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What we know today, Friday September 11

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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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Christmas pageant to go ahead

Adelaide’s annual Christmas pageant, which usually attracts a crowd of about 300,000, will go ahead this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event will be held on November 14, but instead of winding its way through the centre of the city, will be staged at Adelaide Oval.

It will be a twilight event before a live crowd, possibly as high as 25,000.

It will also be broadcast live and will feature a range of other performances.

Tickets will be free but allocated through a ballot.

“It’s going to be different from other years, but it is going to go ahead,” Premier Steven Marshall said on Friday.

“We couldn’t be any happier.”

The pageant has been staged in Adelaide for 88 years but was thought to be at risk of being cancelled this year because of the coronavirus.

It has traditionally been used to welcome Father Christmas to the city in the lead up to the festive season.

17th-floor balcony death fall

A man has died after falling from the balcony of a city apartment block in Adelaide early this morning.

About 12.45am police and paramedics were called to Grote Street after it was reported a man fell from a 17th-floor balcony.

The 27-year-old man died at the scene.

Police investigating the incident believe that the man fell from the 17th-floor balcony trying to gain access to an adjoining balcony.

The affected portion of Grote St was cordoned off following the incident but police said there did not appear to be any suspicious circumstances.

Data flow key to SA opening more state borders

The continued flow of data and analysis on COVID-19 infections in NSW and the ACT will be key to South Australia removing its border restrictions, Premier Steven Marshall says.

SA’s transition committee met on Friday but made no changes to the existing quarantine arrangements for people arriving from those jurisdictions.

Marshall said he wanted to open the borders as soon as possible to help businesses and to also ease family dislocation.

But he said SA would not take any steps contrary to health advice.

“It’s really to do with the data. We’ve had a very good flow of data, especially from Queensland, NSW and the ACT,” the premier said.

“Sometimes when you have a report that there might be 10 new cases in NSW, it looks quite worrying to people.

“But then our public health officials unpack that and they can see the links of each of those cases.

“So the number is one thing, but where they are is another consideration.”

The premier has also signalled a “cautious, gradual and staged” approach to lifting the hard border closure with Victoria.

“There has been some loosening, especially with the cross-border communities in recent weeks” he said.

Consideration would be given at some stage to possibly allowing urgent visitors from Victoria to go into hotel quarantine or self-isolate.

Such measures were likely before any lifting of border restrictions entirely, he said.

SA would also watch to see if any easing of restrictions in Melbourne resulted in a third wave of infections.

“I don’t want to put a time on it at the moment,” Mr Marshall said.

“I will say Victoria is doing very well but they are still in stage four lockdown.”

SA reported no new coronavirus cases on Thursday leaving the state’s total since the start of the pandemic at 465.

There have only been six new infections over the past month and none are still considered active.

Rescued boatie fined after week-long ‘adventure’

Fisherman Derek Robinson reacts after seeing his family on his to return at Encounter Bay. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

The skipper of the wooden fishing boat rescued on the state’s Coorong coast yesterday after a four-day search was called off has been fined $1000 for having insufficient safety equipment on board and no boat operator licence.

The two men rescued after going missing in waters off the South Australian coast have told differing tales of their “rough and rocky” adventure at sea.

One was ecstatic to wobble back on dry land, while the other was stung with a fine for having dodgy safety equipment on board the vessel.

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

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

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

The Magrel was escorted on Thursday to Granite Island near Victor Harbor, with Robinson embracing his family after returning to dry land about 2pm.

Higgins stayed with the about moored off Granite Island fearing it could break up before making it to its new homeport of Goolwa.

“Emotional, very much emotional,” Robinson said after making landfall.

“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.”

Higgins was hit with a $1000 fine for having insufficient safety equipment and no boat operator’s licence.

Police said an inspection revealed both an out-of-date emergency beacon and flares.

Higgins said he was “horrified” when the police rescue boat arrived.

“I didn’t ask to be rescued. We knew exactly where we were,” he told the Seven Network.

Higgins said the boat had simply lost a blade off its prop, forcing him to slow down.

However, he said he greatly appreciated the efforts of all those involved in the search.

The four-day aerial search covered more than 103,000 square kilometres in waters south of Port Lincoln.

But it wasn’t until their boat moved back into mobile phone coverage on Wednesday night that they realised a major operation to find them was underway.

The men were able to report their position, about 13 nautical miles off Meningie at the top of the Coorong.

Regional tourism’s $1 billion boost

Local tourism in Australia received a $1 billion boost in June as intrastate restrictions began to ease, figures released by Tourism Research Australia show.

Regional areas – including all of SA, Tasmania, the NT and ACT – benefited to the tune of $1.73 billion, up from $511 million in April and $796 million in May.

The TRA reported there were more than 5.4 million domestic visitors in the month of June, an increase of more than 2.35 million visitors on May, with most of these travelling intrastate to regional locations.

Spending in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth rose from $155 million in April to $410 million in June.

Tourism Minister and South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham said while the data showed the lifting of some restrictions had led to an uptick in tourism activity in intrastate travel, many tourism businesses, particularly those in larger cities and those popular with international or interstate visitors, were still doing it tough.

“This data demonstrates that Australians are willing and eager to travel where it’s safe to do so, which is a reminder that excessive border restrictions are limiting the jobs recovery in some communities and businesses,” he said.

Birmingham urged state and territory leaders to consider adopting a nationally consistent hotspot approach to the movement of Australians, as discussed at last week’s national cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Birmingham have also unveiled a $50 million plan to kickstart the business events sector hit hard by the pandemic.

It is estimated 95 per cent of business events for 2020 have either been cancelled or postponed.

Under the Business Events Exhibitor Grants program, businesses exhibiting at an approved business event in 2021 will be able to apply for upfront grants to cover up to 50 per cent of their costs.

New Vic virus cases fall as relaxed rules loom in country areas

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he is getting close to relaxing restrictions in regional Victoria. Picture: James Ross/AAP

Victoria has reported 43 more COVID-19 cases and nine deaths as its government hints that country areas could be just days away from having restrictions wound back.

The number of fresh diagnoses recorded in the 24 hours to Friday morning maintains the state’s lowering infection rate and assists the vital 14-day average.

Victoria has recorded 710 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic with the latest nine fatalities taking the national toll to 797.

Despite the ongoing spread, there has been good news for regional Victoria this week, with just 72 active cases and its fortnightly daily average sitting at 4.5.

The number has prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to point to the easing of regional restrictions by late next week.

“Regional Victoria are quite close to being able to take perhaps not just one step, but two,” he said.

The premier, meanwhile, is refusing to budge on Melbourne’s lockdown curfew despite a second senior official distancing himself from the controversial measure.

Victoria’s police boss Shane Patton revealed the force never requested the introduction of the curfew, two days after chief health officer Brett Sutton said it wasn’t his recommendation.

But Mr Andrews continues to staunchly defend it, saying the measure helps make Victoria Police’s job easier.

The government is already under fire for its botched hotel quarantine program and much-maligned contact tracing efforts, while the newly-announced COVID-19 roadmap has also sharply divided opinion.

A new survey, published today, found Andrews’ satisfaction rating among health workers has plummeted since the second wave hit.

The survey conducted by TKW Research found just 58 per cent of 300 frontline health workers were satisfied with his handling of the pandemic, down from 86 per cent in April.

Deadly wildfires ravage US west coast

Dozens of wildfires have burned through forests and towns in US west coast states, destroying hundreds of homes and killing at least nine people.

In the past 48 hours, four people died from fires in California, while four were killed in Oregon and a one-year-old boy died in Washington state, police reported.

Hundreds of thousands have evacuated their homes in the three states.

Oregon bore the brunt of nearly 100 major wildfires ripping across the western states, with about 3000 firefighters battling nearly three dozen wildfires.

The wind-driven blazes tore through at least five communities in Oregon’s Cascade mountain range as well as areas of coastal rainforest normally spared from wildfires.

A 12-year-old boy was found dead with his dog inside a burned car and his grandmother was believed to be dead after flames engulfed an area near Lyons, Oregon, about 80km south of Portland.

To the south, residents in Medford, population 82,000, were told to evacuate as fires burned around the city.

Vaccine trial halt is ‘wake-up call’: WHO

AstraZeneca’s pause of an experimental vaccine for the coronavirus after the illness of a participant is a “wake-up call” but should not discourage researchers, the World Health Organisation’s chief scientist says.

Governments are desperate for a vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused more than 900,000 deaths and global economic turmoil, and the WHO had flagged AstraZeneca’s, being developed with Oxford University, as the most promising.

However, the drug maker suspended late-stage trials this week after a participant in Britain suffered from neurological symptoms.

“This is a wake-up call to recognise that there are ups and downs in clinical development and that we have to be prepared,” Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual briefing from Geneva.

“We do not have to be discouraged. These things happen.”

More than 27.96 million people have been reported infected globally, according to a John Hopkins University tally.

“It’s a race against this virus, and it’s a race to save lives. It’s not a race between companies, and it’s not a race between countries,” added WHO’s head of emergencies Mike Ryan.

WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said a combination of factors is helping reduce death rates in Europe, including finding cases earlier and better clinical care.

“We are in a better position to prevent the virus from infecting vulnerable populations,” she said, cautioning, however, that the disease’s long-term effects were still not known.

WHO General Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who on Thursday raised his fundraising plea to $US38 billion ($A52 billion) for the agency’s ACT Accelerator program to fight COVID-19, called for global solidarity.

“What worries me the most is what I have been saying all along: a lack of solidarity,” Tedros said.

“When we are divided, it is a good opportunity for the virus.”

Lebanon port engulfed in flames again

A large fire has erupted at Beirut port, sending a huge column of smoke over the Lebanese capital just weeks after a massive blast devastated the port and surrounding residential area.

The blaze started in the shattered duty-free zone of the port, prompting some residents to flee the city that is still traumatised by the explosion last month, which began after a fire erupted at the port.

“For sure we were scared, it’s only been a month since the explosion that destroyed Beirut. We saw the same thing happening again,” 53-year-old Andre Muarbes said as some districts of the capital were shrouded by a cloud of black smoke.

The army said a store of oil and tyres had burst into flames, although it said the cause was not immediately clear.

Television footage showed an army helicopter dropping water on the fire, as firefighters battled the blaze on the ground.

The head of civil defence told Lebanon’s AlJadeed television it was not certain what materials were burning while urging the public to stay calm, saying the fire was limited to one place.

There were no immediate reports of injuries but the blaze strained nerves already on edge in a country grappling with a deep economic crisis that has posed the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-1990 civil war.

The August 4 blast killed about 190 people and injured 6000.

 

– with AAP and Reuters

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