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Thousands protest Victoria pandemic laws


Source: AAP

Thousands of people have protested in Melbourne against new pandemic laws as Victoria recorded another 1221 COVID-19 infections and four deaths.

The state is now managing 16,671 active virus cases, some 405 of them in hospital care. Seventy seven patients are in intensive care, 51 of them requiring ventilation.

Health authorities say testers processed more than 60,000 results on Friday, while 10,708 vaccination doses were administered at state-run clinics.

Victoria is now 86 per cent double vaccinated for everyone aged 12 and over.

Thousands of people gathered in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to rally against the state government’s new emergency powers and vaccine mandates.

Protesters blocked tram lines as they marched from the state library to parliament. One man was seen carrying a homemade gallows with three nooses but there were no reports of unrest.

Former Liberal MP turned United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly addressed the protest, saying mandatory vaccinations were an “abuse of human rights”.

“We are being governed by medical bureaucrats that are part of a mad, insane cult of vaccinists,” he told the rally.

As of Friday, just under 93 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over had received at least one vaccine dose and 86 per cent both.

The deadline for construction workers to be fully vaccinated to continue working on site has been reached.

The controversial mandate, which sparked violent protests across Melbourne in September, requires all tradies to have had two vaccine doses by Saturday.

Victorian aged care workers must be fully vaccinated by Monday and about one million of the state’s essential workers in total will be required to be double-jabbed by November 26.

Anyone with a valid medical exemption will be able to continue working.

Liberal upper house leader David Davis called the premier’s pandemic legislation a “grab for power” but urged protesters not to resort to violence.

“I would encourage Victorians to fight on every level against Daniel Andrews’ terrible pandemic bill … but they should make their views known in a peaceful and calm and sensible way,” he told reporters.

The opposition has called for an early end to the state’s indoor mask mandate in a bid to encourage workers back to central Melbourne.

Under the current rules, people aged over 12 must be masked indoors unless at home.

The restriction is set to lift when the state reaches 90 per cent double vaccination on or about November 24, with the exception of public transport and high risk locations.

However Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says the government should move faster because the measure is deterring city workers from returning to the the office.

“They are vastly choosing to stay at home where they don’t have to wear the mask,” he said.

Earlier this week, Melbourne city council and the state government announced $150 dining rebates in an attempt to lure people back to the CBD.

Many businesses have closed down during the city’s extended lockdowns, with non-essential indoor retail reopening a fortnight ago.

The department of health has also noted a change to requirements for fully-vaccinated international travellers and aircrew arriving in the state.

Anyone wanting to enter Victoria from overseas must obtain an international vaccination certificate or proof of a medical exemption.

Additionally, those aged over 12 must have tested negative no earlier than 72 hours before departure.

Upon arrival, travellers and crew must be tested within 24 hours and evidence of all of the above must be carried with them for 14 days.

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