MELBOURNE - New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, reported 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, as police cordoned off downtown Sydney with multiple checkpoints to prevent a planned anti-lockdown protest.
Sydney and its vicinities have been under a weeks-long strict lockdown that is to last at least until the end of August while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Saturday's numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases.
About 1,000 police officers have been deployed around Sydney to prevent an unauthorised demonstration against the lockdown and the police have been issuing prohibition notices to taxi and rideshare services banning them from taking passengers to demonstrations, the NSW police said.
Protests last weekend resulted in a series of arrests and clashes with police.
A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed, however, that only 7% of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia's success in managing the pandemic.
In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14.
Parts of the neighbouring state Queensland will enter into a three-day snap lockdown on Saturday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the Delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.
"We have seen from the experience in other states that the only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong," the state's Deputy Premier Steven Miles said. "That is now the nationally agreed approach."
Despite its struggle with spikes of infections, mostly of the Delta variant, Australia has managed to keep its epidemic largely under control with a total of just over 34,000 cases and 924 deaths.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan) ((Lidia.Kelly@thomsonreuters.com;))