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What we know today, Sunday October 25


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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Tasmania reopens to South Australia

Tasmania will on Monday reopen its borders to South Australia, along with Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT, and New Zealand.

The state hasn’t recorded a case in more than 70 days.

All arrivals at airports and sea ports will be health screened and anyone with virus symptoms will be tested and ordered into quarantine until their result is known.

Tasmania remains closed to Victoria and is slated to open to NSW on November 2, with a firm call on that date to be made this week.

It comes as South Australia reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, all of which are returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

The new cases include a woman in her 20’s, a male in his 40’s, a male in his 70’s and a young boy. SA Health reports that all travelled separately and have been in hotel quarantine since their arrival.

There are currently 12 active cases in SA and 475 people have been cleared of COVID-19.

More than 534,000 tests have been undertaken.

SA senior clinicians push back against heart surgery campaign

A dozen senior clinicians at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital have co-signed a letter criticising “misinformation” they claim is being spread by a campaign to establish a heart surgery unit in the building.

The signatories to the letter argue that the campaign, which comes after four babies died in four weeks, is based on a false premise that all deaths from childhood heart disease are preventable.

The letter, signed by doctors including cardiology department medical unit head Dr Andrew Kelly, argues that a heart surgery unit “would require a large team of dedicated professionals to be doing this frequently enough to maintain skills to the necessary high standard”, and that a “recent external review” found South Australia did not have sufficient cases.

Sick babies and children have been required to fly to Melbourne for life-saving heart services, but COVID-19 restrictions have hampered that and they now have to go to Sydney.

The letter also addressed the campaign’s push for a heart-lung bypass life support system known as ECMO, describing it as “a high complexity intervention” that will require significant planning. “If an ECMO service is viable and will lead to improvements in the care of South Australian children, then that is what we will work towards,” the letter states.

Adelaide is the only mainland capital city without a paediatric cardiac surgery unit or ECMO service.

Opposition Health spokesperson Chris Picton said earlier this week that any review needed to be expanded to cover any other deaths of cardiac patients at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and also to investigate why doctors’ reports of safety concerns were rejected.

SA commits $40m to jetty and bridge upgrades

The South Australian government on Sunday announced it will commit $40 million over three years towards jetties, bridges, boat ramps and boating facilities in the upcoming state budget.

The first round of boat ramps and jetties will include Anxious Bay Boat Ramp, Cape Jervis Jetty, Streaky Bay Shelter and Coffin Bay Jetty.

Bridges to be upgraded in the next 18 months include the Barrier Highway at Burra, Mawson Road at Meadows and Hindmarsh Tiers Road.

It comes as Treasurer Rob Lucas  flagged an additional $2bn in funding would be announced for unspecified “high vis tradie” projects, including schools, hospitals, roads projects and sporting infrastructure.

“A big increase in the infrastructure budget will be focused on what we can complete within two years,” Lucas told The Sunday Mail.

The promise comes after opposition Treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan criticised the Marshall government for failing to get stimulus projects up and going quickly enough.

The Auditor-General released a report this month showing that at the end of the financial year only one third of an allocated $1bn in stimulus funding had been spent.

Victoria hits ‘pause’ on virus rule easing

Victorians will have to wait longer to take significant steps out of COVID-19 lockdown as health authorities sweat over an outbreak in Melbourne’s north.

Premier Daniel Andrews withheld the easing of some restrictions on Sunday as the state awaits results of at least 1000 tests from the northern metropolitan outbreak.

He described it as a “cautious pause” to rule out there wasn’t widespread community transmission linked to the cluster.

“We had hoped today to be able to announce that metropolitan Melbourne would take significant steps, not from today but from midweek, around retail, hospitality and a whole range of other, important next steps,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“We are not in a position to do that today because we have at least 1000 test results from that northern metropolitan outbreak that are in the labs.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there should be no barrier to Victoria opening up at that level of community transmission.

The all-important two-week rolling case average is at 4.6 for Melbourne, below the benchmark of five that Victorian authorities have coveted to trigger the next step out of lockdowns.

Former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos tweeted, “It’s time for some safe easing up of restrictions” after hitting the benchmark.

The regional average is at 0.2, while there are nine cases with an unknown source in the city.

The premier had earlier backtracked on previous indications of an easing of restrictions on Sunday after seven cases were also reported on Saturday.

About 800 residents in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have already been isolating because of the East Preston Islamic College outbreak, which began when a family supposed to be isolating mistakenly sent a child back to school.

Health workers have been doorknocking homes and new drive-through testing sites are operating across three council areas in the northern region.

The South Australian government is watching the outbreak closely, as it considers the easing of border restrictions soon to allow family members in Victoria and SA to visit each other, subject to 14-day home quarantine requirements.

South Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.

NSW meanwhile reported no new locally transmitted cases on Sunday, for the third day in a row. The state registered seven cases in hotel quarantine.

SA powered entirely by solar

South Australia has marked a key energy milestone, as the first major jurisdiction in the world to be powered entirely by solar energy.

All energy demand was met by solar panels for just over an hour on Sunday, October 11.

“This is truly a phenomenon in the global energy landscape,” Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) chief executive Audrey Zibelman told the ABC.

“Never before has a jurisdiction the size of South Australia been completely run by solar power, with consumers’ rooftop solar systems contributing 77 per cent.”

Large-scale solar farms provided the other 23 per cent.

AEMO forecasts an additional 36,000 new solar rooftop systems will be installed in South Australia in the next 14 months, with energy regulators warning that the growth could threaten grid stability if it isn’t managed properly.

New powers introduced last month allow SA Power Networks to switch off all new solar installations if too much solar puts the system under pressure.

SA Power Networks says any switch-off would only happen as a last resort if grid stability was at risk.

AEMO sees the next step being an uptake in South Australians buying battery storage systems to complement their solar panels.

Plans to build a new interconnector with New South Wales is also expected to help, by allowing the state to become a net exporter of excess energy.

Police give thumbs up to AFL celebrations

Victoria Police have given the thumbs up to Richmond fans who gathered in the club’s heartland to celebrate their AFL premiership, with just one arrest made.

Police arrested one person for drunken behaviour while also fining 12 people following a private house party in Cremorne.

The owner was slapped with a $5000 penalty, as a total of 42 fines were handed out for breaching the chief health officer directions across the state.

But a Victoria Police spokeswoman said authorities were happy with the behaviour of about 200 people who celebrated in Swan Street after Richmond defeated Geelong by 31 points to claim its third premiership in four years.

“They were in smaller groups and compliant with the CHO directions,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

The Tigers celebrate with the AFL Premiership Cup after their Grand Final win over Geelong. Image: AAP/Dave Hunt

Tigers secure AFL dynasty with third flag

Richmond have staked a claim to being the greatest AFL team of the 21st century with a 31-point win in the first grand final played at night and outside Victoria.

The 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) victory at the Gabba on Saturday night gives the Tigers their third flag in four seasons.

Dustin Martin cemented his legend status by claiming an unprecedented third Norm Smith Medal, starring with 21 disposals and four goals as best afield in front of a restricted crowd of 29,767.

There was carnage in an explosive opening to the decider as retiring Geelong champion Gary Ablett and Richmond’s Nick Vlastuin were hurt in the first five minutes.

Ablett – playing his 357th and final AFL match – suffered a suspected fracture to his left shoulder in a tackle from Trent Cotchin and was hindered throughout the night.

Tigers defender Vlastuin copped an accidental elbow to the head from Patrick Dangerfield and lay motionless for several minutes before being driven off the field on the medicab.

The Tigers kicked the opening two goals but the Cats dominated the midfield battle for most of the first half and opened up a 22-point lead before the main break with Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and Tom Stewart all influential.

But they managed just one of the next nine goals as Martin, who kicked a crucial goal in the shadows of half-time to cut the margin to 15 points, and Shane Edwards, who had 27 disposals and nine clearances, took it upon themselves to lift Richmond.

Jack Riewoldt and Dion Prestia finished with two goals each and Martin put the exclamation mark on the win when he stealthily intercepted a Rhys Stanley handpass, shrugged off a Dangerfield tackle and snapped his fourth major from the boundary in the dying stages.

Quarantine alternatives under consideration

The federal government is examining ways to increase quarantine capacity for international arrivals, to boost the nation’s recovery.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said there’s plenty of interest from universities and businesses for alternatives to hotel quarantine, such as home-based isolation and greater use of technology such as monitoring bracelets.

About 30,000 Australians seek to return home and have started entering the country in larger numbers thanks to the quarantine set-up at mining camp Howard Springs outside Darwin.

The Northern Territory facility is expected to accommodate 5000 returning travellers during the next six months.

All states apart from WA have given in-principle backing to a plan to bring more than 30,000 Australians registered abroad home before Christmas.

Demonstrators are seen during a protest to call out Australian government silence on attacks on Armenia, in Sydney on Saturday. Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts.

Armenian-Australians call for PM’s support

Armenian-Australians have marched through the streets of Sydney calling on the federal government to speak out for their ancestral homeland currently locked in deadly clashes with Azerbaijani forces.

Five hundred people took part in the rally starting outside the ABC’s studios in Ultimo, with more driving alongside the protest in their cars, in keeping with NSW coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters called on the Australian government to “end their silence” on attacks by Azerbaijani and Turkish forces against the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh – a landlocked region between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The region, which Armenians have self-declared as the republic of Artsakh – is legally recognised as part of Azerbaijan though is has been home to Armenians for thousands of years.

Armenian-Australians have been protesting across Australia in recent weeks since fighting broke out on September 27.

They want Prime Minister Scott Morrison to condemn Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The Sydney protest came as fresh clashes broke out a day after talks in Washington to try to end the deadliest fighting in the mountain enclave in decades.

Trump casts his vote in Florida

President Donald Trump has voted in his adopted home of Florida before hitting the campaign trail for rallies in three swing states.

The president joined more than 54 million Americans, who have cast early ballots at a pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in more than a century, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.

Trump voted at a library in West Palm Beach, near his Mar-a-Lago estate, after switching his permanent residence and voter registration last year from New York to Florida, a must-win battleground for his re-election bid.

Democratic rival Joe Biden also hit the campaign trail, travelling to the battleground of Pennsylvania for two events.

The rush to vote is a sign of the intense interest in the contest between Trump and Biden, as well as concerns about avoiding crowded polling places on Election Day and reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 224,000 Americans.

The United States set a single-day record of more than 84,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with the spike in infections hitting battlegrounds including Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Many states have expanded in-person early voting and mail-in ballots as a safer way to vote during the pandemic.

Trump, who has regularly condemned mail-in voting without evidence as prone to fraud, even though experts say it is as safe as any other method, voted by mail in two elections since he switched his address to Florida, a presidential primary in March and a state election in August.

Italy’s coronavirus cases hit new high

Italy has reported a further record daily total of 19,644 new coronavirus cases as the government considered further restrictions, including early closures of bars and restaurants to contain a resurgence of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he wants to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdown earlier in the year.

But a number of regions have imposed overnight curfews and the central government is expected to announce more measures soon.

Like many authorities across Europe, the Italian government is desperate not to close down the economy completely but is facing growing public anger at renewed restrictions that are being imposed to limit public gatherings.

Late on Friday, crowds in the southern city of Naples clashed with police in protest against a night-time curfew in the Campania region.

Earlier in the week, overnight curfews were ordered by local governors in Campania, Lazio around the capital Rome, and Lombardy, the epicentre of the first wave where the financial capital Milan recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday.

The northern region of Piedmont and Sicily in the south will follow next week.

With public health services coming under strain, authorities have reopened temporary intensive care facilities built during the first phase.

The mortality rate remains well below the earlier peak of more than 900 deaths in a day but it has moved up steadily, with 151 deaths reported on Saturday.

At least 18 killed in Kabul bomb blast

The death toll from an attack in Afghanistan’s capital has risen to at least 18 killed and 57 people wounded.

Saturday’s explosion in the capital struck outside an education centre in a heavily Shi’Ite neighbourhood of western Kabul, Dasht-e-Barchi.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said the attacker was trying to enter the centre when he was stopped by security guards.

According to Arian, the death toll may rise further as family members of victims of the bombing are still searching the several different hospitals where the wounded have been taken.

No group claimed immediate responsibility for the bombing.

Meanwhile, the Afghan intelligence service said in a tweet that special forces killed al-Qaeda’s number two commander for the Indian sub-continent, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, in a recent operation in eastern Ghazni.

– with AAP and Reuters

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