Sydney authorities have been blasted for “militarizing a public health crisis,” after the New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller requested the support of 300 soldiers to ensure greater compliance with Covid restrictions.
The five million residents in Sydney are currently in the fifth week of a city-wide lockdown that has been extended until the end of August but, so far, with sketchy compliance, it has failed to reduce new daily infections to zero.
To help New South Wales (NSW) police enforce the measures, the regional commissioner has asked the Australian Defense Force to deploy 300 troops to the streets “to boost its operational footprint” and ensure that residents there comply with the restrictions.
“With an increase in enforcement activity over the coming week, I have now made a formal request to the Prime Minister for ADF personnel to assist with [the Covid compliance] operation,” Fuller confirmed, in a statement released by NSW police.
Amnesty International Australia blasted the move in its statement on the matter, accusing the NSW police commissioner of “militarizing a public health crisis,” rather than making its Covid guidelines public and working with residents to ensure individuals are aware of how to comply with the necessary restrictions.
At the start of July, the NSW had rejected an offer of support from the Australian Defence Force, believing that the police operation could control the spread of the virus, as it was mainly occurring between household contacts.
The ADF has previously been deployed across Australia to support Covid border restrictions and to manage hotel quarantine facilities, working to prevent new strains of coronavirus from being imported into the country.
The decision to call in the military was paired with an announcement that police will be granted expanded powers, including having the right to close businesses and shut down spaces that violate existing restrictions. Officers will also have the power to penalize individuals who fail to wear a mask “at all times” outside their home with a AUS$500 fine (USD$370), increased from the original AUS$200 (USD$148) figure.
The deployment of soldiers and expansion of police powers comes as Sydney reported a record number of new daily infections on Thursday, with 239 new cases, the highest single-day figure since the start of the pandemic. Addressing the rising figures, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian warned that “things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!