Politics

Scott Morrison says anyone who goes to Black Lives Matter rallies should be charged after Melbourne protester tests positive to coronavirus

Protesters are seen during a Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, Saturday, June 6, 2020. Source: AAP Image/James Ross

A man in his 30s who attended the Black Lives Matter protests in Melbourne on Saturday has tested positive for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for people who go to Black Lives Matter rallies planned for this weekend to be charged after more than 35,000 people protested last Saturday. 

He made the call on Melbourne radio station 3AW, saying people who went to rallies would be showing great disrespect to fellow Australians.

Asked if they should be charged for attending, Mr Morrison said "I really do think they should". 

“You can’t have a double standard here,” he said.

“The issues of last weekend were very difficult, but I think people carrying it on now, it is not about that – it’s about people pushing a whole bunch of other barrows now and it puts others lives and livelihoods at risk.”

BLM protest
People hold up placards at a Black Lives Matter protest in Adelaide.
Getty

Tens of thousands of people defied public health orders to march in anti-racism rallies across Australia last weekend.

The issue of Indigenous deaths in custory has been put into the spotlight by anti-racism protests sparked by the death of African-American man George Floyd in police custody. 

A protester at Melbourne's Black Lives Matter rally has since tested positive for coronavirus.

The person wore a mask, was not symptomatic at Saturday's protest and is unlikely to have contracted the virus at the event, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Thursday.

"They were potentially infectious, so the lesson about warning people not to attend applies. The directions in place which limit mass gatherings ... are there for a reason," Professor Sutton said.

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But the man did develop symptoms within 24 hours of attending.

State governments have since moved to outlaw protests due to the risk of spreading coronavirus. 

Mr Morrison said there was no doubt the government would have been looking to ease coronavirus restrictions earlier, if it wasn't for last weekend’s protests.

“Let’s put a dollar figure on it – the OECD has come out and said   that a second wave would see Australia’s GDP fall by 6.3 per cent not five per cent. Now that is $25 billion cost to the Australian economy.”

The prime minister also believed the "double standard" of Black Lives Matter protesters last weekend had offended many Australians.

"It's a free country and we have our liberty but the price of liberty is we respect our fellow Australians," he said.

"Turning up to a rally this weekend would show great disrespect to your neighbours.

"Millions of quiet Australians ... have done the right thing and they didn’t seem to be that concerned about their health or their businesses or their jobs."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the large crowds struggled to maintain social distancing.

"If we had had a person or a number of people with COVID-19 amongst those crowds, then there would have been the risk of significant transmission," he told the ABC.

He said the result of any transmission would be seen in coming days.

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