News Coronavirus Hundreds of police swamp Sydney CBD in show of force against protesters

Hundreds of police swamp Sydney CBD in show of force against protesters

A strong presence of NSW Police at a Stop Black Deaths in Custody: Solidarity with Long Bay Prisoners vigil at Sydney Town Hall. Photo: AAP
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Around 600 police swamped the Sydney CBD on Friday night in response to an unauthorised protest, outnumbering demonstrators by about two to one.

The strong police presence against 300 anti-racism protesters came ahead of a prohibited refugee rally planned for Saturday and amid stern warnings that officers will be “out in force”.

Friday night’s Stop Black Deaths in Custody: Solidarity with Long Bay Prisoners vigil ended peacefully, with only one arrest of a 24-year-old woman fined for disobeying a move-on direction.

“I again issue the same advice to anyone who thinks that they can come into the city and engage in an unauthorised public gathering: Do not do it,” NSW Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing warned.

“We will have sufficient resources, the same as we had tonight, out on the ground and will take whatever action we need to take to ensure that the COVID health order is applied by and that the community is kept safe.”

It was a game of cat and mouse between police and protesters but the rally ended peacefully. Photo: AAP

The clamp down on unauthorised demonstrations comes as the Prime Minister announced gathering limits could be lifted as soon as July which would allow up to 10,000 people in sports stadiums with a 40,000 capacity.

For stadiums with capacities of more than 40,000, health experts are working on further advice, with arrangements to be settled by the states and territories on a venue-by-venue basis.

Festivals, concerts and events could also be given the green light as long as the four square-metre rule was enforced and outdoor events were seated and ticketed.

But large outdoor music festivals without seats will remain on the banned list.

Scott Morrison declared Queensland had set a target of reopening its borders on July 10 following sustained pressure from the state’s struggling business and tourism sectors.

July 10 was the original date outlined in stage three of the Qld’s coronavirus recovery, but Health minister Steven Miles on Friday said a final decision would be pending a review at the end of the month.

Under an accelerated national roadmap to recovery, the nation’s 100-person cap on indoor venues would also be scrapped, allowing more people to attend gatherings such as weddings and funerals.

Pubs and restaurants will be included in the new limit, along with any other venue or workspace.

However states and territories have the ultimate say on when restrictions are lifted.

Nightclubs will remain shut indefinitely across Australia, with health experts rating the risk of reopening too high.

“We’ve seen overseas, nightclubs is one area of failure,” Mr Morrison said.

NSW infection

NSW’s two-week streak of no new locally-acquired COVID-19 appears over after Rose Bay Public School was closed on Friday while NSW Health investigated a possible case in a staff member.

“Further testing confirmed this is a case of COVID-19,” the department said in the evening.

“However, it should be stressed that the date of infection is still to be determined and this case may be an older infection.”

The state otherwise reported three new cases on Friday – two in travellers in hotel quarantine and a previous case stemming from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship off the coast of South America.

Praise for Apple Aisle

Tasmanians should give themselves a big pat on the back, says Premier Peter Gutwein, who has announced that more COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted next week.

The Apple Isle, which has not seen a fresh case of the coronavirus in 27 days, is poised to see patrons hit the gym once more – just so long as no more than 80 people are present at any one time.

The same also applies to weddings and funerals, although a maximum of only 20 people will be permitted to gather in private homes.

“Because of hard work and discipline today we have reached a very significant milestone,” Mr Gutwein said.

“Today, after more than three months, I’m pleased to report that we’ve once again had no more positive cases yesterday, and importantly we have no active cases in Tasmania as of today.

“It’s now 27 days since we had a positive case and so it’s an important milestone to have another day without a positive case and to have no active cases in the state at the moment.”

Return of international students

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international students may be able to travel to Australia as early as July.

Authorities are working on a proposal that would allow students to travel to Australia on a pre-approved plan with particular institutions.

Mr Morrison said the appropriate quarantine entry requirements and biosecurity measures would have to be in place.

“I would hope to be in a position to do pilots next month,” he said on Friday.

The plan is contingent on the states opening their borders before international students can arrive.

“If you want to open up borders for international students, then you have to open up borders for Australians,” Mr Morrison told the premiers.

Mr Morrison said he wasn’t concerned that Chinese students would be deterred from coming to Australia after Beijing warned about racist attacks.

However, he said there was still work to do before any international students can arrive.

Australia’s borders have been closed to non-citizens and non-residents since March.

Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson said a trial approach was sensible.

“International students understand that they have to play their part by obeying the rules on health and hygiene practices. They are a good bet as COVID-safe citizens.”

– with wires