Victoria, Australia police handcuff pregnant beachgoer for violating lockdown
Echoing a similar incident a month ago, Victoria police have been caught on camera forcibly arresting a pregnant woman for allegedly breaching the 5km radius rule being heavy-handedly enforced throughout the Australian state.
Footage of the dramatic arrest circulated online, showing a handful of armed police officers towering over a woman – described as pregnant by local media – at the Altona beach in the Melbourne area. An officer is seen trying to put a mask on the detainee as his colleagues handcuff her and repeatedly tell other beachgoers to stand back.
People filming the incident could be heard shouting, “What did she do? Why are you arresting her?” As tensions grew, onlookers swarmed the police squad, yelling insults at officers.
Still, this public uproar didn’t stop law enforcers from walking the woman off the sand. Victoria police claimed she was found to be more than 5km away from her home, refused to provide identification to the officers, and was allegedly aggressive towards them.
The incident came on the back of warnings by Victoria state authorities that police could seal off beaches around Melbourne if residents neglect social distancing. “Victoria Police have powers. They have a steely determination to make sure people are following the rules,” State Premier Daniel Andrews warned.
These events came over a month after a Ballarat woman, also an expecting mother, was arrested and charged for “incitement” of an anti-lockdown gathering in Melbourne. The video of that incident was widely circulated on social media and triggered a massive backlash from the public.
Victoria, one of Australia’s most populous states, previously announced a roadmap for rolling back certain lockdown restrictions in Melbourne. Authorities have ended a nighttime curfew, meaning that residents can go outside at any time to shop for food and essentials, exercise outdoors, travel for permitted work or to attend classes, and to see a doctor.
People can also travel further than 5km from home for the above reasons, except for shopping and exercise. The 5km rule remains in place until at least October 19 and will be rolled back if Victoria’s 14-day average Covid-19 infection rate is less than five cases.
Andrews, however, signaled that lifting restrictions on people’s mobility is not a done deal. “There’ll be a time when that can come off, but exactly when that is, or might be extended… when that is, we can’t be certain now,” he said.
Australia has recorded just over 27,000 coronavirus cases and close to 900 fatalities. The bulk of the total infections and deaths are located in Victoria.
The Federal Budget has some grim news for most Australians hoping the pandemic to end soon and life to return to normal.
The government is predicting Australia’s population won’t be vaccinated until the end of 2021 – which means overseas travel will ‘remain low’ until then and social distancing measures will be kept in place.
However, the federal Government expects every state border to be open by Christmas, except for Western Australia, which it believes will keep its borders closed until after its state election on March 31, 2021.
Overseas travel has been banned since March and it remains unclear when it will resume.
The budget papers say travel will ‘remain low’ until 2021 – presumably only for essential journeys, rather than holidays in Bali, the Europe or the US.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said the first step will be to open to ‘safe locations’.
The Prime Minister revealed last week that he is considering a ‘traffic light system’ that would allow people entering Australia from Covid-safe countries to avoid hotel quarantine.
‘Our borders will open up at some point to safe locations whether it be New Zealand or parts of the Pacific or places like South Korea or Japan or countries that have had a much higher rate of success,’ he told reporters.
Mr Morrison said other countries including Denmark and Greece have similar models where returned travellers only have to go into quarantine if they have come from places with high levels of coronavirus.
He said he was considering letting people quarantine at home instead of in hotels if they fly in from a low-risk country.
‘Home quarantine can play a role in the future and it’s something that is being considered by the AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee).
‘We will need a more flexible approach that gives us more options for managing this, so that is something that is under active consideration,’ he said.
Mr Morrison said home quarantine worked well in February and March when many Chinese Australians were returning from China.
Since March 17 only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter Australia. They must complete two weeks of hotel quarantine at their own cost.
Overseas travel is banned until 17 December and that period may be extended.
A travel bubble with New Zealand which will allow holidays without quarantine has long been under discussion but still has not happened.
Under revised plans drawn up by Australia’s tourism restart task force, Kiwis would be able to freely enter Australia in November and Aussies would go the other way by January or February.
The plan, obtained by the The Australian, calls for all states to open their borders by December 1.