Intl desk, Jul 30: Australia has deployed hundreds of soldiers to Sydney to help enforce a Covid lockdown.
A Delta outbreak which began in June has produced nearly 3,000 infections and led to nine deaths.
Australian Defence Force soldiers will undergo training on the weekend before beginning unarmed patrols on Monday.
But many have questioned whether the military intervention is necessary, calling it heavy-handed.
The lockdown – in place until at least 28 August – bars people from leaving their home except for essential exercise, shopping, caregiving and other reasons.
Despite five weeks of lockdown, infections in the nation’s largest city continue to spread. Officials recorded 170 new cases on Friday.
Soldiers will join police in virus hotspots to ensure people are following the rules, which include a 10km (6.2 miles) travel limit.
State Police Minister David Elliott said it would help because a small minority of Sydneysiders thought “the rules didn’t apply to them”.
Information provided by health officials indicates the virus is mainly spreading through permitted movement.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance, a civil rights group, called the deployment a “concerning use” of the army in a liberal democracy.
The outbreak has largely affected critical workers and large family groups in the city’s poorer and ethnically diverse west and south-west suburbs. About two million people live there.
Critics say those areas have already faced “targeted” policing measures. They point out restrictions there are harsher than for the rest of Sydney.
“Our people are one of the poorest demographics, and as it is, they already feel picked on and marginalised,” said Steve Christou, one local mayor.
“They can’t afford to pay the mortgage, the rent, the food or work. Now to throw out the army to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue to these people,” he told SBS.
Others have called for the government to increase its vaccine drive and support services for the affected communities.
Australia’s rate of vaccination – 17% of the adult population – remains one of the lowest among OECD nations.
Source: BBC and Agencies