More than 250 people who were protesting coronavirus lockdowns in Australia were arrested on Saturday, and many faced fines for defying health orders, authorities said.
At least seven police officers were treated for injuries after skirmishes broke out at some of the protests, which took place in multiple cities nationwide. Many were organized by people in encrypted online chat groups. The largest and most violent protest was in Melbourne.
Sydney has been in lockdown for two months, while Melbourne and the capital, Canberra, went into lockdown earlier this month. Under the rules of the lockdown, people are mostly confined to their homes and have limits placed on their social interactions.
Despite those measures, Sydney’s New South Wales state reported a record 825 new daily community infections on Saturday. Several cities are battling outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant.
Protesters say the lockdowns should end, but authorities say they are necessary to suppress the spread of the virus and save lives.
In Melbourne, a crowd of about 4,000 mostly unmasked protesters let off flares, yelled and blasted music in the central city. Victoria state police arrested 218 people and issued more than 200 fines, each for more than 5,400 Australian dollars ($4,942).
Six Victoria state police officers were hospitalized and three people remained in custody for allegedly assaulting police. Officers used pepper spray on several people, saying in a statement they were left with no choice.
In New South Wales state, police said they arrested 47 people and fined more than 260 in relation to protests across the state. They also issued 137 tickets after stopping about 38,000 cars that were approaching the city.
New South Wales state police said a 32-year-old man who allegedly assaulted an officer was arrested, and they expected to file charges. The officer was taken to an area hospital for head and neck injuries, authorities said.
New South Wales Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said police expected to identify more people through CCTV and social media footage.
More than 2,000 people also gathered in Brisbane City Botanic Gardens to rally against the lockdown and vaccine measures, although Queensland state police said they didn’t make any arrests.
– From The Associated Press, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 210.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracking database, more than 4.4 million deaths had been reported worldwide.
In Europe, new COVID-19 infections in Germany have reached their highest level in nearly three months amid a steady rise powered by the delta variant.
The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said on Saturday that 51.6 new cases per 100,000 residents were reported over the last seven days. It’s the first time since May 25 that the infection rate has been above 50, but it has been increasing since hitting a low of 4.9 in early July.
In the Americas, parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast continue to be particularly hard hit by the recent COVID-19 surge. A federal team of health-care workers has been deployed to a coastal Alabama hospital that is being “crushed” by a surge of COVID-19 patients, the state health officer said Friday.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending a task force team, including nurses, a doctor and others, to help at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley. Similar help has been sent to Louisiana and Mississippi.
In Asia, Vietnam’s government says it is sending troops to Ho Chi Minh City to help deliver food and aid to households as it further tightens restrictions on people’s movements amid a worsening surge of the coronavirus.
Army personnel will be deployed to help with logistics as the city of 10 million people asks residents to “stay put” for two weeks starting Monday, a report on the government website said Friday.
South Africa has opened vaccine eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations amid a coronavirus surge fuelled by the delta variant.
The country started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older on Friday as the number of vaccinations stalled to less than 200,000 a day, down from 250,000 earlier this month. It’s significantly lower than the target of 300,000 the government had hoped to achieve by this time.
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9 a.m. ET