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What we know today, Friday September 4


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 restrictions ease for weddings, football crowds

Numbers allowed at weddings, funerals and football matches in South Australia will increase from midnight as restrictions begin to ease.

Crowd numbers for AFL matches at Adelaide Oval will increase to 15,000 for the Adelaide Crows match against GWS on Tuesday with a view to lifting the maximum to 25,000 after that if the 15,000 capacity goes well.

The number of attendees at weddings and funerals from tomorrow will increase from 100-150 but they must be seated. Dancing – aside from one dance between the bride and groom – is still not allowed.

People will be able to also eat and drink at the bar in pubs as long as they are seated and there is no food preparation in the immediate area.

Following a meeting of the state’s transition committee this morning, Premier Steven Marshall said previous advice recommending people work from home where possible had now been wound back.

“You should go back to work provided the company you work for has a business continuity plan in place,” he said.

“We’re removing that advice to people that we wanted them to work from home but we are moving it back progressively.”

The premier said the state government would also look to gradually increase the number of returning residents it is taking into quarantine hotels up to its maximum capacity of 500.

SA still has a hard border closure with Victoria because of the second wave of cases there.

But it also has quarantine restrictions in place for people coming from NSW and the ACT.

Marshall said lifting border restrictions with NSW and the ACT would not be likely to happen until those jurisdictions had a minimum of 14 days with no community virus transmissions.

“It could happen in the next two weeks but we have to be guided by what happens with those numbers,” Marshall said.

“This is a balancing act and it is a very difficult balancing act between health and economy.”

South Australia has not had any new coronavirus cases for 11 days and has been totally clear of the virus since Wednesday.

All but WA agree to open borders by Christmas

All states and territories except Western Australia will aim to lift their hard border closures by Christmas.

Most jurisdictions have also signed onto an agricultural code to allow seasonal workers to cross state lines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is changing the rules governing national cabinet after failing to secure consensus on easing restrictions.

“Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

“But it is important the bus leaves the station, and we all agree on that.”

Border closures dominated Morrison’s fortnightly meeting with premiers and chief ministers.

All states and territories except WA agreed to reach the third and final stage of restriction relief by the end of December.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said it could be some time before his borders open.

“Unlike the rest of the country, WA is not currently in a recession,” he said.

“So we won’t be prematurely reopening our borders. If we went too soon it could be deadly, and there would be economic devastation.”

He said his state was propping up the national economy.

“Where do they think their money comes from? It comes out of WA. So for them to demand that we bring down our borders is not in their interests.”

Premiers and chief ministers – except for WA – also endorsed the idea of defining coronavirus hotspots.

But they rejected a complex definition provided by the nation’s acting chief medical officer.

That definition says the starting point for a hotspot is 10 locally acquired cases a day over three consecutive days in metropolitan areas, and three locally acquired cases daily over the same period in regional Australia.

“This will take some time to get that right,” Mr Morrison said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a consistent national approach to defining a hotspot “would give states both courage and the imprimatur to bring down their borders”.

Victorian leader Dan Andrews said there was no alternative but to ease his state out of restrictions “in a safe and steady way”.

“The notion of opening up quickly … will not be a lasting thing that we do. It will be five minutes of sunshine and we will be back into these sorts of restrictions again.”

Morrison also asked premier and chief ministers to endorse a national agricultural code to allow seasonal workers to travel over state lines.

Five out of eight jurisdictions signed up, but Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania declined.

As well, the national cabinet agreed to relax the weekly limit on stranded Australians returning home from overseas.

There are more than 23,000 Australians abroad who want to return, a third of whom are in India.

The federal government has imposed a weekly cap of 4000 international passengers to ease the burden on state hotel quarantine systems.

Victoria records 81 new cases, 59 COVID deaths

Victoria has reported an Australian-record 59 coronavirus deaths, although only nine of the fatalities are new.

However, the death spike comes as the state also reported 81 new cases, a significant drop from Thursday’s spike of 113.

Friday’s fatality figure easily surpasses the previous Australian record of 41 deaths on August 31 and takes the state toll past 600 to 650 and the national figure to 737.

Throughout this week, Victoria’s daily toll has included earlier aged care deaths as the sector reconciles data with the state and federal governments.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said 50 of Friday’s reported deaths were at aged care fatalities from July and August.

The fall in case numbers is encouraging news, two days from the announcement of the much-anticipated “roadmap” out of lockdown.

Premier Daniel Andrews will announce separate pathways for how and when Melbourne and regional Victoria will come out of respective stage four and three lockdowns.

There is no confirmation yet that any restrictions will be eased on September 13, and Andrews is not deviating from his pre-set timeline for unveiling the state government’s strategy.

“There is an enormous amount of modelling going on at the moment,” he said.

“Literally thousands of scenarios are run through various computers and processes, and that does take some time.”

The premier also dismissed a leaked document indicating Melbourne’s 8pm-5am curfew could be extended by a further fortnight as out of date.

Richmond players arrested outside Gold Coast strip club

Two Richmond players have been arrested outside a Gold Coast strip club, with the AFL investigating their COVID-19 protocol breaches.

Tigers duo Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were involved in a fight outside a strip club early Friday morning.

Queensland Police say two men were arrested after an altercation in Surfers Paradise about 3.30am.

“Both men sustained facial injuries as a result of the incident,” a police statement said.

“The men were both issued with a Police Banning Notice, excluding them from Gold Coast Safe Night Precincts and a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) for Public Nuisance (Violent Behaviour).

“Further investigations are continuing into the matter.”

An AFL spokesperson said the league was “aware of the matter and currently investigating”.

In a club statement, Richmond said it reported the players’ COVID-19 breach to the AFL.

“Richmond has become aware of a breach of AFL COVID-19 protocol by two of its players in the early hours of Friday morning,” the club’s statement said.

“The club immediately reported the breach of protocols to the AFL and is working with the league to investigate the matter.

“The players have been based inside the club’s player hub on the Gold Coast having already undertaken a 14-day quarantine in July.”

The breach could leave the Tigers facing another significant financial sanction after they were fined $45,000 – with $25,000 of that amount suspended for the rest of 2020 – for an earlier breach by captain Trent Cotchin’s wife.

A fine of up to $75,000 plus the previous suspended amount could be issued by the AFL for the club’s second offence.

Stack and Coleman-Jones face possible suspension after Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom (four games) and Port Adelaide duo Peter Ladhams (three) and Dan Houston (two) all copped multiple-week bans for serious protocol breaches.

Stack, 20, has played nine of his 26 AFL games this season and Coleman-Jones, 21, made his one senior appearance last year.

The pair are currently listed as injured with respective hip and foot complaints.

They are not part of a separate quarantine hub where AFL officials, and some players and family members, were undertaking the required 14-day quarantine period.

Australia’s international travel ban extended

Australia’s overseas travel ban has been extended for another three months, with the coronavirus pandemic set to extend into next year.

Cruise ships and regular international flights will remain suspended under an extension to the human biosecurity emergency period.

The rules, which came into place in mid-March, will now continue until at least December 17.

Australia’s expert medical panel – the AHPPC – recommended the federal government keep the measures in place.

“AHPPC has advised that the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk.”

The sale and supply of some essential good are protected during the emergency rules, which also restrict retail at international airports.

SkyCity posts $217m profit

The New Zealand-based owners of Adelaide’s casino have posted a $217 million profit despite significant revenue slumps and almost three months of closures.

SkyCity Entertainment’s shares increased eight per cent on the Australian Securities Exchange following yesterday’s announced that it had increased its full-year net profit increased 62.8 per cent.

The group, which runs casinos in Adelaide, Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown, reported statutory net profit after tax of $NZ235.4 million ($A217.3 million).

However, management suggested normalised net profit, which fell 59.7 per cent to $NZ66.3 million, may be a more accurate representation.

This figure does not include the one-off gain of $NZ337 million SkyCity received from insurers after fire tore through the New Zealand International Convention Centre in October.

The fire forced the casino to close for three days.

The blaze was one of two major blights on SkyCity during the 12 months to June 30, along with the coronavirus pandemic.

Management said the casinos in both countries were trading well prior to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Adelaide and Auckland venues posted the biggest slumps in full-year revenue, about 18 per cent.

In an update on the current financial year, management said its domestic operations had recovered more quickly than expected.

Gaming activity at Adelaide and Auckland was just about at pre-virus levels, while gaming activity at Hamilton had exceeded those levels.

The opening of an expanded Adelaide venue is due later this year and will include a hotel and more restaurants and bars.

The expansion was originally planned to open in time for cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup, which was due to be held in Australia in October.

SkyCity’s shares rose more than eight per cent during the day’s trading before they eased to finish up 7.36 per cent at $2.48.

$8.2m for housing trust Tesla battery scheme

Australia’s Renewable Energy Agency has announced $8.2 million in funding to Tesla Motors Australia to install residential battery and rooftop solar systems at 3000 properties owned by Housing SA across Adelaide.

The housing trust tenants will then join in Australia’s largest virtual power plant, which aims to deliver lower energy bills and a more resilient electricity grid.

Tesla will install 5 kW of rooftop solar and a 13.5 kWh Powerwall battery system at each property, at no cost to the tenant. The system will provide approximately 80 per cent of average household energy use.

Together with 1100 systems already installed in a previous phase, the combined 20 MW / 54 MWh of residential energy storage will be used by Tesla in a centrally controlled VPP trial.

Housing SA tenants involved in the trial, like other renters, are usually locked out of being able to benefit from renewable energy. The tenants will benefit from cheaper household electricity bills, with the project offering electricity rates 22 per cent lower than the default market offer.

A VPP is a centrally-managed network of battery systems installed behind-the-meter that can be collectively controlled to deliver benefits to households, energy retailers and the local network.

Aussies into US Open third round

Australia’s top-ranked men’s tennis player Alex de Minaur has battled through to the third round of the US Open after outlasting French veteran Richard Gasquet.

The Sydney-sider joins Aussie Jordan Thompson in the third round following the 6-4 6-3 6-7 (8-6) 7-5 win.

But big-serving John Millman was knocked out of the tournament this morning, going down in five-set heartbreaker to American Frances Tiafoe in the second-round match. After losing the first set,  Millman took out the second and third but couldn’t maintain the momentum to seal the match. He lost 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 6-1 3-6 3-6.

Aussie Chris O’Connell’s US Open dream also ended today, losing in straight sets to world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev in the second round this morning.

De Minuar looked to be cruising to victory when he raced into a two-set lead and held three match points in the third, only for Gasquet to drag himself off the canvas to win the last five points of the tiebreak.

The sweet-swinging 2013 semi-finalist then raced into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set following an early break of the 21st-seeded de Minaur.

But de Minaur showed all his renowned fighting qualities to level the set in sweltering conditions in New York and then broke the former world No.7 at 6-5 to win a tense three-hour encounter.

The 34-year-old Gasquet was visibly wilting in the latter stages of the match as the on-court temperatures nudged 35 degrees and de Minaur said he knew he had the stamina to see him off.

“It was a tough battle out there, Richard played a great game but I back my fitness against anyone and that really helped me out today,” de Minaur said.

De Minaur, who reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows last year, will now face giant Russian 11th-seed Karen Khachanov for a place in the fourth round.

Thompson takes on Mikhail Kukushkin from Kazakhstan in the third round tonight.

Trump urges mail voters to vote again at polling places

Photo: AP/ Evan Vucci

US President Donald Trump is adopting a version of the tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘vote early vote often’, urging people who vote early by mail to show up at polling places and vote again if their ballots haven’t been counted.

Voting by mail is meant to replace voting in-person during the pandemic but Trump doesn’t trust the mail-in system.

But Trump has said he is concerned that the November 3 election will be awash in fraud because so many voters will mail in their ballots to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus at polling sites.

The president said people could mail in their ballots as early as possible and then follow up with a trip to the polls to see whether their mail-in vote was tabulated.

A top election official in North Carolina, where Trump initially broached the topic on Wednesday, discouraged voters from following Trump’s advice.

Trump tweeted on Thursday, referring to whether a person’s vote had been counted, that “If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly”.

“If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”

If the mail-in ballot gets to election officials after a person votes at the polls, the in-person vote will be ignored, he said.

“YOU ARE NOW ASSURED THAT YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED, it hasn’t been “lost, thrown out, or in any way destroyed.”

Meanwhile, US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has begun a visit to the key state of Wisconsin by meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, the black man whose shooting by a white police officer sparked days of protests.

Biden spent more than an hour in private with Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr, his siblings, and one of his lawyers. Blake’s mother Julia Jackson and another lawyer, Ben Crump, joined by phone.

Blake remains hospitalised after being shot seven times in the back as authorities tried to arrest him.

The trip, Biden’s first to Wisconsin of the general election campaign, is intended to draw sharp contrasts with US President Donald Trump.

Biden is seeking to portray himself as a unifying figure, able to lead the country through a reckoning with systemic racism along with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

Trump didn’t meet with the Blake family when he visited Kenosha earlier this week.

Beijing flights resume as Indian infections soar

Beijing’s main airport has begun receiving international flights again from a limited number of countries while the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise in India and the global tally of cases topped 26 million people.

Passengers flying into the Chinese capital from Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Thailand, Pakistan, Austria, Canada and Sweden must have first shown a negative coronavirus test before boarding, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told reporters.

Arrivals will be limited to roughly 500 per day during a trial period and all will need to undergo additional testing for the virus on arrival followed by two weeks of quarantine.

The first flight under the arrangement, Air China Flight 746, arrived from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, just before 7am on Thursday.

Beginning in March, all international flights to Beijing had been redirected to a dozen other cities where passengers were tested and processed before being allowed to travel on to the Chinese capital.

China has gone weeks without new cases of local infection and the 11 new cases recorded on Thursday were all imported.

Meanwhile, India registered a record single-day spike of 83,883 new cases, driving the country’s overall tally to 3.85 million.

The health ministry on Thursday also reported 1043 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 67,376.

India has been reporting the highest daily increases for more than three weeks.

The ministry said the country’s fatality rate had declined to 1.76 per cent and its deaths per million population was “one of the lowest in the world”.

Experts say deaths could be substantially undercounted in several states.

Globally, more than 26.13 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 863,557 have died.

– with AAP and Reuters

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