Residents are out for exercise along the Sydney Harbour on September 13, 2021 after some relaxations in the pandemic restrictions by the New South Wales state. ( AFP / Saeed KHAN)

Fake message circulates in Australia warning 'troops will enforce mandatory vaccination'

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A purported text message circulating in Australia claims troops will be sent door-to-door to enforce Covid-19 vaccinations in New South Wales -- the country's most populous state. A government spokesperson, however, said the purported message was fake. As of September 23, 2021, Covid-19 vaccination remains voluntary for all Australians except for certain key workers.

"We recently tried to contact you in regards to your vaccine status. Our records indicate that you're yet to book in your COVID-19 vaccination," reads the message posted on Telegram on September 20, 2021.

"We would like to inform you that as of today Monday 20th September 2021, we will be door-knocking the Umina Beach area and will be administering COVID-19 Vaccinations".

Umina Beach is a coastal suburb situated north of Sydney -- the capital of New South Wales.

"We will [be] accompanied by the Australian Defence Force to administer these vaccinations, this is mandatory. If you have any questions please contact Willoughby@parliament.nsw.gov.au", it says.

The post was shared in a Telegram group called "Melbourne Freedom Rally".

The group attracted new members after thousands marched in various anti-lockdown rallies in the city.

Screenshot of the fake text message shared on Telegram, taken on September 22, 2021

To date, Australia has seen some of the world's lowest infection rates for Covid-19 as it pursued a policy of "zero Covid" -- suppressing the spread of the virus with aggressive contact tracing, testing and quarantine.

But the fast-spreading Delta variant forced that strategy to be abandoned in favour of stepping up once-glacial vaccination rates.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said many restrictions in Sydney -- where most residents can only leave home to buy food, exercise outdoors or seek medical treatment -- will lift when 70 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, sometime in October.

The same text message circulated in multiple social media posts, including on Facebook here, here and here, and on Twitter here.

However, the claim is false.

Fake message

The New South Wales government said the text message was not genuine.

"The text message on vaccinations is a fake," a spokesperson for the state's Department of Premier and Cabinet told AFP.

The text message directs enquiries to an email for the New South Wales electoral district of Willoughby.

However, Umina Beach falls under the electoral district of Gosford, which is around 70 kilometres (40 miles) north of Willoughby.

The text message also states that Covid-19 vaccinations are mandatory, which is incorrect as of September 23, 2021.

In Australia, Covid-19 vaccination is voluntary, with the exception of certain key workers.

In New South Wales, people who work in healthcare settings, nursing homes, airports and various other places are required to get vaccinated.

COVID-19