26 Feb 2022

Covid-19: Protesters show up as patients at hospitals across New Zealand

6:34 pm on 26 February 2022

Hospitals across the country are receiving anti-Covid-19 mandate protesters returning from Parliament, as some protesters have reportedly been spitting on police in Wellington today.

About 30 officers are standing in a human chain to block off protesters.

About 30 officers are standing in a human chain to block off anti-mandate protesters near Parliament. Photo: RNZ/ Jake McKee

There were mounting tensions at the Parliament protest this afternoon, where police have formed a line to keep protesters back.

Approximately 200 people joined the occupation site today, police said in a statement.

Police clashed with protesters who tried to move concrete bollards today. One person was arrested after trying to move a bollard with their vehicle.

"Paramedics attended to a small number of officers this afternoon who were spat on by protesters at the protest perimeter," police said.

"This is very disappointing behaviour."

Meanwhile, hospitals are now reporting visits from protesters returning from the anti-Covid-19 mandate protest at Parliament, and are pleading with those experiencing cold and flu symptoms to get tested and isolate.

The Ministry of Health said hospitals throughout the country had reported visits from people who have been at the anti-mandate protest at Parliament before returning home.

Protesters have occupied the grounds of Parliament and nearby Wellington central streets since their convoy arrived on 7 February creating widespread disruptions, with many ignoring social distancing rules and not wearing masks.

The occupation is now a location of interest after people infectious with Covid-19 were confirmed to be among the crowd, and anyone who is there on the listed times and dates is asked to carefully monitor for symptoms, and follow instructions about what to do next if they have any.

In a statement today the ministry said the protest is a potential super spreader event.

Early in the protest leading epidemiologist Michael Baker warned this could happen, saying people mixing with groups from outside their household, singing, eating together and sharing transport and accommodation was a recipe for the spread of Omicron from those at the protest out to other communities.

Yesterday police called on protesters to take children home, saying the event was not safe for families.

More than 130 people have been arrested at the event, and media have reported Corrections has confirmed they have been monitoring a "small number" of criminals subject to GPS monitoring conditions who were at the event. Sewage leaks and assaults have also been connected to the event.

Police are carrying out "reassurance patrols" for residents that live near the protest at parliament today, and said officers would continue to be visible at the protest site.

"The focus for police is to contain the current perimeters of the protest and continue to maintain a safe community for our Wellington residents," they said.

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