Dr Tony Bartone Advises Australian Black Lives Matter protesters to self-isolate for ‘at least two weeks’

Dr Tony Bartone Advises Australian Black Lives Matter protesters to self-isolate for ‘at least two weeks’


Protesters who attended Australian Black Lives Matter rallies at the weekend should self-quarantine for ‘at least two weeks’ and ‘really think about what they’ve done’, a top doctor has warned.

Dr Tony Bartone, the President of the Australian Medical Association, made the comments on Melbourne radio on Monday, after 60,000 demonstrators marched at rallies across the country on Saturday.

In Sydney 20,000 protesters marched after a court gave a last-minute go ahead, 10,000 demonstrated in Melbourne and a further 30,000 massed in Brisbane.

Health officials fear the mass demonstrations – the first gatherings of such a big size since the pandemic began – could spark a new wave of coronavirus cases. 

More than 60,000 protesters gathered to protest for Black Lives Matter across Australia at the weekend, including 20,000 who marched from Sydney's Town Hall to Belmore Park

More than 60,000 protesters gathered to protest for Black Lives Matter across Australia at the weekend, including 20,000 who marched from Sydney’s Town Hall to Belmore Park.

While many of those who attended the protest wore face masks and used hand sanitiser, Dr Tony Bartone said there is still a risk of the highly infectious virus passing among them

While many of those who attended the protest wore face masks and used hand sanitiser, Dr Tony Bartone said there is still a risk of the highly infectious virus passing among them

‘They should really think about what they’ve done over the weekend,’ Dr Bartone told Radio 3AW.

The prominent GP said just one person with a coronavirus infection at a mass gathering could lead to a ‘significant outbreak’ occuring.

He warned demonstrators that they can be infectious while still showing no symptoms.

‘Really, if everyone’s wanting to keep the rest of the community safe, anyone who attended those rallies really should stay home and keep away from the rest of the community for at least two weeks,’ Dr Bartone said.

‘But more importantly, if they develop any symptoms they need to get tested immediately, and make sure that they’re not at any risk of having contracted COVID-19.’

The Black Lives Matter protests – where people marched in solidarity with African-American demonstrators protesting over the death of George Floyd, and marched against Indigenous deaths in custody – were the first major public gatherings of their kind since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.

Anyone who attended those rallies really should stay home and keep away from the rest of the community for at least two weeks

Dr Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association

Many protesters wore face masks at the demonstrations and in Queensland, police even helped distribute them. But the timing of the demonstrations sparked outrage from officials, including senior government ministers.

Finance Minister Matthias Cormann has branded the protests as ‘reckless, irresponsible and self-indulgent’.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC Radio that the demonstrations went ahead was ‘incredibly unfortunate’.

Mr Birmingham said ‘there could have been other ways’ to protest, pointing to how Anzac Day was commemorated with simple ceremonies on driveways across the country.

The protests were mostly peaceful across the country, however demonstrators and police clashed at Sydney's Central Station on Saturday evening - with protesters maced

The protests were mostly peaceful across the country, however demonstrators and police clashed at Sydney’s Central Station on Saturday evening – with protesters maced.

While rules vary across Australia, coronavirus restrictions continue to hurt livelihoods and affect significant events in peoples’ lives. In New South Wales, pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants can have no more than 50 people. Funerals and church gatherings have the same limit, while weddings can have no more than 20 guests.

In Victoria, restaurants, cafes and hospitality businesses can have 20 customers, which will increase to 50 in a fortnight. 20 people can attend a wedding and 50 can attend a funeral. 

The protests came as fears of the coronavirus recede and health officials report low levels of community transmission.

New South Wales has not reported a case of COVID-19 from community transmission in 12 days. On Saturday, Victoria marked its first day in more than three months where it reported no new cases. 

Dr Bartone’s advice is not an official government edict, but health bureaucrats have nonetheless expressed fears the protests could spark a new wave of COVID cases.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it will be a fortnight before it is known if the protests had any impact on COVID-19 infection rates. 

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