Anti-lockdown and vaccine protesters have baselessly described COVID-19 as a “manufactured health crisis” during a freedom rally in Sydney.
Anti-lockdown and vaccine protests have been held across Australia, with hundreds gathering in Sydney to hear from COVID-19 sceptics at a self-described “freedom” rally.
The Sydney protest was observed by police but appeared to remain peaceful, with a NSW Police spokesperson confirming to NCA NewsWire there were no arrests.
The rallies took place despite more significant easing of restrictions in NSW and Victoria following weeks of extremely low or zero case numbers.
This weekend was the first of eased venue restrictions for NSW, with venues other than nightclubs and gyms now permitted to have one person per 2 sqm.
Victoria also announced major changes to its virus rules to take effect on Monday.
Hundreds gathered dressed in yellow in Sydney where speaker Youssra Yatim told the crowd it was not the government’s responsibility to protect the health of their children.
“It’s not the government’s job to tell us what’s in the best interests of our children,” she said.
“In fact, the governments sole purpose is to protect our freedoms and our rights.”
Former nurse Naomi Cook described COVID-19 as a “manufactured health crisis”, while another speaker said the forthcoming vaccine had been rushed.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News on Sunday morning he had complete confidence in the Therapeutic Goods Administration and medical experts, who had kept Australia safer than most countries in the world.
He urged against complacency about COVID-19 and said it remained a contagious and deadly virus.
“Vaccination is safe and nothing will be introduced unless it is shown to be absolutely safe for Australians,” he said.
A vaccine is expected to be available first for health workers and, subject to approval, senior Australians in residential care in March, Mr Hunt said.
“We’d like to see all Australians have access to and as many as possible take up the vaccine during the course of 2021,” he said.
“Vaccination is voluntary but we hope it’s taken up as widely as possible, especially by young Australians in their 20s and 30s,” he said.
He said the TGA had given priority assessment to three different vaccines.
“They’re going through the process of assessing the information from what are called clinical trials around the world where you have supervised medical processes with a defined group of people,” he said on Sunday.
“They’re looking at the data … safety is non-negotiable and the number one priority in our vaccine programs.
“They’re (also) looking at effectiveness, and if they deem those tests to have been met and to have been well met, then they’ll provide an approval.
“There’ll be more data, more vaccines that come in. We have four in our program, but around the world there are over 200 vaccines in development and over 40 in clinical trials.”
Rallies were also held in other cities around the country, including Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Cairns and Canberra.
As of 3.30pm AEDT no arrests had been reported.
Previous anti-lockdown and freedom protests in Melbourne were marred by outbreaks of violence, hundreds of arrests and a controversial police crowd control technique called “kettling”.