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Alarm as Aussie anti-racism protester catches Covid-19

June 12, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Even as hopes rise that Australia may follow New Zealand into glorious Covid-free status, providing a kiss of life for the travel industry, a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protester in Victoria has tested positive for the coronavirus.

More protests are planned for this weekend. Some critics viewed the mass BLM demonstrations last weekend, in the middle of a pandemic, as reckless and irresponsible.

Australia’s Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham described the timing of the protests as “incredibly unfortunate”, though he said he understood the motives behind them. The protests were sparked by the death in police custody of a black man in the US state of Minnesota. They were expanded to cover the situation in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday demanded an end to BLM protests, with another rally planned for Sydney tonight, along with a mass protest tomorrow over refugee detention (which the police oppose and which a court has banned, though organisers intend to push on with it). A BLM demonstration is planned for Perth, as well.

In Melbourne, a man in his 30s who attended Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rally, which drew thousands of participants, has tested positive for Covid-19. The man wore a mask at the time but developed symptoms within 24 hours of attending the protest, the Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

Sutton said that although the man was unlikely to have caught the coronavirus at the demonstration, he may have been infectious at that time.

A “significant” investigation would take place to find the source of the man’s infection and who he had contact with at the protest, Professor Sutton told the Age newspaper.

“Close contacts who spent more than 15 minutes directly with the person will be told to quarantine,” Sutton said.

Black Lives Matter march

Thousands of people attended Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Australian cities last week, in defiance of health laws passed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Around the world, attempts to halt Covid-19 have been hampered by big crowds, ranging from orderly demonstrations to rampaging mobs, gathering in cities. Sometimes demonstrators smash monuments and rip down statues.

Morrison yesterday denounced developments overseas, where protesters have torn down statues of historical figures said to have approved of slavery. Morrison said evidence suggested the BLM movement had been “taken over by much more politically driven left-wing agendas”.

London’s Metro newspaper published a “hit list” of 60 statues throughout the UK that BLM protestors want to dispose of. They include some of Britain’s greatest heroes, from Lord Nelson, whose statue dominates London’s Trafalgar Square, to Sir Francis Drake.

Even Winston Churchill’s statue near Britain’s Houses of Parliament has been vandalised. Critics point out that the Third Reich, the merciless German Nazi regime which Churchill worked so hard to defeat, would have made short work of many of the protesters.

In Australia, Morrison said protesters 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 told the ABC yesterday.

“I think the issues last weekend were very difficult, but I think people carrying it on now, it’s not about that.”

In Australia, to the dismay of health authorities, some people saw last weekend’s BLM rallies as signalling an end to coronavirus restrictions. Why should people maintain social distancing and have to sign in to visit cafés, when thousands can march shoulder-to-shoulder in a demonstration?

With Covid-19 cases in Australia declining, all eyes will be on next week, when any cases stemming from last weekend’s BLM demonstrations are likely to manifest themselves. The coronavirus is highly infectious; the disease spreads fast. Its incubation period (time from exposure to the development of symptoms) is usually between 2 and 14 days. The average is about 5 days.

The relevant section of the Australian Government Department of Health website, constantly updated, shows total cases, recoveries, deaths, and new cases in Australian states and territories over the preceding 24 hours.

A trans-Tasman “travel bubble” – eagerly sought by politicians and travel industry leaders in Australia and New Zealand – will happen only if cases in Australia continue to drop.

Currently, any traveller wanting to head overseas from Australia must seek permission to depart this country. They will face 14 days quarantine on arrival at their destination and the same again on return to Australia, deterring almost everyone.

Written by Peter Needham

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