Three people were arrested on Wednesday as people protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates descended on New Zealand’s Parliament.
The protesters were arrested when they tried to “push through a fence on Parliament grounds,” public broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported.
As protests against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations rage across New Zealand, a crowd of some 1,000 people has been gathered near the Parliament in the capital Wellington since last weekend.
Despite warnings by police to “dismantle any structures … such as tents and marquees,” nearly 100 protesters camped overnight on Parliament grounds, the report said.
The protesters argue that compulsory vaccination orders violate their basic rights and want the government to withdraw all COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to meet the protesters and condemned their actions, saying “the protests did not represent the views of most New Zealanders,” according to the RNZ report.
“Of course New Zealanders have the right to protest, but New Zealanders also have the right to be vaccinated and the right to be kept as safe as possible in a pandemic, and that’s exactly what we’re focused on – and that’s what the vast majority of New Zealanders are doing,” she was quoted as saying.
The country’s Health Ministry reported 204 new cases of community transmission on Wednesday, along with 46 infections in travelers “arriving from India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Pakistan, UK, Australia, Fiji, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, France, the US and the Philippines,” RNZ reported.
The latest figures raised New Zealand’s overall tally to 18,126, including 3,035 active cases and 53 deaths.