Army to begin patrolling Sydney COVID hotspots to help police enforce lockdown rules

Hundreds of soldiers will arrive in Sydney today to help police crackdown on residents flouting stay-at-home restrictions amid rising case numbers.

As many as 300 military personnel will undergo training over the weekend before hitting the streets with police on Monday to help ensure residents are complying with the health orders.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the deployment was necessary because a small minority of people thought “the rules didn’t apply to them”.

He told Channel Nine that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) officers would be paired with members of NSW Police. “It will be imminent to see the 300 soldiers on the street,” he said.

“It’s no different to what we saw in Melbourne last year where the police worked hand in glove with the military to ensure they could have that intelligence-based compliance checks done quickly and swiftly.”

Elliott said the federal government first offered military help on July 7 but up until now the government hadn’t thought it necessary.

But, as case numbers rose dramatically on Friday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller formally requested help from the ADF in enforcing Sydney’s lockdown.

“There’s 2,000 doors we have to knock so to bring Defence in made logistical sense,” he said.

“We can double the amount of checks we do in a day by doing a police officer with a member of the ADF.

“They don’t come with powers and they won’t be carrying firearms but they come with an enormous amount of training, very disciplined, they understand the task.”

Commissioner Fuller said police had been stretched across a number of COVID-19 operations and this was an opportunity to bring in more resources to help maintain public safety in NSW.

More than 200 military personnel are already deployed in NSW, working in hotel quarantine and at Sydney Airport.

Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou said deploying the ADF to Western Sydney was an extreme measure and a sign the state government had “lost complete control”.

“The army’s here to defend its people not to be used against them,” he said.

“The army should have been brought in weeks ago to help with other measures; they could have helped with the delivery of the vaccines and the roll out, Meals on Wheels and other logistics.

“To bring them out as a secondary police measure because of the circumstances that the state government has created upon itself is a sign that they’ve lost complete control of this.”

Australia’s rate of vaccination – 17% of the adult population – remains one of the lowest among OECD nations.