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What we know today, Sunday November 15


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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Three cases of community transmission in SA

South Australia has three new cases of locally acquired COVID-19 after a worker from a quarantine hotel was believed to have infected family members.

An 80-year-old woman was diagnosed on Saturday and a woman in her 50s and man in his 60s were diagnosed on Sunday, Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier told reporters.

“One of those people works in our medi-hotels,” Prof Spurrier said.

“This is where we consider the source to be.”

Contact tracing is underway on four other family members showing symptoms, and on roughly 90 people who were at the emergency department of the Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide’s northern suburbs at the same time as the 80-year-old woman between 5:30pm on Friday and 4:00am on Saturday.

Dr Spurrier said the woman also visited the Parafield Plaza Asian supermarket between 10:30am and 11:00am on Thursday while infectious.

Anyone who was at the supermarket at the same time should monitor themselves for symptoms.

Spurrier urged any person who develops symptoms to immediately report for testing.

“I am expecting that we will have more cases. This is a wake-up call,” she said.

All staff working at SA’s quarantine hotels will now be required to undertake virus testing every seven days.

The new rule includes police, nurses, concierge, cleaners and security guards.

A 30-year-old man who recently returned from overseas was also diagnosed while in hotel quarantine.

There are now 19 active COVID-19 cases in SA.

It comes as the COVID-19 testing sites at Bordertown, Tailem Bend, and Yamba have all been temporarily closed down due to challenging weather conditions.

The Victoria Park / Pakapakanthi testing site closed due to lightning earlier on Sunday but has since reopened.

InDaily observed a steady stream of vehicles pulling into the drive-in testing facility on Sunday afternoon.

The new cases come as the state rolls out a new $1.7 million semi-automated contact tracing system.

The new Pandemic Contact Tracing Model increases the capacity to trace close contacts by 150 percent – up from an approximate capacity of 40 cases to over 100 cases per day.

Executive Director of COVID-19 Communicable Disease Control Branch Systems, Prof Katina D’Onise, said the new contact tracing system and a new dedicated area for operations would prepare the team for a long-term response to COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be ongoing for months, if not years, so we are doing everything we can to prepare, including additional surge capacity, so we are in the best position to respond to any future outbreaks,” Prof D’Onise said.

“With the new system, staff will input case details into a centralised, secure database that will automatically prioritise high-risk cases and enable a faster response.

“The semi-automated process will enable better decision support for contact tracers and facilitate the collection of higher quality data, sooner.”

The new enhanced contact tracing system is expected to be fully operational next month.

The contact tracing team of 300 includes an additional 60 people to join the already existing team of approximately 90 people, plus the 150 recruits from the previously announced public sector pool.

CFS launch campaign as three bushfires burn

South Australian residents have been told to take action as three bushfires burn out of control in hot and blustery conditions, coinciding with the launch of a campaign warning the state’s residents to prepare for the coming bushfire season.

The Country Fire Service has issued watch and act alerts on Sunday for grass blazes burning near Deepwater, Meningie and Eden Valley.

“Take action now as this bushfire may threaten your safety,” the warning said.

“If you are not prepared, leave now and if the path is clear, go to a safer place. Do not enter this area as conditions are dangerous.”

The Deepwater fire at Taunta Hut Road is moving toward Cantara Road and Bunbury Road Gum Lagoon, while the Meningie blaze at Moonee Hills Road is moving in the direction of Field Road and Boundary Road

The Eden Valley blaze at Jutland Road is heading to Marne River.

All three fires are burning uncontrolled and being fanned by south-easterly winds.

A total fire ban is in place for eight districts across the state at severe to extreme risk of bushfires.

The mercury reached 37.9C in Adelaide on Sunday amid a severe thunderstorm warning for damaging wind gusts up to 90km/h for parts of Flinders, North West Pastoral and North East Pastoral districts.

Marla, Coober Pedy, Roxby Downs, Leigh Creek, Oodnadatta and Marree have been identified as potentially in the path of the storm.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported gusty thunderstorms about eastern districts had raised dust and produced 1cm hail near Waikerie.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecast gusty thunderstorms through the central and eastern parts of the state ahead of a cooler change.

Adelaide is forecast to have a top temperature of 37C on Sunday before a cooler 22C on Monday.

Further north, the mercury will push into the low to mid-40s, with Oodnadatta expected to hit 46C and Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy 45C.

It comes as the CFS launched its Be Bushfire Ready campaign on Sunday, with fire chiefs this joining the Minister for Emergency Services Vincent Tarzia to officially launch a campaign that features bushfire survivors from last summer’s horror season.

Minister for Emergency Services Vincent Tarzia said the time for preparing properties, homes and families is now.

“The 2019/20 bushfire season was devastating and tragic with three lives lost,” Minister Tarzia said.

“Today’s campaign focuses on what we all need to do this year for those living, visiting or travelling in bushfire prone areas. It only takes five minutes to complete a survival plan which could save your life.”

CFS Chief Officer Mark Jones said knowing the risk in your local area and having a plan was the first steps to being prepared for bushfire.

“As South Australians, we unfortunately know the real-life impacts that bushfires can have on our communities and livelihoods,” Mr Jones said.

“Our fire services are more prepared than ever to respond where needed. But our message to the community is to prepare now, have a 5 Minute Bushfire Plan and know where to get the latest updates when fires do take place.”

SA netball stadium to receive $12m upgrade

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall on Sunday announced a raft of sports facility upgrades to receive cash out of a $214m fund.

“These projects will create hundreds of jobs during construction, support local businesses and significantly boost our economy,” he said.

Marshall announced funding of $12m for the second stage of works at SA’s home of netball at Mile End Stadium, including upgrades to entry facilities and cafe/bar facilities, new scoreboards, and increased stadium capacity.

He also announced $5m towards an $18 million facelift for Thebarton Oval, which will include works to ensure the ground is an AFLW compliant venue.

The announcement coincides with the release of the State Sport and Recreation Infrastructure Plan, for infrastructure upgrades.

An additional $5m was earmarked for the $19 million upgrade to the State Centre of Football.

The announcement coincides with the release of the 20-year State Sport and Recreation Infrastructure Plan, which has identified 230 sports infrastructure upgrade projects.

It comes after a $44m Memorial Drive upgrade was announced in last Tuesday’s State Budget, along with a $45m Hindmarsh Stadium upgrade.

Australia joins world’s biggest free-trade deal

Australia is one of fifteen nations set to sign the world’s biggest free-trade agreement at the ASEAN virtual summit hosted in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told regional leaders and businessmen at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting that the deal was a significant achievement.

“The signing of the regional comprehensive economic partnership (on Sunday) is a concrete action that shows the determination to co-operate and integrate in the region,” Phuc said. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) covers 2.2 billion people and 29 per cent of global economic output. Having been negotiated since 2013, it is expected to be signed during an online ceremony on Sunday at the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi.

The world’s biggest trade agreement will include 10 ASEAN member states – Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei – along with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Once in place, RCEP will reduce tariffs, set common trade rules and facilitate supply chains. The trade agreement will cover everything from trade, services, investment, e-commerce, telecommunications and copyright.

WA warns Morrison over relaxing borders

Western Australia has warned it won’t hesitate to slam its border shut again if the Morrison government relaxes restrictions on international travellers.

It comes as hundreds of people continue to stream into the state after its COVID-19 hard border closure was relaxed on Saturday.

“It was lovely to see families being reunited yesterday after eight or so months apart,” Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Sunday.

“You could see the emotion as mothers greeted daughters, grandparents greeted their grandchildren.

“It is a relief we were able to do that in a very safe way.”

Police reported few delays on Saturday as 2287 people crossed into WA by air and road.

Another 10 domestic flights with 1000 passengers are expected to arrive in the state on Sunday.

Four new virus cases were diagnosed in hotel quarantine in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.

All four are Australians returning from overseas.

“International arrivals of Australians are clearly the biggest risk to the state,” Mr McGowan said.

“If we open up to overseas countries and allow people in without quarantining that would be a mistake.”

SA tourism sector readies for Victorian boom

South Australia’s tourism industry chiefs say moves to lift border restrictions with Victoria will come as a great relief to the sector.

The SA government has set December 1 as the day when Victorians can once again travel to state without the need to quarantine, either in a hotel or at home.

Tourism Industry Council chief executive Shaun de Bruyn says the decision is great news with the festive season just around the corner.

“Victoria is the largest provider of visitors to our state and many tourism businesses have suffered with the absence of this key interstate market,” he said.

“The announcement will provide great relief for many of those tourism businesses that are still suffering great hardship, especially with Christmas and the school holidays fast approaching.”

About 1.2 million Victorians visit South Australia each year and generate around $895 million for the state economy.

Premier Steven Marshall said the lifting of restrictions would bring Victoria in line with SA’s rules for all other states but was dependent on no major new outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the next two weeks.

“This (hard border closure) has been in place for an extended period of time and it’s been important to keep our state safe,” Mr Marshall said.

“It has been our first line of defence.”

The change was confirmed at a meeting of the state’s transition committee on Friday, which will meet again next week to review, and likely ease, a range of local coronavirus measures.

Intrastate separation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic took a major step towards normality on Saturday with a significant relaxation of the West Australian border.

Hundreds of people started arriving in Perth by air and road after the scrapping of the state’s hard border closure.

All travellers to WA have to complete an online declaration and be screened, including a temperature check, when they arrive.

SA Health reported three new cases in South Australia on Saturday, all people who recently arrived from overseas.

The two women in their 20s and a woman in her 50s are in hotel quarantine.

No locally transmitted cases were reported across Australia on Saturday.

Christmas Pageant makes Adelaide Oval debut

Around 25,000 spectators on Saturday attended the first Christmas Pageant held at the Adelaide Oval and at night.

The attendees had to secure their tickets through a hotly contested ballot for an event which usually attracts thousands of thousands.

Onlookers watched on as more than 1500 performers circled the Oval with 55 floats, including the new addition of the Yellow Brick Road, and with Father Christmas as usual the headline act.

South Australia’s frontline workers enjoyed a guard of honour before the start of the parade.

The state’s chief public health officer, Nicola Spurrier, blew the whistle to signal the start of the parade.

Organisers also arranged for 75 tickets to be allocated to the Bushfire Kids Connect group, which included families including who lost their homes and presents in Adelaide Hills fires five days before last Christmas.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ASEAN Nation leaders are seen on a video screen as he speaks during the ASEAN-Australia Leaders’ Summit. Image: AAP/Lukas Coch

PNG unrest prompts Morrison to cancel trip

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled his visit to Papua New Guinea after some of the country’s ministers switched to the opposition causing a leadership threat.

Mr Morrison’s office confirmed the cancellation on Saturday saying he had deferred the visit after PNG prime minister James Marape asked him to.

The disgruntled PNG ministers have cited growing economic worries facing the indebted Pacific nation.

Mr Marape has been in power for just 18 months, after replacing long-serving leader Peter O’Neill in a similar process that involved prominent government ministers switching sides.

Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil and Foreign Affairs Minister Patrick Pruaitch are among those who withdrew support for the government on Friday, as opponents used their numbers to suspend parliament and start drawing up plans for a vote of no confidence that could oust Mr Marape.

Mr Marape said in a Facebook post that he would not be easily removed.

“It’s not over until it’s over, leadership has its moments,” he said.

Mr Morrison was due to meet Mr Marape in PNG next week.

Opposition Leader Belden Namah called on Mr Morrison’s visit to be deferred, telling PNG’s national newspaper it was “bad diplomacy” and was “tantamount to an attempt ot influence PNG’s political process”.

“There are other matters that Morrison should consider before he comes to Port Moresby with cash and candy to support Marape’s political survival,” Mr Namah said.

It comes as Mr Morrison unveils funding commitments to be directed towards regional neighbours in southeast Asia.

Mr Morrison on Saturday promised hundreds of millions in a speech at a virtual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for infrastructure development, cyber technologies and scholarships.

There will also be funding for maritime states to address regional challenges through training and technical advice and for boosting nations’ security through military education, cyber resilience and English language training.

“We understand that your prosperity is our prosperity,” he told the 10 member nations.

Trump waves on at ‘Million MAGA March’

US President Donald Trump undertook a slow motorcade drive-by past thousands of supporters gathered near the White House, as he made his way to a Virginia golf club.

A week after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden, thousands of Trump loyalists converged on the nation’s capital to protest the election results and falsely assert the vote was stolen.

Trump persists with his claims and complaints even though a broad coalition of top government and industry officials has declared that the November 3 voting and the following count unfolded smoothly with no more than the usual minor hiccups.

Officials declared the election “the most secure in American history”, repudiating Trump’s efforts to undermine the integrity of the contest.

The crowd cheered on Saturday as Trump’s limousine neared and people lined both sides of the street.

Some stood just a few feet away from Trump’s vehicle; others showed their enthusiasm by running along with the caravan.

They chanted “USA, USA” and “four more years”, and many carried American flags and signs showing their displeasure with the vote tally.

After an hour of speeches from Trump loyalists, the flag-waving crowd set off toward the Supreme Court.

The “Million MAGA March” was heavily promoted on social media, raising concerns it could spark conflict with anti-Trump demonstrators, who have gathered near the White House in Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to issues that are typical in every election: problems with signatures, postal marks on mail-in ballots, and the potential for a small number of ballots to be miscast or lost.

With Biden leading Trump by wide margins in key battleground states, none of those issues would have any impact on the outcome of the election.

Philippines Typhoon Vamco leaves 53 dead

At least 53 people have died after Typhoon Vamco set off floods, landslides and other accidents in the Philippines.

Twenty-two people are also reported missing, mostly in landslides in the affected provinces on the main island of Luzon, police say.

Floodwaters rose to unprecedented levels in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela, after torrential rain forced a major dam to open its spillway gate overnight.

Rainfall from nearby provinces ran into the Cagayan River, which overflowed and exacerbated the flooding, Cagayan provincial Governor Manuel Mamba said.

“This is unprecedented. It’s our first time experiencing this kind of flooding,” Mamba told Manila radio station DZMM Teleradyo, as he asked for help rescuing people trapped on rooftops.

“Our rescuers are already overwhelmed,” he said. “Our province has turned into an ocean of muddy floodwaters.”

President Rodrigo Duterte assured flood-stricken residents that help was on the way, with the military, coastguard, police and other government units dispatching more teams, helicopters and boats.

Duterte added that he has created two task forces to fast-track relief and rehabilitation in the disaster-hit areas.

Vamco blew out of the Philippines on Friday after battering Luzon, triggering the worst flooding in years in the capital Manila and surrounding provinces.

More than one million people were left with no electricity during Vamco’s onslaught, while more than 400,000 were forced to flee their homes, disaster officials said.

Vamco was the 21st tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, and the fifth since October.

Deadly fire at Romanian COVID-19 ward

A fire at a Romanian hospital treating COVID-19 patients has killed 10 people and critically injured seven others.

The blaze spread through the intensive care ward designated for people with COVID-19 at the public hospital in the northern city of Piatra Neamt, an emergency official said.

Local Emergency Situations Inspectorate spokeswoman Irina Popa said all those who died or were injured in Saturday’s fire except one were hospital patients.

Romanian health minister Nelu Tataru told local media the fire was “most likely triggered by a short circuit”.

Piatra Neamt is about 350km north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.

– with AAP and Reuters

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