Japan urges Australia and allies to step up to China and halt Beijing's 'rise and dominance'
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Planned anti-lockdown protests across Australia escalated and ended up in violence on Saturday as police clashed with crowds. The coronavirus lockdown protests took place after lockdown measures were again extended in Sydney – where stay-at-home orders have been in effect since mid-June. But what exactly is happening in Australia right now and why?
Australian authorities have arrested hundreds of protesters taking part in anti-lockdown demonstrations across the country.
Seven police officers were hospitalised as a result of the clashes with 218 people arrested in Melbourne.
In Melbourne, mounted officers used pepper spray when the crowd of 4,000 people broke through police lines.
Police said 236 fines were issued and three people were in custody for assaulting police.
The arrested people face fines of £2,857.06 (A$5,452) each for breaching public health orders.
A Victoria Police statement said: “The behaviour seen by police was so hostile and aggressive that they were left with no choice but to use all tactics available to them.”
New South Wales police said they had charged 47 people with breaching public health orders and resisting arrest, among other offences.
In addition, authorities issued more than 260 fines ranging from A$50 (£26.20) to $3,000 (£1,572.12).
The police also revealed about 250 people made it to the city for the protest.
The protests took place on Saturday, August 21, as the country confirmed a record day for positive cases.
There were 894 locally transmitted cases.
New South Wales recorded a record high 825 new cases for any day across the pandemic.
Victoria announced 77 cases and the ACT had eight, while Queensland and Western Australia both had zero cases.
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The lockdown in Sydney was extended on Friday until the end of September in a bid to slow the spread of the outbreak.
Two million people will be impacted by the order – all of whom have been under stay-at-home orders since late June.
Infections have more than doubled in Sydney in the past week, with 642 new cases reported on Friday and 681 on Thursday.
New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “I apologise to the vast majority of people in those communities who are doing the right thing but for our health and safety moving forward we need to make these difficult decisions.”
More than 2,000 people also protested peacefully in Brisbane, which is not in lockdown.
Just seven percent of Australians support the often-violent protests, according to a late-July poll by market research firm Utting Research.
The country has mostly been praised for its success during the pandemic, having reported just 43,000 cases and 978 deaths since the crisis began.
Despite these low numbers the nation has struggled to rein in the third wave of infections which began in mid-June.
In addition, despite low case numbers and deaths, the country has been criticised for low vaccination rates.
Only a third of Australians aged 16 and above have been fully vaccinated according to the federal health ministry.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called the country’s vaccine rollout a “colossal failure”.
He told BBC Australia: “It’s the biggest failure of public administration I can recall.
“It was a colossal failure and the problem is you can’t wind the clock back and fix what should have been done last year.
“The very reason we are locked down – which is so frustrating when so many other parts of the world are opening up – is simply because our government failed to buy enough vaccines.”
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