Victoria hits new record as 628 cases recorded

2021-09-22 05:47:00

Another three people have died and 628 new coronavirus cases have been recorded in Victoria.

The health department also said 43,056 vaccines were administered in state hubs and 60,829 test results received on Tuesday.

It comes as the “violent thugs” who caused havoc in Melbourne’s CBD and shutting down of the West Gate Bridge have been given a final warning to stay out of the city.

Victoria Police have been given permission to use crowd control force against anyone trying to mimic the seven-hour cat and mouse game seen in Melbourne on Tuesday when up to 2000 protesters led police across the city.

Premier Daniel Andrews, flanked by Police Minister Lisa Neville and Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, issued the warning on Wednesday morning.

“Protesters are probably not the right word, it was something very different to a protest. It was ugly,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“Victoria Police are not tolerating this, not yesterday and not today.”

Protests started last week when construction workers were told they could not have breaks in tea rooms because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine was made mandatory for the industry, prompting another protest in front of the CFMEU office on Monday, which turned violent.

By Tuesday, a crowd of mostly men, clad in hi-visibility clothing, took to Melbourne’s street against the state government, CFMEU and police.

Authorities say while there are construction workers in the crowds, there have been other groups including anti-lockdown activists as well encouraged to dress in the hi-visibility clothing.

Ms Neville called them “thugs”.

“If you’re thinking about coming into the city today to cause violence and harm, just know that Victoria Police will deploy whatever tactics they need to in order to ensure that you are held accountable,” she said.

“They have my full support in deploying whatever tactics they need to ensure that these thugs, these violent thugs, are unable to cause further harm to our city and to our community.”

Mr Patton has given permission to his officers to use the force to keep rioters from creating unrest again.

“You’re not going to be welcomed with open arms, I can assure you of that,” he said.

“We have significant tactics in place, we will be agile in our response, we will be very swift in our response and conduct as we have seen yesterday and the previous day will not be tolerated.”

There were 500 Victoria Police used on Tuesday, arresting 62 people, some for assaulting police, but most for breaching public health orders.

CFMEU Victorian construction secretary John Setka is blaming “neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists” for hijacking the event.

He urged construction workers to stay at home.

“My advice to them would be to not take part in the protest today. It’s been hijacked by extremist groups and it’s not our values,” he told the ABC on Wednesday.

The state government has shut down the construction industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

Victoria on Tuesday reported 603 new COVID-19 cases – its highest daily tally in the current outbreak and since August 2020 – and one death.

It said there are 337 cases directly linked to 154 construction sites.

Of that number 239 cases are linked to sites in metropolitan Melbourne, including nine people who live in regional Victoria.

Mr Andrews defended shutting down an industry of more than 300,000 workers across the state, for the several hundred cases.

He also said the vast majority in the industry were turning up to vaccination centres to get their shot.

Mr Andrews described the 1000 to 2000 people on Melbourne’s streets as not reflective of the construction industry or wider population, with 90,000 people across Victoria getting vaccinated on Tuesday.

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