- Victoria unveils $3bn business support package
- SA regional tourism to get $20m facelift
- Dozens of breaches in SA hotel quarantine
- Australian cricketers to quarantine in SA
- Regional Victoria restrictions on track to ease
- Port Adelaide ends Essendon finals push
- Friends jog in support of academic jailed in Iran
- Oxford, AstraZeneca resume vaccine trial
- IOC shocked by execution of Iran wrestler
Victoria unveils $3bn business support package
The Victorian government on Sunday offered a further $3 billion to help businesses survive COVID-19.
Premier Daniel Andrews described the cash grants, payroll tax deferrals and fee waivers as “the biggest package of business support in the history of this state”.
“It is an unprecedented set of challenges that business face. We want to get to the other side and we want to make sure that, yes, we’ve protected lives but also protected livelihoods,” Mr Andrews said.
There will be payroll tax deferrals for up to 12 months for businesses with payroll of up to $10 million a year, which will come at a cost of some $1.7 billion to the state, according to Treasurer Tim Pallas.
The latest raft of measures takes to $6 billion Victoria’s COVID-19 economic support.
“That is more than any other state, any territory and might I say in terms of a percentage of our own sourced revenue compared to the Commonwealth, it also challenges, if it doesn’t exceed Commonwealth contributions,” Mr Pallas said.
Mr Andrews expected about 80,000 businesses to receive support and promised the money will be distributed as soon as possible.
Victoria’s Liberal-Nationals opposition criticised Sunday’s business package, instead calling for reopening the economy, while seeking a royal commission into the state’s handling of COVID-19.
Elements of Victoria’s strict lockdown measures will be eased in Melbourne on Monday.
The state on Sunday reported 41 new cases and seven further deaths.
Mr Andrews said the figures aided the state’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions, but refused to rush the process.
“I can announce that we have extended the state of emergency and the state of disaster for a further four weeks,” he said.
Tensions remained high in some parts of Melbourne, with an anti-lockdown protest outside the city’s Queen Victoria Markets where there were scuffles with police and arrests.
Melburnians are set to receive some relief from Monday, with a reduction in hours of the daily curfew, to 9pm to 5am and the allowance of “household bubbles”.
South Australia recorded no new cases on Sunday, with 423,000 tests now undertaken.
NSW registered nine new COVID-19 infections, including one where the source is unknown.
SA regional tourism to get $20m facelift
Regional tourism in South Australia is set to get a facelift with the state government injecting $20 million to boost the industry which has been hard-hit by COVID-19.
Premier Steven Marshall says while the state’s tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit, there has been an increase in the number of South Australians travelling across the regions.
In response, the state government is injecting $20 million to upgrade regional tourism infrastructure and experiences.
“We have great regions in South Australia, but they do need a lift,” Mr Marshall told reporters on Sunday.
“There is a lot of appetite to upgrade – whether it be accommodation, whether it be a new cellar door or new experience, a ride or new tourism activity in regional South Australia.”
The government will commit to a maximum of 30 per cent of funding for the total project value with grants ranging from $20,000 to $500,000.
Businesses can apply for grants from September 14 until the end of March, 2022, or until all the funds have been allocated.
Mr Marshall says the investment could create more than 1400 ongoing jobs in regional tourism.
He also hopes the investment will see people increase their average stay across the state by one or two days.
Dozens of breaches in SA hotel quarantine
SA Health has recorded 62 breaches in the state’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine system since it was established in late April.
Some of the breaches were aired in state parliament last week after questions from SA-Best Upper House MP Frank Pangallo, showing MSS Security was involved in 22 errors up to July 10.
Figures obtained by the Sunday Mail detail 40 more mistakes since then.
SA Health claim none of the breaches were “high risk” and did not result in further transmission of the virus.
The mistakes included 17 staff members not abiding by protective equipment rules; and 33 breaches by guards using mobile phones, listening to music, or engaging in “miscommunication”.
“It is fortunate we have avoided the catastrophic consequences that occurred in Melbourne,” Pangallo said.
There were no new virus cases reported in SA on Saturday, leaving the total diagnosed since the start of the pandemic at 466.
Australian cricketers to quarantine in SA
Australian cricketers returning from England will be allowed to train but do little else as they quarantine in Adelaide ahead of this summer’s competition.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says an arrangement has been struck with Cricket Australia for the players to isolate at the new Adelaide Oval Hotel after they arrive on Friday.
The players coming to Adelaide will be allowed to train once they return a negative coronavirus test but will be limited to small groups.
They will then be tested again on day 12.
Mr Marshall said the move puts Adelaide in a good position to host more major cricket fixtures this year, with negotiations underway with Cricket Australia regarding the Sheffield Shield competition and this summer’s Test series against India.
The quarantine arrangements in Adelaide could also be applied to the visiting Indian team due to arrive in Australia in mid-November.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said a bio-secure zone would be created around the oval hotel to ensure the cricketers would meet all the usual isolation measures for people arriving from overseas.
They will be allowed to train, and have access to the Adelaide Oval number two ground, a gymnasium and will use dedicated vehicles to ferry them around the facilities.
South Australian Cricket Association chief executive Keith Bradshaw said contingency plans had also been put in place to host the Boxing Day Test should it not be played in Melbourne.
Regional Victoria restrictions on track to ease
Regional Victorian restrictions are set to ease in coming days, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying road checkpoints may be stepped up to make sure Melburnians don’t escape to the country.
This will mean, among other things, that regional residents would very soon be able to go out for a coffee or meal.
Andrews said he wasn’t worried about Melbourne residents trying to get to regional areas because travel limits of 5km are still in place in the city, but noted police checkpoints on key roads out of Melbourne could be bolstered.
“It may go to a new level to make sure that only those who absolutely need to be travelling into country Victoria are doing that,” he said.
Active cases in the regions had by Saturday fallen to 58.
Small anti-lockdown protests happened in Melbourne on Saturday and Sunday.
Police on Saturday arrested 14 people and fined at least 50 for breaching health directions.
Peaceful protesters at the Tan running track in Melbourne were vastly outnumbered by police.
Meanwhile, the strain of lockdown on young Victorians is visible in hospital and mental health helpline statistics when compared to the same period in 2019.
Young people presenting to emergency for intentional self-harm and suicidal ideation is higher than the same period last year by 27 per cent.
Mental health support via telephone has risen by 31 per cent.
The figures are a little lower however, than those reported by the government in early August.
If this news raised issues for you, LifeLine is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dial 13 11 14.
Port Adelaide ends Essendon finals push
Port Adelaide’ has killed off Essendon’s finals chances with a 11.13 (79) to 4.5 (29) victory at a rain-soaked Adelaide Oval.
The Power defied constant rain to unleash a match-defining second quarter blitz of five unanswered goals.
Port led 6.7 to 2.1 at halftime and the result was effectively decided before the home side booted five goals to two in a second-half slog.
“It was as good as we have been for a little while,” Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said.
Power spearhead Dixon finished the game with 2.3, marring his display with a series of missed early shots.
Port’s midfield was led by Tom Rockliff (30 disposals), Ollie Wines (28 touches) and Travis Boak (26 possessions) – and the trio booted one goal each.
Essendon needed a mathematical miracle – and a win – to remain in finals contention.
But they’re now out of the running despite the best efforts of Darcy Parish (20 touches, nine clearances), Jordan Ridley (23 disposals) and Devon Smith (26 touches).
On Sunday, Bryce Gibbs signed off from the AFL in style by burying former club Carlton’s finals hopes once and for all, as Adelaide recorded a third win in 13 days in a 10.12 (72) to 8.8 (56) victory.
The Blues, needing a win to have any hope of playing finals, kicked just one goal in the first half to trail by 44 points at Metricon Stadium.
There were finally signs of life late in the third term when captain Patrick Cripps kicked a goal-of-the year contender, surging through traffic before turning his defender inside out to spark their comeback.
But they ran out of time as the Crows, in Gibbs’ final game, moved to equal 17th on points with North Melbourne but behind on percentage with one game to play.
Gibbs had 27 disposals in the 16-point win, Rory Sloane selflessly offloading to him in the final moments for the fairytale finish, only for his shot at goal to sail just wide.
Friends jog in support of academic jailed in Iran
Friends and colleagues of an Australian academic jailed in Iran will meet up and run through her NSW home town in a show of support.
Sunday is two years since University of Melbourne lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran Airport after attending a conference.
She was later convicted of espionage but denies the charges.
Dr Moore-Gilbert is understood to be serving a sentence of 10 years and was in July transferred to Qarchak prison, which is infamous for killings and torture.
Her Australia-based support group says Dr Moore-Gilbert has been doing laps of the small jail exercise yard in her only footwear, prison-issued slippers.
They will gather in Bathurst on Sunday morning and show their support by running.
“Running with Kylie sends a message of love and support to Kylie and her family,” Dr Jessie Moritz, friend and colleague from the Australian National University, said.
“She may be 12,000 kilometres away, but this way she’ll know that she’s not alone when she runs.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says securing Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release remains an absolute priority and the federal government does not accept her charges.
Oxford, AstraZeneca resume vaccine trial
Oxford University has announced it is resuming a trial for a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a move that comes days after the study was suspended following a reported side-effect in a UK patient.
In a statement on Saturday, the university confirmed the restart across all of its UK clinical trial sites after regulators gave the go-ahead following the pause on Sunday.
“The independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the UK regulator, the MHRA, the trials will recommence in the UK,” it said.
The vaccine being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca is widely perceived to be one of the strongest contenders among the dozens of coronavirus vaccines in various stages of testing around the world.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the restart, saying in a tweet that it was “good news for everyone” that the trial is “back up and running.”
The university said in large trials such as this “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”
It said globally some 18,000 people have received its vaccine so far. Volunteers from some of the worst affected countries – Britain, Brazil, South Africa and the US – are taking part in the trial.
Although Oxford would not disclose information about the patient’s illness due to participant confidentiality, an AstraZeneca spokesman said earlier this week that a woman had developed severe neurological symptoms that prompted the pause.
Specifically, the woman is said to have developed symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord.
IOC shocked by execution of Iran wrestler
The International Olympic Committee has described the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari as “deeply upsetting” amid mounting calls for sporting sanctions.
Iranian state media said on Saturday that Afkari, a national champion who was sentenced to death over the murder of a security guard during 2018 anti-government protests, had been executed.
Afkari’s death comes despite the attempted intervention of the IOC and the sport’s world governing body, United World Wrestling, with IOC president Thomas Bach having said on Wednesday that he was trying to “facilitate a solution”.
Last week Australia’s Brendan Schwab, the executive director of the World Players Association, had insisted that, in executing Afkari, Iran would be “forfeiting its right to be a part of sport’s universal community”.
-with AAP and Reuters
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