The Australian military began helping to enforce Australia’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown Monday, as a surge in delta variant cases in Sydney continued to cause problems.
About 300 troops have been sent to Australia’s largest city to help overstretched police monitor home quarantine for coronavirus patients, and potentially set up roadblocks. The troops will help the police on a door-to-door search to check if people who have contracted COVID are isolating, police commissioner Mick Fuller told reporters during a press conference.
Senior officials have said the soldiers will not be armed, and do not have special enforcement authority, but will be assisting the police. However, counsellors have said that the sight of the military in multicultural areas of Sydney could be distressing for some refugees and migrants.
Carmen Lazar is a manager at the Assyrian Resource Centre in the Fairfield district of the city.
“It is not acceptable because (there) are people who have come from torture and trauma countries (where), you know, the government officials have always been intimidating and especially the police. You know, having the military patrolling a large multicultural community in south-western Sydney I do not think is ideal for these people because they have not committed any crime,” Lazar said.
Sydney’s lockdown is scheduled to end on August 28, but delta variant infections continue to increase. The stay-at-home orders are the strictest imposed in Australia since the pandemic began. The orders also apply to regions to the north, south and west of Australia’s most populous city.
Monday, authorities announced 207 new infections in the past 24-hours. A record number of 117,000 COVID-19 tests were also carried out in the same period.
A lockdown in southeast Queensland, including the state capital Brisbane, has been extended until Sunday as authorities try to contain a delta outbreak.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young is pleading for residents to stay at home.
“This outbreak, unfortunately, is escalating, but I am very confident that with the strategies we have in place in Queensland, and with the cooperation of every single Queenslander, we will get through it. Do not leave home. We know that the delta variant of the virus is totally unforgiving. It really and truly spreads so rapidly,” Young said.
Australia has recorded about 34,000 coronavirus infections and 924 deaths since the pandemic began.
Just 19% of the population have been fully vaccinated.