Currently in its sixth lockdown since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Melbourne has now officially become the lockdown capital – that’s according to local media, which reported that the city has spent a total of 235 days under restrictions, surpassing the benchmark set by Argentina’s Buenos Aires, which was shut down for 234 days last year.
The mood has been far from celebratory in the streets of the locked-down city, however, as it faces a wave of protests against the record-breaking restrictions. Since Monday, demonstrators have been taking to Melbourne streets daily to vent their frustration at the government’s handling of the pandemic, including at its latest move to impose a vaccine mandate on construction workers.
The authorities’ decision to shut down construction sites starting Tuesday to punish operators for defying the mandate added fuel to the fire, and saw Wednesday’s rally spiral into full-blown clashes with police.
Law enforcement deployed tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse the protesters, some of which threw bottles and other projectiles. Around 200 people were arrested in the wake of the unrest.
Victoria police faced accusations of an attempt to cover up the scale of the crackdown, after it declared a no-fly zone over an anti-lockdown march. Officials backtracked and allowed media helicopters to hover over the protest only after the tactic sparked complaints from news outlets.