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What we know today, Thursday October 8

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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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SA won’t close NSW border despite spike

South Australia will not immediately reverse a decision to open its border to NSW over a small spike in locally-acquired coronavirus infections there.

NSW recorded eight new virus cases on Thursday, including three cases flagged on Wednesday that ended a 12-day streak without any community transmission.

Five of the eight are from a known cluster and the remaining three are linked and the source is being investigated.

A fall in community transmission was a key factor in South Australia recently dropping its requirement for travellers from NSW to quarantine for 14 days.

Premier Steven Marshall said local health officials would sit down with their NSW counterparts to understand the new infections and the response to the cases.

“At this stage, we don’t plan to make any immediate change to our borders in South Australia,” he said.

“We’ve always acted swiftly to protect the people of South Australia but we haven’t received any information, at this stage, that would make us change our border arrangements.

“We’re always looking at it. We’re always keeping the people of South Australia protected.”

From today, South Australia has extended its buffer zone with Victoria, easing COVID-19 restrictions on border communities.

The zone has increased from 40km to 70km on each side of the border, allowing more people to travel into SA or return from trips into Victoria without need to quarantine.

People travelling from states other than Victoria, who transition through Mildura, are also allowed to come into the state without being forced into isolation.

Travellers are being checked at the border to ensure they are not from Victoria or Mildura locals and must not have stopped in the regional town.

The two changes came into effect from Thursday after being approved at Tuesday’s meeting of the state’s transition committee.

Vice presidential candidates face off in historic debate night

US Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris have faced off in the first and only vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Seated 12 feet apart and behind plexiglass barriers, the two candidates exchanged views in a significantly more structured debate format compared to the presidential debate a week earlier between US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Harris’ status as the first Black and South Asian woman on a major party presidential ticket meant the debate marked a historic night in US politics.

Although personal insults featured much less, the debate was nonetheless contentious, with Harris repeatedly reclaiming her time with the phrase “Mr Vice President, I’m speaking”.

Both candidates avoided questions on whether the American public deserve more information about the health of the President and his challenger, aged 74 and 77 respectively.

Harris avoided a question on whether Democrats would pack the Supreme Court if they take power in November, while Pence danced around questions on abortion and a peaceful transfer of power should the Republicans lose the upcoming election.

Social media erupted when a fly landed on the Vice President’s head, with the Biden campaign leaping on the opportunity to fundraise off the insect’s moment in the spotlight.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 15 (morning of October 16 Adelaide time), although Trump’s positive COVID-19 test has left the current campaign schedule in chaos.

Victoria records 11 new COVID-19 cases

Victoria has recorded 11 new coronavirus cases and no deaths.

The state’s death toll from the virus stands at 809 and the national figure is 897.

The new cases, confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, brings Melbourne’s 14-day case average to 9.7, a slight drop from 9.9 on Wednesday.

Melbourne’s number of mystery cases between September 22 and October 5 sits at 14.

The city needs a 14-day average of five cases and no more than five mystery cases during the same period to further ease restrictions on October 19.

But a growing outbreak linked to a Melbourne butcher shop continues to trouble authorities.

Some 31 cases are now linked to the outbreak at the Butcher Club at Chadstone Shopping Centre.

Two people in Kilmore – 60km north of Melbourne – have also tested positive to COVID-19 after a case connected to the outbreak dined at Oddfellows Cafe.

Hundreds of people who visited the cafe between September 30 and October 3 are self-isolating.

The health department wants anyone who visited the cafe during the period to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

NSW records eight locally acquired cases

NSW has recorded eight new locally acquired virus cases, including the three cases flagged on Wednesday that ended a streak of 12 days without any community transmission.

NSW Health said four cases in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine were also diagnosed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 4072.

One case was locally acquired with the source under investigation while the remaining seven were locally acquired and linked to a known case or cluster.

There were 12,498 tests reported in the 24-hour reporting period, compared with 5970 in the previous 24 hours.

NSW Health said one of the new cases was likely to have been infected some days ago and appeared linked to the Liverpool Hospital Dialysis cluster. Four more cases were close contacts of that case.

One new case is locally acquired whose source is under investigation. The remaining two cases today are close contacts of this case.

SA Police to close intersections for red light camera tests

More than 100 intersections across Adelaide will be closed to allow testing of red-light cameras after a Supreme Court decision called into question the validity of the traffic control devices.

All unpaid fines issued before the judgment last week and any offences detected since have also been put on hold as police seek legal advice.

The judgment ruled a 2018 red light camera fine invalid because it found police camera testing flawed.

It found in certifying each camera, police only photographed cars travelling through the intersection on a green light, not a red light.

“The Supreme Court judgment requires a testing process involving police vehicles activating the red light camera in controlled conditions,” police said in a statement.

“There are significant challenges in closing intersections to enable police vehicles to activate red light cameras in these circumstances.”

This decision affects 134 cameras which must be tested every 28 days.

Police said it would require multiple officers to safely close and control intersections during testing.

“This will inevitably cause traffic obstruction however this is unavoidable and will be managed as safely as possible to minimise disruption,” the statement said.

Police will begin the testing process as soon as possible.

SA Senator calls for Australia to boycott China Olympics

Australia’s sports minister has shrugged off calls to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights abuses in China.

Richard Colbeck signalled the government would not push for Australian athletes to abandon the event despite serious concerns about Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities.

“It is not the government but the independent Australian Olympic Committee who are responsible for sending teams to winter and summer Olympic Games,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has not ruled out a British boycott, but said his instinct was to keep diplomacy separate from sport.

“I share those instincts,” Colbeck said.

Independent South Australian senator Rex Patrick says Australia should boycott the China games.

He said China was guilty of the genocide of Uighur people, suppression of freedom in Hong Kong and imprisonment of Australians on trumped up charges.

“How can the government morally support Australian participation in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing?” he asked the minister.

“Would you agree that Australia should step away from what would be a massive Chinese communist propaganda spectacle?”

Patrick also questioned whether Australian athletes would be safe in China, with at least two Australian citizens being held in “arbitrary detention”.

“The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advice now warns that Australians in China are at serious risk of arbitrary detention under that country’s harsh national security laws,” he said in a statement today.

“In these circumstances it would be imprudent and morally unsustainable for Australia to participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics.”

 

Queensland warns it could reset the clock on border

The countdown is on to see if NSW can find the source of three mystery COVID-19 cases before Queensland resets the clock to reopen the border.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles on Wednesday said plans to reopen the border at the end of the month may be delayed if NSW Health can’t find the source of the unlinked cases in the next 48 hours.

The border between the two states has been closed since August 8 with Queensland setting NSW a target of 28 days of unlinked community transmission before it fully reopens.

The southern state went for 12 days without a new coronavirus case before three new cases emerged in Sydney late on Tuesday.

Miles said NSW had until Thursday night to link those cases or the border clock could be reset.

“The contact tracers in NSW will have 48 hours to see if they can scientifically link these cases to existing clusters. I really hope they can,” the deputy premier told reporters late on Wednesday.

“If they can then that won’t have any effect on our timeline, so as far as we know, for now, we are still on track for a review towards the end of the month and a potential reopening on the first of the month.

“If these cases aren’t linked then that will need to be revised … we would consider pushing that date back.

“If they can’t be linked within two days then the link isn’t sufficiently clear”.

Miles stopped short of saying the clock will be reset and said the “specifics” would need to be looked at by the chief health officer before a decision was made.

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with just seven active cases in the state.

Social housing a key to Albanese’s budget alternative

Anthony Albanese will make public housing maintenance a cornerstone of his federal budget reply today.

The Opposition Leader will today formally respond to the Morrison government’s economic blueprint.

Labor has promised a $500 million plan to start clearing a maintenance backlog of 100,000 public and social dwellings across Australia.

“There are so many Australians who live in social housing who have leaky roofs, who have problems with their dunny, problems with their kitchen,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

He described the big-spending Coalition budget as a missed opportunity to stimulate the coronavirus-ravaged economy through social housing investment.

“The low-hanging fruit in terms of creating jobs in construction for tradies is in public and social housing.”

State and territory governments would be asked to match Labor’s commitment.

There is also speculation the opposition leader could make a childcare commitment after the sector didn’t receive any new spending in the budget.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said government investment in child care would be $9 billion this year.

“If you are suggesting we should have free child care for everybody, that is not something we are proposing,” he told ABC’s 7.30.

Trump’s doctor insists president is symptom-free

US President Donald Trump has had no COVID-19 symptoms for the past 24 hours, with a physical examination and his vital signs showing his condition remains stable, White House physician Sean Conley says.

Conley, in a statement released with Trump’s permission, said the president has been fever-free for more than four days and had not needed or received any supplemental oxygen since his initial hospitalisation.

Trump was hospitalised on Friday after tests showed he had contracted COVID-19.

He returned to the White House on Monday.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters the president is keen to again start working out of the Oval Office in the White House.

“He wanted to go to the Oval yesterday; if he decides to go to the Oval, we have safety protocols there,” Meadows said.

The chief of staff said the president continues to improve.

“The president continues to work. He’s in very good health; we are pleased with his progress,” Meadows said.

Virus spikes in Europe, the Americas and India

Several European countries have reported their highest level of daily new coronavirus infections as total cases in India approached 7 million and the World Health Organisation expressed concern about spikes in the Americas.

The Czech Republic and Poland registered record-high rates of the virus on Wednesday while Germany grappled with a rising contagion rate.

Authorities in Belgium and France closed cafes and bars in a bid to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control.

Germany reported its highest level of daily infections since April with 2828 cases in the last 24 hours on Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has recorded 306,086 confirmed infections and 9562 deaths.

In recent days the number of daily infections has regularly exceeded 2000.

The situation has worsened especially in Berlin where a series of restrictions have been imposed including early bar closures and limits on social gatherings.

Brussels, the epicentre of infection in Belgium, will close bars, cafes and nightclubs for one month from Thursday.

Restaurants will be allowed to stay open but sports events will be held behind closed doors and religious centres will only be allowed to welcome up to 100 people.

Brussels is one of the three worst-affected European capitals, along with Madrid and Paris, a spokesperson for the federal government’s coronavirus task force said.

The French capital and its surrounding region have been on high alert since Tuesday with bars and cafes closed for at least 15 days.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India reached 6.76 million on Wednesday, with a recovery rate crossing 85 per cent from the disease, according to the health ministry data.

Of the total number of people infected with the virus in the second worst-affected country by the coronavirus pandemic, 5.74 million have already overcome the infection, the federal health ministry said.

During the last 24 hours from Tuesday, the country recorded a total of 72,049 new infections and 986 deaths, raising the number of fatalities due to the virus to 104,555.

Meanwhile, the WHO says it is concerned about a rise in COVID-19 cases in places that had managed outbreaks effectively, such as Cuba and Jamaica, and 11 Caribbean countries that have moved from moderate to intense transmission, its regional director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.

The good news is that rates of severe COVID-19 cases have fallen across the Americas and fewer people are being hospitalised needing intensive care, she said in a virtual briefing from the US with other Pan American Health Organisation directors.

There have been more than 17 million cases and more than 574,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the Americas, which has half of all cases and more than half of all deaths globally.

Brazil and the United States continue to be most deadly outbreaks in the world but transmission remains very active in the region as a whole where countries are suffering recurrent spikes in cases.

“More than half a million children and adolescents in our region have been infected and these numbers continue to rise,” she said.

“Many of them are unaware they’re infected because they have mild or no symptoms.”

The lower demand for intensive care bed in hospitals is due in part to growing knowledge of the virus and how to manage critically ill patients, Etienne said.

Globally, more than 35.86 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 1,047,657​ have died, according to a Reuters tally.

– reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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