Melbourne police report 'dangerous' rise in coronavirus lockdown resistance

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton says his officers are being 'baited' in Australia's second-largest city

Police in Melbourne, Australia, are warning the public of a "dangerous" rise in people resisting COVID-19-related lockdown measures, sometimes violently.

In one case, a 26-year-old policewoman had her head repeatedly smashed into concrete pavement during a confrontation with a 38-year-old woman who refused to wear a mask, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters.

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A face mask mandate and stay-at-home order took effect in Australia’s second-largest city at the end of July.

Under the "stage four" lockdown, the 4.9 million-plus residents may leave their homes to shop for groceries, give essential medical care and do front-line work. They are also able to exercise within 3 miles of their house, but for no longer than one hour at a time.

Police guard access to apartments under lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. (AP)

Police guard access to apartments under lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. (AP)

The state of Victoria -- of which Melbourne is the capital -- has seen over half of the Commonwealth's more than 18,700 cases. According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, there have been more than 230 deaths throughout Australia.

On Sunday, the government declared a "State of Disaster" in the metropolis, forcing nonessential businesses to close for six weeks.

Violent behavior "is just totally unacceptable," Patton said, referring to the police officer who was assaulted. "That's someone who thinks they're above the law. They're not wearing a mask. They're approached and asked the reason why not and then to react like that is just completely over the top."

While police in the coronavirus-stricken Melbourne have increased fines up to A$20,000 for breaches of order, Patton said residents who claimed to be "above the law" were nonetheless "baiting" his officers.

"On at least four occasions in the last week, we've had to smash the windows of cars and pull people out to provide details," he noted.

Random checks by the Victoria police on 3,000 of those infected by the deadly COVID-19 virus found that more than 800 were not following isolation protocols.

Fines for repeated lockdown violations have risen from around A$1,200 to almost A$3,600.

Authorities report recent order breaches included "Airbnb parties" and people breaking a mandatory curfew to get alcohol and fast food.

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Victoria's premier, Daniel Andrews, said that "most Victorians" were doing the right thing.

"But we have this continual minority of people who are knowingly -- not by mistake, but are knowingly -- doing the wrong thing and putting people's lives at risk by doing so," Andrews remarked.