hours, there were three coronavirus-related fatalities.
Gladys Berejiklian, NSW’s premier, said at a press conference that the Delta variant was “like nothing” the country has seen before.
“Even in very strict and harsh lockdowns, the virus is spreading – and that is a fact,” she stated.
“So what we need to do is to protect ourselves and our loved ones by staying at home, and also by getting vaccinated,” she added.
NSW has grappled with a worrying outbreak caused by the most contagious Delta variant for the past two months.
The government imposed a lockdown in late June across Greater Sydney to curb Covid-19 infections.
On Friday, authorities decided to extend such strict measures and announced a night curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. until late September.
The curfew will be in force in several areas across the city as of Monday.
The lockdown was also extended in the neighboring state of Victoria, where 61 new infections were logged.
Previously, the government imposed controls in the capital, Melbourne. They allowed residents to leave home only for essential activities such as buying food or medicine, getting vaccinated, and exercising.
But authorities decided to extend such measures to the entire state.
Besides the protests in Melbourne and Sydney, local media reported rallies in Queensland’s capital Brisbane.