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Police launch operation to quell anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne, Sydney

Victoria’s police force will embark on its biggest operation in two decades to quash a Melbourne anti-lockdown protest, as “picnic day” arrives for pandemic-fatigued residents.

The Melbourne CBD will effectively be turned into a no-go zone for Saturday’s planned rally, with most public transport to and from the city suspended and a “ring of steel” erected around its fringe.

Authorised workers and those with COVID-19 vaccination bookings at two city-based hubs will need to show proof to board limited buses and pass through checkpoints from 8am to 2pm.

The partial public transport shutdown was made at the request of police after 4000 people attended a violent anti-lockdown protest on August 21.

Some 2000 officers will be deployed during Saturday’s operation, which will involve road checkpoints, barricades and roving patrols.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton previously labelled it the biggest Victoria Police operation since the 2000 World Economic Forum was held in Melbourne.

Organisers have flagged the protest will be moved, with a new location set to be revealed on Saturday morning.

A Victoria Police spokesman would not confirm to AAP if they were aware of the potential location change, but said the force would have a “highly visible presence”.

It comes as Melbourne and Ballarat residents simultaneously prepare to revel in modestly eased COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after reaching 70 per cent first dose coverage across Victoria’s eligible population.

Among the changes, people will be able to meet one person from another household for a walk or picnic, outdoor exercise time is doubled and the travel limit expanded to 10km.

Fully vaccinated adults can see five people from two households, plus dependants for a picnic.

The state government is planning to outline a full roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, tied to double dose vaccination rates and based on Burnet Institute modelling.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says it’s critical Victoria doesn’t open up too hastily, as hospitals brace for a wave of COVID-19 patients in coming weeks.

“It’s not about getting on the beers too early because there won’t be beers to be had whilst you’re in hospital in an ICU bed,” ANMF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.