Australian police warn of zero tolerance for anti-lockdown protesters
Melbourne, Sep 18 (IANS): Police in the Australian state of Victoria on Friday slammed plans for a third weekend of anti-lockdown protests, saying they will take a zero tolerance approach towards anybody breaching Covid-19 restrictions.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told Xinhua news agency that it was a criminal offence for people to gather in public places under the current regulations.
“The Chief Health Officer’s directions are clear about the need to avoid mass gatherings to limit the spread of coronavirus.
“This activity has the potential to put Victorians lives at risk,” the spokesperson added.
Victoria, the worst-hit state from the pandemic, recorded 45 new cases on Friday and five deaths as it battled to control a second wave of the pandemic.
Strict social isolation rules including a nightly curfew had brought cases numbers down from a peak of over 700 per day, however many residents had become frustrated after close to two months in lockdown.
On Thursday, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent revealed that authorities had been warned that further large-scale gatherings were planned for the weekend, and said that the police would respond with a heavy presence in key areas across the state’s capital city, Melbourne.
“Last weekend, we arrested over 70 people and issued over 170 fines to those who chose to protest in Melbourne,” the spokesperson said.
“We will have no hesitation in taking the same action again for those who blatantly breach the restrictions.”
Australia has so far reported 26,813 coronavirus cases and 832 deaths.