Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in coronavirus cases.
The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth”.
There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made.
New South Wales (NSW) Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.
A police statement said: “The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”
The protest comes as Covid-19 case numbers in the state reached another record with 163 new infections in the last 24 hours.
Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks, with residents only able to leave home with a reasonable excuse.
State health minister Brad Hazzard said: “We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest ... but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”
In Melbourne, thousands of protesters without masks turned out downtown chanting “freedom”. Some of them lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria state’s Parliament House.
They held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”
A car protest rally is also planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.
Vietnam has announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.
The lockdown order, issued late on Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public.
Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.
Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases.
On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.
Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until August 1.
In the latest wave of Covid-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths.
A meeting of the National Assembly scheduled to open in Hanoi on Tuesday with 499 delegates will go ahead but was shortened to 12 from the original 17 days.
The delegates have been vaccinated, are regularly tested for Covid-19 and are travelling in a bubble, and will be isolated at hotels, according to the National Assembly. – AP