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What we know today, Tuesday August 25

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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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Border buffer eases pressure on SA communities

The state government will reintroduce a 40km buffer zone for people living either side of the Victorian border from Friday amid community pressure and falling COVID-19 cases.

The changes will allow people in those close border communities to move in and out of SA more freely.

The buffer zone was dropped last week, closing SA off to everyone except essential travellers coming from Victoria.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the change was the result of a fall in the number of virus cases in regional areas close to SA and the provision of detailed information about those cases, including their source and the high level of testing.

“I’m very confident it will be safe to go back to having that 40km buffer zone,” Professor Spurrier said.

“That does make life easier for a large number of people.”

Premier Steven Marshall also flagged dropping border restrictions for people from NSW and the ACT and said officials were looking carefully at the need for people to quarantine for two weeks if they entered SA from those jurisdictions.

He said while there would be no immediate announcement, the border measures could be lifted in September.

Other restrictions changes announced today include a lifting of the home gathering cap from 10 to 50 people, which will come into force from Friday.

People travelling into South Australia from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland will also be allowed to make a transit stop at Canberra or Sydney Airports without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

Pressure had mounted on the state government ahead of today’s SA Transition Committee meeting.

Almost 30 groups signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders warning the piecemeal border closures were impacting families, destroying jobs and crippling the economic recovery.

State and federal MPs representing electorates on either side of the border also last week penned a letter to SA Police Commissioner – and state emergency co-ordinator – Grant Stevens urging a more collaborative approach to border closures.

Since the tighter border measures came into effect last Friday, Victoria has announced a further decline in new COVID-19 cases with yesterday’s number of 116 the lowest in more than seven weeks.

There were no new cases reported in SA today.

Adelaide Oval AFL finals bid to be submitted tomorrow

South Australia is set to present its bid for Adelaide to host AFL finals matches and the grand final to league officials.

Premier Steven Marshall’s proposal will go to the AFL on Wednesday and he will speak personally to officials on Thursday.

“The proposal that we will put will be competitive,” Marshall said this morning.

But the premier said SA’s primary concern would always be maintaining its excellent performance in relation to reducing coronavirus numbers and keeping South Australians safe.

SA is thought to be bidding against Western Australia and Brisbane to host key finals matches.

Queensland has long been the frontrunner to host the October 24 grand final after volunteering to host player hubs in the opening weeks of the season re-start in May.

Western Australia is also in the running to host the premiership decider at its 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium.

SA was initially slow to welcome interstate teams to Adelaide Oval but will now host at least one match every round until the end of the regular season, including some fixtures not involving any locally-based teams.

Port Adelaide’s sits atop the AFL ladder and is in the box seat to stage at least some games at Adelaide Oval.

SA pandemic leave payments kick in

Paid pandemic leave offering ‘isolation’ payments of up to $1500 for workers who are required to quarantine or care for someone required to quarantine have been introduced in South Australia.

Under the state government scheme, a separate upfront ‘testing’ payment of $300 will be available for eligible workers in an identified COVID-19 cluster, who are required to self-isolate while awaiting a coronavirus test result or as a result of a public health directive.

The $300 payment will also be available for someone who is caring for a person who meets the eligibility criteria, as listed above.

The South Australian scheme is available to recipients aged 17 or over who can demonstrate they would have otherwise been at work and had no or insufficient paid leave entitlements. It will be backdated to yesterday but is not available to people who are required to quarantine for 14 days (or more) due to returning from overseas or interstate.

“Lack of leave entitlements for workers, particularly casual workers, is considered a significant risk factor in not complying with isolation requirements,” Health Minister Stephen Wade said.

“We’ve seen, interstate, the serious consequences of individuals who have continued to work while showing symptoms of COVID-19 or awaiting test results.

“It’s expected this scheme will further protect those in our community most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly those in residential aged care or supported disability accommodation, who are often supported by a highly-casualised workforce.”

Similar schemes are also in place in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

Names suppressed in double-murder case

Details about the alleged murder of two teenagers in the state’s South East have been suppressed by a South Australian court.

A man, 46, charged with the shooting murders of his son and his son’s girlfriend appeared in Mt Gambier Magistrates Court yesterday.

An interim suppression order was imposed on his identity and on the identities of a number of other people.

It will remain in place for at least 72 hours.

The court appearance came after a 19-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman were found dead from apparent gunshot wounds at a Mount McIntyre property near Millicent on Saturday night.

Police were called to the property where they arrested the older man without incident.

Speaking to reporters at the scene, Detective Inspector Campbell Hill described the deaths as a “shocking incident to occur in the South East”.

“It’s a tragic event and the impacts of this will not only be felt for the particular families involved, and the associates and the relatives, but also for the southeastern community,” Inspector Hill said.

Mobile speed camera fines surge by $7 million

The number of motorists caught by mobile speed cameras surged 17 per cent last financial year to $37 million, latest figures obtained by RAA show.

The total number of fines generated by mobile cameras jumped from 81,883 in 2018/19 to 96,163 last financial year, new police figures show.

The value of revenue generated also surged, from almost $30m to more than $37m in the same period.

RAA Senior Manager Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain said the majority of motorists caught by mobile speed cameras were on streets with a 50km/h limit.

He said sufficient signage of speed limit changes should be displayed to help motorists avoid being caught speeding unintentionally.

“Mobile speed camera locations are typically based on reports of speeding vehicles and many of these often occur on 50km/h streets,’’ Mountain said.

The top five hot spots for mobile speed camera fines were:

Location                                                                    Speed limit                    Fines

Main South Road, Old Noarlunga                       60km/h                      2307

Martins Road, Salisbury Downs                          50km/h                      1856

South Terrance, Adelaide                                    50km/h                      1505

Military Road, West Beach                                   50km/h                      1411

Walkerville Terrace, Gilberton                            50km/h                      1339

Vic records 148 new cases as storm brews over state of emergency extension

Victoria has recorded 148 new cases of coronavirus and eight more deaths, taking the state’s death toll to 438 and the national figure to 525.

The figures come as a political stoush brews over a proposed 12-month extension to Victoria’s state of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As new virus cases hit their lowest point in seven weeks on Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews flagged plans to rewrite the Public Health and Wellbeing Act to allow a state of emergency to last for up to 18 months.

At present, the declaration can only run for six months and is due to expire on September 13 along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules.

Andrews said his government would no longer be able to dictate guidelines on mandatory mask use, isolation rules and business density limits without an extension.

“We’ve got to protect public health, there can be no economic rebuilding until we fix this problem,” he told reporters.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the state coalition would vehemently oppose a long-term extension which would allow the premier to unilaterally keep Victoria locked down.

It means the Labor government will have to win the support of four upper-house crossbenchers to pass it into law if and when parliament next sits.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Liberal Democrats MPs David Limbrick and Tim Quilty have all indicated they will block the current proposal.

“An extra 12 months in a state of emergency is an overreach,” Patten said.

“These powers should not go unchecked. The government should rework their proposal and come back to the crossbench with a three or six-month extension.”

The backlash prompted Andrews to take to Twitter overnight to tell Victorians the proposal was about keeping people safe and does not mean the current lockdown will be extended.

“Extending the State of Emergency is about ensuring that we can legally make the changes our health experts need to keep us safe,” he said.

“This does not change how long our current lockdown will last, or increase the restrictions we face.”

Gunner seals victory in NT poll

Labor has claimed victory in the Northern Territory election with the latest result count confirming the party will hold at least 13 seats in the 25-member assembly.

Michael Gunner said he did not see victory “as a reward, but as a renewal of our responsibilities to Territorians”.

CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro said late yesterday it was now clear Labor had enough seats to form government.

The most recent figures from the Northern Territory Electoral Commission show Labor ahead in 16 seats, with the Country Liberals leading in six, independents in two and the Territory Alliance in one.

A formal declaration of the poll is not scheduled until September 7, as postal votes are still coming in.

Alliance leader Terry Mills was the biggest casualty of the election, losing his seat of Blain.

Trump issues ‘rigged election’ warning

Republicans in the United States have formally backed President Donald Trump for a second term as Trumped again warned without evidence that he could face a “rigged election” in November.

Trump repeated his claim that voting by mail, a longstanding feature of American elections that is expected to be far more common during the coronavirus pandemic, could lead to an increase in fraud.

Independent election security experts say voter fraud is quite rare in the United States.

Trump spoke in an unscheduled appearance on the first day of the sharply scaled-back Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, after he received enough votes to formally win the nomination to take on his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the November 3 election.

“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said.

“We’re going to win this election.”

Party members are meeting amid a pandemic that has killed more than 176,000 Americans, erased millions of jobs and eroded the president’s standing among voters.

As he has done repeatedly, Trump described states’ responses to infections of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in starkly partisan terms, casting lockdowns and other steps recommended by public health officials as attempts to influence voting in November.

“What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election,” Trump said.

“They’re using COVID to defraud the American people – all of our people – of a fair and free election.”

Democrat Joe Biden, 77, is leading Trump, 74, in opinion polls.

Biden and his fellow Democrats portrayed Trump as a force for darkness, chaos and incompetence during their convention, while stressing the Democrats’ diversity and values like “empathy” and “unity.”

World-first COVID-19 re-infection

A Hong Kong man has contracted COVID-19 for a second time, four-and-a-half months after his initial illness in the first documented instance of human re-infection.

The findings indicate the disease, which has killed more than 800,000 people worldwide, may continue to spread amongst the global population despite herd immunity.

The 33-year-old male was cleared of COVID-19 and discharged from a hospital in April, but tested positive again after returning from Spain via Britain on August 15.

The patient had appeared to be previously healthy, researchers said in the paper, which was accepted by the international medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

He was found to have contracted a different coronavirus strain from the one he had previously contracted and remained asymptomatic for the second infection.

“The finding does not mean taking vaccines will be useless,” Dr Kai-Wang To, one of the leading authors of the paper said.

“Immunity induced by vaccination can be different from those induced by natural infection,” To said. ” will need to wait for the results of the vaccine trials to see if how effective vaccines are.”

World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said there was no need to jump to any conclusions in response to the Hong Kong case.

Instances of people discharged from hospitals and testing positive again for COVID-19 infection have been reported in mainland China.

However, in those cases it was not clear whether they had contracted the virus again after full recovery – as happened to the Hong Kong patient – or still had the virus in their body from the initial infection.

 – with AAP and Reuters

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