Protesters show up as covid-19 patients at hospitals across New Zealand

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About 30 police officers stand in a human chain to block off anti-mandate protesters near Parliament
About 30 police officers stand in a human chain to block off anti-mandate protesters near Parliament today as Ministry of Health officials warn of the super spreader potential. Image: Jake McKee/RNZ

RNZ News

Hospitals across New Zealand are receiving anti-covid-19 mandate protesters returning from Parliament, and are pleading with those experiencing cold and flu symptoms to get tested and isolate.

There were mounting tensions at the Parliament protest today, where police have formed a line to keep protesters back.

More people have turned up in Wellington to join the event.

Officers are trying to block access for cars into the bus interchange area and are using a forklift to reposition concrete bollards.

Some protesters are driving past the area, shouting at police to leave.

Meanwhile, hospitals are now reporting visits from protesters returning from the anti-covid-19 mandate protest at Parliament, and are pleading with those experiencing cold and flu symptoms to get tested and isolate.

The Ministry of Health said hospitals throughout the country had reported visits from people who have been at the anti-mandate protest at Parliament before returning home.

Widespread disruptions
Thousands of protesters have occupied the grounds of Parliament and nearby Wellington central streets since their convoy arrived on February 7 creating widespread disruptions, with many ignoring social distancing rules and not wearing masks.

The occupation is now a location of interest after people infectious with covid-19 were confirmed to be among the crowd, and anyone who is there on the listed times and dates is asked to carefully monitor for symptoms, and follow instructions about what to do next if they have any.

In a statement today, the ministry said the protest was a potential super spreader event as the spread of omicron hit a new record of 13,606 community cases today.

Five of the 263 people in hospital with the coronavirus were in intensive care.

Early in the protest leading epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker of Otago University warned this could happen, saying people mixing with groups from outside their household, singing, eating together and sharing transport and accommodation was a recipe for the spread of omicron from those at the protest out to other communities.

Yesterday police called on protesters to take children home, saying the event was not safe for families.

More than 130 people have been arrested at the event, and media have reported Corrections has confirmed they have been monitoring a “small number” of criminals subject to GPS monitoring conditions who were at the event.

‘Reassurance patrols’
Sewage leaks and assaults have also been connected to the event.

Police are carrying out “reassurance patrols” for residents that live near the protest at parliament today, and said officers would continue to be visible at the protest site.

“The focus for police is to contain the current perimeters of the protest and continue to maintain a safe community for our Wellington residents,” they said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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