NSW protests flop, amid more COVID deaths

A strong police presence across Sydney thwarted planned anti-lockdown rallies.
A strong police presence across Sydney thwarted planned anti-lockdown rallies.

Planned anti-lockdown protests in Sydney have not eventuated as NSW surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Police swarmed the city on Saturday amid rumoured rallies in opposition to ongoing stay-at-home orders.

The operation arrested 32 people across the state, including 20 in Sydney, and 265 infringement notices were issued for a range of breaches including failing to wear a face mask.

"I'm pleased to see that common sense has prevailed and the vast majority of people have complied with the existing public health orders," Police Minister David Elliott said.

Some 1700 officers were deployed across the state to manage the potential protests. At Byron Bay there were reports of about 250 people protesting in the streets, and 11 people were arrested.

"Today's operation has been very successful. Our aim was to prevent the protest activity going ahead ... and if you have a look at the results you will see our actions have been well received by the public," police Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell said.

The action followed news of 1331 new locally acquired coronavirus cases and six deaths from the 24 hours up to 8pm Friday.

The latest figures mean that since the start of the pandemic, there have been 50,730 COVID cases in NSW and 284 deaths.

Health authorities on Saturday launched a vaccination blitz of 18 Sydney social housing blocks.

Mobile teams including social workers, interpreters and cultural support workers are part of the program at Redfern and Waterloo.

"Our teams will move from building to building, ensuring every resident has access to information on COVID-19 and vaccinations," district health chief Teresa Anderson said.

Saturday's data showed 50.6 per cent of the eligible population aged more than 16 had been fully vaccinated as of Friday.

Across the state, 81.2 per cent have received a first jab.

In total, there have been more than 8.7 million vaccination doses administered in NSW.

"The more people who get vaccinated, the more protection they're providing for their family, friends and community," NSW Health's Jeremy McAnulty said.

Among the latest COVID fatalities are four women and two men from Sydney's west and southwest. One was aged in their 40s, another in their 60s, two in their 70s and two in their 80s. Three of the deceased people had received one vaccination.

"We are continuing to see most cases acquired in southwest and western Sydney," Dr McAnulty said.

The latest case numbers include patients from regional NSW, with 75 in the Illawarra, 17 in western NSW including 10 in Dubbo, six in the far west including four at Broken Hill, and eight in southern NSW.

There are 30 new cases across the Hunter/New England district, including 16 in Lake Macquarie and seven in Newcastle.

Sewage testing has detected COVID fragments at Byron Bay and Wardell, Eden, Balranald and Griffiths plants.

Australian Associated Press