PERTH • Thousands of protesters rallied for racial equality in cities across Australia yesterday despite official warnings the demonstrations could undermine the country’s success in suppressing the coronavirus.
The biggest demonstration took place in the Western Australian capital Perth where several thousand people gathered in a park waving “Black Lives Matter” signs and Aboriginal flags.
Organisers yesterday made efforts to keep the protesters spread out and mostly wearing face masks, and the police did not intervene.
Smaller protests for Aboriginal rights were held in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, and towns in neighbouring Queensland – both regions with numerous indigenous communities.
With the exception of the Darwin demonstration, which had authorisation, the other protests violated official injunctions against mass gatherings instituted three months ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
It was the second straight weekend of large protests in Australia.
A Black Lives Matter protester in Melbourne had tested positive for the coronavirus, last week, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that the mass gatherings were putting at risk the nation’s recovery.
Australia has been one of the most successful countries in containing the epidemic, with around 7,300 cases and 102 deaths for a population of 25 million.
Health officials said last week that the virus had been virtually eliminated in many regions of the country, though there continues to be a handful of new cases daily in the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria.
New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, yesterday reported its first locally transmitted Covid-19 case since late last month, a sign that the threat from the pandemic is far from over as social distancing restrictions continue to be eased.
“The virus is likely still circulating in the community. People with mild symptoms or no obvious symptoms can unknowingly pass the infection on to other people,” New South Wales Health said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS