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What we know today, Monday August 31


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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Record 41 daily COVID-19 deaths in Victoria

Victoria has reported a record 41 coronavirus deaths while new case numbers have dropped to 73.

The fatalities take the state’s death toll to 565 and the national figure to 652.

The previous highest daily toll was 25 on August 17.

But Monday’s figure included 22 people who died before August 27 and were reported by aged care facilities on Sunday to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Victoria’s Police Association has this morning called for state of emergency powers to be extended.

It comes as negotiations continue between the state government and crossbenchers over what should happen when the current state of emergency provisions expire on September 13.

A week ago, Premier Daniel Andrews sparked controversy when he announced that the government wanted to extend the powers by 12 months to help deal with the coronavirus.

With the opposition immediately saying it would not support the proposal, the government was forced into negotiations with crossbenchers.

There has been talk of a compromise, with the extension reduced to six months, but there is no confirmation ahead of parliament returning on Tuesday.

Now the police association, a powerful lobby group, has released a statement on the issue.

“With 13 days to run on this current state of emergency, it is essential that parliament moves to maintain the framework that provides police and PSOs (public safety officers) with the capacity to help Victoria safely come out of lockdown,” it said.

“There can be no adequate plan for a return to some normality, if the framework designed to ensure it’s done safely and incrementally, is removed.

“This issue is above politics. The safety of our community and our members in this precarious time is too important.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said on Monday morning it was difficult to see Melbourne coming out of its stage-four restrictions on September 13, given the current numbers.

New cases dropped to 94 on Saturday but were back to 114 on Sunday before Monday’s drop to 73.

Metropolitan Melbourne is subject to another fortnight of strict stage four restrictions, including an 8pm to 5am curfew and a ban on travelling beyond a five-kilometre radius of home.

Regional Victoria is under slightly less strict stage three restrictions.

Infection-free streak at seven-week high

South Australia has extended its number of days without a new COVID-19 case to eight, the state’s longest infection-free streak since early July.

There is only one active case in South Australia.

A returned traveller tested positive to COVID-19 on the weekend but South Australian authorities aren’t counting it as a new infection.

SA Health confirmed yesterday that a man in his 20s had returned a positive test while in hotel quarantine.

The young man was a confirmed case overseas but was cleared and not considered infectious when he flew back.

As such, SA Health has classified the result as an “old infection” meaning it doesn’t count as a new case.

It extends South Australia’s streak of coronavirus-free days to seven after last Sunday when a nurse who worked to help stem Victoria’s COVID-19 second wave returned to Adelaide.

Earlier this year, South Australia went more than a month without new cases and has only reported 35 since April 11.

The state’s total since the start of the pandemic remains on 463 with more than 377,500 tests taken over that period.

Communities near the SA-Victorian border have spent the weekend crossing between the two states after rules were relaxed on Friday.

People living or working 40 kilometres each side of the border are now allowed to come and go on the condition they subscribe to regular COVID-19 testing.

NZ emerges from virus lockdown

Aucklanders have regained their freedom after a 19-day COVID-19 lockdown, returning to streets, workplaces and schools.

And many have used the easing of restrictions to promptly get out of the city, with Auckland airport packed with departing residents.

Jacinda Ardern’s government moved the city of 1.6 million people from ‘level three’ settings to ‘level two’ at midnight last night, which removed barriers on inter-regional travel.

That prompted Air New Zealand to return many regular flights to their travel network, which Aucklanders jumped at, judging by photos on social media of the full-to-the-brim domestic terminal.

For the first time in the pandemic, masks will now be compulsory in New Zealand for public transport.

Ardern has shifted the city out of lockdown despite a tail of cases still being reported there.

On Saturday, there were 11 community cases, on Sunday there were two, and on Monday there were five.

Back in May, Ardern moved the country from level three to level two after a week of case numbers lower than four each day – making the move somewhat at odds with previous decision-making.

Carbon emissions hit 21st Century low

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped lower Australia’s carbon emissions to pre-2000 levels.

The March quarterly update of the nation’s greenhouse gas inventory, published today, indicates preliminary emissions fell as low as 518 million tonnes for the year to June.

That’s the nation’s lowest level of emissions observed since 1998, but the figure will need to be confirmed in a final report due for release later this year.

According to preliminary data, the nation’s carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) in the June quarter was about 10 million tonnes or eight per cent lower than the same quarter last year.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said coronavirus restrictions on livelihoods and freedom of travel had substantially reduced emissions.

“With the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions being felt across the economy, emissions have reduced as expected,” Taylor said.

With state and international borders shut to tourists, transport sector emissions fell dramatically with major reductions in jet fuel (79 per cent) and petrol (26.7) consumption.

Overall, liquid fuel emissions were 17.9 per cent lower compared to the 2019 June quarter.

Before the pandemic hit Australia in March, the report estimated emissions fell 1.4 per cent to 528.7 million tonnes over the year to that month after annual decreases from the electricity (4.2 per cent), transport (0.4) and agriculture (5.5) sectors.

It means Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are 14.3 per cent below what levels were in mid-2005, the baseline for its 2030 Paris Agreement target.

Aged care under fire in Canberra

The Morrison government can expect to again feel the heat from opposition parties over its handling of the aged-care sector during the pandemic when Federal Parliament resumes today.

Victoria reported a further 11 deaths linked to COVID-19 on Sunday, nine of which were people in aged care homes, bringing the total in such facilities to 382.

The national death toll now stands at 611.

At the same time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to continue to lead the attack on fellow Victorian, Premier Daniel Andrews, over his handling of the second-wave outbreak.

He told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program there has been a “litany of failures” by the Victorian government,

But the premier hit back, saying “the strategy is working”.

Victoria reported 114 new cases on Sunday after reporting 94 infections the day before, the first time below 100 since July 5.

NSW saw a COVID-19 cluster at a CBD gym swell to 28, while Queensland reported another four infections linked to a correctional services training academy in the state’s southeast.

Federal politicians will need to pass legislation to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the enhanced JobSeeker dole payment this week – two key planks of the Morrison government’s response to the pandemic.

Both existing schemes are due to end in September and the federal parliament won’t sit again until the October 6 budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will this week reveal the pandemic’s hit to the economy. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Victoria dragging national economy down

Restrictions imposed by the Victorian government to contain a second wave COVID-19 outbreak is having a devastating impact on the national economy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned.

Treasury analysis shows this is most notable when it comes to unemployment and household spending.

It shows the number of Victorians on unemployment benefits has significantly increased with the impost of stage four restrictions, while numbers in other states have declined.

And Treasury expects more Victorians will be accessing the JobKeeper wage subsidy in the December and March quarters than every other state combined.

At the same time, household spending in Victoria is down more than 30 per cent while the rest of Australia is only down around three per cent.

Frydenberg, himself a Victorian who has condemned Premier Daniel Andrews’ handling of a second wave virus outbreak, said the accommodation and hospitality sector had borne the brunt of the restrictions.

Spending on dining and takeaway is down more than 60 per cent and in the accommodation sector more than 80 per cent.

“Restrictions imposed by the Victorian government have had a devastating impact on the economy,” Frydenberg said.

“As we have seen in other states, if you can successfully suppress the virus, jobs will return.”

The economic performance of the whole Australian economy will be detailed when the June quarter national accounts are released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.

Economists’ forecasts centre on a 6.0 per cent contraction in output during the June quarter – which would be the biggest quarterly decline since the ABS started collating the data in the late 1950s.

This would follow a 0.3 per cent decline in the March quarter.

If the June quarter number is a contraction, as expected, this will confirm Australia in a technical recession which is measured by two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

It will be Australia’s first recession in nearly 30 years.

Belarus protestors demand leader to quit

Tens of thousands of people in Belarus have flooded into the streets demanding the resignation of the country’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who on the same day marked his 66th birthday.

Security forces were present in large numbers in the capital Minsk on Sunday, where the main Independence Square had been cordoned off with metal barriers.

But that did not stop the demonstrators from trying to move in, leading to confrontations with police.

Uniformed men tried to push back the people with off-road vehicles that had high metal grilles attached on the front bumper.

Pictures showed women lying down in front of them in the street.

The Interior Ministry said more than 150 people had been arrested by the afternoon.

Earlier, officials had warned that the demonstration had not been authorised and threatened violence.

The pro-democracy movement ignored the threats and said that as Lukashenko celebrated his 66th birthday, he should see that the people were against him after ruling for 26 years.

The motto of the protest march was “For Peace and Independence.”

On the last two Sundays, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Belarus to protest “Europe’s last dictator,” as they dub Lukashenko.

In the past few days, other demonstrations were disbanded and people arrested, indicating the power apparatus might not permit a fresh mass demonstration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also expressly promised Lukashenko support from his country’s security forces in what is seen as a ploy to intimidate the protest movement in the ex-Soviet republic.

A face-to-face meeting between Lukashenko and Putin is planned in Moscow in the coming weeks, the Kremlin announced on Sunday.

Virus cases top 25 million

Global coronavirus cases have surged past 25 million, according to a Reuters tally, revealing steady growth in the pandemic as its epicentre shifts again.

India has reported a total of 3.46 million cases during the pandemic, a tally that places them behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total caseload.

However, the south Asian country has reported higher single-day case rises than both those countries for almost two weeks.

India’s death toll rose on Saturday by 1021 to 62,550, data from the federal health ministry showed, even as local media reported that some nationwide restrictions on travel could be eased from next week.

Around the world, there have been more than 840,000 deaths, considered a lagging indicator given the two-week incubation period of the virus.

Sydney wins record fifth A-League title

Sydney FC has become the first team to win five A-League championships, defeating Melbourne City 1-0 in the grand final last night.

Socceroo defender Rhyan Grant chested home Luke Brattan’s perfectly-weighted chip in the 100th minute to secure the Sky Blues back-to-back grand final wins and deny a gutsy City a maiden A-League title.

Grant also received the Joe Marston Medal as player of the match.

“Going back-to-back and becoming the most successful club in Australian history at the moment, with five championships is great,” Sydney coach Steve Corica said.

“There was never any doubt about our belief with what we can do.”

The game went to extra time with scores locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes.

It was also marked by two controversial decisions, with City’s Harrison Delbridge’s 18th-minute goal ruled out following a VAR review and Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre denied a penalty in the 28th.

French hero claims Tour’s second stage

Local hero Julian Alaphilippe has timed a final burst of acceleration to perfection to win stage two of the Tour de France in Nice and claim the leader’s yellow jersey.

The Frenchman kissed his finger and raised it to the sky as he crossed the line, a tribute to his father who died in June.

“I promised myself that I’d win for him,” Alaphilippe said after outsprinting Marc Hirschi and Adam Yates, who completed the podium.

“I hadn’t won a single race this year yet. But I’ve always remained serious with my training despite the difficult moments I went through.”

The stage win, his fifth in four Tours, will anchor his status as a darling of French cycling fans, conquered by his thrilling riding at last year’s edition, when he held the race lead for 14 days.

He is now back in yellow, thanks to time bonuses picked up for winning the stage and on the final climb of the arduous day of riding through mountains north of Nice.

And while Alaphilippe is playing down any hope of winning the overall title in Paris in three weeks, he intends to cling onto the coveted jersey for as long as he can.

“The yellow jersey has to be respected,” he said. “I will defend it with honour.”

– with AAP and Reuters

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