Melbourne anti-lockdown protesters arrested and chased by police on horseback
Britain likely to reintroduce some national coronavirus lockdown measures as cases rise again
Anti-lockdown protesters run from Victoria Police following protest in Melbourne, Australia. Photograph: James Ross Australia and New Zealand Out/EPA
Police have arrested 16 anti-lockdown protesters and fined 21 others during “chaotic” scenes in Melbourne’s south-east in which demonstrators were chased by police on horseback.
About 50 to 100 demonstrators began protesting at the State Library but moved to Elsternwick Park where they were pursued by police.
Photographers from Australian Associated Press who were at the scene said the protest was “chaotic”.
There was “a lot of running and not much protesting”, one photographer said.
One arrested man said he was within five kilometres of his house, had “done nothing wrong” and police would have to “answer to the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Some protesters ended up marching along Elwood Beach in a loose formation before they were again dispersed by police, resulting in several arrests on Ormond Esplanade.
Throughout the disjointed protest there was shouted criticism of the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, and coronavirus restrictions.
Some protesters continued to scatter through back streets, jumping fences into private property.
One arrested by police was filmed by Nine News telling officers: “Wake up, I know you already know this is wrong.”
Protesters have indicated there will potentially be further demonstrations on Sunday.
Victoria police said the protest was a “blatant breach” of the chief health officer’s directions.
“We are frustrated that these people continue to put the lives of Victorians at risk,” a police statement said on Saturday afternoon.
“While we know the majority of the community are doing the right thing, the behaviour of these selfish few who choose to blatantly ignore the direction will not be tolerated.”
Anti-lockdown protesters have been using encrypted messaging to organise “freedom day” rallies to try and avoid police learning their location.
Mr Andrews urged Victorians not to attend demonstrations when announcing the state’s 21 new coronavirus cases and seven more deaths on Saturday. It was the lowest number of new Covid-19 cases in the state since June 24th.
“Go home,” Mr Andrews said. “Go home and follow the rules. That is a very simple message.
“There is no need to protest about anything? It just doesn’t make any sense. You are potentially putting the strategy at risk. No one should be doing anything to contribute to the spread of this virus.
“Twenty-one cases today – seriously. [The strategy] is working. We’re getting there.
“Victoria police are not mucking about and they will deal with these people because it is a selfish act. It is an irresponsible and unlawful act.”
Meanwhile, Britain is likely to need to reintroduce some national coronavirus lockdown measures sooner rather than later, a former senior government health advisor said on Saturday.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he did not want another national lockdown but that new restrictions may be needed because the country was facing an “inevitable” second wave of Covid-19.
“I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of epidemiology at London’s Imperial College, told the BBC.
UK ministers were on Friday reported to be considering a second national lockdown after new Covid-19 cases almost doubled to 6,000 per day, hospital admissions rose and infection rates soared across parts of northern England and London.
“Right now we’re at about the levels of infection we were seeing in this country in late February, and if we leave it another two to four weeks we’ll be back at levels we were seeing more back in mid March, and that’s going to - or could - cause deaths,” Ferguson said.
Mr Ferguson served on the government’s main scientific advisory board until May, when he stepped down after breaking lockdown rules himself.
He said future lockdown restrictions did not need to be as strict as those introduced in March to be effective in slowing the renewed spread of the disease. – Agencies