Melbourne saw chaos just hours before the city plunged into its fifth lockdown as hundreds of protesters took to the streets.
Residents marched in the CBD calling for an end to restrictions just hours after Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state will enter a five-day snap lockdown from midnight.
“We’ve got to do this, otherwise it will get away with us and we, as more than any other part of our nation know, we don’t want this getting away from us and being locked down for months,” Andrews said.
“We want to deal with this with a short, sharp lockdown, decisive action, not waiting, not dawdling, now is our time.”
Currently the state has 18 cases, while at least 6500 residents have been forced into isolation as close contacts.
The state’s Department of Health announced new exposure sites overnight as the protesters filled Melbourne’s CBD at around 7pm last night to oppose the new lockdown rules.
Signs read “I have a choice” and “lockdown kills”, with face masks rare among the crowd.
7 News reporter Estelle Griepink posted footage of protesters chanting “sack Dan Andrews” on the steps of Flinders Street Station while some commuters “walked past shaking their heads”.
The protesters marched from Flinders Street Station to Parliament House chanting “freedom”, accompanied by a large police presence.
“We’ve spoken to plenty of people today who say they are frustrated but understand these measures are necessary,” Griepink said.
One protester on social media described lockdown rules as “human rights abuses”. They described a “great turnout” at the protest, bragging there are a “couple thousand people here … just regular everyday people who have had enough”.
“I’ve got friends who that are really frustrated and on the verge of their businesses going a really bad way,” the person said.
“As it stands at the moment so many people have lost their businesses, their homes, their families ripped apart. We pay the price.”
In footage of the protest, one speaker yells: “Here we go again. Once again, Daniel Andrews has jumped at his own shadow and thrown millions of people’s lives into chaos because he has no faith in his own contact tracers and no faith in our healthcare system. That’s the only possible explanation.”
Victoria Police told news.com.au no arrests or fines were issued.
“There was a protest at Flinders Street about 7pm this evening,” a spokesperson said. “Protesters gave speeches and marched to Parliament. A flare was lit while the group moved from Flinders Street to Parliament.
“Police are yet to identify who was responsible. There were no arrests.”
Andrews defended his decision to lock the state down again, saying it must “go hard” in order to contain the highly infectious Delta variant.
“You only get one chance to go hard and go fast. If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier,” he said.
“I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now only to find ourselves in a five-week or a five-month lockdown.
“That is why we are making this very difficult decision and why I know Victorians will, despite the pain and difficulty of this, know and understand there is no option.”
Freeze on transtasman bubble
Quarantine-free travel from Victoria to New Zealand has been paused from 1.59am (NZT) on Friday.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the decision followed updated public health advice from New Zealand officials and a growing number of cases and locations of interest.
The pause would run for at least four days from 1.59am (NZT) July 16 and be subject to further review on Monday.
On Wednesday, Hipkins said Kiwis in Melbourne worried the Victoria travel bubble could be paused should come home as soon as possible.
“I want to encourage anyone with concerns about the potential of a pause to quarantine-free travel, to organise to get home as soon as possible.”
Travellers who are currently in Victoria should follow the instructions of Victorian authorities.
Anyone who has been at a location of interest in Melbourne cannot travel to New Zealand.
Anyone who has been in Melbourne in the last week but has now returned to New Zealand is being asked to monitor their health and be aware that the number of locations of interest there are increasing. They are able to check via the Victorian public health website.
The travel bubble from New South Wales remains paused and managed flights are still in place but those returning will have to go into managed isolation for 14 days after arriving in New Zealand.
– additional reporting: RNZ
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