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Australian police urge protesters to leave capital

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By Samuel McKeith

(Reuters) – Australian police have given thousands of protesters until the end of Sunday to leave occupied areas of the country’s capital, as days-long rallies continue against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Several thousand protesters remained in place at Canberra’s major showgrounds, while fewer than 100 demonstrators were gathered near the federal parliament building, an Australian Capital Territory (ACT) police spokesperson told Reuters.

No protesters in Canberra had been arrested so far on Sunday after three were detained on Saturday.

    “They must be out by today,” the police spokesperson said, declining to say what action authorities would take if protesters refused to comply with demands to leave.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand’s Wellington, demonstrators protesting COVID-19 mandates gathered for a sixth day, despite heavy rain and strong winds lashing the city.

    Inspired by truckers’ rallies in Canada, social media vision showed protesters occupying Wellington streets outside the city’s parliament building with tents, trucks and vans.

    Authorities played songs, including Baby Shark, Macarena and hits by Barry Manilow over loudspeakers in a bid to disperse the demonstration, amid the wild weather caused by the remnants of a tropical cyclone.

The storm on Sunday moved across New Zealand’s North Island, causing heavy rain and gale-force winds in many parts, the country’s weather bureau said on its website.

Anti-vaccine protests remain relatively small in highly vaccinated New Zealand and Australia, where most people support inoculations.

Australia logged 22,750 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, while the number of new cases in New Zealand almost doubled to a daily record of 810.

(Reporting in Sydney by Samuel McKeith; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Australian police urge protesters to leave capital

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