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What we know today, Tuesday August 11

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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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No new cases in SA today

SA Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 in the state today.

There have been a total of 459 cases in SA, with eight cases remaining active.

Extra staff to ease test results pressure

SA Pathology has deployed about 50 extra staff to clear a backlog of COVID-19 test results in South Australia as thousands flock to get checked for the virus.

The service is now processing more than 6000 tests each day, up from about 2500 less than a month ago, with the surge prompted by the explosion of infections in Victoria.

But a computer glitch in recent days has left some people waiting longer than the expected 48 to 72 hours for results which are sent by SMS.

SA Pathology clinical head Tom Dodd said efforts were being made to correct the computer problems in the next few days.

He said in the meantime extra staff had been deployed to phone people directly.

“Obviously I would like everything to go perfectly well,” Dodd said.

“And for the vast majority of people, the system has worked perfectly well.

“But clearly we’re in unprecedented circumstances, a once-in-a-century pandemic.”

People who have been tested are asked to stay home until their results are available with delays raising fears some might return to work or other activities before being cleared.

While turnaround times for the laboratory processing of samples has been cut to about 16 hours, extra time is needed to transport swabs to SA Pathology and then to contact people.

Dodd said he could understand the “anxiety and frustration” some might feel as they waited, while Health Minister Stephen Wade urged everyone to be patient.

A new COVID-19 testing facility for interstate truck and train drivers opened yesterday at a National Hoghway 1 truckstop at Port Augusta.

Meanwhile, Wade said on Monday that the 94 close contacts in hotel quarantine  linked to the “Thebarton Cluster” had all produced negative COVID-19 tests in their first round of testing.

They will be tested again later this week ahead of their release from the hotel.

The cluster has closed the Thebarton Senior College, a school that also caters to adult learners and students from a range of cultures.

More than 1100 casual contacts, including other students and staff, have been asked to isolate at home.

Wade said there had been a high-level of compliance with the quarantine requirements, which centred on a large school community, but some particular challenges remained.

“This school community provides services to children from culturally and linguistically diverse communities,” he said.

“So there is a double communication challenge.

“I really appreciate the work that’s being done by community leaders to get the message out, but there will be people who miss those key messages.”

Since the start of the pandemic, SA Health has confirmed 459 cases of COVID-19 including five linked to the Thebarton cluster. Only eight cases are still considered active.

Andrews faces inquiry as Vic records another 19 virus deaths

Another 19 Victorians have died and 331 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded.

It’s the second day in a row of a record 19 deaths and brings the state’s toll to 247 and the national figure to 332.

There have been 15,251 cases confirmed in Victoria so far, with 650 people currently in hospital. Of those, 47 are in intensive care and 24 are on ventilators.

Cases with no known source remain an issue – they have reached 2903, an overnight increase of 40 according to health department statistics – and 1185 health workers are infected.

The details were revealed after Premier Daniel Andrews this morning fronted a state parliament inquiry into Labor’s handling of the pandemic.

He was questioned by the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s deputy chair Richard Riordan about the botched hotel quarantine program, which has been blamed for Victoria’s second wave.

The premier deflected specific questions about who was ultimately responsible for the quarantine failures.

It followed a leaked video showing bureaucrats from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and the Regions congratulating themselves on pulling together the program and efforts to make quarantine comfortable, according to the Herald Sun.

There was no discussion of the health restrictions put in place.

“Did the crisis cabinet think hotel quarantine would be better run by people who fix roads and run an art gallery than your own health department,” Riordan asked the premier on Tuesday.

“The answer to your question is no. At no point did people make a decision like that,” Andrews responded.

Also appearing today are Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kym Peake.

Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday with 19 deaths and 322 new cases.

Yesterday’s and today’s case numbers were the lowest since July 29, when the state recorded 295 new cases.

Metropolitan Melbourne has been under tough stage-four restrictions for a week – including an 8pm curfew – while regional Victoria is under stage-three measures.

The lockdowns are in place until September 13.

Trump whisked to safety after White House shooting

The US secret service has shot a suspect outside the White House, causing US President Donald Trump’s sudden exit from a coronavirus briefing.

Trump was taken into the Oval Office for his protection following the shooting.

He later re-emerged to continue the briefing, telling reporters that secret service agents had shot a suspect outside the White House perimeter.

“There was a shooting, it was law enforcement shot someone and the suspect is on the way to the hospital,” he said.

The president said he believed the individual who was shot was armed.

Trump said he was escorted to the Oval Office by an agent. He said a more detailed briefing about the incident would be provided when more details were known.

The Secret Service said in a tweet “the investigation into a USSS officer involved shooting is ongoing. A male subject and a USSS officer were both transported to a local hospital. At no time during this incident was the White House complex breached or were any protectees in danger.”

The White House was placed in lockdown following the incident.

Woman dragged from car in alleged Parkside hammer attack

A man wielding a hammer smashed a car window before pulling the female occupant out of the vehicle in Adelaide yesterday, police said.

The woman was parked at suburban Parkside on Monday afternoon when the man allegedly approached and yelled for her to “get out of the car”.

It’s alleged he then produced a hammer and hit the driver’s side window.

“The window cracked but he then hit the window a second time shattering the window and covering the woman with glass,” police said in a statement.

The woman, who says she’d never seen the man before, was dragged out of the vehicle by the arm and on to the road.

She managed to flee as her assailant tried but failed to start her car without the keys, with the man then stealing her backpack and walking off.

He was quickly tracked down by police patrols after a short chase.

The 37-year-old man from Moonta was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery, assault causing harm and resisting arrest.

He was refused bail to appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court later on today.

NSW records 22 new cases amid growing school cluster

Health authorities are working to trace the source of a 17-strong coronavirus cluster associated with an independent Catholic school in northwest Sydney.

At least six new COVID-19 cases were linked on Tuesday to Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook, following the previous identification of 11 cases.

The Opus Dei-associated school has closed its secondary campus until August 24 and its junior campus until at least Wednesday after its first COVID-19 case last week.

NSW Health said the source of the Tangara outbreak remained unclear, and all secondary students and staff were in self-isolation and being tested.

The state recorded 22 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday – four of whom are in hotel quarantine, another two are from Victoria and eight are from the Tangara cluster. Two of those eight Tangara cases had been identified on Monday.

The 22 cases came from more than 13,000 tests.

Global COVID-19 infections pass 20 million

Global coronavirus cases have pushed past 20 million, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for more than half of all known infections.

It took almost six months to reach 10 million cases after the first infection was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January. It took just 43 days to double.

The disease has infected at least four times the average number of people struck down with severe influenza illnesses annually, according to the World Health Organisation.

The death toll from COVID-19, meanwhile, at more than 728,000 has outpaced the upper range of annual deaths from the flu.

The tally of infections, which is compiled by Reuters based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating.

Experts believe the official data likely undercounts both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The United States is responsible for about five million cases, Brazil two million and India two million. Russia and South Africa are also in the top 10.

The pandemic is accelerating fastest in Latin America, which accounts for almost 28 per cent of the world’s cases and more than 30 per cent of deaths.

With the first wave of the virus yet to peak in some countries and a resurgence of cases in others, governments are still divided in their responses.

Some countries are reintroducing strict public health measures, while others continue to relax restrictions.

Health experts expect dilemmas about how to proceed with school, work and social life to last – and restrictions to fluctuate – until a vaccine is available.

The vaccine race has more than 150 candidates being developed and tested around the world with 25 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organisation.

In the United States, children began returning to their classrooms last week, even as controversy over school safety swirled.

Britain has added both Spain and Belgium to a list of countries from which returning travellers must quarantine at home for 14 days because of fresh upticks in some European locations.

France has reported its first significant rise in the number of people hospitalised due to coronavirus since the end of the country’s lockdown, reversing a trend seen since mid-April. The French Government also reported that the number of confirmed coronavirus infections had risen by 4,854 to 202,775 over the past three days, adding to signs the virus is spreading more quickly.

In Asia, China continues to squash surges using strict, local lockdowns, bringing its daily numbers down into the low double digits on the mainland.

Government quits over Beirut blast

Lebanon’s prime minister has announced his government’s resignation, saying a huge explosion that devastated the capital and stirred public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

The August 4 detonation at a port warehouse of 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6000 and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

In a televised address overnight, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he backed calls by ordinary Lebanese for those responsible for “this crime” to be put on trial.

Diab made the announcement after a meeting of his cabinet, formed in January with the support of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Many ministers were said earlier to want to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Demonstrations broke out again in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

For many Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance.

They have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth $A416 million for immediate humanitarian relief but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

TAFE SA’s health course boost

South Australians are flocking to study health courses at TAFE in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

TAFE SA has taken more than 3000 applications for health courses in semester two this year, an increase of about 25 per cent.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the community had been inspired by health workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is great to see the next generation being inspired by their acts and ready to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

Chief Executive David Coltman said TAFE SA was well placed to support the increase in demand for training.

“Our educators have modified and amended the way they deliver training and education so that students can continue their learning throughout the pandemic,” he said.

Business confidence rebounds from record low

Economic conditions in South Australia stabilised significantly in the June quarter as business confidence rebounded from a record low, according to a Business SA survey released today.

Business confidence increased 26 points from a historic rock bottom of 41 up to 67 for the June quarter.

Revenue losses also halved in the June quarter with respondents to the Business SA – William Buck Survey of Business Expectations reporting a 22 per cent fall in revenue on last year compared with a 43 per cent dip in the March quarter.

Business SA policy and advocacy director Andrew McKenna said the results from the June quarter offered a glimmer of hope for the State’s economic recovery.

“The tide has turned in the June quarter with the business community much more positive about the road ahead than first forecast,” he said.

“The General Business Conditions Index also stabilised, despite businesses predicting it would plummet further back in March. While the outlook for next quarter is even better with the index expected to jump almost 14 points to back above 80.

“While the full impact of the deadly second wave in Victoria had not fully emerged at the time of the survey period in early to mid-July, it is still clear businesses owners are feeling more confident of surviving current restrictions in South Australia.”

Almost two thirds of survey respondents say they are receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy while 60.2 per cent of those on the scheme said it had allowed them to maintain pre-COVID-19 staffing levels.

Construction complete at revamped Repat

Two new complex dementia wards will open at the revamped Repat Health Precinct in Adelaide’s southern suburbs from next week.

The State Government announced yesterday the completion of construction at the Daw Park centre following a $110 million revitalisation.

The 12-bed Specialised Advanced Dementia Unit will begin taking patients previously admitted to Noarlunga Hospital from next week while the new Neurological Behavioural Unit is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the milestone on the Repat site was an important step in ensuring members of the community had access to specialised dementia services closer to home.

“The completion of these wards today, marks a key milestone in delivering on that promise and I deeply appreciate the hard work of all the people involved in helping that vision to be realised,” he said.

Rain, wind moves across state

A radar image from the BoM website at 11am showing a thick band of rain moving across greater Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula.

More than 7mm of rain has fallen across Adelaide up until 1pm as the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts the wettest few days since June.

Four to 10mm of rain is forecast for today, a further three to 10mm tomorrow and up to five millimetres Thursday with showers persisting for the rest of the week.

Before today, Adelaide had only recorded 1.4mm of rain so far in August following just 18mm in July, which is traditionally one of the wettest months of the year.

adelaide weather forecast

 – with AAP and Reuters

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