Black Lives Matter protesters at Parliament House in Melbourne. Picture: Jason Edwards
Black Lives Matter protesters at Parliament House in Melbourne. Picture: Jason Edwards

Politicians worry over protesters' health

Federal politicians are treading a delicate path of supporting freedom of speech while raising concerns about the health impact of protests across the country for the Black Lives Matter rallies.

The marches in in major capital cities and some regional towns were getting underway just as a new local coronavirus case was reported on Saturday.

The Melbourne male fruit-picker in his 20s became infectious with COVID-19 when he flew to Bundaberg via Brisbane for a job this week.

'This is a time for heightened alertness for all our population in Brisbane and Bundaberg," Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said.

There's also a new case of coronavirus in Western Australia, a person who's returned from overseas travel and is now in hotel quarantine.

There have been just over 7250 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia, while the death toll remains at 102.

Thousands are expected at protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and African American George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis.

The Australian protests are also a show of support to the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.

"If you are a young black man in Australia, you are more likely to go to jail than university," Federal Labor frontbencher Jason Clare told ABC television.

The Sydney rally is going ahead despite Supreme Court Justice Desmond Fagan refusing to approve the public assembly, citing the current coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said there are a range of ways which people can make their feelings known.

"I support the right to protest but I also support making sure that we don't have a second wave, we need to be very conscious about health outcomes," Mr Albanese told reporters in Queanbeyan on Saturday.

"You don't want people going to a protest and getting sick as a result of it, you don't want also there to be an outbreak and for that to spread around."

Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski agreed.

"The concern here is one of health and it is applying the health orders to all people and to all events equally and there has to be equality in the way that the law is applied," he told ABC television.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has released new advice on the use of face masks during the pandemic, recommending non-medical masks for healthy people in settings where social distancing isn't possible - such as on public transport or where working conditions place employees in close contact.

"The previous advice by the WHO for healthy people was to only wear a mask if they were taking care of a person with COVID-19," Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infection control expert at UNSW Medicine and an advisor to the WHO.

Originally published as Politicians worry over protesters' health