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What we know today, Thursday November 5


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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WCH board rules out cardiac unit

Returning a paediatric cardiac surgery unit to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital has been ruled out by the board, despite strong objections from prominent doctors.

Board member Dr Stephen Christley told media today that after “listening to the advice of cardio-thoracic experts, the board has upheld the decision” to not re-introduce a cardiac unit, which was removed from the facility in 2002.

A recent review rejected calls to reinstate it, backed by a “second opinion” of prominent experts released in recent days.

However, it also follows recent controversy after doctors – including one of the state’s leading obstetricians, Associate Professor John Svigos – claimed a lack of WCH cardiac surgery resources had contributed to the deaths of four babies.

Adelaide is the only mainland capital city that does not have a paediatric cardiac surgery unit or a vital life-support machine known as Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Support Service, which replaces the function of the heart and lungs – meaning critically ill babies and children instead have to be transferred interstate.

Patients who require “complex paediatric cardiac surgery” have been usually sent to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, but SA Health said today a recent COVID-prompted move to instead send them to Sydney’s Westmead Hospital remained in place.

Both reviews backed a locally-based ECMO service, with Christley saying today that was being looked at.

But Svigos has argued an ECMO service alone is not safe without a cardiac unit within the same facility.

Paediatric cardiologist Dr Gavin Wheaton said “a level of robust and respectful debate and disagreement is normal and we’ve certainly had some different views expressed”.

An independent review into the recent deaths is yet to report.

Five new COVID-19 cases in SA

South Australia recorded five new cases of COVID-19 today – all people who have recently returned from overseas.

SA Health said today’s cases included a teenager, one man in his 20s, two women in their 30s, and one man in his 40s.

“All five people have been in medi-hotels since their arrival from overseas and there is no public health risk,” the department said.

The state has 16 active cases of the virus.

Callum Ferguson retires from Shield cricket

South Australian stalwart Callum Ferguson will end his first-class career after the Redbacks’ Sheffield Shield game against Queensland.

The 35-year-old, who played one Test in 2016, will continue in limited overs formats.

Ferguson was overlooked for the Redbacks’ Shield opener and, on recall, made 29 and 40 against Tasmania but a pair of ducks on his last outing against Victoria.

Ferguson, who has made 8210 Shield runs with 19 centuries, makes way amid a rebuild of the Redbacks under new coach Jason Gillespie.

The Redbacks are winless from three games ahead of meeting Queensland from Sunday.

Big Bash League fixtures released with Adelaide NYE match locked in

Cricket Australia has released the BBL fixtures for the 2019/20 season, with the Adelaide Strikers set to host the Perth Scorchers in their traditional New Year’s Eve twenty-20.

The BBL’s 10th season will see all eight teams start in either Tasmania or the ACT, as Cricket Australia attempts to schedule around the travel uncertainty of closed borders in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

The season will kick off on December 10 in Hobart with the Hurricanes hosting the Sydney Sixers.

The Strikers will play their first game on December 13 also in Hobart against the Hurricanes.

There are currently only two scheduled games to be played at Adelaide Oval (December 28, 31), with no venues confirmed for any games scheduled in 2021.

View the full fixture list here.

Morrison weighs in on US election drama

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made his first comments on the state of the US election at a press conference this morning.

A cautious Morrison refused to make any definitive comments on the race which currently shows Democratic challenger Joe Biden as the favourite to win the presidency.

“I have great confidence in the democracy of the United States and I have great confidence in their institutions, and the thing about great institutions and democracies is they deal with whatever challenges come, just like our own does,” Morrison said.

When asked whether Trump was undermining the electoral process, Morrison declined to comment.

“I’m not a participant in the US political process; I’m a partner,” he said.

“We respect the decisions that the American people make in their democracy, and we’ll be patient and we’ll await the outcome of their process.

“It’s not for me to run a commentary on those things and I won’t.”

Earlier today, former Australian Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey repeated baseless claims made by the US President that electoral fraud is taking place in the US election.

The former ambassador and Australian Treasurer claimed fraud had “for sure” happened in the US, and there is “plenty of good reason to have litigation”.

Hockey cited Washington DC’s 93 per cent vote for Biden as something he “[finds] hard to believe”.

At the last three presidential elections, more than 90 per cent of the Washington DC electorate voted for the Democratic candidate.

Hartigan traded to Hawthorn

Crows defender Kyle Hartigan has been traded to Hawthorn for a future fourth round pick.

Hartigan expressed his desire to exercise his rights as a free agent two weeks ago, with the Crows ironing out a trade deal with Hawthorn this morning.

Hartigan is the third player to walk out of Adelaide’s doors this season, following midfielders Rory Atkins and Brad Crouch.

Adelaide list manager Justin Reid wished Hartigan all the best for the future.

“Kyle is the consummate team man, respected and liked by everyone at the football club and will always be a part of the Crows family,” Reid said.

“On-field, he has always played his role and to the team structures, while off-field he has achieved some tremendous things through his work with the Adelaide Crows Foundation.

“We wish Kyle, Emily and Hazel all the very best for the future.”

Hartigan played 113 games for the club.

Trump sues to halt vote count

President Donald Trump’s campaign team says it is suing to temporarily halt vote counting in Pennsylvania and has also asked to intervene in a US Supreme Court case over mail-in ballots in the state, which could determine the winner of the election.

The campaign said on Wednesday it was suing to stop Democratic officials in the state from “hiding” the ballot counting process from Republican poll observers.

Pennsylvania and the US election remain too close to call between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Trump’s campaign filed a similar lawsuit earlier on Wednesday in Michigan, also aimed at temporarily halting counting in that state.

The campaign also sought to intervene in an existing case before the US Supreme Court, according to a court filing.

The case was brought by Republicans who had asked the US Supreme Court to review a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that allowed mail-in ballots that arrive by Friday to be counted as along as they were postmarked by Election Day.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden addressed reporters on Wednesday afternoon from Wilmington, Delaware, alongside his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris

Biden currently has 248 electoral votes, while President Donald Trump has 214. It takes 270 to win the presidency.

“Every vote must be counted,” Biden said.

“We the people will not be silenced.”

“After a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency,” Biden said.

He promised to reach out to political opponents and insisted that the presidency “itself is not a partisan institution.”

Payne confident of US election result

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne remains confident of a clear result in the United States election, despite Donald Trump undermining faith in the process.

Joe Biden appears on track to become US president but Trump continues to falsely claim the election is being stolen from him.

“I’m confident that the US systems and processes that have stood the test of time will deliver an outcome and it is important that we wait for that,” Senator Payne told the ABC this morning.

“It’s important that we respect that process, that every vote is counted, and I’m sure that they will be.”

Biden has pulled ahead in crucial swing states but the president continues to peddle baseless claims of electoral fraud.

Trump’s campaign team is demanding a recount in the state of Wisconsin after Democrat challenger Joe Biden held a narrow lead at the completion of the vote count in the pivotal state.

Biden also led in another critical midwestern battleground state – Michigan – as he and Trump raced to get to the 270 electoral votes in the state-by-state electoral college needed to win the White House.

SA wine industry braces for new China blow

China is tightening its squeeze on the Australian wine industry with new claims that it is considering a request to place retrospective tariffs on Australian imports.

Australia’s biggest wine company Treasury Wine Estates told the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday afternoon that the China Alcoholic Drinks Association (CADA) had submitted a written request to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce asking that imports of Australian wine in containers of two litres or less be subject to retrospective tariffs.

The request is associated with an ongoing anti-dumping investigation by the Chinese Government, which has targeted a handful of major exporters including TWE, which produces several leading brands including Penfolds and Wolf Blass.

TWE said it would continue to engage proactively with customers in China to assess the impact of the request on future import orders and support them in any new process requirements.

There were also several reports yesterday from SA wine companies that Chinese authorities had sent an informal message to importers telling them to stop importing certain Australian goods including wine from November 6.

Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene told ABC Radio yesterday afternoon that his understanding of the new directive was that Australian wine would not be cleared through Chinese customs.

“We’re waiting to see what happens on Friday,” he said.

China is Australia’s biggest wine export market, accounting for about $1.1 billion in 2019/20.  Of that more than $800 million worth of wine came from South Australia.

In August, China announced it had launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine. Companies asked to provide information to the probe, including Penfolds parent company Treasury Wine Estates and Casella Family Wines, have until mid-November to complete questionnaires to assist the Chinese Government with its investigation.

A second investigation was subsequently launched by China into countervailing duties and involves the same companies with the addition of Pernod Ricard, the makers of Jacob’s Creek.

Thousands return to city offices

Office occupancy rates in Adelaide rose by six per cent from September to October as thousands more city workers returned to the CBD, according to new Property Council of Australia data.

The October occupancy rate in Adelaide jumped from 67 to 73 per cent. Nationally, the most significant increases from September to October came in Canberra (up 17 per cent), Perth (14) and Brisbane (nine).

Sydney (five), Darwin (three) and Hobart (three) also had single-digit lifts.

Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said the survey showed momentum was swinging behind a return to CBD offices.

“The shift is on and more CBD workers are coming back to their offices, which is an important step in Australia’s economic recovery,” he said in a statement.

“Leadership from the prime minister and some state governments in encouraging their public servants to return to their offices has clearly played an important role, along with more businesses rebooting their CBD workplaces.”

The Victorian government’s lockdown directive that Melburnians must work from home if able left nine out of 10 central city offices empty.

Workplace occupancy figures for the COVID-hit city actually fell marginally from eight to seven per cent from September to October.

On Saturday, Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton flagged a “gradual” return to the workplace for Melburnians if coronavirus case numbers remain low.

Morrison said there was “clearly” scope for more city workers to return in every city.

“It will be vital for the Victorian government to allow workers to return to the Melbourne CBD as an early element of its easing of restrictions,” he said.

Public transport and workplace safety concerns replaced public health restrictions as the most influential reason affecting CBD office occupancy levels, according to the survey.

Deal locks in two more COVID vaccines for Australia

Australia will have access to 134 million doses of coronavirus vaccines after the federal government secured two more agreements.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce a deal with Novavax to supply 40 million vaccine doses and Pfizer-BioNTech for 10 million doses.

This brings the government’s COVID-19 vaccine investment to more than $3.2 billion, adding to deals with University of Queensland-CSL and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Access to the vaccines is subject to clinical trial outcomes on the safety and effectiveness of each candidate, and approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Novavax vaccine, made in the United States and the Czech Republic, will require two doses per person, with the first supply expected to arrive in early 2021.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate is also set to arrive in a similar timeframe and will be made in the United States, Belgium and Germany.

“The goal and the expectation is that Australians who sought vaccination will be vaccinated within 2021,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Health and aged care workers, and the elderly and vulnerable will be the first to gain access to a vaccine.

Business confidence surges in SA

South Australian businesses are expecting a strong finish to the year buoyed by high consumer spending and government stimulus measures, according to a Business SA survey.

Business confidence in the September quarter far exceeded expectations to be up 28.3 points to 95.3 points – the biggest jump in 20 years and highest index since March 2019.

The September confidence surge follows the lowest confidence index on record of 41.1 points in the March quarter earlier this year.

“This a stunning turnaround in confidence,” said Business SA CEO, Martin Haese.

“While confidence was forecast to rise back in the June quarter, it was tipped to be more modest. “Instead, operating conditions are up significantly for majority of SA businesses.”

According to the Business SA William Buck Survey of Business Expectations, conditions were stronger than expected, up 28.7 points from the June quarter and are forecast to rise even further in the next quarter to nearly 100 points.

But it also shows South Australia’s economy remains divided in two: those businesses hardest hit by ongoing restrictions, and the rest.

About 37 per cent of businesses in the hardest hit sectors are forecasting for their revenue to down more than 50 per cent on pre-COVID levels by the end of December, compared to only 13 per cent of businesses not in those hardest hit sectors.

“The survey shows businesses that rely on interstate and overseas tourists, operate hospitality venues geared around being able to stand and drink, and almost all businesses in the events supply chain are still in a world of pain,” Haese said.

Queensland rookies pull off surprise Origin win in Adelaide

Queensland’s unlikely bunch of rookies have pulled off a State of Origin miracle in Adelaide last night, coming from behind to claim a famous 18-14 win over NSW.

Fielding eight debutants and the biggest outsiders for an Origin match in more than 20 years, Queensland looked gone at 10-0 down at halftime at Adelaide Oval.

But that’s where the comeback kicked in for the series opener front of 25,218 fans.

The Maroons scored three tries in the space of 14 minutes, with Kurt Capewell superb on debut with man-of-the-match Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster just as influential.

NSW put themselves back in the match late when Josh Addo-Carr completed his double, but the Maroons held out a late attacking raid to go 1-0 up in the series.

The triumph is arguably one of Wayne Bennett’s finest coaching performances, given the Maroons on paper looked a shadow of their great teams of yesteryear.

“They overcame everything to come here tonight and play as a team, play as a Queensland team,” Bennett said

It sets up a tantalising final fortnight of the series, with NSW now needing to win in Sydney next week to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive.

UK approves month-long lockdown to curb virus

British MPs have approved a month-long lockdown in England, voting in favour of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to try to prevent COVID-19 running out of control and overwhelming health services.

People will be ordered to stay at home from this morning to combat a surge in new infections that could, if unchecked, cause more deaths than a first wave which forced a three-month lockdown earlier this year.

The 516-38 vote had been in little doubt after the opposition Labour Party said they would support the move, even though they criticised Johnson for acting too slowly.

He was also criticised by some in his own party who said a general lockdown was too severe.

“None of us came into politics to tell people once again to shutter their shops, to furlough their staff or stay away from their friends and family,” Johnson told parliament in an attempt to calm rebels within his Conservative Party.

The United Kingdom, which has the highest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.

Those warnings forced Johnson to announce a U-turn on Saturday, having previously insisted on an approach of regional lockdowns.

Mink link to virus mutation sparks mass cull in Denmark

Denmark will cull its entire herd of up to 17 million mink after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans, posing risk to any possible future vaccine, the prime minister says.

Outbreaks at mink farms have persisted in the Nordic country, the world’s largest producer of mink skins, despite repeated efforts to cull infected herds since June.

Health authorities found virus strains in humans and in mink which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies, potentially lowering the efficacy of future vaccines, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference.

“The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine,” she said.

Minks have also been culled in the Netherlands and Spain after finding infections.

Denmark’s health minister said about half of 783 infected people in Northern Denmark, home to a large number of mink farms, had been infected with a virus strain stemming from the farms.

Authorities had registered five cases of the new strain on mink farms and 12 cases in humans.

The mink herd in Denmark totals between 15 million and 17 million, authorities said.

– with AAP and Reuters
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