Thousands of people who took part in Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country yesterday won't have to quarantine for 14 days as some experts have advised, Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed today.
Thousands of protestors at Auckland’s Aotea Square and many other outdoor venues across the country marched together to protest the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
The sight of hundreds marching in close proximity to each other alarmed experts, who took to Twitter critising the march's lack of physical distancing and recording of contact details for contact tracing.
Among them was Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who tweeted her dismay after advising protestors to mask up and social distance prior to the rally.
She warned months of hard work could be undone even if one person alone brought the virus to the protest.
However, in a statement this afternoon, the Director-General of Health said since there is currently no community transmission in New Zealand, those who attended the outdoor events are not required to quarantine.
Dr Bloomfield said anyone who attended the gatherings or who may be planning to be at upcoming events and feels they may be at risk by coming into close contact with people they don't know "should take a cautious approach and seek advice".
People can get that advice from Healthline, from their GP or after-hours clinic, he said.
He also reminded Kiwis that gathering were still limited to 100 people and people should be physically distanced under Level 2.
Organisers of gatherings and events must keep records of those who attend for contact tracing purposes as well.
Calls for more consistency over crowd rules
Those who attended the protest say the organisers, not police, were advising them to physically distance from one another.
“The organisers had wardens on the ground to help people follow public health guideliness,” Ricardo Menendez told 1 NEWS.
The Green Party candidate says he stayed close to the group he attended the protest with, used hand sanitizer and wore a mask to protect himself during the march.
He says the crowd knew the steps needed to keep themselves safe, but pointed to inconsistencies when it comes to gatherings under Level 2, saying shopping malls and major urban centres are allowed large crowds in close proximity of each other.
Roshani Ranjan, who also protested yesterday, agrees. He says it’s hard to draw the line with those gathering outside to protest and those shopping in large malls.
“I do understand the concern and there is a possibility there could be someone with the virus was present there... but being at a mall and touching multiple surfaces and objects is also a risk, right?”
Ms Ranjan says the crowd was told to social distance by the organisers throughout the march, but says it was hard to follow that advice.
“It was hard in that situation to keep a one-metre distance from everyone. I wasn’t squashed between people or anything.”
She says police were present at the march but didn’t take any action to physically distance people in the crowd or warn them of the rules under Level 2.
“There was police blocking off surrounding roads, but no police tried to keep crowds separated.
“I didn’t really see a lot of cops at the actual march. I think I only saw one out of his car.”
Despite the Level 2 rules, Police Minister Stuart Nash believes there won’t be any prosecution of those who attended the protests and backs police’s stance on the protest.
Health Minister David Clark told media today that he believed all at the protest had a responsibility to observe the rules.
“Obviously, it makes us all uncomfortable when we see risks being taken that could put in jeopardy the situation New Zealand finds itself in - sacrifices many, many people made.”
He says it’s unfortunate people weren’t following the rules of social distancing during the march.
“This is something I don’t want to see happen again.”
Despite the warning from the Health Minister, another rally is expected to take place on June 14.
However, with the Government to decide on whether or not to go to Level 1 next Monday, the rally may be able to go ahead without a cap on numbers attending.