Aussie protesters urged to self-isolate
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has issued a plea to the thousands of Australians who attended Black Lives Matter demonstrations on Saturday to self-isolate, amid fears the protests could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.
AMA President Tony Bartone has urged anyone who attended a rally to self-isolate for the next fortnight, watch for symptoms, and get tested if any emerge, saying the protests took place "in defiance of the public health warnings" and put the community at risk.
"We need to be very clear - we are still very much in the early phase of dealing with COVID-19," Dr Bartone told reporters in Melbourne today.
"Mass gatherings are certainly the last gatherings on the list (of restrictions) and it was clearly against the advice of all the health authorities."
He said anyone who attended the protests should "consider their position", adding the "only safe way … of minimising any risk of it (coronavirus) spreading over the next 14 days is to ensure that we keep our distance from the rest of the community".
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Citing the incubation period of COVID-19 - which on average is around five days - Dr Bartone said there only needed to be one infectious person who attended a rally "to have infected many, many others".
"Indeed if that one person is a superspreader, the ability to infect many tens of people is very easily achieved," he said.
Dr Bartone said as a health professional, he was "extremely worried" about the images he saw of the protests in cities and towns around the nation - held in solidarity with anti-racism protests across America following the death of George Floyd - because Australians had made huge sacrifices to try to contain the virus.
"The pictures on the weekend really put all of that at risk," he said.
"The game is very much alive and we all need to be vigilant, but especially those who attended the rally."
Organisers of the protest in Melbourne, Warriers of the Aboriginal Resistance, issued a similar call today, asking attendees to self-isolate for at least 14 days in a Facebook post this morning, the ABC reported.
The group told followers they should avoid visiting elderly people in the next fortnight, and to speak to a doctor if they developed any virus-like symptoms.
"We want to thank everyone for taking the precautions seriously and wearing a mask. I think about 99 per cent of you did it! It was amazing to see," they said.
"Please ensure you self-isolate for at least 14 days after the rally.
"Speak to a doctor if you have cold or flu-like symptoms."
While only a handful of new virus cases have been reported in the last few days around Australia, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly on Sunday warned health authorities to be on the alert.
"We don't know if anyone in those mass gatherings were infected or infectious, and so it is a wait-and-see approach," Prof Kelly told reporters in Canberra, adding he understood why people wanted to join in the protests.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC radio he hoped the rallies that clearly broke COVID-19 social distancing rules wouldn't lead to a new wave of infections.
"If there is someone who is infectious in the midst of a crowd like that, that can have a catastrophic impact," Mr Hunt said.
While Victoria's deputy chief health officer Annaliese van Diemen commended most protesters for wearing face masks, Today host Karl Stefanovic lashed the tens of thousands of Aussies this morning, labelling them "irresponsible".
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"This issue resonates far deeper than any other issue in Australia and around the world... It is time to get on board or get out of the way." @Malarndirri19 on the Black Lives Matter protests that took place on the weekend. #9Today pic.twitter.com/hu3Mt5ABqS— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 7, 2020
"I get the need to protest and I'm obviously not a First Nations person but we have these rules in place to protect our society from this awful, awful virus," he said, during a discussion with journalist Jessica Irvine and NT senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who both argued the protests were right to go ahead.
"We've done the right thing, we can't allow a protest right now … it's irresponsible isn't it?"
- With AAP
Originally published as Aussie protesters urged to self-isolate