Victoria has recorded 41 new cases and seven more deaths as anti-lockdown protesters vow to take to the streets of Melbourne again on Sunday.
The latest figures released on Sunday take the state’s death toll to 723 and the national count to 810 since the start of the pandemic in late January.
The number of new diagnoses keeps the state on track for its plan to ease lockdown restrictions in coming weeks.
While Melbourne will remain undre stage four lockdown until at least September 28, stage three restrictions in regional Victoria are expected to ease within days.
It comes after the state recorded just 37 new cases on Saturday.
Police expect more anti-lockdown protesters to swarm the streets of Melbourne on Sunday after making 14 arrests during a ‘Freedom Walk’ rally on Saturday.
Rally organisers have higher hopes for Sunday’s event but won’t reveal the locations until 20 minutes before prior in a bid to outsmart police.
‘Plenty of people showed up, but the police planning prevented people from grouping up, so they had to scatter,’ one posted on Facebook on Saturday.
‘Tomorrow the police will be on the back foot, and we’ll be able to rise.’
Officers on horseback and in riot gear were seen marching across the city in preparation for the protest that was due to kick off at 11am on Saturday in the city’s Tan walking track.
Demonstrators were taken away in handcuffs as police tried to avoid a repeat of last week’s protest that saw violent clashes leading to 17 arrests.
One man was arrested on Saturday after holding an anti-lockdown sign and calling out to police outside the Shrine of Remembrance.
The man told News Corp he wasn’t a conspiracy theorist but was anti-government and nodded when asked if it was ‘worth the fine’.
A mask-wearing protester has already been arrested as police prepare for an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Saturday
Police are seen taking away the man who said he wasn’t a conspiracy theorist but was anti-government and anti-lockdown
Officers in riot gear were seen patrolling outside the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon
Another mask-wearer was seen being spoken to by an officer while holding a sign that read: ‘I am just exercising…my human rights’
Police have closed in on the Shrine of Remembrance as they prepare for the ‘Freedom Walk’ that was due to kick off at 11am in Melbourne
Police detain a woman without a mask in Melbourne on Saturday. The ‘Freedom Walk’ was due to start at 11am as Melburnians vowed to walk for their ‘freedom’
Police have set up a checkpoint near the Shrine of Remembrance as they try to shut down the planned protest on Saturday
Police confront one man who was at the protest in Melbourne on Saturday before being taken away by officers
Police take the demonstrator away in handcuffs in Melbourne during the Freedom Walk protest on Saturday afternoon
One protester was taken into the back of a police paddy wagon after he was arrested during the Freedom Walk rally in Melbourne
Police lock up a protester inside a paddy wagon after arresting people at the Freedom March on Saturday
Police moved to the Shrine of Remembrance and surrounding areas and set up checkpoints.
Helicopters will also patrol the Tan track as officers block main roads to stop protesters.
Another mask-wearer was seen being spoken to by an officer while holding a sign that read: ‘I am just exercising…my human rights’.
One elderly woman had her details taken by police after she held up a sign with the message: ‘open our churches’.
One woman was dramatically restrained on the ground by multiple officers at the Observatory Gate because she wouldn’t give her ID, the Herald Sun reported.
She was shoved into the back of a police car while screaming to be let go.
‘They’ve arrested me because I won’t say my name. I’ve been in Melbourne all my life, I just want to go for a walk,’ the woman said.
Meanwhile a man with a picture of Premier Daniel Andrews stuck to the back of his face shield paraded through the protest while another had a mask saying ‘sack Daniel Andrews’.
A couple were also seen walking through the Tan singing ‘I Am Australian’ while strumming a guitar.
A ‘Freedom Walk’ planned for Saturday was allegedly organised by sacked Clive Palmer political candidate Tony Pecora (pictured)
Meanwhile a man with a picture of Premier Daniel Andrews stuck to the back of his face shield paraded through the protest
Another man is detained by police at the Freedom Walk protest in Melbourne on Saturday
Two Victorian police officers lead another demonstrator away from the protest on Saturday
A woman is placed in handcuffs on Saturday as police attempt to shut down an anti-lockdown protest thousands had vowed to attend
A line of police officers is seen outside the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on Saturday morning. Thousands had vowed to attend the protest
Police direct a man to move away during the Freedom Walk rally in Melbourne on Saturday morning
Victorian police officers swarm the streets of Melbourne on Saturday. Some officers were on horseback or in riot gear
The ‘Freedom Walk’ is believed to be the doing of sacked Clive Palmer political candidate and conspiracy theorist Tony Pecora, 43.
Mr Pecora was arrested by police after allegedly planning the event and charged with two counts of incitement.
The 43-year-old allegedly created the event on social media under the alias Arkwell Tripellego.
He believes the deadly coronavirus was ‘genetically engineered by world banks to kill off weak humans’.
He then quoted Midnight Oil, allegedly telling police if someone contracted coronavirus at one of his events ‘it would be better to die on your feet than live on your knees’.
Organisers say the event will be legal and only available for people who live within 5km of the Tan.
‘Come together, get healthy and talk about getting our freedoms back,’ the event says.
There are talks surrounding another protest on Sunday.
Marty Focker, who previously went viral after he was fined for having a barbecue in his neighbour’s backyard was also arrested on Saturday.
‘I’m not sure how far my house is but he ( police officer) said it’s a bit further away,’ Mr Focker said.
His neighbour who was also arrested at the ‘Freedom Walk’ questioned why he wasn’t allowed to be there.
‘I’m walking, yes I’m 5km away but this is the place to be today,’ he told police as they arrested him.
‘You guys are all here, why can’t I come here?’
In a statement Victoria Police said it was ‘disappointing to see individuals putting the lives of Victorians at risk’.
‘Police responded to protest activity across Melbourne today, where approximately 100 people attended various locations,’ the statement read.
There are talks surrounding another protest on Sunday as police march through the city on Saturday. A man is seen being questioned by police
Police detain a man during the protest on Saturday. Demonstrators claimed the march was legal but police will fine anyone they suspect of breaching coronavirus restrictions
A protester is spoken to by police during the rally through the Tan in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius (pictured) slammed anybody thinking about attending the march
‘In total, police arrested 14 people and issued at least 51 infringement notices for breaching the Chief Health Officer directions.
‘Police had significant prevention activity in the lead up to and duration of today’s which included visiting 90 persons of interest to urge them not to attend.
‘Our investigations into this protest will continue, and we expect to issue further fines once the identity of individuals has been confirmed.
‘Anyone thinking of attending a protest can expect the same swift and firm response from police as has occurred today and at previous protests that were in breach of Chief Health Officer restrictions.’
On Friday, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius unleashed on anybody thinking about attending the march and warned police would be out in full force.
‘I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit,’ he said.
‘I am incredibly frustrated. If people were less selfish and a bit more grown up, we wouldn’t have to keep doing this.
‘Don’t take us for fools. We’ll have no hesitation in issuing fines.’
Mr Cornelius said as well as the $1,652 fines, people could be charged in court and forced to pay up to $20,000.
A woman is dragged away by police after attending the protest on Saturday. Police warned those breaching restrictions would be fined $1,652
A man wears a face shield with Mr Andrews’ head on the back while speaking to police at the march
Police carry a bicycle into the paddywagon after arresting a cyclist during the marches
One man was arrested after calling out to police and showing them an anti-government sign on Saturday morning
Mr Andrews also pleaded with people not to take part.
‘All you’re potentially doing is spreading the virus,’ he said on Friday.
Mr Pecora was granted bail on Friday with conditions disallowing him from using social media or contacting other organisers.
Under Stage Four restrictions Melburnians can only leave their homes for exercise if they stay within five kilometres of their house and only for one hour.
They can exercise with one other person.
It comes a week after last Saturday’s ‘Freedom Day’ protests that erupted at the city’s Shrine of Remembrance with police tackling demonstrators to the ground and dragging them away in handcuffs.
Thousands turned up to the protest – many without masks – but they were no match for the wall of police officers.
Police arrested 17 people and issued 160 fines to those at last week’s protest.
Meanwhile, Mr Andrews has announced regional Victoria is on track to ease coronavirus restrictions in a matter of days as cases across the state continue to plummet.
Another demonstrator is taken away in handcuffs by police. Victoria recorded 37 new coronavirus cases on Saturday
Police on horseback are seen during the Melbourne Freedom Walk rally on Saturday
A police officer with riot gear stands outside the Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday. Authorities had hoped the poor weather would keep protesters inside
Victoria marked its ninth day in a row of double digit figures on Saturday with just 37 new coronavirus cases – its lowest daily increase since June 26.
Mr Andrews said there are only 58 active coronavirus infections in regional Victoria and no new cases since Friday’s update.
He remains hopeful the Stage Three restrictions will be eased by the middle of next week, allowing regional Victoria to be ‘essentially open’.
‘Regional Victoria remains on track to be open to take not one but two steps,’ Mr Andrews said on Saturday.
‘It is very good news for regional Victoria and I hope every single person in metro Melbourne is looking to the numbers in regional Victoria and seeing what can be delivered.
‘Regional Victoria is so close, just a few days and they will potentially be able to take not just a single step but two of those steps and be essentially open.’
Police arrested several protesters on Saturday in Melbourne. Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said officers would not hold back to anybody attending
Dramatic scenes unfolded in Melbourne on Saturday as police in riot gear wandered through the streets preparing to detain any protesters