Thousands demonstrate in Australia over Covid-19 measures

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Australia to protest against mandatory vaccinations and restrictions to tackle the virus.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison

AAP/DEAN LEWINS  -   Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Thousands of people took to the streets of Australia on Saturday to protest against compulsory vaccination measures against the Coronavirus, while other smaller groups rallied to support the measures the country has decided to take, which have given it one of the first places in the ranking of the most vaccinated in the world. 

According to data compiled and published by Aljazeera, the percentage of Australians aged 16 and over fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of November 19 was almost 85 percent. 

Although vaccinations are voluntary throughout the territory, certain states have taken the decision to require full vaccination for various occupations, restricting the unvaccinated from participating in some outdoor activities, including dining in restaurants and attending concerts. 

A health worker holds a dose of Sinovac vaccine
REUTERS/WILLY KURNIAWAN - A health worker holds a dose of Sinovac vaccine

Thousands of protesters have gathered in the streets of Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, to march against vaccines. 

The protesters stormed as several families gazed at the city's shop windows and Christmas decorations, carrying placards on which inscriptions such as "fight tyranny" and "lives without vaccines matter" could be read, while shouting and calling for "freedom". 

Likewise, the streets of Melbourne were not the only ones where protests took place, in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane there were also several groups of demonstrators, watched by the police in case any unruly behavior was observed.  

Vaccine for Covid-19
PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Vaccine for Covid-19

These anti-vaccination demonstrations have been going on for several weeks in the main areas of Australia, attracting ordinary citizens, far-right political groups and followers of various conspiracy theories, and on some occasions the demonstrations turned violent.

Despite this, the anti-vaccination movement remains in the minority, with opposition reflected in national polls at less than 10 percent. 

However, a demonstration against this opposition was held in the city of Melbourne and drew a crowd of hundreds of people, organized under the slogan "Don't scab, get the jab" and organized by the group Campaign Against Racism & Fascism, who also support measures against Coronavirus.

People wait in line to receive AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 5, 2021.
REUTERS/LIM HUEY TENG - People wait in line to receive AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 5, 2021

"Campaign Against Racism & Fascism condemns the outrageous and reactionary anti-vaccine protests in Melbourne. We stand for health, safety and social solidarity, and oppose the far right in all its forms. We call on all pro-vaccine, pro-union and anti-fascists to join the fight against the far-right, anti-vaccine and anti-regulationists," the group Campaign Against Racism & Fascism publishes on its official website.   

Likewise, this same group is calling on international society to show its support for vaccination and its rejection of radical far-right groups, under the slogan "pro-vax, pro-union, anti-fascist" and the hashtag #DontScabGetTheJab.

As Nahui Jimenez, one of the main organizers of this anti-fascist demonstration, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the demonstration was organized with the purpose of sending "a message of solidarity" to the country's healthcare professionals. 

"Most people support these health measures that have actually helped millions of people from contracting COVID," Nahui Jimenez added.  

Vaccine for Covid-19
PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Vaccine for Covid-19

Recently, the head of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, communicated on Saturday that all tennis players and professionals must be vaccinated to play in the tournament, which will be held in Melbourne in 2022.

This is in conjunction with the vaccination requirement by the Northern Territory of Australia for those workers who have to interact with the public, including receptionists, supermarket employees and tour guides, among others.

In this way, unvaccinated workers who do not have a medical exemption will not be able to keep their jobs, and may face a fine of 3,670 dollars if they fail to comply with health regulations, according to data from the EFE news agency. 

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
REUTERS/FABRICE COFFRINI - The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

On Saturday, 1,166 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the state of Victoria alone, and 182 in New South Wales, where almost 92 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. 

According to World Health Organization data, Australia has had only about 760 confirmed cases and 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people, lower than many other developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, which has confirmed 14,000 new cases and 211 deaths per 100,000 people. 

New Zealand, which also has high vaccination rates, recorded 172 new cases, having achieved an 83 percent complete vaccination rate for the entire population.