It comes after the state of New South Wales (NSW) reported 466 new locally transmitted cases on Saturday – a new record – to bring its total number of infections this year to 12,903.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian called it the “most worrying day” of the pandemic, adding that the state “was throwing it all in.”
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, has been on lockdown for more than seven weeks now, and they will likely be further extended; they were due to end on August 28, but the state government has indicated restrictions will remain until September.
Australia’s Department of Defense said on Friday it received a request for additional staff to help police enforce home quarantine orders in the worst-hit suburbs of Sydney, according to Reuters.
They will be part of Operation Stay at Home, which will also launch on Monday, in which residents must stay within 5 kilometers (about 3.1 miles) of their homes, Berejiklian said on Saturday.
Fines for non-compliance are increased, including a penalty of AU $ 5,000 (approximately $ 3,680) for violating the home quarantine or giving false information on an exemption permit or a contact tracer, according to state officials.
Fines for group exercises of more than two people and travel within areas of the state will also increase to AU $ 3,000 (approximately $ 2,200).
Closures have also been imposed in other major Australian cities – at least 10 million people nationwide now face restrictions, representing around 40% of the country’s population.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under fire for a slow vaccine rollout, with 19.65% of its population fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s well below the numbers seen in the UK, US and EU, despite Australia’s smaller population.
Reuters contributed to this report.