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What we know today, Thursday September 3

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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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Haigh’s recalls Father’s Day chocolates

Iconic Adelaide chocolate maker Haigh’s has recalled a batch of Father’s Day chocolates as a result of undeclared hazelnuts detected in the product.

The recall is for 250g boxes of Milk Chocolate with a best before date of 17 Jan 2021 and the batch code 2107422.

This product is sold at Haigh’s Chocolates online and in retail outlets in South Australia, New South Wales and Canberra.

No other Haigh’s Chocolate products are affected by the recall.

Anyone who has purchased the affected product should check the “best before” date and return it for a full refund or call 08 8372 7035 for more information.

Health Department’s Acting Director of Food and Controlled Drugs Branch Joanne Cammans said the batch of chocolates made specifically for Father’s Day contain unmarked nut allergens due to chocolate hazelnuts being packaged as Milk Chocolate Maltichocs which could cause harm.

“Severe reactions to nut allergens can cause anaphylaxis, which in some situations can be life threatening,” she said.

“As a precaution, we are asking people not to consume this product and to return it for a full refund.

“Haigh’s is proactively working with SA Health and Food Standards Australia-New Zealand to remove the affected products from shelves and notify consumers.”

Eagles eye Adelaide Oval as potential AFL finals home

Adelaide Oval could host additional finals matches this season as West Coast considers asking the AFL to play ‘home’ finals in South Australia if circumstances don’t allow the matches to be hosted in Perth.

Western Australia’s tight border restrictions have all but ruled out the Eagles’ chances of hosting a final at Optus Stadium after week one, with teams required to serve a seven-day hard quarantine on arrival in Perth before playing matches.

Most finals in 2020 will be played at Brisbane’s Gabba, including the grand final.

However, ladder-leaders Port Adelaide will be allowed to play lead-up finals at Adelaide Oval because clubs can travel freely between Queensland and South Australia.

West Coast football manager Craig Vozzo said the club would look at playing home finals at Adelaide Oval, especially if they are drawn as the home team against Brisbane.

The Eagles have an 80 per cent winning record at Adelaide Oval, with just two losses in 10 visits over six seasons.

It includes the famous 2017 elimination final victory against Port Adelaide, sealed by Luke Shuey’s after-the-siren goal in extra-time.

“If that’s permissible from an AFL perspective, we would,” Vozzo told TAB Radio this morning.

“We’ve enjoyed, over the years, playing at Adelaide Oval.

“Our players really like the environment there and have done quite well over the journey, so it’s certainly something in those scenarios that we’d consider.”

West Coast is currently fifth on the congested upper-reaches of the AFL ladder, only one win below top-ranked Port Adelaide.

The AFL finals series will run over four weeks from the first weekend in October, culminating in a night grand final at Brisbane’s Gabba on October 24.

Victorian COVID-19 cases spike

Victoria has suffered a spike in coronavirus deaths and cases, with the latest 15 fatalities taking the state toll to 591 and the Australian figure to 678.

There are also 113 new cases, the first time since Sunday that the daily tally has been above 100.

The numbers released this morning come after the state government warned a purported draft of Victoria’s plan to exit its coronavirus lockdown this month was out of date.

The document, leaked to and published by the Herald Sun, indicated metropolitan Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown would be extended by a fortnight to September 28.

It outlined a range of small concessions that could be made for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria when Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announces a pathway out of the state-wide lockdown.

“This is an out of date draft document,” a state government spokesperson said.

“We know every Victorian wants certainty about the future – for them, for their family and for their work.

“By the end of the week, we will lay out a plan to re-open our state.”

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is one of the business and industry groups still negotiating with the state government on the easing of the stage-four lockdown in Melbourne and the stage-three measures in regional Victoria.

VECCI chief executive Paul Guerra said his group knew nothing about the contents to the leaked document.

“Nothing like it – in fact my phone blew up this morning with text messages (from) many aggrieved people,” he told 3AW.

“I’m happy to say I have never seen that template beforehand and it’s certainly not the template we have been working with, in conjunction with unions and other industry leaders and the state.”

Federal Treasurer and Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg on Thursday played down the leak, saying “I will wait for the final plan from the premier on Sunday”.

On Wednesday, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the need for mandatory mask-wearing could remain in Melbourne and regional Victoria beyond the scheduled end of the current lockdown on September 13.

Fugitive pair arrested in outback

An extensive air and ground search in South Australia’s remote Far North has led to the arrest of wanted Queensland man Alex Blake and his girlfriend by STAR force officers.

The couple was arrested without incident at a remote property near Beltana just after midnight following an extensive ground and air search of the far north region of South Australia involving country patrols, and the police helicopter.

They were located in a stolen Toyota Hilux Utility which was found at a property south east of Leigh Creek and east of Beltana in the northern Flinders Ranges.

The arrest ends a two-day manhunt, which began on Monday afternoon when the pair illegally crossed into South Australia in a white Toyota Hilux ute that was stolen from a Queensland address on Sunday.

Following reported sightings earlier in the week in Innamincka and Hawker, police received reports of the Toyota Hilux utility travelling south along Belton Road at Carrieton just after 1pm yesterday.

Numerous patrols made their way to the area along with a police aircraft.

Police then spotted the utility travelling north along R M Williams Way near Craddock around 3.45pm before it turned right onto Flinders Ranges Way.

Patrols followed the utility at a distance as it headed through Hawker and towards Parachilna along the Outback Highway.

The police aircraft followed the utility from the air as it continued along the Outback Highway towards Leigh Creek where it turned onto Old Beltana Road and headed north before turning onto Warraweena Station.  The vehicle then stopped in scrub.

The 28-year-old man and the 30-year-old  both from Queensland have been taken to Port Augusta Police Station where they will be interviewed and charged with, border breach, acts to endanger life, driving to evade police and petrol thefts. They will appear later today before the Port Augusta Magistrates Court.

Queensland Police are likely to extradite the man back to Queensland once the SA charges have been dealt with.

Virus-free SA looks to next stage of restriction easing

South Australia’s transition committee will be under pressure to outline a plan for further easing of COVID-19 restrictions when it meets tomorrow after the state was declared virus-free.

The state cleared its last active coronavirus case yesterday, taking its run without a new infection to 10 days.

The last case to be resolved was that of a local nurse who had volunteered to travel to Victoria to work in that state’s aged care sector.

She had been diagnosed on August 23 and went into quarantine despite showing no symptoms of the virus as the time.

Still considered an active infection on Tuesday, Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday afternoon the “brave” woman was now clear of the disease.

But Marshall said the state could still not afford to become complacent.

SA enjoyed a five-week run from May 26 to June 29 with no new cases, only to have a cluster of new infections pop up at an adult learning college.

Tasmania also was declared COVID-19 free yesterday as new daily cases in Victoria remain under 100.

Victoria recorded 90 new cases and six deaths yesterday.

NSW recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday from almost 30,000 tests and two new cases were yesterday reported in Queensland.

Trade surplus halved as exports slump

Australian exports fell sharply in July after being one of the rare bright spots during the economy’s crash during the June quarter that confirmed the nation’s first recession since the early 1990s.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released today showed the international trade balance of goods and services surplus almost halved in July to $4.6 billion from $8.1 billion in June.

This was the result of a four per cent fall in exports in the month compared to a seven per cent surge in imports.

New construction data also showed the industry remains in deep decline, not helped by the harsh COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

The Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association performance of construction index fell 4.8 points to 37.9, well below the 50-mark that separates contraction in the sector from expansion.

“The sharp fall in activity in Victoria was a major factor in the downturn while border restrictions in other states have hampered builders and constructors who are reliant on interstate supplies and the availability of tradies from across borders,” Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said.

The figures come hot on the heels of Wednesday national accounts which showed the economy shrank by seven per cent in the June quarter, the biggest contraction since the late 1990s.

The data showed a massive drop in consumer spending and in business and building investment, and could have been a lot worse if not for a solid contribution from exports in the quarter.

Adelaide University climbs rankings in tough times

The University of Adelaide has maintained its position as South Australia’s leading university in the latest world university rankings released overnight.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2021 has seen the university improve its position by two places to be now ranked 118th in the world, up from 120 last year.

Flinders University maintained its position listed in the 251-300 bracket while UniSA slumped to the 300-350 bracket from its position in the high 200s in the 2020 rankings.

The top 12 unis were all in the UK or US with Oxford University in England claiming the top spot.

University of Melbourne was the highest-ranked Australian university at No. 31.

University of Sydney (51), Australian National University (59), The University of Queensland (62), Monash University (64) and UNSW Sydney (67) also appeared in the top 100.

Rankings aside, it has been a tough year for the University of Adelaide, which has lost its Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen following a three-month investigation into allegations of improper conduct. Chancellor Kevin Scarce also resigned when the scandal broke in April.

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Brooks said the global ranking was positive news for South Australia at a challenging time for higher education globally.

“There is no doubt this has been a tough year for the higher education sector, but also specifically for the University of Adelaide and for our wider community,” he said.

“But this latest ranking demonstrates that we are held in high regard nationally and internationally.”

The University of Adelaide was listed as having 21,054 students with 30.7 per cent coming from overseas.

Flinders University had 17,167 enrolments with 25.4 per cent international students while 20 per cent of UniSA’s 20,930 students were from overseas.

Qld premier rejects Grand Final virus spread claims

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has rejected claims the AFL grand final could lead to a further spread of COVID-19 in the southeast of the state.

Brisbane’s Gabba was awarded hosting rights on Wednesday for the showpiece event on October 24 over Perth’s Optus Stadium and the Adelaide Oval.

Adelaide Oval has been placed on standby to host the grand final, should a COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland impact the planned Gabba game.

Palaszczuk shrugged off suggestions the Brisbane Cricket Ground would be packed with spectators causing a “significant spread” of the virus through the community.

“It’s contained,” she said, referring to two recent clusters linked to various Queensland Corrective Services facilities in southwest Brisbane.

The premier said the AFL’s decision to award the hosting rights to Brisbane was an endorsement of her government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

“This is a historic day – it’s a historic day for the AFL, it’s a historic day for Queensland,” she said

A crowd of 30,000 is expected to attend the grand final, which will also be played as a night match for the first time.

European infection wave approaches March heights

Coronavirus cases in Europe are back to levels recorded in March when the outbreak began its peak phase there, the head of the European Union’s public health agency says.

New infections are also continuing to rise in India and South Korea.

“The virus has not been sleeping over the (northern) summer. It did not take vacation,” Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

“We are almost back to numbers that we have seen in March.”

Ammon said this week’s data showed that across Europe there were 46 cases per 100,000 people.

The increase in cases was due in part to more testing, she said.

Infections in March in Europe began growing steadily to about 40 per 100,000 people at the end of the month, according to ECDC data, and kept increasing to about 70 per 100,000 by the end of April.

Ammon said new cases also concern largely younger people, a new pattern that had resulted in stable hospitalisation numbers as the illness is more serious for older people who were hit hard in March and April.

However, Ammon said hospitalisations were now growing again, signalling spikes in cases also among the elderly.

The data – which concern the 27 EU countries as well as Britain, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – varied greatly between states from 2 to 176 per 100,000 people.

Daily new COVID-19 infections in France have neared an all-time high and the number of people hospitalised in intensive care units with the disease has grown at its fastest pace in almost two months.

There were 7017 new confirmed coronavirus cases in France on Wednesday, just below the March 31 peak of 7578 and only the third time since the beginning of the outbreak that the daily tally has stood above 7000.

Meanwhile, India on Wednesday reported 78,357 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s tally to more than 3.7 million reported cases since the pandemic began.

The climb comes as the government eases pandemic restrictions to help the battered economy.

The health ministry on Wednesday reported 1045 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 66,333.

India has been reporting the most new daily cases in the world for more than three weeks.

It has also increased its testing capacity – to nearly 100,000 per day – but experts say it is not enough.

South Korea has recorded a triple-digit jump in reported coronavirus infections for the 20th straight day, prompting authorities to impose tough distancing rules.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday the 267 new cases took the country’s tally since the pandemic began to 20,449 reported infections with 326 deaths.

Globally, more than 25.85 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 857,201​ have died.

Former Italian PM Berlusconi has coronavirus

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently in isolation at home, his staff say.

Berlusconi, 83, will continue working from his house in Arcore, near Milan, the statement said, and will contribute to the electoral campaigns of candidates from his Forza Italia party at local elections scheduled for September.

The three-time PM and media tycoon had been recently pictured with an old friend, businessman Flavio Briatore, who was hospitalised after testing positive to COVID-19 last month.

Berlusconi had tested negative at the time.

– with AAP and Reuters

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