Black Lives Matter attendees urged to self-isolate

Aboriginal flag painted on bricks

Health authorities are asking people who attended last weekend’s Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

The Victorian Aboriginal Controlled Health Organisation has highlighted that a man who attended the Melbourne rally has tested positive to the novel coronavirus, as well as the ongoing issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

“Last week, VACCHO supported a harm minimisation approach to the peaceful protests,” it said in a statement on Thursday evening.

“We recognised that large crowds were likely to congregate in Melbourne’s CBD regardless of any discouragement. We wanted to ensure those deciding to attend, could do this as safely as possible.

“Our messaging to those who decided to go to the rally was loud and clear: stay home if unwell or vulnerable, have chronic conditions, or care for anyone who does; be sensible and wear face masks, bring sanitisers and wash your hands; and maintain safe distance of 1.5 metres apart.

“Today, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, announced that a non-Aboriginal man in his thirties who attended the BLM rally held in Melbourne, has tested positive to COVID-19.

“Victoria reported another seven cases overnight. These seven cases are not linked or traced back to the rally.

“Brett Sutton also advised that this man, who wore a mask at the rally, showed no symptoms

“Mr Sutton reaffirmed that he was diagnosed 24 hours following the rally, meaning it was ‘highly unlikely’ that he caught the virus there.

“Normally people show symptoms 4-6 days after being exposed to the virus. Currently, 179 of the 1,699 cases of COVID-19 are linked to cases of community transmission in Victoria which are unable to be traced back to a known source.”

VACCHO is strongly encouraging anybody who attended the rally to self-isolate for 14 days after it, if possible.

It has also asked participants to avoid seeing Elders or any vulnerable family members during self-isolation periods; to get tested if they have any symptoms, including mild symptoms; and continue practices such as regular handwashing and social distancing.

“On Saturday, during rallies, it had been reported a total of 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody had occurred,” it said. “Sadly, as of Monday 9 June 2020, that number was recorded at 437. An increase of 5 cases since the rally alone.”

AMA national president Dr Tony Bartone told Nine’s Today with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon there was “quite the possibility” that the man who tested positive to COVID-19 had been infectious at the rally.

“And indeed, this is a message to all the people who did attend the rally, that if they see any symptoms to immediately self-isolate, get themselves tested,” he said.

“And, you know, we went one step further to say that, in the abundance of caution, anyone who did attend the rally should consider distancing themselves from the rest of the community for that two-week period, that incubation period for the coronavirus.”

He reiterated health advice to keep away from mass gatherings of all sorts.

“The clear message from all health authorities before the rallies was not to attend. Not because of the nature, the cause behind the rallies, of course we stand with those that did attend the rallies on those issues – we totally acknowledge that.

But we said that any mass gathering—be it on a ship, at a football game, in any location—was going to put at risk all the hard-won gains that we’d already achieved as a community in trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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