National

Politicians fret over protests’ virus risk

By AAP Newswire

Federal politicians are treading a delicate line of supporting freedom of speech while raising concerns about the health risks of Black Lives Matter rallies across the country during a pandemic.

The marches in major capital cities and some regional towns went ahead on Saturday as just two new local coronavirus cases were reported and two historical cases came to light.

A Melbourne male in his 20s was infectious with COVID-19 when he flew to Bundaberg via Brisbane for a fruit-picking 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.

Western Australia also recorded one new case relating to overseas travel and the person is in hotel quarantine, the WA Health Department said.

The department said serology testing confirmed a couple, who returned from overseas in March and completed their quarantine period, had also had the virus.

There were no new cases reported in the country's two largest states, NSW and Victoria.

Australia has had just over 7250 confirmed COVID-19 cases while the death toll remains at 102.

Thousands have taken to the streets 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.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the people's right to protest has always been respected in Australia.

"People are welcome to demonstrate and do those sorts of things but what we don't want to see is a second wave (of the virus)," he said in Queanbeyan, NSW.

"We have done very well so far, we maintained and minimised the number of cases and we have done very well to minimise the deaths."

But NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, standing with Mr McCormack, was more blunt, saying if people breach social distancing COVID-19 rules, they should be arrested.

"How can we have one rule for protesters and a different rule for those who want to go to the footy?" he asked.

The Australian protests are also a show of support for 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.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said there are a range of ways that 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 said on the NSW Central Coast.

"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."

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 adviser to the WHO, said in a statement..