Australia vaccine-mandate protesters compare state govt to Nazis
In Australia, where 83% of people aged 16 and above have been fully inoculated against the coronavirus, nationwide vaccinations are voluntary. But states and territories have mandated vaccinations for many occupations and barred the unvaccinated from activities such as dining out and concerts.
The Melbourne demonstration against the vaccination mandate that came into effect on Saturday – requiring construction workers in Victoria state to be fully inoculated – was peaceful, The Age newspaper said.
But a reporter posted video on Twitter of a protester carrying a mock gallows with three nooses hanging from it, and the newspaper showed a protester carrying a poster depicting Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews with a Hitler moustache and the hashtag #DictatorDan.
“We’re being governed by insane medical bureaucrats,” Craig Kelly, former Liberal Party member of parliament and now the leader of United Australia party, told the rally, media reported.
The Age said some protesters called for violence against politicians but did not offer specifics.
Andrews’ office and protest organisers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Australia has seen frequent, occasionally violent, anti-vaccine rallies in recent few months, though the movement remains small, with polls showing nationwide opposition in the single digits.
Victoria, the second-most populous state with a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, has an 87% vaccination rate and has endured six COVID-19 lockdowns totalling nearly nine months.
Australia’s high vaccination rates were key in its decision to partially reopen international borders this month for the first time during the pandemic.
New South Wales, the most populous state, said it will welcome a group of vaccinated international students on Dec. 6th. Victoria’s government also aims to bring some international students back by the end of the year.
There were 1,221 new infections reported on Saturday in Victoria and four deaths, and 250 daily cases in New South Wales.
Despite Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, the national tally of just under 190,000 infections and 1,591 deaths is far lower than that of many developed nations.
Neighbouring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates, reported 175 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic 8,121. There have been 33 deaths in total.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard)