Protester at Australian Black Lives Matter rally tests positive to virus

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

There are fears of widespread community transmission after a man who attended Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter protest over the weekend tested positive for coronavirus.

The man in his 30s developed flu like symptoms a day after Saturday’s protest, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Thursday morning.

He was wearing a mask at the rally however Professor Sutton warned “masks are not 100 per cent protection”.

He said it was unlikely the man acquired the virus at the rally, yet said he may have been infectious whilst present.

Thousands attended the Black Lives Matter protest in Melbourne on Saturday. Source: AAP

“I made a very strong statement about not attending because of the risk of transmission... this case is unlikely to have been acquired at the protest but we were all concerned about the possibility of transmission occurring at that protest,” he said.

Prof Sutton urged anyone who attended the protest who has developed symptoms to isolate and get tested.

He called the incident “a concern” due to the possibility of transmission within 24 hours of acquiring the virus, despite not displaying symptoms.

There were more than 10,000 people in attendance on Saturday.

It is unclear if the man had downloaded the government’s COVIDsafe app, with Prof Sutton admitting it would be “impossible” to identify those around him if he wasn’t actively using the app.

There were eight new cases confirmed in Victoria on Thursday, with five feared to be acquired through community transmission.

Two cases are travellers in hotel quarantine, one is a close contact linked to the Rydges hotel cluster and another worked at Bupa Aged Care in Clayton. A toddler at a childcare centre in Parkville has tested positive and two further cases are under investigation.

NSW, where thousands also turned out in Sydney on Saturday, announced zero new cases on Thursday for the 24 hours ending at 8pm on Wednesday.

PM calls any further protests ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an end to further Black Lives Matter protests, saying those involved should be charged.

Mr Morrison has been clear on his stance on the protests, urging Australians not to attend due to the health implications mass gatherings have amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He said protesters have “put a massive spanner in the works” when it comes to easing restrictions.

"Certainly any further action on this front would be absolutely unacceptable," he said.

"The double standards that [protesters] allowed themselves to perpetrate by turning up has offended, rightly I think, Australians right across the country.”

He said he believes any protester who attended rallies in breach of public health orders should face charges.

"I really do think they should, you can't have a double standard here," he said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed Mr Morrison’s sentiments, and called for repercussions for those who breach health laws.

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