Hundreds of people protested in Melbourne on Tuesday after officials shut down construction sites in the city for two weeks, claiming that frequent worker mobility spread the coronavirus to surrounding communities.
The decision to suspend construction comes after a violent anti-vaccine mandate protest in the city on Monday. By the end of this week, the Victorian government needs all construction workers to have received at least one vaccine dosage.
"The public health team was left with no choice but to hit the pause button and continue to work with the sector over the next two weeks to improve compliance ... and slow the spread of the virus," said state Health Minister Martin Foley.
Protesters marched through the city's streets, setting off flares and chanting, as mounted police and cops in riot gear followed them on television and social media.
The forced closures of construction sites will wreak havoc on Australia's economy, with some economists forecasting that the country's A$2 trillion ($1.45 trillion) economy will enter its second recession in as many years.
To combat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta type, Australia's main cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra, have been shut down. However, these stringent limitations have sparked anti-lockdown protests, with hundreds of people arrested in both cities over the weekend. find out more
On Tuesday, 603 new cases were reported in Victoria, the highest daily increase this year, surpassing the previous high of 567 a day earlier, and one recent death was reported.
Meanwhile, as vaccination rates rise, authorities in Sydney and Melbourne have begun to relax certain severe restrictions on outdoor gatherings and exercise, with greater freedom promised until dual-dose levels in the adult population reach 70%-80%.
So far, 53 percent of people in New South Wales, which includes Sydney, have been fully vaccinated, while 44 percent of people in Victoria have been fully vaccinated.
New South Wales recorded 1,022 new infections, the bulk occurring in Sydney, up from 935 on Monday and ten deaths.
With 88,700 cases and 1,178 deaths, Australia has kept its COVID-19 numbers lower than many comparable countries, despite the Delta outbreaks.