Thousands gather for lockdown protests: What you need to know about COVID-19 this weekend.

Thousands march in lockdown protests across major cities.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday in protest against public health measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Several people were arrested in Sydney after gathering in defiance of the city's stay-at-home orders, which have been in place for the past four weeks.

The large group marched from the inner west suburb of Camperdown to the CBD where there are reports some protesters hurled bottles and other objects at mounted police.

Protesters were heard chanting "freedom" and were carrying signs urging people to "drop your mask and raise your voice" and reading "Emergency SOS. Free Australia".

NSW Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

"The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community," a police statement said.

Under current restrictions, residents of Greater Sydney are only permitted to gather outdoors in groups of two.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard condemned the planned protest as "really silly" on Saturday morning.

"We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people's rights to protest... but at the present time we've got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that's okay to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration," he said.


A rally was also held in Melbourne, which is currently under its fifth lockdown since the emergence of the pandemic. 

More than 1,000 people gathered in the CBD and marched towards Flinders St Station where they were halted by police.

Some protesters lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria's Parliament House.

They held banners, including one that read: "This is not about a virus it's about total government control of the people."

Victoria reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bring the total for the ongoing Delta cluster to 159. The state is due to begin easing restrictions at 11.59pm on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, police in Brisbane estimate 1,500 people gathered at the city's Botanic Gardens as part of a Freedom Rally, protesting mask-wearing, vaccines and other public health orders.

Queensland reported no new cases of COVID-19, but authorities are on edge after a Brisbane flight attendant travelled while infectious.

NSW records new high of 163 cases and one death.

NSW has recorded one COVID-19 death and 163 new locally acquired cases, with 45 of those cases infectious in the community.

NSW Health has linked 87 of the new infections to existing virus cases, but 76 are still under investigation.


Speaking at Saturday's media conference, NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McNulty said 18 of the new cases had been linked to an illegal gathering at Pendle Hill following a family tragedy.

"Families coming together, even in tragic times, can actually be a risk where COVID can easily take hold," he said.

Tragically, a man in his 80s from southwest Sydney died after contracting the virus.

The man's death was announced on Friday but included in today's numbers.

"We express our condolences to the man's family," he told reporters.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard reiterated calls for residents to abide by stay-at-home orders.

"It will continue to cause massive grief here in Sydney, particularly in western and southwestern Sydney, if family members mix with family members from other households," he said.


"Just please, stop doing it. Stop."

The city's southwest remains the epicentre of the cluster, which emerged in the region in June.

Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour have now been in lockdown for four weeks and, with case numbers continuing to climb, it's expected the restrictions will be extended well beyond the current July 30 end date. 

The situation seems more hopeful for residents of rural NSW local government areas of Blayney, Cabonne and Orange. They are under stay-at-home orders until July 28, after a positive case entered the region last weekend. Fortunately, no new cases have been detected since.

"Last time I checked, this was a Commonwealth": NSW's message for other states.

An additional 50,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to NSW, as the state battles a growing cluster of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus.

The doses, which are due to arrive in Sydney by the end of the week, come from a national stockpile of vaccines held by the Federal Government and will not affect the supply already allocated to other states.

The new supply is on top of 150,000 extra doses the Federal Government already sent to NSW.

The news comes after Friday's National Cabinet meeting at which other state leaders pushed back against the NSW Government's pleas for them to share a portion of their Pfizer allocations.

Speaking about the resistance on Saturday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said, "I want to remind those other states and territories that last time I looked, we were a Commonwealth; we work together.

"And it disturbs me that would appear that all we've ever done to work together has just seemingly been cast aside."

— With AAP.

Feature Image: AAP/Getty.