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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers administer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests at a drive-through testing centre on the first day of a seven-day lockdown, as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of an outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, May 28, 20

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state reported on Thursday the year’s biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 cases as authorities plan to pause public transport and deploy thousands of police in Melbourne ahead of an anti-lockdown protest over the weekend.

The Victoria Police announced Wednesday night that public transport will not be available in the capital city of Melbourne from 8 AM to 2 PM on Saturday. They also said that roads would be blocked and that thousands of officers would be deployed in the area. Each of the violators could face a maximum A$5,500 ($4,000).

Melbourne’s 5,000,000 residents are currently under a sixth lockdown. It is the largest ever in Australia since the pandemic. Officials hope to end the rigid stay-home rule by requiring higher vaccine rates.

The number of coronavirus-related infections in Victoria, which was the largest in Melbourne, was 514, more than the previous Monday’s high of 473.

Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne have increased their vaccination drives to combat a third wave infected by the Delta variant. Nearly half the population is now restricted from leaving the house due to the high-infectious virus.

New South Wales was home to Sydney on Wednesday when the first dose of immunizations topped 80%. On Wednesday officials lifted a nightly curfew from 12 areas in Sydney’s West. While coverage in Victoria was close to 70% which allowed for some travel restrictions and exercise outside.

Officials have promised to ease many restrictions once dual-dose vaccination rates exceed 70%. This is expected to happen next month.

In July, the federal government announced a plan to reopen the national system and encourage Australian states and territories that they will be vaccinated once the population reaches 70%-80%.

($1 = 1.3633 Australian dollars)

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