Sydney, Sept. 22 (BNA): Police deployed across central Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, on Wednesday in a bid to keep a lid on the third day of protests against COVID-19 restrictions, such as the state of Victoria. Another rise in injuries was recorded.
Police made more than 60 arrests on Tuesday after more than 2,000 protesters damaged property, blocked a busy highway and injured three policemen after authorities closed construction sites for two weeks to curb the spread of the disease, according to Reuters.
Protesters gathered again in groups roaming city streets on Wednesday despite pleas to stay home, but largely avoided clashes with police buses, while state police chief Shane Patton vowed to prevent further violence.
“I’m not going to talk about the tactics we’re going to use today,” Patton told Melbourne media. “I want them to be completely unaware of what we’re going to do and what ability they might have.”
By the early afternoon, television footage showed hundreds of protesters gathering at the Shrine of Remembrance, a memorial near downtown to honor service in the war, under police surveillance.
“Two have been arrested,” Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent told radio station 3AW.
The protests came on the heels of the authorities’ decision to make vaccinations mandatory for construction workers and enforce the closure of construction sites from Tuesday, alleging failure to comply with health rules.
Authorities and union officials said extremist and right-wing extremist groups joined the protest.
The prime minister said, “There were some people you could say were from the construction industry. There were others who weren’t… they weren’t there to protest, they were there to fight, they pretended to protest.” Daniel Andrews.
Media said that the demonstrators refused to speak to journalists at the scene, chanting “false news” when contacted.
Australia’s largest city and Melbourne, as well as its capital Canberra, have been closed for weeks to contain the outbreak in the delta.
This is Melbourne’s sixth lockdown, the most of any Australian city since the pandemic began.
Authorities aim to resume daily activities in Sydney and Melbourne in a staggered fashion, easing some restrictions when the proportion of fully vaccinated adults of the population reaches 70%, which is expected next month.
Further relaxation will follow when the figure reaches 80%.
About 54% of people aged 16 or over are fully vaccinated in the most populous state of New South Wales and 45% in Victoria.
Despite the comforting talk, Sydney has canceled plans for a traditional 9pm fireworks display on New Year’s Eve for the second year in a row, but will likely stick with plans for a separate midnight show.
A city spokesperson said authorities aimed to reduce “crowd mixing” between the two.
Victoria recorded 628 new infections on Wednesday, the largest single-day rise of the year, overtaking the previous record of 603 infections the day before. New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, saw a total of 1,035 new infections, up from 1,022 on Tuesday.
Australia has nearly 90,300 infections, including 1,186 deaths, with eight new deaths reported.