Up to 1000 police officers will be on duty to meet anyone considering heading into central Sydney for an anti-lockdown protest this weekend, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has warned.
Mr Fuller said police had already detained 60 people from last week’s protests and issued more than 200 infringement notices.
The commissioner said after monitoring online activity, police had to “expect there’s going to be a protest”.
“Please don’t come into Sydney tomorrow to protest. If you do, you will be met by up to 1000 police who will be ready to deal with you, whether that be via the health orders or other laws,” Mr Fuller said on Friday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told would-be protesters, “your actions will hurt”.
“Do not give those you love the most a death sentence,” she said.
It came as NSW posted another 170 local COVID infections on Friday – a welcome drop from the record 239 reported on Thursday.
The state’s death toll from the current outbreak remains at 13, with 187 virus people in NSW hospitals with the virus
More than 100 of the people diagnosed with the virus were potentially infectious out in the community, prompting a renewed warning about the virus’s spread through Sydney.
“Obviously today’s number is considerably less than yesterday but don’t assume it will not be back up tomorrow because while there are so many infectious in the community, we expect to see those numbers bounce around,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
NSW authorities are investigating whether a COVID-positive man had attended last Saturday’s protest, in which thousands of people marked through through Sydney’s CBD demonstrating against the state’s lockdown laws.
NSW Police have confirmed a 35-year-old man from Granville, in Sydney’s west, was caught more than 20 kilometres away at the city’s central station by police targeting protesters, despite being subject to stay-at-home orders.
The man, who was fined $1000, was directed home and tested positive to COVID the next day.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said if the man – who would have been infectious – had attended the rally, “he was effectively carrying a deadly weapon”
“Maybe he still went to it. If he went, he was effectively carrying a deadly weapon, he was carrying the virus,” he said.
“You’d have to be crackers to go to that demonstration tomorrow because there will be a lot of people potentially that a deadly weapon, Delta virus.”
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said investigations were also still underway to work out whether any of the state’s latest cases were linked to the protest.
“People may not be open that they attended the protest. I am not aware of any cases that have arisen from the protest but many people may choose not to disclose that,” she said.
“I am totally committed to the fact that we need to have low tolerance for where people are flagrantly breaking the rule – this is too much of a severe disease, too serious a situation to be in, to have people knowingly going out when they are positive.”
A NSW Police strike force was set up following last week’s protests with up to 20,000 tip-offs to Crime Stoppers about attendees, with photos and names sent to police.
On Friday, Mr Fuller said police will be waiting for anyone planning to protest this weekend, and they had been given plenty of warnings.
There are also concerns among health authorities that some people – particularly in Sydney’s west and south-west – are delaying being tested for the virus or seeking medical help. The region has a particularly high number of migrants, many from war-torn countries.
Dr Chant urged people to seek help early.
“I’m just struck by the tragedy of it, that we’ve had a number of people that are presented to hospital severely unwell and sometimes dead,” she said.
“I just think that people need to know that, with COVID, you can
deteriorate quite quickly.”
“There shouldn’t be any barriers to people ringing an ambulance and coming to healthcare.”
Also on Friday, NSW Police stepped up their checks of homes to make sure people are complying with lockdown rules. They will also target businesses that are breaching public health orders.
Defence personnel will be on the ground in Sydney from Monday to further boost the effort.