Residents of Sydney and its home state of New South Wales will now face fines of up to $3,700 for violating coronavirus stay-at-home orders, which were extended Saturday following a record number of daily COVID-19 infections in the area.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a news conference that fines for stay-at-home order breaches had been increased from 1,000 Australian dollars, about $737, to $5,000 Australian dollars, or $3,700, according to Reuters.
While local authorities had been considering easing some restrictions by the time Sydney’s nine-week lockdown was scheduled to end Aug. 28, limits on activities are likely to continue, with Berejiklian saying Saturday that “September and October are going to be very difficult.”
“This is literally a war, and we’ve known we’ve been in a war for some time, but never to this extent,” she added, according to Reuters.
On Saturday, New South Wales recorded 466 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, outpacing the previous record of 390 set just the day before, Reuters reported.
Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Saturday, bringing the state total in the recent coronavirus surge to 42.
“We have to accept that this is the worst situation New South Wales has been in since day one,” Berejiklian told reporters. “And it’s also regrettably, because of that, the worst situation Australia’s been in.”
Reuters reported that a new $2,210 fine ($3,000 Australian dollars) would be imposed on individuals entering rural areas of the state without an official permit, with stay-at-home orders now issued for regions that were not previously included in lockdowns.
While Australia has recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, its numbers remain much lower than those of other wealthy countries across the globe.
As of Saturday, the country has recorded a total of more than 38,600 COVID-19 cases, with at least 953 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The recent lockdowns in Sydney and New South Wales have prompted a wave of backlash, with thousands participating in protests late last month to push back against the restrictions.
Some violent clashes broke out between protesters and police as authorities attempted to quell the demonstrations to prevent any further COVID-19 outbreaks.
Berejiklian said at the time that she was "disgusted" by the anti-lockdown protests, adding that she hoped they wouldn’t be a “setback” for the state as it attempts to prevent further outbreaks of the virus.