Police have vowed to crack down on anti-lockdown protesters planning a Melbourne march in “blatant breach” of COVID-19 rules.
In a statement on Thursday, Victoria Police said it was aware some people may be planning to protest in Melbourne’s CBD on Sunday.
A Facebook event has called on people to march in opposition to the city’s six-week shutdown and claimed to be part of a broader movement of planned protests.
“Let’s blow this one up and fill up the streets to show these criminals we won’t give up our country and livelihoods without a fight,” the event description reads.
It had more than 100 confirmed attendees and 400 expressions of interest late on Thursday evening.
If they turn up, Victoria Police said it wouldn’t hesitate to hand out $1652 on-the-spot fines or arrest protesters.
“This is a completely blatant breach of the chief health officer’s directions and puts Victorian lives at risk,” police said.
It came as Victoria recorded 471 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths on Thursday, well down on Wednesday’s record figures.
Thursday marked a move to tough new restrictions on workers and businesses in Melbourne, while regional Victoria officially entered stage three rules.
Despite slowed meatworks production invariably affecting supply, Premier Daniel Andrews urged people not to “stockpile months and months of food” in response to the changes.
Federal modelling expects the statewide shutdown to strip up to $9 billion from the national economy over the three months to September, with unemployment set to peak at almost 10 per cent.
Mr Andrews said the harsh restrictions were the “only way” the state would drive down cases.
Deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said if Victoria had continued on the path it started on June 25, when 20 cases were recorded, and not gone into lockdown, the state could have reached 20,000 by August 12.
He expects case numbers to drop within the next 10 days, disputing figures published by The Australian newspaper.
Meanwhile, during a marathon media conference that lasted more than 90 minutes, the Mr Andrews fended off repeated questions relating to the state’s botched hotel quarantine program.
Genomic testing has revealed the program could be linked to a significant number of cases, if not all cases, in Victoria’s second coronavirus wave.