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What we know today, Wednesday August 19

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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 live updates through the day.

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SA country newspaper closes after 159 years

The Border Watch newspaper, based in Mt Gambier, has announced it will close after serving the local community for 159 years.

The owners will also close the South Eastern Times in Millicent and The Pennant in Penola.

The locally-owned Border Watch News Group announced the closure on its Facebook account this afternoon.

All production – print and digital – will end on Friday, with 38 staff to be made redundant.

The company said every effort had been made to stay operating.

“As currently experienced throughout the regional media industry the recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened the financial viability of TBW that was already severely impacted by declining advertising revenues and newspaper sales as well as increasing competition from a variety of digital media platforms,” the board said in a statement.

“Taking these issues into consideration TBW has made the very difficult decision to close its operations.”

No new COVID-19 cases in SA today

There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in SA today.

SA Health said there remain six active cases in SA.

More than 331,500 tests have been undertaken in the state.

Victorian COVID cases, deaths fall

Victoria has recorded 216 new coronavirus cases and 12 more deaths.

The deaths take the state’s toll from the virus to 363 and the national toll to 450.

Further details are expected to be released by Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday.

It is the lowest number of new cases since July 13.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the state looked to be getting on top of its second wave.

“Obviously the number of deaths we have seen is very upsetting and disturbing,” he told Nine’s Today show on Wednesday.

“But those (case) numbers look like we are getting on top of it now, which is welcome and we’ve got to stay the course.”

Melbourne is in the third week of a strict level-four lockdown, which includes an 8pm-5am curfew, due to end on September 13, while the rest of Victoria is under level-three restrictions.

Thirteen of the 17 deaths reported on Tuesday were linked to aged care outbreaks. Some 230 aged care residents have died so far.

Wild weather lashes state

Strong winds and rain has lashed the state, bringing down trees and cutting power.

Adelaide recorded 9.2mm of rain to 9am as wind gusts of more than 60km/h were recorded at Adelaide Airport.

But the rain and winds were more damaging beyond the suburbs with Mt Crawford recording 28.6mm and Mt Lofty 22.6mm. More than 20mm fell at Kuitpo while Noarlunga recorded 15mm.

The SES was called to Williamstown about 5am when the stormy conditions brought down a tree, causing a blackout in the area.

Emergency crews have been called out to 35 incidents since midnight, mainly for storm damage to trees in the Adelaide Hills.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the impact was characteristic of a cold-season tornado where bursts of wind and rain from cold fronts sweep up from the Southern Ocean.

The showers and high winds are expected to ease during the day before returning tomorrow and Friday.

adelaide weather forecast

‘Dizzy’ Gillespie named Redbacks coach

Jason Gillespie, centre, will coach South Australia’s Sheffield Shield team this summer. Picture: AFP /William West.

Former Test paceman and South Australia great Jason Gillespie has been appointed his home state’s head cricket coach.

Gillespie, who is in charge of county side Sussex, will remain in England for the duration of the 2020 season before starting his new job in Adelaide.

The South Australian Cricket Association’s selection panel, featuring chief executive Keith Bradshaw, Mike Hussey, Rod Marsh, Belinda Clark and Tim Nielsen, opted to recruit Gillespie as they pursue their first Sheffield Shield title since 1995-96.

“I’m deeply honoured,” Gillespie said.

“The chance to work with the players, coaches and off-field team at the SACA is very exciting.”

The 45-year-old was already head coach of the state’s Big Bash League franchise, having helped Adelaide Strikers win their maiden title in 2018.

The fast bowler’s 71-Test career ended in record-breaking fashion, when he finished 201 not out as nightwatchman during a match against Bangladesh in 2006.

Adelaide Uni staff accept pay cut

Adelaide University staff have voted to have their pay cut by 3.5 per cent as part of a union deal to retain 200 jobs.

In an email to staff late yesterday afternoon, acting vice chancellor Mike Brooks said 2988 staff cast a vote in this week’s ballot with 58.8 per cent voting in favour of the proposed variation.

“The proposed Enterprise Agreement Variation (EAV) will now go to the Fair Work Commission for review, and we anticipate a response within a few weeks of the date of lodgement,” the email states.

Under the deal, staff would also miss out on a scheduled 1.5 per cent pay rise for four months and forgo annual leave loading.

But they would be given the option to buy back an extra 15 days of paid leave during closedown periods.

It comes as the university faces an anticipated $100 million shortfall for its 2020 budget, with current projections indicating that the total reduction in revenue in 2020 and 2021 would be in the order of $225 million, compared with that generated last year.

The shortfall is largely driven by a $78 million decline in international student enrolments following the onset of the coronavirus

“If approved, the university would then be in a position to implement the EAV,” the email from Brooks said.

“The purchased leave and pay reduction measures would likely start in late September.

“I know for many of you this decision has been a difficult one. I will continue to communicate often and openly on our evolving financial position and the implementation of the jobs protection framework.“

Australia signs up for Oxford COVID-19 vaccine

Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put Australia’s hand up for a coronavirus vaccine being trialled by Oxford University and British drug company AstraZeneca.

Under the deal, Australia would make and supply the vaccine – should it prove safe and effective – and provide it free to all Australians.

The agreement is expected to not only be a shot in the arm for the health response but a confidence booster for the recession-hit Australian economy.

“The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in the world, and under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian,” the prime minister said.

Morrison admitted there was no guarantee the vaccine would be successful, so the government was continuing talks with other parties as well as backing Australian researchers.

The letter of intent with AstraZeneca, and a needle and syringe contract with Becton Dickinson, are the first announcements under a national COVID-19 vaccine and treatment strategy.

The vaccine strategy is expected to be worth billions of dollars.

The Oxford University trials are underway in the UK, Brazil and South Africa and are due to soon start in the US, running into early 2021.

Australian medical advisers are aware of 167 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical and clinical trials, including 29 undergoing clinical trials in humans.

An expert group led by Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy is examining all options to ensure Australia doesn’t pin all of its hopes on one vaccine.

Australia is also in talks with the Gavi-led COVAX Facility, which aims to pool global resources to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines.

Flight from SA leads to Perth arrest for duo

Two women who flew from Adelaide to Perth without permission and breached quarantine to attend a party have faced court in Perth.

Police say the women, aged 19 and 22, arrived in Perth on a flight from Adelaide on Monday night intending to holiday and visit family.

They were directed to quarantine at the Novotel Hotel in Perth until return flights could be arranged.

But it’s alleged the women, who had not applied to enter the state, left the hotel early on Tuesday and caught a taxi to a unit block in the southern suburb of Coolbellup.

The ABC has reported that the women, a 19-year-old from Queensland and a 22-year-old from SA, attended a party with ‘associates’. Police used mobile phones to locate the women and arrested them yesterday morning,

On Tuesday afternoon, Perth Magistrates Court was told that when police called one of the women, she laughed and hung up the phone, the ABC reported.

The women appeared in court via telephone link and the matter was adjourned until Thursday.

They have each been charged with failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act and were due to face Perth Magistrates Court late yesterday.

Acting police commissioner Gary Dreibergs said the pair had not been tested for COVID-19 but the health department had advised they did not pose a significant health risk.

He declined to say how many people they had been in contact with or how they managed to breach security, noting that the matter was still before the courts.

“It’s very disappointing. It’s a very serious matter,” he said.

Morrison ‘completely rejects’ Chinese wine dumping claims

Any suggestion that Australian wine is being dumped in China has been ‘completely rejected’ by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

China yesterday launched an investigation into whether Australian winemakers are flooding the country with cheap wine and drowning out local producers.

Chinese authorities are also considering an investigation into whether Australian wine exports are unfairly benefiting from government subsidies.

“We are taking it seriously but we completely reject any suggestion that Australian wine is subsidised,” Morrison told Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday.

“We completely reject any suggestion that there is dumping of Australian wine in China.”

The Chinese market accounts for almost 40 per cent of Australian wine exports and was worth about $1.2 billion last financial year.

South Australia produces about half of Australia’s total wine production.

The trade strike is the latest in a series of blows from Beijing as diplomatic relations continue to sour.

The relationship has been heavily strained by disputes over coronavirus, territorial claims in the South China Sea, Beijing’s security crackdown on Hong Kong and the decision to ban Huawei from Australia’s 5G network.

China recently imposed tariffs on Australian barley, suspended some beef imports and warned students and tourists against visiting.

Chinese state media has previously warned Australian wine could be targeted in the rolling diplomatic row.

The anti-dumping investigation is expected to run for a year.

WA and Tasmania extend restrictions

Western Australia has postponed phase five restrictions for another two months and Tasmania will keep its border closed until at least December in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The WA government has also cancelled the annual Perth Royal Show, which had been due to start on September 26, with half a million people typically attending the week-long event.

Premier Mark McGowan said he had received advice it would be too risky to stage the show given the inability to track and trace attendees and the difficulty associated with keeping surfaces clean.

“I hated doing this. It’s sad because the royal show is such a great event. I was looking forward to taking my own children,” he said yesterday.

Phase five restrictions are now due to come into place on October 24 – the same date earmarked for the AFL grand final.

Under phase five, crowds at Optus Stadium will be allowed to double to 60,000 and the two square metre rule will be removed, although the state’s hard border arrangements will remain in place.

One new case was recorded in WA overnight with a woman in her 20s testing positive after returning from overseas.

The state has five active cases, all in hotel quarantine.

Meanwhile, Tasmania’s borders will stay closed until at least December because of the considerable risk posed by the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

Premier Peter Gutweins said it would allow time for the situation in mainland states to be brought under control.

“At the moment the risk posed to Tasmania by the situation in Victoria is considerable,” he told state parliament yesterday.

“We must avoid a situation like Victoria or NSW, as we would have to impose serious restrictions once again.”

The island state has just one active coronavirus case, a man in hospital who returned from Melbourne after receiving medical treatment earlier in August.

Gutwein said there was “an intent” to open to virus-safe states and territories on December 1, but the situation would be reviewed regularly.

Tasmania closed its borders in late March and has recorded 228 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths in total.

Sydney quarantine guard tests positive

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A security guard at a Sydney quarantine hotel has tested positive to coronavirus, but health authorities are playing down the likelihood a Victorian-style breach of the program.

Genome sequencing has linked the guard’s infection to a returned traveller who was in quarantine at the Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay and tested positive on August 2.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said the guard worked at Sydney’s Flemington Markets and Parramatta Local Court while infectious.

The guard also worked at the Marriott on August 3, 4, 7 and 8 but was not infectious at the time and developed symptoms on August 11.

“The exact nature of how that infection could have been acquired is a matter that’s under intense investigation,” Dr Chant said on Tuesday.

It comes as the inquiry into Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine program heard 99 per cent of the state’s current COVID-19 cases can be traced back to the Rydges or Stamford hotels.

At the time of the Rydges outbreak, there were few other cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and just 19 people had died from the virus.

Melbourne is now living under tough stage four lockdown restrictions and the state’s death toll is 351, with 7274 cases active.

But Chant said what has occurred in NSW was not a breach and the strain identified in the guard was different from the Crossroads Hotel cluster and other outbreaks in Sydney linked to Melbourne.

“We haven’t had evidence to date of other cases but, let me tell you we’re not going to leave any rock unturned in terms of our search for confirming there are no further cases linked to (this) single case.”

US postal service suspends changes

The head of the US Postal Service says he is suspending delay-causing policy changes following an outcry against the measures amid fears they could affect the November presidential election.

“There are some longstanding operational initiatives – efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service – that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”

Post office hours will not change, mail processing equipment and collection boxes will not be moved, no mail processing facilities will be closed and overtime will not be eliminated, DeJoy said.

Democrats and other critics had accused him of slowing mail delivery to support US President Donald Trump’s efforts to hamper the expansion of mail-in voting as he trails his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls.

 – with AAP and Reuters

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