Eight people arrested as second anti-lockdown protest fails

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A threatened anti-lockdown protest failed to eventuate in central Sydney on Saturday after police flooded the precinct as the state recorded 210 new cases of the virus and another death.

Officers set up an exclusion zone around the city from 9am to 3pm, more than 1300 officers at the ready, while taxi and rideshare companies were banned from entering the area.

But no demonstrations materialised and last weekend's scenes of thousands demonstrating in the city centre were not repeated.

During the operation, eight people were arrested and more than 250 Penalty Infringement Notices were issued, the majority for breaching stay-at-home directions.

NSW police patrol George St in front of the Sydney Town Hall in anticipation of an anti-lockdown rally in Sydney Sydney, Saturday, July 31, 2021. Source: AAP
No demonstrations materialised on Saturday despite calls to protest but officers did hand out hundreds of infringement notices. Source: AAP

The show of force coincided with news a man in his 60s died overnight from Covid at his southwestern Sydney home, taking the death toll from the state's current outbreak to 14.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Saturday he didn't know whether the man had been tested for the virus before his death but that his family was suffering symptoms.

Mr Hazzard described a "very challenging" situation where families, for a variety of reasons in the southwest, are not coming forward when one of them falls ill.

He suggested some people may be worried about their ability to earn an income if it's known there's a case in their household but said there was government help available.

Six Covid cases in their 20s are in intensive care

The state recorded 210 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, while up to 152 of those cases may have been active in the community while infectious.

"By far the majority" of new cases continued to be diagnosed in Sydney's southwest and western Sydney, Mr Hazzard told reporters.

The minister highlighted the dangers of the Delta strain to young people, with just under two thirds of the new cases (138) aged under 40.

Younger people are also being hospitalised, he said.

Of the 53 people in intensive care, six are in their 20s, four are in their 30s, one is in their 40s, 18 are in their 50s, 14 are in their 60s, nine are in their 70s and one is in their 80s.

Non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled but Mr Hazzard said a number of procedures will be dealt with by the private health system instead.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August 28, as authorities battle to contain the Delta outbreak.

NSW police on the Bradfield Highway on the lower north shore in anticipation of an anti-lockdown rally in Sydney Sydney, Saturday, July 31, 2021. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas
During the operation, eight people were arrested and more than 250 Penalty Infringement Notices were issued, the majority for breaching stay-at-home directions. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas

ADF to deploy 300 personnel 

Commander of the task force operation Brigadier Michael Garraway, said the ADF would deploy up to 300 Defence personnel in Sydney to help police.

"Defence members will commence deploying today to undertake training over the weekend and start working under the direction of NSW Police," he said.

"Our tasks will include assisting NSW police with conducting isolation and welfare checks, supporting NSW police presence patrols, transportation support and logistics assistance,"

Around 250 defence staff are already helping with quarantine duties.

Saturday marked the return of the construction sector after a fortnight-long enforced break, with work allowed to resume on non-occupied sites provided Covid-safe plans are in force.

But the sector said it cannot call on 68,000 workers - or 42 per cent of the workforce - from eight council areas worst-hit by the city's coronavirus outbreak.

Australian Constructors Association CEO Jon Davies said many construction sites will struggle to reopen at the end of the two-week industry shutdown with over half its workforce in the locked down LGAs.

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