Ten people were arrested and a police officer was injured at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Australia today when demonstrators claimed coronavirus was a government-engineered conspiracy designed to control the population.
About 150 protesters rallied outside Victoria's Parliament House to protest against a shutdown aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19, while also peddling conspiracy theories about the virus.
Most Australian states and territories have begun easing restrictions, but Victoria has delayed relaxing its measures amid an outbreak at a Melbourne slaughterhouse that caused a spike in new cases.
Demonstrators carried placards reading "fight for your freedom and rights", and directed their ire at the founder of Microsoft, chanting "arrest Bill Gates".
Fano Panayides, 37, said he was sceptical of the Australian government declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, saying he believed it was a cover for authorities to gain greater control over the population.
"If this thing was half as deadly as they said it was, with half the population out there still working - even with the lockdown orders - this thing would've spread like wildfire through Australia. There'd be no stopping it," he told AFP.
Health experts credit Australia's success in curbing the spread of Covid-19 to an effective nationwide shutdown.
A spokeswoman for Victoria police said 10 people were arrested at today's rally, mostly for breaching social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
"Three of the offenders will also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and another offender will be charged with discharging a missile after allegedly throwing a bottle at police," she said.
Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said there was "a lot of very silly misinformation out there", including that the virus was linked to 5G.
In New South Wales (NSW), home to the country's largest city Sydney, restaurants, playgrounds and outdoor pools will reopen on Friday, 15 May.
Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to seat 10 patrons at a time, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted and up to five people will be able to visit a household.
Schools in NSW are set to reopen from tomorrow, but only allowing students to attend one day a week on a staggered basis.
Australia has recorded about 7,000 cases of Covid-19 and fewer than 100 deaths from the virus.