Coronavirus Asia-Pacific

Anti-lockdown protesters clash with police in coronavirus-weary Australia

Protesters taking part in a rally in Melbourne yesterday. The largely maskless protesters were flouting rules on non-essential travel and public gatherings, a day after the authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October. P
Protesters taking part in a rally in Melbourne yesterday. The largely maskless protesters were flouting rules on non-essential travel and public gatherings, a day after the authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Thousands marched through Australia's two biggest cities in anti-lockdown protests, sparking violent clashes with police in Sydney.

Dozens of protesters were arrested after an unauthorised march flouted public health orders in Sydney yesterday, while several confrontations with police broke out during the hours-long rally.

Officers were pelted with pot plants and bottles of water as opponents of Sydney's month-long stay-at-home order took to the streets in numbers.

Thousands also crowded several streets in Melbourne after gathering outside the state Parliament in the early afternoon.

The largely maskless protesters were flouting rules on non-essential travel and public gatherings, a day after the authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October.

Hundreds of police responded to the Sydney protest, with several demonstrators pulled from the crowd in handcuffs by officers. Police said they issued nearly 100 fines and arrested 57 people.

Police in Melbourne said six people were arrested. New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said a team of detectives would be scouring footage to identify and charge as many people as possible in the coming days. He also said he expected the gathering to drive a spike in Covid-19 cases and urged all those who attended to get tested and isolate themselves.

The state of New South Wales reported 163 new infections yesterday to bring its total in the current outbreak to nearly 2,000.

After escaping much of the early pandemic unscathed, around half of Australia's 25 million people are now in lockdown across several cities.

Australia's government announced plans to set new vaccination targets that would allow the country to respond to future coronavirus outbreaks without restrictive lockdown measures.

The plan would mean strict stay-at-home orders would occur only in extreme circumstances once Australia moves to a second stage of its inoculation programme, and the measures would not be implemented at all under a third setting, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Data on serious illness, hospitalisation and fatalities will guide decision-making rather than case numbers, and unvaccinated residents may be subject to different measures from those who have received inoculations, he said.

Australia's inoculation drive is accelerating and now administering at least one million doses a week, Mr Morrison said in a video-link speech to members of his governing Liberal Party in Tasmania.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 25, 2021, with the headline 'Anti-lockdown protesters clash with police in coronavirus-weary Australia'. Subscribe