A number of Melbourne protesters and conspiracy theorists opposed to the coronavirus lockdown have been accused of putting at risk Australia’s gradual easing of restrictions.
Ten people were arrested as protests outside Victoria’s Parliament House in Melbourne turned ugly on Sunday afternoon.
People held signs demanding “freedom” and some also called for Bill Gates to be arrested, blamed the virus spread on 5G and questioned whether it was all part of some kind of cover-up. A number of anti-vaxxers were also participating in the protest.
In an unusual speech, one man warned people not to allow microchips to be inserted in them.
When asked about the protests on Monday, Dr Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association, told The Today Show those involved were putting the community at risk.
“It's incredibly disappointing, really bizarre, in fact,” Dr Bartone told the program.
“What they're putting at risk is the progressive unyielding of those restrictions.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday mapped out the national cabinet's planned three-step easing of restrictions and Dr Bartone said if one person in the protest group tested positive to COVID-19 the community would take “a backward step”.
“If we have to isolate again and [reintroduce] those measures of social distancing right from the beginning it's actually going to be even harder and much more prolonged the second time round,” Dr Bartone said.
“That second wave is a real risk if we don't do the right things.”
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth was asked whether the scenes in Melbourne were a sign of frustration over different rules throughout the states and different timings of announcements from state leaders.
But Dr Coatsworth told Sunrise the PM announced his plan on Friday and some premiers said they were going to share their plans on Monday.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to announce Victoria’s road back from the pandemic on Monday morning.
“I understand it was difficult with Mother's Day yesterday to retain the restrictions,” Dr Coatsworth told Sunrise.
“I didn't get to see my mother in person but, it is a matter of days between the announcements and I think what we will see is every state and territory going in the same direction.”
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters on Sunday after learning of the protests she was also disappointed people might suggest the pandemic isn’t real.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters “there is unfortunately a lot of very silly misinformation out there”.
“Similarly, I understand people have the right to protest, but they should not be breaching those social distancing rules and if they are, they should be held to account,” he said.
He also called some of the conspiracy theories floated by the protesters as “complete nonsense”.
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