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What we know today, Monday October 26

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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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Victorian restrictions finally easing

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed a major easing of Melbourne’s coronavirus restrictions as a northern suburbs outbreak comes under control.

Melbourne retail and hospitality businesses can finally reopen amid a major easing of the city’s coronavirus restrictions that will come into effect from midnight on Tuesday.

There will be a maximum of 20 people seated indoors for hospitality venues, with 10 per space, and 50 outdoors.

Beauty, personal services and tattoo parlours will also reopen.

People can also visit other houses with much more freedom, although details will be revealed on Tuesday.

“Fundamentally, this belongs to every single Victorian, every single Victorian who has followed the rules, stayed the course, worked with me and my team, to bring this second wave to an end,” an emotional Premier said.

“But it is not over. This virus is not going away. It is going to continue to be a feature of our lives. It is going to be a feature of our lives every day until a vaccine turns up. These are big steps.”

Andrews also announced the 25km travel limit and the “ring of steel” separating Melbourne from regional Victoria will go on November 8.

The announcement came after Victoria had a clean daily coronavirus sheet for the first time in more than four months, with no deaths or new cases.

Monday’s DHHS figures showed average daily diagnoses over the past fortnight down to 3.6 for Melbourne and seven mystery cases from October 10-23.

The corresponding figures for regional areas are 0.2 and zero.

Equally as important, a testing blitz confirmed an outbreak in the northern suburbs that delayed Monday’s announcement by 24 hours appears to be under control.

Andrews’ daily media conference was delayed until mid-afternoon as the government awaited latest test results from the outbreak area.

More than 5000 tests across the affected area have all come back negative, the Premier confirmed.

Victoria hasn’t reported zero COVID-19 deaths and cases since June 9. Its death toll stands at 817 and the nation’s at 905.

The Victorian government has been under intense pressure to ease restrictions, with federal politicians on both sides of the aisle applying pressure.

The prime minister said yesterday it was profoundly disappointing Andrews had delayed the loosening of lockdown rules.

Scott Morrison issued a joint statement with his treasurer and health minister, who are both Victorian, highlighting the health and economic impacts.

“At some point, you have to move forward and put your public health systems to work,” they said.

“The decision to keep businesses closed suggests that there is still not sufficient confidence within the government that their systems can support reopening.”

Andrews’ federal Labor colleague Bill Shorten said he could understand why many Melburnians were disappointed by the weekend’s delay.

“Many businesses probably would have hoped with some indications that we were going to get more restrictions lifted yesterday,” Shorten told ABC radio.

Shorten criticised the federal government for bagging the state government rather than recognising the good work of Victorians in suppressing the spread of coronavirus.

New SA cases

South Australia has recorded three new cases of COVID-19 today, with 12 active cases in the state.

A man in his 30s, a woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s, all of whom have recently returned from overseas and remain in hotel quarantine comprise the new cases.

Each travelled separately and all have been in a medi-hotel since their arrival, with SA Health saying there is “no public health risk.”.

It comes after four new cases were confirmed yesterday.

SA has seen 478 people recover from COVID-19, with four deaths.

First flights land in Tassie after seven-month closure

The first flights under relaxed quarantine restrictions have touched down in Tasmania after the island state today opened its borders to most of mainland Australia.

People arriving from coronavirus low-risks jurisdictions Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and ACT, plus New Zealand, won’t have to self-isolate.

Tasmania was the first state or territory in Australia to close its borders in March and has gone more than 70 days without recording a new case.

A flight from Brisbane was the first to touch down at Hobart Airport this morning, with a second plane from the Queensland capital and a sold-out flight from Adelaide scheduled later in the day.

Hobart Airport chief executive Matt Cocker said the three planes were virtually booked out.

“Everyone is excited to see this day come. We’ve moved through the doldrums, we’re looking forward to receiving passengers,” he told reporters.

All arrivals at airports and seaports will be health screened and have their temperature checked.

Anyone with virus symptoms will be tested and ordered into quarantine until their result is known.

“Tasmanians can be comforted by the fact we have the necessary procedures in place to ensure we can deal a rapid response should COVID bubble up,” Premier Peter Gutwein said.

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

Those on the island state are being urged to maintain social distancing and good personal hygiene.

The Spirit of Tasmania Bass Strait ferry service, which leaves from Melbourne, will resume but only to people coming from low-risk mainland states. They’re only allowed to stop for fuel in Victoria.

People arriving from low-risk states must first register on an online system.

St Kilda move to seal Crouch trade deal with Crows

St Kilda have lodged a contract offer with outgoing Adelaide midfielder Brad Crouch ahead of the AFL free agency period.

Last week, restricted free agent Crouch nominated the Saints as his preferred destination.

Whether Adelaide accept a compensation draft pick or force a trade will depend on the level of compensation they are offered – which is tied to St Kilda’s contract offer – when the free agency period kicks off on Friday.

“I’m not sure what the compensation will look like for the Crows,” St Kilda list manager James Gallagher told AFL Trade Radio.

“We’ve put what we think is a really fair deal to Brad, taking all things into consideration.

“We are still working through the finer points of it with his management over the course of the next few days as we head into free agency.

“I think you’ll get a reasonable idea on what the deal looks like when the compensation is announced shortly after we lodge with the AFL.”

Rising cases no cause for concern

SA Health insists there is no need for concern after a further four international arrivals to South Australia tested positive to COVID-19 yesterday.

All confined to hotel quarantine, the new infections take the number of new cases in the state to 25 this month, the highest since the pandemic peaked in SA in April.

There have been a total of 491 cases reported in South Australia.

Yesterday’s cases are a woman in her 20s, a male in his 40s, a male in his 70s and a boy.

All travelled separately and have been in a medi-hotel since their arrival. There is no public health risk.

International arrivals into South Australia have risen sharply in the past two months, leading to the expansion of Adelaide’s hotel quarantine program and an increase in quarantined coronavirus infections recorded in the state.

ABS figures released this month show South Australia had 1260 arrivals in September, up 12.4 per cent on August and more than triple the 290 and 380 who arrived in June and July.

This has coincided with the expansion last month of the state’s medi-hotel capacity, with another hotel coming on board to increase the capacity from 500-800 people a week.

Of that, 600 beds are reserved for international arrivals – up from 240 previously, 100 for domestic arrivals from high-risk areas and a further 100 reserved for local community outbreaks.

Interstate, Victoria recorded seven new infections yesterday, six of which were linked to a northern suburbs cluster.

In NSW, seven cases were reported in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday.

Emergency doctor boost at Flinders

Flinders Medical Centre’s Emergency Department has been boosted by an additional nine emergency doctors to staff its expanded ED.

The additional medical coverage will allow the 12 beds in the Emergency Extended Care Unit (EECU) to come online from today, easing pressure on the state’s busiest ED and assisting patient flow across the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network.

“While we were able to bring an additional 12 beds online to assist with anticipated COVID-19 demand earlier this year, we needed to secure the workforce to staff them on an ongoing basis,” SA Health Minister Stephen Wade said.

“From Monday, these 12 beds will become operational bringing the short-stay beds in the ED to 24, with additional nurses and doctors to provide timely care to patients in the south and respond to demand for acute medical services.”

As a precursor to the main FMC ED expansion, a body of early works are expected to commence this week within the EECU to refurbish and expand staff amenities as well complete upgrades to the ward’s patient monitoring and duress system.

The FMC ED and EECU will remain operational while work is underway, with plans to minimise interruptions to service delivery in place.

Trump hits top gear on campaign trail

President Donald Trump will go on the offensive against Democratic rival Joe Biden with a campaign trip to New Hampshire, a state he narrowly lost in 2016 but is trying to reclaim in this year’s White House race.

With nine days left until the November 3 US elections, the Republican president is storming his way through top battleground states in a late push to make up ground against Biden, who leads in national opinion polls.

Opinion polls in many of the most vital swing states that will decide the election show a closer race. New Hampshire, which Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 3000 votes in 2016, has not been considered a top-tier battleground and most polls show Biden with a comfortable edge in the New England state.

But Trump is running out of time and opportunities to change minds and shift the race in his favour. More than 56.5 million Americans have already voted in person or by mail, a pace of early voting that could lead to the highest voter turnout rate in more than a century, according to the US Elections Project.

After voting early in his home state of Florida on Saturday, Trump raced through rallies in three states – North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin – where he promised the end of the coronavirus pandemic was in sight and said Biden would threaten jobs by pushing for more COVID-19 restrictions.

In Ohio, Trump said his campaign was doing well and he was not worried about the public opinion polls. “We have 10 days, and nothing worries me,” he said.

He has suggested he might hold five rallies a day down the final stretch before the election.

Biden, who made two campaign stops in Pennsylvania on Saturday, had no public schedule for Sunday, although the former vice-president often makes a trip to church.

During his swing through Pennsylvania, Biden renewed his criticism of Trump for not taking the health crisis seriously enough and warned of a resurgence during the winter months of the virus, which has killed more than 224,000 Americans and is on the rise in several battleground states.

“It’s going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our ways,” he said of Trump’s attempts to contain the coronavirus.

Late on Saturday, a spokesman for Vice-President Mike Pence disclosed that Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, had tested positive for coronavirus. Pence and his wife tested negative earlier in the day and the vice-president would not alter his schedule, the spokesman said.

Concern about the health risks of voting in crowded polling places on election day has helped drive the stampede to vote, as many states have increased early voting and vote-by-mail opportunities.

In New York state, voters jammed polling places and stood in line for hours to cast ballots on the state’s first day of early voting on Saturday.

Spain declares state of emergency to stem virus spread

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a second nationwide state of emergency while hoping to stem a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Spain’s COVID-19 cases soared past one million on Friday, prompting the country’s Socialist leader to tell the nation in a televised address that the extraordinary measure would go into effect on Sunday.

He said the government will use the state of emergency to impose an 11pm to 6am nationwide curfew, except in the Canary Islands.

Sanchez said Spain’s 19 regional leaders will have authority to set different hours for the curfew, as long as they are stricter; to close regional borders to travel, and to limit gatherings to six people who do not live together.

He will seek the endorsement of the Parliament to extend the state of alarm for six months until May.

The state of emergency gives the national government extraordinary powers, including the ability to temporarily restrict basic freedoms guaranteed in Spain’s constitution, such as the right to free movement.

Spain (1.04 million) has Europe’s third-highest number of coronavirus cases after Russia (1.5 million) and France (1.13 million).

Italy’s one-day caseload of confirmed coronavirus infections has jumped past 20,000, with more than a quarter of the new cases registered in Lombardy, the northern region which bore the brunt of the pandemic in the country earlier this year.

According to Health Ministry figures on Sunday, there were 21,273 new cases since the previous day, raising Italy’s total of confirmed COVID-19 infections to 525,782.

Meanwhile, British doctors are urging the government to reverse its course and provide free meals for poor children due to increased poverty caused by the pandemic.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has tested positive for the new coronavirus as the number of infected with COVID-19 in the Balkan country has been on a steady rise in the past two weeks.

In Berlin, Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has tested positive for COVID-19, has appealed to Germans to keep obeying precautionary measures as the virus spikes across the country and the hospital intensive care units are filling up again.

India’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped to nearly 50,000, maintaining a downturn over the last few weeks.

Eight countries now have more than 1 million confirmed cases, topped by the US and India with three are in Latin America and three in Europe.

Storm hold on for thrilling NRL grand final win

The Melbourne Storm has pulled off the finest premiership victory in their illustrious history by holding out Penrith 26-20 in a bizarre NRL grand final in Sydney last night.

In a nerve-wracking finish at ANZ Stadium, Penrith came from 26-0 down with 28 minutes to play to reduce the margin to six with just three seconds remaining.

With the Storm down to 11 men, Penrith had one final play to level it from the kick-off after a late Nathan Cleary try.

But after they went back-and-forth across the field, the ball landed in Felise Kaufusi’s hands to wrap up Melbourne’s fourth title and by far their gutsiest.

It brought to an end Penrith’s record-breaking season, halting their winning streak at 17 but without the major prize to go with it.

Melbourne are the most dominant team of the 21st century, however, none of their titles have a backstory like this.

The players haven’t slept in their own beds since June, having been forced into camp firstly in Sydney before settling on the Sunshine Coast due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

Hindley misses out on Giro d’Italia victory

Australia’s Jai Hindley may have missed out on his dream Giro d’Italia win but his second-place has the cycling world hailing the man from Perth as a new star.

From unsung domestique to Grand Tour contender, Jai Hindley has become Australia’s latest cycling luminary with his extraordinary breakthrough performance at the Giro d’Italia.

On Sunday, the 24-year-old just missed out in his wholly unexpected attempt to win one of the great prizes in cycling, losing his leader’s pink jersey on the very final time stage in Milan.

In the end, just 39 seconds separated him from the most unlikely of victories as his English friend Tao Geoghegan Hart ended up prevailing after the wonderful three-week battle.

It meant Hindley just failed in his bid to become the first Australian winner of the event and only the second after Cadel Evans, winner at the 2011 Tour de France, to secure victory in one of cycling’s three grand tours – Le Tour, the Giro and the the Vuelta a Espana.

Yet by achieving the best-ever result by an Australian in the Giro – Evans finished third in the 2013 edition – he has quite transformed his standing in the sport over the past week.

As he cycled into sight of Milan’s famous cathedral, Britain’s former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, commentating on Eurosport, declared: “We’re going to be talking about this man a lot for the next 10 years. He’s been fantastic.”

 – with AAP and Reuters

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