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What we know today, Friday July 31


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. Follow this post for breaking news through the day.

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SA paramedic tests positive on return from Victoria

A South Australian paramedic in her 20s has tested positive to COVID-19 after returning to Adelaide from Victoria, where she was helping that state with its response to the pandemic.

SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said today the woman was tested at Adelaide Airport on her return on Wednesday and is now in quarantine in a hotel along with one close contact.

The woman volunteered to help with testing operations in Melbourne associated with the current surge in cases there.

Other health officials who went to Melbourne as part of the same team have all tested negative so far.

Spurrier said the woman had followed all the proper procedures with protective equipment but an infection in such circumstances was “part of the risk of this sort of work”.

“She absolutely followed the correct infection control processes,” Spurrier said on Friday.

NZ-style lockdown on cards for Victoria

Harsh New Zealand-style restrictions are being considered to combat the Victorian coronavirus outbreak, which is fuelling a rising national death toll.

A further 627 new Victorian infections and eight deaths were announced this morning including two men aged in their 50s.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed a New Zealand-style lockdown, which saw all businesses except for essential services closed, was being explored.

“There are really significant consequences in what you do in terms of increased restrictions, it has to be focused on the data,” he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been in crisis talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the next steps in stopping the deadly spread.

Andrews said experts would spend the next two days analysing infection data from the first half of the six-week lockdown.

“The best advice may well come to me that we need to take further steps, that the steps we’ve taken are not enough to pull this up,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

Four of the eight deaths announced today are linked to aged care homes, taking the state toll to 112 and the national figure to 197.

The number of new cases is an improvement on yesterday’s record of 723 cases and 13 deaths but it is still the state’s second largest day of new COVID-19 infections.

Andrews said Australian Defence Force personnel and public health officials did more than 500 visits to positive cases on Thursday, but one in four people were not home.

He said more than 100 of the cases had been referred to Victoria Police.

“It is simply unacceptable for you to have this virus and not be at home,” Andrews said.

The dire numbers prompted Andrews to yesterday announce a ban on visitors for residents in several regional areas and extend the mask directive to the whole state from midnight on Sunday.

Second arrest over alleged SA border crossing breach

Police have arrested the driver of a truck who allegedly brought a 65-year-old woman into South Australia from Victoria.

Police said the 46-year-old Mount Gambier man was arrested this afternoon at a business in Regency Park.

He has been charged with failing to comply with Directions under the Emergency Management Act. He will be refused bail and is expected to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

The woman, also from Mount Gambier, allegedly hid in a truck to cross back into South Australia after spending several weeks in Victoria.

The alleged crossing occurred in the hours following a tougher lockdown of the state’s border with Victoria on Tuesday night.

Police initially checked every truck after midnight for a few hours but returned to the previous practice of only doing random checks following major traffic delays.

The 65-year-old woman was arrested yesterday after police received a report she had re-entered South Australia in the early hours of Wednesday morning without following current COVID-19 directions.

She was charged with failing to comply with a direction, and was refused bail to appear in the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court today.

The woman was released after pleading guilty.

Trump backs away from election delay call as US economy crashes

Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump says he does not want to postpone the 2020 US presidential election, hours after suggesting a possible delay in the vote.

“I want an election and a result, much, much more than you,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday night.

“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything.”

Earlier in the day, Trump, who is trailing Democratic challenger and former vice president Joe Biden in opinion polls, raised the possibility of delaying the November 3 presidential election.

But top US Republican politicians rejected Trump’s suggestion to delay the poll, saying the contest should be held as planned.

The US economy suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression in the June quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic shrivelled consumer and business spending.

The bulk of the deepest contraction in at least 73 years reported by the Commerce Department occurred in April when activity almost ground to an abrupt halt.

More than five years of growth has been wiped out.

With the recovery faltering, pressure is mounting for the White House and Congress to agree on a second stimulus package.

Gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9 per cent annualised rate last quarter, the deepest decline in output since the government started keeping records in 1947.

The drop in GDP was more than triple the previous all-time decline of 10 per cent in the second quarter of 1958.

The economy contracted at a 5.0 per cent pace in the first quarter. It fell into recession in February.

The US continues to struggle to contain the virus with total deaths surpassing 150,000 yesterday and several major states still reporting daily increases in fatalities.

D-day for Facebook, Google

Tech giants will have to pay Australian commercial media for news content by the middle of next year or face fines of up to $10 million.

Under a new code of conduct announced by the Federal Government this morning, Google and Facebook will likely have to pay millions to Australia’s news outlets.

They’ll have three months to negotiate the payments and then a binding arbitration process will come into play.

The code also requires digital platforms to give news outlets 28 days notice of algorithm changes that would affect the ranking or display of news content and advertising.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will decide which digital platforms are subject to the new rules and the Australian Communications and Media Authority will work out which media companies are eligible.

Frydenberg said the world-leading rules were about giving Australian media a fair go.

“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes,” he told reporters.

Facebook and Google have a stranglehold on the digital advertising market, leaving traditional media companies struggling to stay profitable.

For every $100 of online advertising excluding classifieds, $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players.

Centrelink cuts to plunge 22,000 South Australians into poverty

The Federal Government’s decision to cut the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement by $150 per week in September will push 22,000 South Australians into poverty, modelling from The Australia Institute shows.

The economic modelling undertaken after last week’s announcement and released today also shows that, nationwide, the cut will push 370,000 Australians, including 80,000 children, into poverty.

According to The Australia Institute, the introduction of the fortnightly Centrelink $550 JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement in April lifted 42,000 South Australians out of poverty.

“The Coronavirus Supplement has been an essential part of Australia’s economic and social response to this recession, including here in South Australia,” said Noah Schultz-Byard, the Institute’s SA director.

“The decision to cut the JobSeeker supplement … will not only have serious negative social consequences for decades to come, but it also makes for terrible economic policy by effectively withdrawing much-needed stimulus.”

Restriction review as another SA virus case spills over from Vic

The state’s COVID-19 transition committee met today to again review its eastern border closures following an infection spike in Victoria and two new cases reported in South Australia over the past two days.

A man in his 20s who had recently returned to South Australia from Victoria yesterday became the state’s 449th confirmed coronavirus case. A paramedic who returned to Adelaide on Wednesday was announced as the 450th case today.

Under the current rules, only essential travellers are allowed to enter SA from Victoria but people can come from NSW and the ACT provided they quarantine for 14 days.

Premier Steven Marshall said today that the transition committee had decided to keep the current border restrictions in place, but it remained “extraordinarily concerned” about the situation in Victoria.

He said the committee would tighten the restrictions if necessary.

Community transmissions return to Queensland

A Brisbane man linked to three women charged with illegally entering the sunshine state has tested positive to COVID-19 as community transmission returns to Queensland for the first in two months.

The 27-year-old Bellbird Park man is believed to have caught the virus from relatives who visited a Korean restaurant in Brisbane’s southern suburbs on July 23, when one of the women was there.

Authorities are tracking down all close contacts of the case and his two relatives, who are yet to test positive.

He is the only case recorded in Queensland on Friday, but the second case of community transmission linked to the cluster, after one of the women’s sisters tested positive earlier this week.

The three women at the centre of the cluster allegedly lied on their border declaration passes when they arrived at Brisbane Airport from Melbourne, via a brief stopover in Sydney on July 21.

Two of them tested positive eight days later, sending parts of Brisbane into lockdown.

All three have since been charged with fraud and providing false or misleading documents under the Public Health Act.

Police say all three women are now co-operating with them and Queensland Health officials, and are due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 28.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said more than 1500 contacts had now been traced  to the three cases.

Expired beer used to generate renewable energy

Millions of litres of beer that expired while the hospitality industry was shut down at the height of COVID-19 restriction measures has been used to fuel digesters at SA Water’s Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant.

About 150,000 litres of expired beer was added per week at the plant, helping generate a record 355,200 cubic metres of biogas in May and another 320,000 cubic metres in June.

“Beer’s high calorific load and methane potential means it’s perfect for co-digestion,” SA Water Senior Manager Production and Treatment Lisa Hannant said.

“Harnessing the power of biogas through our on-site gas engines creates renewable energy for the treatment plant and a sustainable alternative for industrial waste that’s otherwise difficult to dispose of and treat.”

Women in politics face toughest time ever

The editor of a new book on the politics of fashion says women in parliament are facing more challenges to their authority than ever, due to a superficial focus on what they wear.

The issue has come to the fore this week after South Australian Liberal MP Nicolle Flint challenged a column in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail newspaper by ABC broadcaster Peter Goers.

That column gave a critical rundown of Flint’s outfits, contained in a brochure distributed by the MP to her electorate.

A fed-up Flint produced a video of herself, wearing a garbage bag to challenge “rubbish” criticism and asking: “What should a woman in politics wear?”

Flint has received cross-party support for her stand.

However, the judgements on a woman’s ability to do her job based on what she wears was unlikely to get better any time soon, according to Dr Denise N Rall, a Southern Cross University Adjunct Research Fellow and commissioning editor of a soon to be released book called Fashion, Women and Power: The Politics of Dress.

The book, which contains 10 academic essays commissioned by Rall, investigates women in powerful positions in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the United States and Asia and how they are judged on their fashion choices.

It’s a longstanding problem, says Rall, who points to “relentless” targeting of Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, for her choices of clothing.

“Men have the uniform, they have the suit, it’s been part of the zeitgeist since the 1920s and nobody judges them for it,” she says.

“But for women, it’s just gone off the rails. Maybe now more than ever women’s political efficacy and authority can be reduced by this concentration on what they wear.”

Read the full story here.

Second infection spike hits UK

Britain has reported its highest number of new COVID-19 infections in more than a month, as ministers fret about a second wave of cases in Europe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said COVID-19 was under some measure of control in Britain, but a resurgence in some European countries showed the pandemic was not over.

“It is absolutely vital as a country that we continue to keep our focus and our discipline, and that we don’t delude ourselves that somehow we are out of the woods or that that is all over, because it isn’t all over,” he said on Thursday.

Hours later, official data showed 846 new positive tests in Britain – the highest number of daily infections since June 28.

France reported almost 1400 new cases on Wednesday, which was also the highest daily increase in more than a month.

with AAP and Reuters


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