Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales, said she was "disgusted" by the anti-lockdown protests that broke out in Australia last week, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Thousands of protesters demonstrated in cities across Australia on Saturday in response to extended lockdown orders brought on by a new surge in cases. Videos of the protests showed demonstrators gathered in large crowds, maskless and getting into violent confrontations with police.
"In relation to yesterday's protests, can I say how absolutely disgusted I was. It broke my heart," Berejiklian told reporters, according to Reuters. "I hope it won't be a setback, but it could be."
Berejiklian had announced the week before that the lockdown New South Wales had been under would be extended for another two weeks. The Australian state is the country's most populous.
Australia has largely been successful in keeping the COVID-19 pandemic under control, but a recent surge in cases has resulted in the highest reported number of locally acquired cases this year. Reuters reported that 141 cases were reported on Sunday, the second-highest daily increase recorded this year.
The outlet noted that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for the country's slow vaccine rollout.
"Let me be clear: There's not an alternative to the lockdown in New South Wales to get this under control. There is no other magic bullet that's going to do that," Morrison said during a news conference, calling the recent protests reckless and self-defeating.