News Coronavirus ‘Line in the sand’: NSW toughens stance on pandemic protests

‘Line in the sand’: NSW toughens stance on pandemic protests

nsw virus protests illegal
The crowd at the Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney on Saturday.
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NSW will look to limit the size of protests amid the pandemic after the weekend’s mass rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Saturday’s rally in Sydney, attended by 20,000 people, represented “a line in the sand”.

NSW Police made a successful bid in the Supreme Court to have the Sydney demonstration declared illegal under public health measures.

But the demonstration went ahead after the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling less than 15 minutes before it was due to start.

“The NSW government would never, ever approve any activity – let me make that clear – which was not in line with health orders,” Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“The health orders are changing but there is no excuse for anybody, any organisation, anybody thinking they’re above the health orders.

“It’s making sure that everybody respects the health orders and I think we need to draw a line in the sand in what happened on the weekend.”

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said last week anyone that seeking to gather during a pandemic was “certifiably insane” and “nuts”. On Monday, he said he expected future protests involving more than 10 people to be illegal if they failed to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

“Any protest in the future, irrespective of how honourable the cause, must comply with the current public health orders,” Mr Elliott said.

“If it does not, it is my expectation that police will not authorise the protest and it will be illegal.

nsw virus long weekend
Restaurant restrictions are expected to further ease in NSW soon. Photo: Getty

Ms Berejiklian said the government would move quickly to “go back to a level of normality as much as possible”.

“All of us are disappointed and regret what occurred on the weekend, not just in NSW but across the nation,” she said.

Her comments came as NSW’s 11-day street of no locally-acquired COVID-19 cases appeared back on track.

The state had two new COVID-19 cases from 4743 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, both from travellers in hotel quarantine.

Of the three cases recorded in the 24 hours prior, one was of unknown origin. But NSW Health on Tuesday said it was most likely acquired overseas some weeks ago and no longer infectious.

If so, NSW has not recorded a locally-acquired virus case since May 27.

“NSW Health is waiting for the results of a blood test to show whether the positive swab result represents an old infection,” NSW Health acting director Dr Christine Selvey said in a video update on Tuesday.

“The virus is likely still circulating among people in the community with mild symptoms and as such, the risk of outbreaks and a resurgence remains.”

The total number of coronavirus cases recorded in NSW is 3114.

That is likely to mean more relaxing of virus measures for residents.

Australia’s chief health officers, including NSW’s Dr Kerry Chant, met on Monday to discuss the next step in easing restrictions, which could permit gatherings of up to 100 people, a return to work and interstate travel.

Ms Berejiklian promised there will be “some pressure released in the near future”.

“In NSW, we have really pushed the boundaries. We’ve made sure that as soon as we’ve had the green light from the health experts, we’ve jumped ahead of what the other states have done, especially in relation to businesses and jobs, and we’ve taken a huge leap of faith,” she said.

“I want to let every industry know that our frame of mind is definitely one in which further [eased] restrictions will be announced.”

-with AAP