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Melbourne readies for anti-lockdown protest as COVID-19 cases surge

Melbourne readies for anti-lockdown protest as COVID-19 cases surge

Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive-through testing centre in Melbourne, Australia, May 28, 2021. (File photo: REUTERS/Sandra Sanders)

SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state reported on Thursday (Sep 16) the year's biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 cases as authorities plan to pause public transport and deploy thousands of police in Melbourne ahead of an anti-lockdown protest over the weekend.

Public transport into the city will be shut from 8am to 2pm on Saturday, roads blocked and thousands of police officers deployed in Melbourne, the state capital, Victoria police said on Wednesday evening. Offenders could be fined up to A$5,500 (US$4,000) each.

Melbourne's 5 million residents have been enduring their sixth lockdown, the most by any Australian city since the pandemic began, with officials aiming to exit the strict stay-home rules through higher vaccination rates.

A total of 514 new coronavirus infections were detected in Victoria, the majority in Melbourne, exceeding the year's previous daily high of 473 on Monday.

Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, have ramped up their immunisation drives as the country struggles to contain a third wave of infections fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant, forcing nearly half its 25 million people into strict stay-at-home restrictions.

First-dose inoculations topped 80 per cent in New South Wales, home to Sydney, on Wednesday, prompting officials to end a nightly curfew in the 12 hard-hit suburbs in Sydney's west. Coverage in Victoria neared 70 per cent, allowing some curbs on travel and outdoor exercise to ease.

Authorities have pledged to relax many tough restrictions when dual-dose vaccination rates reach 70 per cent, expected next month.

A national reopening plan revealed by the federal government in July urges Australian states and territories to start living with the virus once 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the adult population becomes fully vaccinated.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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