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Hundreds arrested after anti-lockdown protesters clash with police in Australia

Australian anti-lockdown protesters have clashed with police as the country grapples with its biggest wave of Covid-19 infections yet.

Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested on Saturday after the country recorded its highest ever single-day rise in confirmed infections.

Australia has struggled to suppress a third wave of infections since June and has low vaccination rates.

The country has had about 43,000 COVID-19 cases and 978 deaths, well below countries with similar population sizes, but only around a third of people over 16 have had a jab.

There were clashes in Melbourne and Sydney, resulting in seven officers needing hospital treatment.

Riot police used pepper spray and officers on horseback were sent in to repel crowds as they surged towards police lines.

Strict lockdown restrictions have been imposed on Sydney’s population of more than five million people for more than two months.

The vast majority of the 894 cases reported across Australia on Saturday were found in the city, the epicentre of the Delta variant-fuelled outbreak.

Protesters and Police clash during the Freedom protest on August 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
(Picture: Rex)
Protesters in Queens Street during the Freedom protest on August 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
(Picture: Rex)
A protester has his eyes flushed during the Freedom protest on August 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
(Picture: Rex)

New South Wales officials reported three deaths and 516 people in hospital on Saturday. Of the 85 people in intensive care, 76 were unvaccinated, officials said.

Police said 47 people were charged with breaching public health orders or resisting arrest, among other offences, and more than 260 fines ranging from £50 to £1,500 were issued following the disorder.

Police patrolled Sydney’s streets and blocked private and public transport into the city centre to reduce the number of people gathering at an unauthorised protest but hundreds made it through.

The state’s health minister Brad Hazzard said: ‘We are in a very serious situation here in New South Wales.

‘There is no time now to be selfish, it’s time to think of the broader community and your families.’

Protestors descend on Melbourne to protest COVID-19 Lockdown.
(Picture: Splash News)
Protesters and Police clash during the Freedom protest on August 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
(Picture: Rex)
A general view of Bourke Street during the Freedom protest.
(Picture: Rex)
Protesters march through the streets during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on August 21, 2021.
(Picture: AFP)

In Melbourne, the country’s second-most populous city, a large crowd managed to march and some clashed with police, after state premier Daniel Andrews expanded a city lockdown to the entire state.

Victoria state police said that they arrested 218 people in the state capital Melbourne and issued 236 fines of up to £2,850 each. Three people were held in custody for assaulting police. 

Victoria Police chief commissioner Shane Patton had earlier warned people to stay away from the protest, adding it was ‘just ridiculous to think that people would be so selfish and come and do this.’

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