Some two million residents living in Sydney, Australia, which is currently in the middle of an extended lockdown, have been told to mask up outdoors and not travel further than five kilometers from home, as cases rise.

Police in New South Wales were given carte blanche on Thursday to enforce sweeping Covid-19 lockdown measures in eight areas of the nation’s most populous city, which are home to some two million people. Under the new rule, officers will have the right to shut down businesses, workplaces, construction sites, and public spaces deemed to be in violation of the coronavirus restrictions.

Those living in the eight areas, designated as “local government areas of concern,” will have to wear a mask “at all times” on leaving their place of residence, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday.

Freedom of movement is also severely restricted. Barring “exceptional circumstances,” residents are banned from traveling more than five kilometers (three miles) from their home. Neither shopping nor working out count as exceptions.

As residents brace themselves for the crackdown, thousands of officers were deployed across the area to monitor compliance, according to Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force Mick Fuller. “So, you can expect to see more police on the ground. You can expect to see more enforcement. We have been in this [situation] now for a number of weeks,” Fuller said.

Those spotted without a mask will now have to cough up $500 – an increase on the previous $200 fine.

Unveiling the new policy, Police Minister David Elliott said that regional officials and police “detest[ed] the fact” they “had to” increase fines and wield more power.

“It is certainly not something that we want to do and it is, in fact, something that we cannot wait to shred,” he said.

Nevertheless, he urged law-abiding citizens to continue reporting those in violation of the health orders to Crime Stoppers, adding that the police already had “tens of thousands of people reporting breaches.” 

The new measures were announced after New South Wales reported 239 locally acquired infections on Thursday – its biggest-ever daily uptick in cases. Some 113 of those were linked to known clusters or contacts, and 126 are still being traced. Two deaths were reported in the region in the past 24 hours, one of the victims a woman in her nineties and the other a man in his eighties. Both were unvaccinated and hailed from southwest Sydney.

NSW recorded 239 new locally acquired cases of #COVID19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Although Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26, the draconian measures seem to have had little effect on stopping the spread of the virus, especially since the advance of its highly contagious Delta variant. The state government is continuing its push to reduce daily cases to near-zero, however, extending the lockdown into late August after it was set to expire this week.

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