Prominent anti-coronavirus conspiracy theorist James Bartolo has warned his supporters not to attend an anti-lockdown protest today, calling it a “trap”.
Mr Bartolo, who was arrested yesterday morning over inciting an illegal protest, wrote he was “concerned about the safety of the brave men and women who plan to go” to the demonstration.
“The police are not forcing me to say anything,” he wrote in a post on Facebook last night, adding his bail orders say he “cannot speak about anything related to coronavirus or protests”.
“I will continue speaking about the wrong in the world, but I’m not going to break that bail order and risk being arrested and locked up,” he said.
In a separate post, the 27-year-old called attending a protest “the worst possible thing to do”.
“It is a set up from the get go. It is all just terrible. Don’t go to that one,” he said.
“What is going to happen, Dan Andrews will blame the protest for the lockdown extension. Don’t go to the protest.”
Mr Bartolo, who runs a website called The Conscious Truth Network, is a major player in the anti-coronavirus conspiracy theorist movement, and has previously encouraged Melburnians in lockdown to breach checkpoints, arguing they are a violation of human rights.
He regularly shares videos claiming the pandemic is a hoax and questioning whether COVID-19 is actually infectious, as well as pushing 5G conspiracies.
An anti-coronavirus conspiracy theorist on Friday became the fourth person to be charged with incitement ahead of Saturday’s “Freedom Day” planned protest in Melbourne’s CBD.
James Bartolo, 27, claimed he “was on the toilet” when police arrived at his Taylors Hill home armed with a search warrant about 8am on Friday.
He live streamed his refusal to open the door and let them inside, so officers smashed it open and tackled him to the ground to restrain him.
In a statement, Victoria Police said the search warrant was part of their “ongoing investigation into the organisation and encouragement or protest activity in the CBD this Saturday”.
“A 27-year-old male who was arrested at the address has been charged with incitement, possession of prohibited weapons and two counts of resisting police.”
Several devices including a mobile phone and laptops were seized, as well as five samurai swords.
Mr Bartolo was granted police bail and is due to appear at Sunshine Magistrates Court on May 5, 2021.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius on Thursday defended the arrest of pregnant woman Zoe-Lee Buhler, 28, over allegedly inciting the illegal protest.
He admitted the optics of arresting a pregnant woman were “terrible” and never good, but the woman had since been charged with serious criminal offences.
“I can say to you based on the briefings provided to me … we’re absolutely satisfied the members behaved appropriately and in accordance with our policy,” he said.
The rally is scheduled to take place at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shared the country’s proposed hotspot rules with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, again raising the possibility of a travel bubble.
However, he stressed it could mean allowing visitors but not sending them across the ditch in return.
Mr Morrison told reporters after national cabinet on Friday that Australia would welcome people from New Zealand if they were travelling from somewhere not considered a COVID-19 hotspot.
He said he had secured support from seven out of eight states and territories, bar Western Australia, for a roap map to reopen borders by Christmas under the new definition of hotspots.
“As part of that approach, I spoke to Prime Minister Ardern this morning,” Mr Morrison said.
“I advised her was that Australia will be looking to apply the same hotspot approach to New Zealand.
“So, that means, when we’re in a position to do so, and when the Acting Chief Medical Officer has come to a set of arrangements with New Zealand, then we would be able to have New Zealanders come to Australia.
“That doesn’t mean Australians can go to New Zealand. That’s a matter for Prime Minister Ardern.
“But if there’s no COVID in Christchurch, and there’s no COVID in Queensland, then there’s no reason both of them can’t come to Sydney.
“And that will mean, I think, an important boost for our tourist economy, whether it’s in New South Wales or anywhere else.
“And so Prime Minister Ardern was very happy to have further discussions on that, but ultimately that’s a decision for our border and people coming in to Australia.
“But we would just need to ensure that the arrangements in place of identifying hotspots and things of that nature were well understood and were practical.”
There have been 26,136 cases of COVID-19 recorded in Australia and 737 deaths, according to federal health department figures on Friday night.
There were 81 new coronavirus cases reported in Victoria on Friday and eight in NSW.
Picture: Department of Health
Victoria also reported 59 new deaths however 50 of those, all aged-care related, occurred in July and August.
“It is important to note these deaths are not new, families were notified, and the deaths were reported as required,” the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
“The State and Federal governments and the aged care sector have worked together to reconcile the data relating to deaths. Aged care providers are also now reporting deaths to the state’s Public Health Unit in addition to the Commonwealth and normal reporting mechanisms.”
It said of the remaining nine deaths, three were reported earlier than Thursday.
A nine-year-old Australian boy has been hospitalised with a rare inflammatory illness associated with COVID-19, after clinicians were urged to monitor for the condition.
At least three children have died after developing the disease across the globe.
The boy is in intensive care at Monash Hospital with PIMS-TS (paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2), The Age reports.
Safer Care Victoria issued an alert on Thursday to paediatric and emergency staff to consider the condition in children who present with fever, abdominal pain, rash and tachycardia – when the heart beats at a faster rate than normal.
The alert confirmed cases had been reported in children in Victoria however the nine-year-old boy is the first patient to be reported in Australia.
“PIMS-TS has been described in children in areas with high incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Case incidence has been noted to increase in the months after COVID-19 peaks,” SCV said.
“There are likely to be further – albeit rare – cases of PIMS-TS in Australia in areas with higher SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
“PIMS-TS occurs two to six weeks after infection with SARS-CoV-2.
“The median age is nine years and it is more common in boys, those of ethnicities other than Anglo-European, and obese children.”
According to data from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services on Friday night, 48 boys and 37 girls under the age of 10 currently have COVID-19 in the state.
Paediatric infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy from the University of Sydney told The Age given the thousands of coronavirus cases in Victoria, “you do expect to eventually get a case” of PIMS-TS.
“There have been a lot of people looking very carefully for the possibility of this disease so it is very unlikely that there are many hidden cases because paediatricians have been searching very carefully for this very particular problem,” he said.
In the alert, SCV stated clinicians with a PIMS-TS patient should contact the on-call paediatric infectious diseases service at the Royal Children’s or Monash Children’s hospitals.
“Myocardial dysfunction requiring ICU admission occurs in at least half the patients,” SCV said.
“Coronary artery aneurysms occur in about 15 per cent.
“ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) has been needed in some cases and occasional deaths have been reported overseas.”
ECMO is when a patient’s blood is taken out of their body via a pipe or a cannula to a machine where the carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen added before then it is returned.
The machine replaces the function of the patient’s own heart and lungs.