Hundreds of fines have been issued and dozens charged in Sydney after anti-lockdown protesters marched and clashed with police in what one deputy commissioner called “violent, filthy, risky behaviour”.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Sunday the previous day’s protests – in which thousands breached the region’s coronavirus measures to protest – were “selfish and self-defeating”, adding: “It achieves no purpose. It won’t end the lockdown sooner.”
The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said she was “utterly disgusted” by the scenes, saying: “It just broke my heart that people had such a disregard for their fellow citizens.”
Detectives are now combing social media and footage from CCTV and police-worn body cameras to identify and punish everyone who defied stay-at-home orders, which are now entering their fifth week.
Police said on Sunday they had issued 510 fines in the past 24 hours, with the “vast majority” coming from Saturday’s protest. At least 57 people have been charged over the unrest, including two for allegedly striking a police horse.
The state’s police minister, David Elliott, was scathing of Saturday’s disturbances, saying: “Sydney isn’t immune from morons.”
Victorian officials criticised similar protests in the state capital, Melbourne. The state’s Covid-19 testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, described those who took to the stresses as a “small minority having a self-indulgent tantrum”, with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, warning that you “cannot vaccinate against selfishness”.
The Sydney region is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant that started in Bondi last month, amid a sluggish vaccination rollout and persistent violation of stay-at-home orders among family groups. A Guardian Australia analysis has found it could take months to recede.
Around half of Australia’s 25 million people are in lockdown across several cities and states, with anger growing at the federal government for a vaccine programme that has fully inoculated less than 13% of the population since it began in February.
New South Wales reported another 141 cases on Sunday, and two deaths, including a woman in her 30s who had no pre-existing conditions. “If anybody think this is a disease just affecting older people, please think again,” said Berejiklian.
The scenes in Sydney and Melbourne – as well Adelaide and Brisbane – were also reflected across Europe as people railed against Covid-19 measures and government restrictions aimed at improving uptake of vaccines.
In France, police deployed teargas and water cannon against some protesters, after an estimated 160,000 took to the streets in nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s health pass, which will drastically curtail access to restaurants and public spaces for unvaccinated people.
The demonstrators chanted “freedom, freedom” and carried placards denouncing “Macron, tyrant”, “Big Pharma shackles freedom” or saying “No to the pass of shame”.
Similar protests, attracting just over 110,000 people at 130 sites, took place across the country last weekend.