Hundreds of anti-mandate protesters remained on the New Zealand Parliament lawn today as health officials reported a big increase in covid-19 cases nationally.
But some have been driven away by the heavy rain and the gale force winds from the tailend of Cyclone Dovi lashing the capital Wellington.
The Health Ministry reported that the number of new community covid cases in New Zealand had almost doubled today, with a record 810 new cases.
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In a statement, the ministry said there were 32 new cases in hospital, with cases in Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch hospitals.
None are in ICU and the average age of current hospitalisations is 62.
Plastic mats being used to cover the mud at the protest occupation are being picked up by the wind and thrown across the precinct.
A man began speaking through a megaphone at lunchtime, but demonstrators do not have the full sound system setup of previous days.
Calling for PM Ardern
Some are calling out to Parliament and asking where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who is also the local MP for Wellington Central, earlier warned that although people had a right to protest when “they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city they lose that right”.
Parliament’s buildings are largely empty with politicans not returning to the capital until Tuesday.
The playlist booming through Parliament’s loudspeakers changed about 11am, and now includes an out of tune recorder rendition of “My Heart Will Go On”, the Titanic theme song by Celine Dion.
UK musician James Blunt earlier posted on Twitter telling the New Zealand police to contact him if the Barry Manilow music, which was playing, did not deter protestors.
His suggestion has been enacted, with his song ‘You’re Beautiful’ now on rotation.
Photo essay: Parliament grounds occupation https://t.co/ja3dOhTmah
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Both songs and the government’s spoken message advising the crowd to leave the grounds are being met with loud booing and chants of “freedom”.
Streets blocked by cars
Molesworth Street remains blocked by cars, campervans and trucks and Metlink has stopped all buses using its Lambton Interchange until further notice because of the protest.
Retailers say disruption to surrounding streets has also affected their trade.
Superintendent Scott Fraser said police would continue to have a significant presence at Parliament grounds and are exploring options to resolve the disruption.
In its regular statement today, the Health Ministry noted that there had been a number of rumours circulating about possible cases of covid-19 linked to the protest.
However, the Regional Public Health Unit had confirmed that there were currently no notified positive cases linked to it.
The current cases are in the Northland (13), Auckland (623), Waikato (81), Bay of Plenty (11), Lakes (11), Hawke’s Bay (8), MidCentral (3), Whanganui (6), Taranaki (5), Tairawhiti (3), Wellington (15), Hutt Valley (10), Nelson Marlborough (2), Canterbury (3), South Canterbury (2) and Southern (14) district health boards (DHBs).
There were also 18 cases in managed isolation — five of them are historical.
There were 454 cases in the community reported yesterday and eight cases reported at the border.
There have now been 20,228 cases of covid-19 in New Zealand since the pandemic began.
Last night, it was also revealed six staff members and seven patients across two wards for the elderly at Auckland City Hospital had tested positive for covid-19.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.