Australian police arrested 235 people in Melbourne and 32 in Sydney on Saturday during protests against the ongoing lockdowns in those cities. Six police officers were injured. According to the local police, they were knocked to the ground and trampled, as shown on television images.
Due to the lockdowns, mass gatherings are banned, and so are demonstrations. 2,000 officers had cordoned off the city centre with checkpoints and barricades to prevent the announced protests in Melbourne. Public transport was also temporarily shut down. Still, about 700 people managed to gather in Melbourne. In Sydney, where similar measures had been taken, the gatherings were smaller.
Australia has been struggling with an outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus since mid-June, with Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra, among others, in strict lockdowns for weeks. On Saturday, 1,882 new cases of coronavirus were reported, the majority in Sydney.
Most restrictions are in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra and will remain in place until at least 70 percent of people over 16 have been fully vaccinated. Given the current rate of vaccinations, that will not be the case until late October or early November.
The strict corona rules have helped Australia to contain the spread. The country has registered just under 85,000 infections and 1,145 deaths, out of a population of nearly 26 million, since the start of the pandemic.
The majority of Australians support vaccinations and public health measures. The sometimes violent protests on Saturday were, therefore, exceptional. “It was deeply disappointing to see yet another example of a small minority showing complete disregard for the health and safety of not just the police, but of all residents of Victoria,” the Victoria Police Department said in a statement.