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1000 Cases Tomorrow

SALIHA REHANAZ | NEWS



On Saturday 24th of July, the empty streets of Sydney’s CBD were bombarded with over 3500 anti-lock down protestors. The people of Greater Sydney and its surrounding areas have been living in lockdown for more than 4 weeks now, as an outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant continues to spread.


On the day, central Sydney had been shut down for several hours as thousands of people had breached stay-at-home and restriction orders to march against the lockdown. An ABC News report mentions that close to 400 police officers were on duty during the protest. In the same report, NSW Police Minister David Elliott also says that 57 people have been charged for attending the anti-lockdown protest and that a strike force has been established to identify others who were present at the rally.


Mask-less protesters shouted numerous chants, which included “Freedom” and “1000 cases tomorrow,” in an attempt to mock the daily case number updates from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Many protestors also brought their children, and carried signs saying, “Wake up Australia” and waved Australian flags. Others brought megaphones and screamed in unison in front of the NSW police officers’ faces: “We’ve got rights!”


News reports suggest that the NSW police had rejected an application for the protest to go ahead, as the current public health orders do not allow people who are not from the same household to gather in groups of more than 2, except for exercise.


The Victorian police also found themselves at the forefront of a similar situation, as more than a thousand mask-less protestors gathered in Melbourne’s CBD. Melbourne is currently in their 5th lockdown, and an ABC News report says that 6 people will be charged and dozens will be issued fines due to their attendance at the protest.


In Brisbane, around 7500 people reportedly gathered in the Botanic Gardens to protest vaccines and COVID-19 lockdowns in other states, as Brisbane is currently not subject to stay-at-home orders.


After the protest, NSW Premier Berejiklian said that protestors “should be ashamed.” At the press conference, she also told the reporters, “Millions and millions of people across our state are doing the right thing, and it just broke my heart that people had such a disregard for their fellow citizens.”


Besides photos of the streets of Sydney filled with people, another picture quickly grabbed the attention of residents all over Australia. The picture showed a man striking a NSW police horse.


The popularity of the image allowed NSW police to identify and arrest Kristian Pulkownik, a 33-year-old man from Surry Hills. Sky News reports that Pulkownik refused to take a COVID-19 test after he was brought to jail and he is facing a range of charges which include joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly, committing an act of cruelty upon an animal, and breaching COVID-19 restrictions.


Another personnel who has also quickly risen to fame is TikTok comedian Jon-Bernard Kairouz. The 26-year-old TikTok influencer amassed thousands of followers on TikTok for predicting COVID-19 case numbers accurately. For residents in lockdown, COVID case numbers presented by Premier Berejiklian are critical as it determines the length and potential ease of restrictions. However, when Kairouz began predicting COVID case numbers before they were announced by the premier, people on social media became fascinated.


Kairouz was able to correctly guess the case numbers for 5 days in a row before he lost his magical touch. While speaking to Nova FM, Kairouz repeatedly claimed it was “simple maths,” however a large number of people suspect he had a source from inside NSW Health.


The Australian reported an interesting sight from the protest on Saturday as Kairouz showed up and claimed himself to be “the people’s premier.”


Kairouz addressed the masses of people, and exclaimed, “I must say I’ve crunched the numbers, I don’t think the cases are going to go up tomorrow. But from what I’ve calculated there’s over 50,000 people here today.”


After Kairouz posted a video of himself speaking on Instagram, the comments section was bombarded.


There were comments which shunned his actions such as, “There are people in ICU how selfish can you be?” and others that actually supported his attendance.


The protest on Saturday has left people with a lot of emotions, and a common trend seen on people’s Instagram stories revolved around the same sentiment, “If you attended the protest, unfollow me, or let me know, so I can unfollow you.”


Aside from people on social media providing their opinion on the situation, academics and experts have also provided their insight and unpacked the situation.


In an article for ABC News, University of Queensland political psychology academic Dr Frank Mols addressed that while the protests appeared large, it is important to keep the number of participants in context.


“The biggest trick here is what is called pluralistic ignorance,” he explained.


“That’s the majority who are doing the right thing, who are complying, suddenly believing that a large proportion of the population isn’t complying.”


Dr Mols advised that leaders should present a bipartisan front, so that individuals do not filter health messages and information through a political lens. He believes the way to persuade people is to first step into their shoes to try to identify why they are reluctant to take that advice on board.


“There might be a naive idea that the more evidence, the bigger the tables and graphs and the numbers, the more compelling it will be and that’s typically not the case, we know that from the research,” he said.


ABC News also interviewed PhD candidate and University of Queensland Global Change Scholar Bernadette Hyland-Wood, who does research on crisis communication, if the protest was a sign that public trust has broken down.


Hyland-Wood said that policymakers should avoid “lumping people together in one group.”


“Addressing those inconsistencies is very important, because if people feel they’re not being heard by politicians and their day-to-day realities are not contemplated in how the policies are set, that’s going to lead to lack of public trust,” she answered.


She also believes that Australia’s slow vaccine rollout has added to “a dissolution in public trust.”


Australia’s vaccination rate is a whole other discussion. With a widespread fear of getting blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine and strict eligibility requirements to apply for the Pfizer vaccine, a large population of adults under 40-years-old have no other option but to stay at home and wait.


NSW police have said that there are currently rumours that another protest will take place in Sydney, despite some organisers having their social media accounts and pages shut down. However, NSW police have said that they will be prepared to take the appropriate actions to keep people safe if there were another rally.


I write this in a state of limbo, where I am unsure whether I will be able to see my friends anytime soon or if I will be able to travel abroad to see my family. I am sure many others also share the same sentiment. However, what I do know is that we all need to be held accountable and understand that we are all in this together. Each of our actions matter in this global fight. I may not be able to tell you to stay home or force you to get vaccinated, but I do urge you to read the stories of all those impacted by COVID-19 and ask you to put yourself in their shoes and perhaps reconsider.


Stay safe and stay home.

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