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Don’t go, PM tells anti-racism protesters

Scott Morrison has raised the spirit of the Anzacs to urge Australians not to attend Black Lives Matters rallies over fears of spreading coronavirus.

The prime minister has a simple message for people planning to attend the protests: don’t go.

He’s concerned that by gathering in huge crowds, the nation will undo all the work done to curb coronavirus.

“Australians have worked incredibly hard in recent months and have undergone great sacrifices to protect the health of the most vulnerable and that does include our indigenous communities,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

He noted some Australians hadn’t been able to attend funerals for loved ones and others commemorated Anzac Day by standing on their driveways rather than attending ceremonies.

“We found a way to celebrate those who gave us our liberty. Let’s not misuse that liberty, let’s respect it, let’s respect other Australians,” he said.

“All Australians owe all those other Australians a great duty of responsibility, and I say to them: ‘Don’t go’.”

Huge crowds gathered in Perth and Sydney this week to show solidarity with the movement and African American George Floyd who died at the hands of US police.

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

Thousands are expected at protests in Canberra on Friday as well as in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart on Saturday.

The NSW state government has endorsed the protests, with premier Gladys Berejiklian urging participants to maintain social distancing.

But NSW police are trying to challenge the protests and put a limit on how many people can attend.

Victorians have been told not to attend the rallies out of concern it could spark a second wave of virus cases.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is worried about people breaking social distancing rules.

“People need to express their peaceful thoughts, their deeply held thoughts and concerns, online,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says people need to be cautious.

“I understand people’s desire to protest and to make their voice heard. But we are still in a pandemic and we need to be extremely cautious about the way that we behave and to keep those social distancing rules in operation,” he told 2SM radio.

Senior medical officials are expected to provide health advice on the protests later on Friday.

There were 10 new cases of COVID-19 recorded on Thursday – eight in Victoria and two in NSW.

There were 474 active cases including 23 people in hospital.

On Friday morning, Victorian authorities reported three further cases – two in hotel quarantine and the third a primary school student.

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