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Melbourne lockdown protesters clash with police | The New Daily

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Police have used capsicum spray to subdue protesters at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne that has so far seen several arrests.

About 1000 demonstrators have gathered in Richmond after the location of the protest was changed at the last minute to evade authorities.

There have been minor scuffles as well as a violent confrontation involving a handful of protesters.

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Some 2000 officers were deployed at road checkpoints and barricades, and on roving patrols, to try to stop the rally going ahead in breach of public health orders.

The city’s CBD became a no-go zone ahead of Saturday’s unrest, with most public transport to and from the precinct suspended and a “ring of steel” erected around its fringe.

The partial shutdown was made at the request of police after 4000 people attended a violent anti-lockdown action on August 21.

The protest comes as the state records 535 new COVID-19 infections and one death.

The latest case count released on Saturday is the highest daily number so far in the latest outbreak and comes from 61,622 tests in the latest 24-hour period.

Sixty-two of the infections were linked to known cases, health authorities said. Victoria has 4974 active coronavirus cases.

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Also on Saturday, health authorities warned the state’s contact tracing team was under pressure and flagged delays in calls to track the movements of new cases.

Rising numbers have prompted the team to begin triaging cases in order to focus on those representing the highest risk, such as aged care workers.

“I don’t think it indicates the system being overwhelmed, it indicates that the system clearly is under pressure,” Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters.

“When you’ve got several thousand cases, that’s got to be dealt with in a different way than if there’s several hundred cases,” he said.

The Department of Health’s Kate Matson could not say how long the delays might be but promised anyone with a positive result would receive a text as soon as possible.

The move comes as Melbourne and Ballarat residents are granted modestly eased COVID-19 restrictions after reaching 70 per cent first dose coverage across Victoria’s eligible population.

Among the changes, people will be able to meet one person from another household for a walk or picnic, outdoor exercise time is doubled and the travel limit expanded to 10km.

Fully vaccinated adults can see five people from two households, plus dependents for a picnic.

The state government is planning to outline a full road map out of lockdown on Sunday, tied to double dose vaccination rates and based on Burnet Institute modelling.

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-AAP

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