Australia will be sending hundreds of soldiers on to the streets of Sydney to help enforce the city’s extended Covid lockdown.
A stubborn Delta outbreak which began in June has produced nearly 3,000 infections and led to nine deaths, the BBC reports.
Despite five weeks of lockdown, infections in the nation’s largest city continue to spread. Officials recorded 170 new cases on Friday.
Australian Defence Force personnel will begin training over the weekend, with operations starting on Monday under the direction of New South Wales Police.
The lockdown – in place until at least Aug 28 – bars people from leaving their home except for essential exercise, shopping, caregiving and other reasons. Information provided by health officials indicates the virus is mainly spreading through permitted movement.
ADF soldiers will join police in virus hotspots to ensure people are following the rules, which include a 10km travel limit.
New South Wales State Police Minister David Elliott said the deployment would help because a small minority of Sydneysiders think “the rules don’t apply to them”.
Many have questioned whether the military intervention is necessary, calling it heavy-handed.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance, a civil rights group, called the deployment a “concerning use” of armed forces in a liberal democracy.
The outbreak has largely affected critical workers and large family groups in the city’s poorer and ethnically diverse suburbs.
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, or food. Now to throw the army to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue to these people,” he told local media.
Others have called for the government to increase its vaccine drive and support services for affected communities.
ABC News is reporting that local community leaders and politicians have not been consulted and there are fears sending in the army sends the wrong message.
Labor MP for Canterbury in the NSW Parliament, Sophie Cotsis said the community needs help testing and vaccinating people, not more policing.
“Many people in my community are very concerned. We’ve got good relations with our police locally, but it’s taken many years of building that community outreach.
“With respect to the ADF, I haven’t been briefed, there’s very vague information.”
Australia’s rate of vaccination – 17% of the adult population – remains one of the lowest among wealthy nations.