“Bizarre” protests about coronavirus lockdown measures in Victoria and NSW are putting the easing of restrictions at risk, one of Australia’s top doctors has warned.
Ten people were arrested for breaching Victoria’s lockdown rules and clashing with police at a rally at state parliament on Sunday.
In Sydney, a mother was taken in custody after refusing to comply with police during demonstrations in the CBD.
“It’s incredibly disappointing, really bizarre, in fact,” Dr Tony Bartone, the head of Australia’s Medical Association, told Today on Monday.
“What they’re putting at risk is the progressive unwinding of those restrictions.
“By that grouping of those protests over the weekend, we just need one person to be positive and spread the virus and then we’re on the backward step already.”
About 100 people gathered at the steps of the Victorian parliament on Sunday to protest against 5G, vaccinations, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and what they called the “coronavirus conspiracy”.
The protest turned unruly when police began separating protesters who were breaking social distancing and lockdown laws.
Footage on social media shows protesters clashing with Victoria Police, who confirmed 10 people, including two of the event’s organisers, were arrested.
Most of those arrested were fined for failing to comply with lockdown laws and will likely face $1600 fines. Three offenders are expected to be charged with assaulting a police officer.
Another protester is also expected to be charged for allegedly throwing a bottle at police.
All offenders were released pending summons.
A police spokeswoman confirmed capsicum spray was used during the arrest of one person and that the crowd dispersed shortly after.
A police officer was taken to hospital for what is believed to be a rib injury.
“Police are continuing to investigate the events of today in order to identify other people who were in attendance,” the spokeswoman said.
“Once individuals are identified, we will be issuing them with fines and will consider any other enforcement options.”
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said conspiracy theorists had contacted him, with views he said were “nonsense”.
“It is complete nonsense. 5G has got nothing at all to do with coronavirus,” he said in Canberra.
“I understand people have the right to protest, but they should not be breaching those social distancing rules and if they are, they should be held to account.”
Victoria has been in a state of emergency since March 16, with strict restrictions designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Victorians are supposed to leave their homes only for food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, exercise, and work or education.
Premier Daniel Andrews indicated on Friday he would make an announcement about lifting restrictions on Monday.
It came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a plan for a gradual return to normality. It is up to the states when to implement the measures.