Australian police urge protesters to leave capital Canberra

People take part in a 'Convoy to Canberra' protest outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Feb 12, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australian police have given thousands of protesters until the end of Sunday (Feb 13) 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 spokesman told Reuters.

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

"They must be out by today," the police spokesman 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.

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

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

The 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.

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.

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