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What we know today, Thursday September 10

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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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Missing boaties back on land

One of two men found alive and well after going missing in waters off the South Australian coast has been emotionally reunited with his loved ones.

Tony Higgins, 57, and Derek Robinson, 48, left Coffin Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in a 10-metre wooden-hulled fishing boat called the Margrel, bound for Goolwa a week ago.

They were reported missing on Sunday after reporting engine trouble to a friend two days earlier.

A large-scale search for the men was called off on Wednesday night but two hours later, the men made contact with police.

The Magrel was escorted today to Encounter Bay, south of Adelaide, with Robinson embracing his family after returning to dry land.

“Emotional, very much emotional,” he said.

“I knew I would see them again but I just didn’t know when.

“I’m glad to be back. I’m on steady ground here but it feels like my legs are wobbling all over the place.”

Victorian COVID deaths pass 700 as new cases fall

Victoria’s coronavirus death toll has passed 700 with seven more fatalities reported this morning. But the the number of new cases confirmed today fell to 51 after it spiked to 76 yesterday.

The fatalities take the state toll to 701 and the national figure to 788.

The 14-day average of new cases will be a critical number in the state government’s roadmap out of the second wave.

Melbourne’s average of 74.5 on Wednesday and the five for regional Victoria continue to fall.

Premier Daniel Andrews insists his roadmap is the only path out as he continues to cop flak over the plan.

There is no set date yet for when regional restrictions will ease, while Melbourne will remain under a curfew until at least October 26.

“If anger and frustration were like a vaccine against this virus, then we would all be in a much better position,” Andrews told reporters yesterday.

The premier has reiterated that restrictions could be eased quicker – depending on case numbers.

Meanwhile, a COVID-19 cluster linked to two Sydney hospitals has grown to 14 cases as the state records seven new cases of coronavirus.

Of the seven new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, two are returned travellers in hotel quarantine and five are linked to known cases.

Two new cases are linked to Concord Hospital, including a worker who was already in isolation, and a close contact of a previous case.

NSW Health on Thursday said there were now 14 people linked to the Concord and Liverpool emergency departments cluster including nine healthcare workers.

Investigations into the source of the infections are ongoing and non-urgent surgery at Concord is cancelled until Friday.

De Minaur’s US Open dream run ends

Rising Aussie tennis star Alex de Minaur’s dream run at the US Open has come to an end with a straight sets quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem this morning in New York.

Austrian title favourite Thiem needed a tick over two hours to send Australia’s last hope packing with a 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory that further underlined the 27-year-old’s championship credentials.

Runner-up to Novak Djokovic in a controversial five-set Australian Open final in January, world No.3 Thiem is the highest-ranked player left in the draw.

He next faces Russian third seed and 2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev on Saturday for a place in the final for the first time at Flushing Meadows.

De Minaur will be disappointed with his maiden grand slam quarter-final showing but must quickly pick up the pieces and turn his attention to the second major of the year, the rescheduled French Open starting on September 27.

The 21-year-old will be Australia’s best hope on the Roland Garros clay after women’s world No.1 Ashleigh Barty this week opted against defending her crown during the coronavirus pandemic.

De Minaur is projected to rise one spot in the rankings to world No.27 after bettering his career-best grand slam run by one round at Flushing Meadow.

He had hoped to go toe-to-toe with Thiem – and at times he did – but the baseline slugger and dual French Open finalist was too solid.

Beaches re-open after fatal shark attack

Gold Coast beaches have reopened despite large amounts of baitfish in the water just two days after a fatal shark attack on a surfer.

Nick Slater, 46, died shortly after being bitten on the leg by a suspected great white shark at Greenmount Beach late on Tuesday afternoon.

It was the first fatal shark attack on the Gold Coast in 60 years.

A 22km stretch of beach between the NSW border and Burleigh Heads was closed on Wednesday as authorities hunted the shark.

The City of Gold Coast later reopened the beaches, and lifeguards on jet skis and helicopters will continue to patrol the area on Thursday.

The shark that killed Slater could still be in the area, and lifeguards have warned that schools of fish in the area will make it risky to enter the water.

SA bans single-use plastics

Single-use plastics such as straws and cutlery have been banned in South Australia but the COVID-19 pandemic will delay the introduction of the new laws.

The measures were passed in state parliament yesterday and also allow for other items to be progressively added to the banned list.

“There has been significant community and industry support for swift action on single-use plastic products with many households and businesses across the state already taking steps to remove them,” Environment Minister David Speirs said.

“Our legislation at first bans single-use plastic items like straws, cutlery and beverage stirrers and outlines a framework for adding more items in the future.

“However, with COVID-19 restrictions still impacting on society and in particular the hospitality industry, we will delay the commencement of the legislation.”

Speirs said the bans would come into effect in early 2021 in a move that balanced the public’s desire for change and the needs of business.

“This will give businesses time to bounce back and properly prepare,” he said.

Drinking, drug-taking surges during pandemic

Forty per cent of Australians have been drinking more alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study shows.

The Global Drug Survey COVID-19 Special Edition results released today show cannabis use has also increased but a lack of venues and events has led to a drop in the use of party drugs MDMA and cocaine.

Two in five Australian survey respondents reported drinking more alcohol since February, while about half of the cannabis-users surveyed said they increased their consumption over the same period.

About half of both samples said they were partaking in their vices alone more often than before the pandemic.

“Drinkers who reported having a diagnosed mental health condition were more likely to report increasing their drinking compared to February, before COVID-19 restrictions,” co-lead researcher Dr Monica Barratt from RMIT University said in a statement.

However, the survey also showed two in five Australians were also drinking less, and MDMA and cocaine use had decreased.

The decrease in illegal party drug consumption was largely attributed to the lack of access to settings like nightclubs, festivals and parties.

“Drug market shifts were reported too, including half of the Australian respondents saying availability of illegal drugs had decreased, one third reporting increases in drug prices and one in five reporting decreased drug purity,” Barratt said.

More than 55,000 people were surveyed across the globe, with the Australian trends fitting with larger international trends.

Forty-three per cent of all respondents reported higher alcohol consumption during the pandemic, with 39 per cent of cannabis-users also partaking more often.

The biggest increases in cannabis usage were recorded in Australia at 49 per cent, and the US at 46 per cent.

Retail sector gains momentum after slump

Monthly swings in spending and an enormous gulf in performance by sector and across states is creating a volatile environment for Australian retailers, according to Deloitte Access Economics’ latest quarterly Retail Forecasts report.

Total spending slumped in the June quarter, but a solid performance in June and July suggests stronger momentum in the September quarter.

But retail spending is faring better than general consumer spending, with retail volumes falling just 3.4 per cent over the June quarter, compared to the 12.1 per cent collapse in household spending volumes

Retail sales were well up compared to a year earlier in the months of June and July, and Deloitte expects this momentum to continue into the September quarter, with retail volumes expected to bounce back by 5.4 per cent.

While retail turnover growth fell in South Australia by 0.8 per cent in 2019/20, it is forecast to increase by 7.9 per cent in 2020/21 before returning to normal levels of about 2 per cent from 2021/22.

“Retail spending has fallen at the fastest rate in nearly 20 years as COVID-19 cast a cloud over the consumer landscape. Yet it pales in comparison to the collapse in total consumer spending experienced over the quarter,” said.

“The average retail growth rate also hides the complexity of the retail environment right now. After slumping in April, spending picked up through the quarter, with June retail sales up 7.4 per cent compared to the previous year.

“It also looks like that momentum has continued into the September quarter, with spending up 12 per cent in July compared to the same month a year prior.

“And there is an enormous gulf in retail performance by sector. Restrictions have sent cafes, restaurants and catering services into a tailspin, with spending remaining over 20% lower than pre-COVID levels in the month of July.

“Meanwhile, with more people at home more of the time, spending on recreational goods, alcohol, electrical and electronic goods, and hardware, building and garden supplies have surged, with all posting more than 30% gains in the month of July compared to pre-COVID levels.”

Ewan wins tight sprint to claim Tour stage victory

Australian Caleb Ewan has claimed his second victory in this year’s Tour de France when he won a tightly-contested sprint to claim the 11th stage – a 167.5-km ride from Chatelaillon-Plage.

The Lotto-Soudal rider threw his bike forward over the line to narrowly beat triple world champion Peter Sagan, who was judged to have leaned into Belgian Wout van Aert in the final stretch and was relegated to last place in the sprinting group.

“I tried to get out at the last moment, I went out quite late. It was pretty hectic,” said Ewan.

“I knew from the first stage that I won just to stay calm and wait for the right gap to open.

“I just had a real desire to win today after yesterday and I’m happy to repay my team-mates with the win.”

Ireland’s Sam Bennett, who won Tuesday’s 10th stage, eventually took second place to extend his lead in the points classification to 68 points, boosting his hopes of securing a first green jersey for Ireland since Sean Kelly won in 1989.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after a quiet day in the main bunch.

He leads defending champion Egan Bernal and France’s Guillaume Martin.

Thursday’s 12th stage is a 218-km ride from Chauvigny to Sarran.

Finals blow for resurgent Thunderbirds

The Adelaide Thunderbirds bid to make the Super Netball semi-finals has been all but dashed following a narrow 61-59 loss to Queensland Firebirds last night.

The two big improvers of the competition battled it out at Priceline Arena in a physical contest that went down to the wire – Adelaide coming back from 13 goals down to trail by one in the final minute.

But the Firebirds held on in a frantic finish where they controlled possession for the last 50 seconds, adding the final goal as time expired.

The Firebirds sit behind the fifth-placed Giants on percentage and still have an outside chance of stealing fourth spot should they win their final three games and other results go their way.

The visitors enjoyed a 29-16 lead in the second quarter but the long-range shooting of Georgie Horjus kept the Thunderbirds in the contest, three Super Shots helping reduce Queensland’s lead to 35-28 at halftime.

Down by 10 goals midway through the third period, Adelaide responded again as Lenize Potgieter inspired an eight-goal burst to set up a dramatic final quarter.

While Adelaide can take plenty of positives from their effort, the loss means they need the West Coast Fever to lose their final three games to have any hope of featuring in the semi-finals.

Trump admits to ‘playing down’ virus

US President Donald Trump acknowledged to a journalist early in the coronavirus pandemic that he played down the danger of the crisis despite evidence to the contrary, according to a new book.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told author Bob Woodward on March 19, days after declaring a national emergency.

“I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

CNN on Wednesday broadcast interviews Woodward did with Trump for his new book Rage.

The book, to go on sale next Tuesday, just weeks before the November 3 presidential election, comes amid criticism of Trump’s efforts to battle COVID-19.

Assailed by Democratic rival Joe Biden over the slow US government response to the virus, Trump played down the crisis for months as it spread across the country.

In the March 19 conversation, Trump told Woodward some “startling facts” had emerged showing the extent of those at risk: “It’s not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people.”

Trump on Wednesday defended his handling of the virus, which has killed more than 190,000 people in the United States.

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened,” he said at the White House. “We’ve done well from any standard.”

French, Indian infections still on rise

France has registered its second-highest daily tally of new coronavirus cases as India added almost 90,000 new infections.

For the third time in six days on Wednesday, France’s daily new COVID-19 cases rose by more than 8500, with the disease spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country.

The rate of increase of additional cases has been steadily rising for two months but as they primarily involve younger people, who are less likely to fall seriously ill, that didn’t translate into renewed strain on the hospital system until the end of last month.

French health authorities reported 8577 new infections on Wednesday, the second-highest daily tally on record after Friday’s 8975.

The cumulative number of cases is now 344,101.

Globally, more than 27.68 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 897,780​ have died.

India recorded 89,706 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking its total caseload has reached 4.37 million.

The health ministry also reported 1115 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 73,890.

India has the second-most cases in the world and the third-most deaths behind the United States and Brazil.

More than 1 million people have tested positive to coronavirus in India in less than two weeks.

Testing has been ramped up to more than 1 million a day, with cumulative testing exceeding 50 million.

– with AAP and Reuters

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