Second COVID case at anti-vaccine rally as park protests fizzle

Second COVID case at anti-vaccine rally as park protests fizzle

September 26, 2021

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A second man who attended anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine rallies in Melbourne’s CBD last week has tested positive for COVID-19.

News of the case came as little protest activity occurred across the city on Sunday.

Protesters swept through St Kilda on Saturday. Credit:Justin McManus

The Geelong man, aged in his 30s, tested positive after attending one of the demonstrations, according to COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar. Another protester was admitted to a Melbourne hospital last Thursday for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.

Some organisers of last week’s demonstrations called for a rest day from protests on Sunday, while others mooted picnic gatherings in parks around Victoria via the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

Some protesters planned to meet in public in large groups on Sunday – against the Chief Health Officer’s directions – to exchange details in suburbs such as Northcote, Werribee, Oakleigh and Dandenong.

But no significant anti-vaccine gatherings occurred, with Victoria Police continuing to patrol parts of Melbourne CBD throughout the day.

One suggested picnic protest spot in Whittlesea was revised on Sunday, according to organisers online, due to “known magpie attacks at Lions Club Park”.

The slowing protest activity comes after a week of clashes and increasing vitriol between those opposing vaccine mandates and Victoria Police, which began on Monday outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union offices in Melbourne’s CBD, spurred by the closure of the construction industry.

Traffic was brought to a halt on Tuesday, with a large crowd of protesters streaming across the West Gate Bridge, chanting and lobbing projectiles at police. On Wednesday, in chaotic scenes, thousands of protesters converged on the Shrine of Remembrance, scattering only when the riot squad moved in firing rubber bullets and pepper spray.

Luna Park and St Kilda Beach were earmarked as the gathering point for demonstrators on Saturday but an overwhelming police presence along the foreshore subdued the assembled hundreds within an hour.

Protesters walking towards Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge.Credit:Jason South

Mr Weimar said police officers who were exposed to the first COVID-positive protester were continuing to isolate, but none had tested positive to the virus so far.

He said the man in his 30s was probably infectious when he attended a rally last week.

“When you see such a large number of people all out on the street together, all doing the things which are in breach of directions regardless of why you’re there, that is an absolute risk,” Mr Weimar said.

“So if you’re going to hang around in a crowd of 500 people, then if there are COVID-positive people there … the chances are this is where you’re going to see some spread.

“Protesters are not immune from those transmission risks.”

After reports that anti-vaccine activists may have been booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments and not showing up, Premier Daniel Andrews said it was “not the sort of behaviour we want to see”.

“You might have a view, but don’t stand in the way of other people expressing their view by pretending to take an appointment,” he said. “That means that someone who wants to turn up and get vaccinated so that they can save their life and the life of others can’t get an appointment. That just doesn’t make any sense.

“That’s the wrong thing to do if, in fact, it is happening.”

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