Citing virus, Aussie PM tells people not to attend anti-racism protests

Protesters gather in Sydney on Tuesday to support US protests over the death of George Floyd. (AP pic)

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people not to attend planned Black Lives Matter protests around the country this weekend, citing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Organisers expect thousands of people to attend rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities. The protests have split opinion, with some state police and lawmakers approving the action despite the health risks.

Morrison said people should find other ways to express anger following the death of black American George Floyd in US police custody.

“The health advice is very clear, it’s not a good idea to go,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments … let’s exercise our liberties responsibly.”

The protests will also throw a spotlight on police treatment of Australian indigenous people, including the deaths of Aboriginal men in custody.

Australia has reported daily single digit and low double digit numbers of new Covid-19 cases in recent weeks and has 490 active cases, with just 25 people in hospital.