Authorities in Melbourne decide to halt building activities for two weeks to ensure compliance on government requirement that all construction workers need to have at least one vaccine dose by end of this week.

A unionist addresses construction protesting workers in Melbourne, Australia, September 20, 2021.
A unionist addresses construction protesting workers in Melbourne, Australia, September 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Hundreds have demonstrated in locked-down Melbourne after authorities shut down construction sites in the city for two weeks saying the frequent movement of workers was spreading the coronavirus into regional areas.

The decision to halt building activities comes after an anti-vaccine mandate protest in the city became heated on Monday.

The Victoria government requires all construction workers to have at least one vaccine dose by the end of this week.

"The public health team was left with no choice but to hit the pause button and continue to work with the sector over the next two weeks to improve compliance ... and slow the spread of the virus," state Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters on Tuesday.

Footage on television and social media showed protesters marching through the city's streets, setting off flares and chanting, with mounted police and officers in riot gear following them. 

The forced closures of construction sites will worsen the country's economic activity with some economists predicting the extended lockdowns may push Australia's A$2 trillion ($1.45 trillion) economy into a second recession in as many years.

Australia has locked down Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and the capital Canberra to quell an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. But these tough restrictions have triggered anti-lockdown rallies with police arresting hundreds in both cities over the weekend.

A total of 603 new cases were detected in Victoria on Tuesday, the year's biggest daily rise, eclipsing the previous high of 567 a day earlier, and one new death was recorded.

Authorities, meanwhile, have begun to ease some tough restrictions on outdoor gatherings and exercise in Sydney and Melbourne as vaccination rates surge, with more freedom promised once dual-dose levels in the adult population reach 70-80 percent.

READ MORE: Protesters march against Covid-19 lockdown in Australia, several arrested

Source: Reuters