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What we know today, Tuesday September 22

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The boat at the centre of a massive search off the South Australian coast this month is missing again after its owner called police for help when the vessel began taking on water near Victor Harbor at 5am this morning. Follow this post through the day for live updates of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. 

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Missing boat Margrel missing again

The boat at the centre of a massive search off the South Australian coast this month could now be sitting at the bottom of the ocean after taking on water near Victor Harbor this morning.

Police received a call from the Margrel’s owner, Tony Higgins, about 5am this morning reporting his boat was taken on water near Granite Island just off the Victor Harbor coast.

The boat is the same vessel that was the subject of an extensive search earlier this month south of Port Lincoln, police said.

Sea Rescue volunteers had conducted a search for several hours this morning but have now returned to shore as weather conditions worsen. PolAir has also carried out a search along the Coorong and SAPOL’s fixed-wing aircraft is currently combing the area.

There have been confirmed reports the vessel was seen anchored off Granite Island around 3pm yesterday.

Higgins, 57, and Derek Robinson, 48, left Coffin Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in the 10-metre wooden-hulled fishing boat on September 3 before sparking a huge air and sea search. Within hours of the search being called off on September 9, the men contacted police and were rescued off the Coorong coast the following day.

The Magrel was towed to Encounter Bay, south of Adelaide, on September 10 and moored near Granite Island.

There were reports on the weekend that The Margrel hit a sandbank when Higgins attempted to come ashore at Victor Harbor on Saturday. Higgins had been living on the boat conducting repairs following the previous voyage.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said it was frustrating that Higgins needed to be rescued for the second time this month.

He said the first rescue cost SA Police about $650,000.

“We have an obligation to ensure the safety of all South Australians and search and rescue efforts will always be undertaken, but there is an obligation that sits with all of us to act in a way that doesn’t put ourselves at risk or other people at risk,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that we are doing the same thing again for the same person in such a short period of time.”

Police are urging anyone who has had contact with the Higgins or sees or has information about the missing boat to call the Police Assistance Line immediately on 131444.

South Australia lifts border restrictions with NSW

The state’s COVID-19 border restrictions with NSW will be lifted from midnight on Wednesday.

Anyone arriving in South Australia will no longer be required to isolate for 14 days.

It will also mean the borders will be open for tourists to travel between the two states in time for the school holidays, which begin in both jurisdictions on Friday afternoon.

“This is going to be a relief that will be felt across our state, from an economic perspective and from a family perspective,” SA Premier Steven Marshall said.

The premier said health officials had examined the concerning case of an infected Sydney taxi driver but were satisfied it was a risk that could be managed.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the decision to ease the border measures came after 14 days of no community transmission in NSW involving cases with an unknown origin.

“I know people will be concerned about the taxi driver. But I’m very confident that person is not representative of community transmission,” she said.

“He did spend some time in the community while infectious. But many people have been asked to quarantine because of those exposures.”

NSW Health is trying to contact anyone who took trips with the Silver Service taxi driver, who tested positive on Saturday and worked in Sydney’s west and southwest.

The critical dates are September 8 to 18.

While a large number of people who rode with that driver have already been identified, the names of nine passengers are still unknown. It’s likely they hailed the cab on the street.

Spurrier urged anyone considering travel from SA to NSW to keep a close eye on the latest information in relation to coronavirus cases in Sydney.

She said they should also wear masks while on planes.

“But we can’t just wrap ourselves in cotton wool forever,” she said.

SA has not reported a new coronavirus case for 11 days and has no active infections.

Early double murder guilty plea

An early guilty plea to the murder of his son and the teenager’s girlfriend at a property in the state’s southeast could entitle Pawel Klosowski to a discount of up to 40 per cent on his jail term.

Klosowski, 46, of Mount McIntyre, appeared in Mt Gambier Magistrates Court on Monday where he admitted killing his son Lukasz Klosowski and Chelsea Ireland, both aged 19.

Police had been called to his property in August after reports of a shooting and arrested Klosowski without incident.

Speaking to reporters at the scene, Detective Inspector Campbell Hill described the deaths as a “shocking incident to occur in the South East”.

“It’s a tragic event and the impacts of this will not only be felt for the particular families involved, and the associates and the relatives, but also for the southeastern community,” Inspector Hill said.

Klosowski’s early guilty plea could entitle him to a discount of up to 40 per cent on any non-parole period.

His case was not expected back in court until December but was called on late on Monday afternoon.

He has been remanded in custody to appear in the Supreme Court in Mt Gambier in November for arraignment and sentencing submissions.

SA spud producer’s $35 million expansion

Father and daughter team Mark and Renee Pye have announced a $35 million potato plant expansion at Parilla.

South Australian-based potato supplier The Pye Group will invest $35 million into a new potato packing facility at Parilla, 220km east of Adelaide.

The Pye Group said the multi-million-dollar investment would inject an estimated $42 million into the regional Mallee economy and create 40 new local jobs.

Company director Mark Pye said the new washing and packing facility would double the current production capacity at its Virginia-based facility, which was about 50,000 tonnes of potatoes.

These are distributed across South Australia, the Northern Territory and the East Coast.

“The new packing facility will feature the best available optical grading and automated packing technology to revolutionise the way in which we process potatoes,” Pye said.

The group has received $2 million funding for the new potato packing facility as part of a $12 million State Government initiative to grow regional economies.

The company said it grew about 17 per cent of the nation’s washed potatoes and 37 per cent of the state’s washed potatoes, a total equivalent of 120,000 tonnes of spuds each year.

It also supplied 40,000 tonnes of carrots and 50,000 tonnes of onions each year and generated more than $100 million.

Lockdown puts lid on Adelaide drinking

Alcohol consumption fell sharply in Adelaide at the height of coronavirus lockdown measures in April, University of South Australia analysis has revealed.

Researchers from the University of South Australia have published results from wastewater testing which showed daily consumption fell to about 698 standard drinks each day for every 1000 people.

This compared to about 1047 drinks each day during February this year, which also coincided with major events such as Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide 500.

Biological chemist Dr Bradley Simpson said the results showed that South Australians were very good at lockdown and followed the rules diligently.

“As a consequence, the study results showed a clear decline in drinking across weekdays and a real flattening of the usual weekend spike in consumption,” he said.

“When all the regular drinking venues were closed – pubs, clubs, bars – the drop off in drinking was dramatic.”

As part of an ongoing analysis of the alcohol metabolite ethyl sulphate in Adelaide wastewater, the university’s research team has been collecting seven-day wastewater samples every two months since 2016.

The SA study sampled wastewater catchments representing 1.1 million South Australians or about 75 per cent of the state’s population over seven days.

Simpson said the results went against national surveys which asked people how much alcohol they bought and consumed during lockdown which tended to show an increase in drinking.

Low COVID cases may pressure Andrews to ease Vic rules

Pressure continues to mount on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to speed up his COVID-19 roadmap after the state notched consecutive days with new case numbers under 20.

Victoria recorded just 11 new cases on Monday – its lowest daily figure since June 16 – to follow up Sunday’s result of 14.

It dropped Melbourne’s 14-day case average to 34.4, well below the target of 50 to lift some virus restrictions from September 28.

But the premier has yet to confirm whether Melbourne will move to its next step on Monday, which will allow a staged return to school for some students and more workplaces to reopen.

“We will have more to say about that process later in the week,” Andrews said.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said Melburnians could not afford to wait until October 26 when more onerous rules such as the 9pm-5am curfew are due to be repealed.

“These numbers dictate a faster, safer reopening,” O’Brien said.

“The epidemiologists back it, the modelling backs it. Daniel Andrews needs to start listening to the experts and stop being a one-man show.”

There were two further coronavirus deaths on Monday, taking the state toll to 763 and the national figure to 851.

Mass whale rescue mission resumes in Tasmania

About a third of some 270 pilot whales stranded off Tasmania’s remote west coast are already likely to have died, as authorities enter a critical phase to save the remainder.

Rescuers will try this morning to refloat some of the whales, which are stuck on sandbars at Macquarie Harbour, near Strahan.

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service’s Nic Deka said progress would be slow, with conditions and the half-submerged whales making rescue efforts tricky.

“This morning’s phase will be critical in determining what is possible,” he told reporters.

“Basically we’ll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with.

“Some animals may be simply too big or in an unsuitable location.”

Deka said about a third of the whales had already died as of Monday evening and most were inaccessible by boat.

“In terms of mass strandings in Tasmania, this is the trickiest we’ve had to deal with,” he added, saying the mission could take days.

About 60 people are helping with the rescue, including 40 parks and wildlife staff and personnel from nearby fish farms, which have supplied boats.

The whales got into trouble on Monday morning but the rescue couldn’t begin until marine specialists were able to survey the scene.

Deka said pilot whales were a robust species and the survivors have a chance of lasting several days on the sandbars if the weather stays cool.

He said multiple rescue methods would be trialled and a lot would depend on how the whales respond.

It is understood to be the biggest mass stranding in Tasmania in more than a decade.

Power surge to minor premiership with win over Pies

Port Adelaide secured its first AFL minor premiership since 2004 with a 16-point win over Collingwood in Brisbane last night. Picture: Darren England/AAP

Port Adelaide led at every change to defeat Collingwood by 16-points in Brisbane last night and claim the AFL minor premiership after sitting on top of the ladder for the entire season.

But the Power may not even be favourite to win its first finals match when it hosts Geelong in a qualifying final following last month’s 60-point hiding from the Cats – their most recent defeat – still fresh in the memory.

“We’ve been a really consistent team all year but every team in the competition has had a day or two where they haven’t quite got it right, we don’t hide away from that,” Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said after last night’s win.

“We’ve been beaten by three really good teams this year – Brisbane, St Kilda and Geelong – but we’ve got an opportunity now to reset and go again.

“It doesn’t matter what happened five, eight or 30 weeks ago. What matters now is what happens from here on.”

Despite claiming its fourth minor premiership, Port still aren’t the bookmakers’ flag favourites, with reigning premiers Richmond and Geelong widely regarded as the teams to beat.

“The teams who have been great teams for a long period of time… they deserve it,” Hinkley said.

“You have to work really hard to change the narrative and right now we’re working really hard.

“We want to be one of those teams that people respect.”

The Power are likely to regain key defender Tom Clurey (hamstring), Ryan Burton (quadriceps) and Zak Butters (suspension) for the Geelong clash.

Last night’s loss relegates the Magpies to eighth on the ladder and an elimination final against West Coast in Perth.

The first round of finals is likely to begin on Thursday, October 1 with exact dates, times and venues to be revealed later this weeks.

In the other finals matches, Brisbane will host Richmond while St Kilda and Western Bulldogs will play off in an elimination final at a neutral ground, potentially Adelaide Oval.

Europe clamps down to arrest virus spikes

The coronavirus crisis is deteriorating across Europe with the UK working on new restrictions, Spain clamping down again in Madrid and the Czech Republic replacing its health minister with an epidemiologist as the US closes in on 200,000 coronavirus deaths.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this week is expected to announce a round of restrictions designed to act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease.

In France, where infections reached a record high on the weekend with more than 13,000 new cases in 24 hours, health authorities opened new testing centres in the Paris region to reduce delays.

The Norwegian capital of Oslo banned crowds of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and strongly urged people to wear face masks when travelling on public transportation amid a strike by bus drivers that forced many commuters to take the tram.

Police in the Spanish capital of Madrid and its surrounding towns began stopping people going in and out of working-class neighbourhoods that have been partially locked down to combat Europe’s fastest coronavirus spread.

Authorities said that starting tomorrow, 860,000 residents must be able to show that their trips out of their neighbourhoods are justified for work, study or medical reasons or face fines.

The targeted locations have some of the highest transmission rates in Europe.

The German city of Munich, with one of the highest infection rates in Germany, will allow only up to five people or members of two households to meet, and will restrict private indoor gatherings such as birthday parties, weddings or funerals to no more than 25 people.

The Czech Republic also faces the possibility of new restrictions after the government-appointed epidemiologist Roman Prymula as health minister.

India recorded nearly 87,000 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours on Monday as it edged closer to the United States in having the most reported cases in the world.

The health ministry also reported 1130 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total reported fatalities to 87,882.

India now has more than 5.4 million reported cases and the country of 1.3 billion people is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States which has 6.8 million.

The coronavirus-related death toll in the United States reached 199,630 on Monday, by the far the highest number of any country.

The US, on a weekly average, is losing about 800 lives each day to the virus.

That is down from a peak of 2806 daily deaths recorded on April 15.

During the early months of the pandemic, 200,000 deaths was regarded by many as the maximum number of lives likely to be lost in the US to the virus.

– with AAP and Reuters

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