NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller issued a warning to people who may be entertaining the idea of gathering en masse and in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 public health orders, as the prime minister shared more detail about how vaccination uptake will affect the possibility of more lockdown orders in Australia.
The commissioner issued a plea at the NSW premier’s Friday morning COVID-19 update that people not take to the streets to protest Sydney’s latest lockdown.
Just the weekend before thousands of disgruntled citizens took to the streets of Sydney, to air various anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine sentiments. As tensions grew so did the violence, with a number of protesters clashing with police. More than 60 people are in custody over their involvement in the protest and more than 200 infringement notices have been issued by police.
Angry crowds of so-called ‘Freedom’ marchers also gathered in Melbourne and Brisbane last weekend.
“Please don’t come into Sydney tomorrow to protest. If you do, you will be met by up to 1,000 police, who will be ready to deal with you,” Fuller said.
“This is such an important time in NSW in terms of winning the battle against the virus, and coming into town to protest is not the answer.”
The commissioner added that any people who thought they could take anti-lockdown protests to other parts of Greater Sydney would be stopped.
“That [police] force will be mobile and waiting for you. You’ve been given plenty of warnings.
“If you turn up you can expect the same sense of force [to last week’s protest],” he said.
The announcement comes amid news that, from Monday, ADF personnel will be deployed to ‘support and assist’ NSW police enforce public health orders.
Commissioner Fuller explained that ADF assistance was requested because the home checks that needed to be done across the eight local government areas (LGAs) of concern in NSW – Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown, Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River – comprised more than 2,000 dwellings. The checks are to ensure that people who have tested positive for the virus and their close contacts are self-isolating at home.
Fuller gave the example of a young man with COVID-19 who had chosen to leave his home and go to work on a building site when police checked on him.
“That sort of behaviour is exactly the reason why we need to have strong health orders that are backed by law enforcement and defence in terms of getting the highest levels of compliance that we can.
“One person could spread the virus through the job site, all those workers go ahead and spread it to their families,” the commissioner said.
At the weekend police established roadblocks across major roads in the Sydney and over a force of 1,300 officers set up an exclusion zone, with mounted police and the dog squad also present.
While eight people were arrested for breaching public health orders, and 250 infringement notices were handed out, no protest eventuated.
Targets unveiled by PM for plan back to ‘normal’
More lockdowns will be a feature of the foreseeable future, prime minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, until the nation’s eligible population had achieved a 70% average of full (ie two doses) vaccination, and the state or territory had also achieved the same average among its eligible population.
The PM has now revealed targets for a four stage national COVID-19 plan (of which Australia is currently in the first of four phases), with a strong message that nationwide vaccine uptake will light the way forward.
“The thresholds are completely 100% consistent with the scientific modelling and advice provided together by the Treasury and the Doherty Institute,” Morrison said.
“Australia will get this done by working together. The targets are there for us all to achieve and for us all to work towards.”