Victoria has recorded 628 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths, as ‘violent thugs’ who have wreaked havoc in Melbourne’s CBD receive a final warning to stay out of the city.
This is the state’s highest daily tally in the current outbreak and since August 2020, and brings the total number of active cases to 6,223.
The health department said more information would be provided on the three deaths, bringing the epidemic’s toll to 16 later on Wednesday.
It comes as Victoria Police were authorized to use crowd control force against anyone attempting to emulate the seven-hour “cat and mouse” game seen in Melbourne on Tuesday when up to 2,000 protesters took to the streets. led the police through town and closed the West Bridge gate.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews, flanked by Police Minister Lisa Neville and Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, issued the warning on Wednesday morning.
“It was something very different from a protest. It was ugly,” Andrews told reporters.
“The Victoria police are not tolerating this, neither yesterday nor today.”
The protests began last week when construction workers learned they could not take breaks from tea rooms due to the risk of the coronavirus spreading.
Obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine was made mandatory for the industry, prompting another protest outside the CFMEU office on Monday, which turned violent.
On Tuesday, a crowd of mostly men, dressed in high-visibility clothing, took to the streets of Melbourne against the state government, CFMEU and police.
Authorities say that although there are construction workers in the crowd, there have been other groups, including anti-lockdown activists, dressed in high-visibility clothing.
Mr Patton authorized his officers to use force to prevent the rioters from creating further unrest.
“We will be nimble in our response, we will be very quick in our response and our conduct as we saw yesterday and the day before will not be tolerated,” he said.
Ms Neville said the police “have my full support to deploy whatever tactics they need to ensure that these thugs, these violent thugs, are not in a position to do more damage to our city and our community. “.
On Tuesday, 500 Victoria police officers were used, arresting 62 people, some for assaulting police, but most for breaking public health orders.
CFMEU construction secretary John Setka accuses “neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists” of hijacking the event. He urged the construction workers to stay at home.
The state government shut down the construction industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, the city of Ballarat, the city of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.
He said there were 337 cases directly linked to 154 construction sites.
Some 239 cases are linked to sites in the Melbourne metropolis, including nine people living in the Victoria area.
Mr Andrews has defended the shutdown of an industry of more than 300,000 workers across the state for several hundred cases and upheld the vaccination mandate.
“These rules will not change because of the conduct of some people who were there yesterday, they do not speak for the construction industry,” he said, noting that the vast majority of traders were doing vaccinate.
Mr Andrews said 90,000 people across Victoria had been vaccinated on Tuesday, with the state “so close” to meeting its 80% double-dose target, which would mean an end to the lockdown.
“We’re going to normalize this and we’re going to be open and the days of lockdown will be behind us. That kind of behavior puts everything at risk,” he said.
Associated Australian Press