Thousands of anti-aligned protesters take to the streets in Melbourne, Victoria on Aug. 21.
Thousands of protesters against the coronavirus lockdown took to the streets in Australia’s biggest cities on Saturday,21st August,2021, as the country recorded its most single-day cases since the pandemic began.
The states of New South Wales (NSW) – home to Australia’s most populous city – Sydney – and Victoria reported a total of 886 infections on Saturday amid an outbreak of the virulent Delta variant.
Hundreds of unmasked protesters marched through Melbourne’s central business district before confronting police hours after the announcement of the swift lockdown in Victoria state.
Six police officers were hospitalized during the protests and suffered suspected broken noses, broken thumbs and concussions, police said in a statement.
Police used pepper and spray balls against some members of the crowd of more than 4,000 people. Hundreds of fines have been imposed for health offenses and 218 people arrested – including three for assaulting police officers, Victoria Police said.
During protests in Sydney, a police officer was treated for head and neck injuries and 47 people were arrested, NSW police said.
Delta “nothing Australia has seen before”
The state reported a record 825 locally transmitted cases as of Saturday, and there have also been three coronavirus-related deaths.
At a news conference, NSW Prime Minister Gladys Bereciklian said that “the Delta Variant is unlike anything Australia has seen before”.
“Even with very severe lockdown, the virus spreads – and that’s a fact,” he added. “So we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones by staying at home and getting vaccinated too.”
NSW has been battling the fast-growing Delta variant for two months, with the greater Sydney area closed since late June. On Friday, the lockdown restriction was extended until the end of September, with a curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. in some parts of town starting Monday.
In neighboring Victoria, 61 cases were reported on Saturday, prompting authorities to extend the lockdown measures from the capital Melbourne to the rest of the state. Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for basic activities such as shopping for groceries or medicines, personal care, vaccinations, and sports.
Tensions were high as protests against the lockdown restriction broke out in Sydney and Melbourne and in Brisbane, the Queensland capital, on Saturday – despite the easing of restrictions in some parts of the state on Friday.
In Sydney, despite police warnings, demonstrators turned up in the city center setting up checkpoints to keep out crowds. In Melbourne, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the city before protesting the authorities. And in Brisbane, thousands gathered in the city’s botanical gardens, although Queensland did not register a new local case on Saturday.