Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, has begun a second lockdown in response to a spike in new coronavirus infections.
The five million Melbourne’s residents will be barred from leaving home for six weeks, except for essential reasons.
Police say they are setting up a “ring of steel” around the city, with “checkpoints anytime and anywhere” to enforce the measures.
Borders between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and neighboring states closed on July 7.
PM Scott Morrison paid tribute to Melbournians’ resilience on July 8.
“The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” the prime minister said during a news conference.
Scott Morrison also said he was proposing measures to slow the return of Australian nationals from overseas.
Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Melbourne lockdown on July 7 after the state saw 191 new infections, its highest daily number since the pandemic began.
The July 8 figure was down to 134, but still much higher than numbers in the rest of the country.
Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.
Meanwhile, Australian media reported that passengers on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney disembarked on July 7 without being screened.
New South Wales state has banned travel from the greater Melbourne area except under exceptional circumstances, and the passengers should have been required to self-isolate for two weeks.
People will be kept to their homes and will only be able to leave for essential reasons, such as for work, exercise and shopping for food and other necessities.
Twelve young women have tried to leave Melbourne to join the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group.
According to Australian police, the women, aged between 18 and 29, have been recruited on social media.
Five of them are now living with ISIS militants in the conflict zones, according to a special investigation by Victoria Police.
Concern has been rising since mid-2014 about Australians going to the Middle East to fight for ISIS.
Australia’s government will soon introduce legislation allowing it to strip dual citizens fighting in Iraq or Syria of their Australian citizenship.
People working in Australia to support militant groups will also be targeted by the changes.
Task Force Pax was established in April to monitor Victorians believed to be involved with insurgents.
Officials from the task force told local media on May 29 that another four Melbourne women made it as far as Turkey before being turned back by authorities.
One other was stopped by customs officers in Australia while two remain unaccounted for.
The young women are all from Melbourne’s northern and south-eastern suburbs.
According to Assistant Commissioner Tracy Linford, two forensic psychologists had been embedded in the task force to help investigators understand why the young women were trying to join IS.
“The use of psychologists provides us with a far more comprehensive risk assessment and also assists in identifying early intervention opportunities,” she said.
“This gives us the chance to focus on identifying those youths most at risk of radicalization and to engage with them or their families directly.”
Police said the young women were being sold a romantic view of life with ISIS, and had lied to their families about their travel plans.
Authorities were warning parents and friends of young women about the lure of ISIS, saying the women could end up in arranged marriages, or forced into s**ual servitude in the Middle East.
The Australian government believes at least 100 Australians are fighting with militant groups in the Middle East.
Another 150 people in Australia are known to be supporting such groups, while Australia’s intelligence agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), is investigating about 400 high-priority terrorist cases.
Five teenage suspects have been arrested in Australia after police foiled an Islamic State-inspired plot to carry out an attack at ANZAC Day event in Melbourne.
One 18-year-old has been charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act.
The men were planning to target police at an ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) memorial event in Melbourne next week, police said.
About 200 police officers took part in the counter-terrorism operation in Melbourne early on Saturday, April 18.
Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters that evidence suggested the suspects had been influenced by ISIS.
One of the men, Sevdet Besim, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court on April 18.
Victoria state police say a second man held on terrorism-related offences is also likely to be charged.
A third man, also 18, was arrested on weapons charges and two other teenagers, aged 18 and 19, were in custody and assisting with inquiries.
Officials referred to possible attacks using “edged weapons”, but Neil Gaughan said there was no evidence to suggest there was “a planned beheading”.
The men were “associates” of Abdul Numan Haider, a teenager shot dead in September 2014 after he stabbed two officers, police said.
ANZAC Day is an annual day of remembrance for servicemen and women from Australia and New Zealand. A series of events are planned for next week to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli, Turkey.
Australian PM Tony Abbott urged people to turn up to memorial events as planned.
“The best thing we can do to counter terrorism… as individuals is to lead normal lives,” he said, adding that the authorities were doing everything possible to keep people safe.
Police said that although officers were the primary target of the alleged plot there was also a threat to the public.
Search operations were continuing at several addresses in the south-east of Melbourne on April 18.
Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said the police presence at ANZAC Day events would be “significantly increased”.
“These individuals arrested today are not people of faith, they don’t represent any culture,” he added.
“This is not an issue of how you pray or where you were born… this is simply evil, plain and simple.”
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