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What we know today, Friday November 20


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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SAPOL taskforce announced

A 20-person taskforce including some of SAPOL’s most senior detectives has been assembled to investigate “any alleged criminal actions” connected with the circumstances leading up to SA’s aborted six-day lockdown.

Headed by Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey, the inquiry is charged with looking into whether any alleged criminal action was taken by “any person in the lead-up to – and post – the advice provided to SA Health prior to the recent COVID-19 lockdown”.

A man who worked in the Stamford medi-hotel and tested positive to COVID-19 told SA Health contact tracers he ordered a takeaway pizza from the Woodville Pizza Bar – a central location in the Parafield cluster – but later admitted he had instead been working at the venue.

Harvey said an experienced team of investigators and intelligence analysts from the Serious and Organised Crime Branch had been deployed to ensure “this investigation is fair, precise and timely”.

Shop trading hours to return to normal

Shop trading hours will return to normal, following the decision to bring the state out of lockdown.

The State Government had given supermarkets and other essential stores including pharmacies the ability to trade for 24 hours to help with physical distancing.

The exemption was set to apply for eight days until next Wednesday.

But given today’s developments, Treasurer Rob Lucas said the exemption would now be revoked, and trading hours would revert to normal.

Central market to reopen from Saturday

Central Market operators have been told they can reopen from Saturday morning for the sale of “fresh produce” – fruit and veg, meat, chicken and fish.

The stalls had been closed amid a lockdown ban on outdoor markets – leading to questions about why supermarkets had been left open, and given dispensation to operate for up to 24 hours a day.

Central Market Authority chair Theo Maras told InDaily late on Friday management had been given the green light to reopen as usual on Saturday.

“We’re very, very grateful for that as much of the produce wouldn’t have lasted,” he said.

“Already there’s been a huge loss… however, we’re very happy we’re able to have the public come back into the market so they can buy fresh produce from small South Australian businesses.

“It looked to me as if only the big boys would open and small independent traders would be out in the cold.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens suggested today the market had been caught up in a broad shutdown order and would be reassessed as an individual case.

Businesses demand compo

Businesses have launched an immediate call for compensation, and for restrictions to be lifted sooner, following today’s bombshell revelation the state was forced into an unnecessary shut-down based on a “lie”.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese released a scathing press release this afternoon, saying South Australia’s economy had been “threatened” and “serious failings” in the state’s COVID-19 management plan had been exposed.

Haese said “a single lie cannot bring a state’s economy to its knees” and that business owners had been let down.

“To say this week has been a roller coaster ride for South Australian business owners would be a gross understatement,” he said.

“This is a cluster thud.

“A three-day shutdown of the entire state will cost businesses many millions of dollars.

“Businesses have worn the cost of this lockdown, and Business SA is calling on the Government to bring forward pre-Parafield Gardens cluster restrictions as soon as possible.”


Key takeaways from bombshell press conference

Here is what you need to know from today’s extraordinary press conference:


New COVID-19 cases

Lie given to health authorities

Premier hints at law changes to punish lying to contact tracers

Premier Steven Marshall said changes to laws regarding statements made to public health officials are a “real priority”, following bombshell revelations an infected medi-hotel worker lied about his work arrangements at a Woodville pizza bar.

Currently, the Emergency Management Act and Public Health Act do not give police powers to punish individuals who lie to contact tracers.

“We’ll be looking very very carefully at the Emergency Management Act and also the Public Health Act in South Australia,” Marshall said.

“This is a real priority, we need to send a strong message to people that are doing the wrong thing and putting the South Australian public into such a difficult situation because of their lives.”

But the premier also said it was important any new punishments did not discourage people from coming forward to give information.

“The first thing we’ve got to do is determine that an increased penalty won’t actually drive information underground and then not provide public health with people coming forward,” he said.

“We’ve got to look at this, we’ve got to balance it up with people coming forward, but to say I’m fuming is an understatement.”

SA lockdown would not have happened if positive case had not lied: Police Commissioner

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said South Australia would not have gone into lockdown if a positive case had told the truth about his work at a Woodville Pizza Bar.

“The lie was the person claimed that they purchased the pizza from the pizza shop where in fact, they were working there,” Stevens said.

“Had this person been truthful to the contact tracing teams, we would not have gone into a six day lockdown.”

In an extraordinary press conference, Premier Steven Marshall said he was “fuming” that a positive case linked to the Woodville Pizza Bar “deliberately misled” contact tracers.

“Their story didn’t add up. We pursued them. We now know that they lied,” Marshall said.

“We are still trying to locate thousands of people who had dangerous contact at the Woodville pizza bar.

“Even more, now that we know this person lied, we have to find and isolate a whole new group of associates.

“To say that I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement.

“The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation.”

Premier Steven Marshall also announced that restrictions on exercise and dog walking are lifted effective immediately, and a further series of restrictions would be lifted by midnight Saturday.

This includes bars, cafes and gyms being allowed to open with a four person per four square metre rule in place.

Schools will reopen on Monday, funerals will have an allowance of 50 people and weddings will return to an allowance of 150.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier announced that SA has recorded three new COVID-19 cases, all of which are in quarantine.

It brings the total number of cases linked to the Parafield cluster to 25.

She warned that SA Health expects cases to rise over the coming days, with 44 people being treated as suspected positive tests.

She also said 4500 people are currently in 14 days of quarantine.

Bushfires in SA’s upper south east injure two, destroy house and shed

A house and a shed have been destroyed and two people injured in a bushfire that shocked fire crews with the speed at which it burnt through crop and grassland southeast of Adelaide.

The blaze at Yumali near Coonalpyn destroyed 5000 hectares in just four hours but warnings have now been reduced to an advice message.

Country Fire Service State Duty Commander Yvette Dowling said extra growth in areas that were yet to be harvested increased the risk of fast-moving fires.

“The fire travelled with such speed that it was not safe for us to put our trucks in front of it in an attempt to extinguish,” Dowling said.

“The fire burned with such ferocity that at times it was difficult for our firebombers to attack the flames.”

Investigators will be on the scene on Friday to determine the cause of the blaze.

At the height of the incident, a CFS four-wheel drive collided head-on with a private vehicle on the fireground.

Two people suffered minor injuries.

The CFS air fleet completed 48 drops onto the fire to bring it under control.

Victoria records zero COVID-19 cases, although one ‘weak positive’ under investigation

Victoria has recorded zero new COVID-19 cases today from a total of 18,474 tests, although one possible case is under investigation after a “weak positive” was identified.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said they are unsure whether this is a false positive or a historic infection, and the case will undergo an expert review.

Today’s figure marks Victoria’s third straight week without a new COVID-19 case.

There were fears yesterday that new cases may be recorded in the state’s west, after virus fragments were detected at a waste treatment plant in Portland.

Portland lies just over 70 kilometres away from the Victorian border with South Australia, which closed yesterday while the Victorian government sets up a permit system for essential workers.

COVID-19 update delayed till 11:30 am

Today’s COVID-19 press conference has been pushed back to 11:30 am.

The premier, police commissioner and chief public health officer were originally scheduled to appear before the media at 10:30 am.

InDaily will bring lives updates from the press conference as they come.

Trump lawyer in ‘crazy’ press conference

US President Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly frantic steps to subvert the results of the 2020 election, including summoning state legislators to the White House as part of a long-shot bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

At a press conference Thursday, Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others alleged a widespread Democratic election conspiracy involving multiple states and suspect voting machines. But election officials across the country have said repeatedly there was no widespread fraud.

Giuliani cited a few sworn affidavits that he said showed a vast Democratic conspiracy, but added that he could not reveal much of the evidence.

Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis, who joined Giuliani at the press conference, said more evidence would be forthcoming and that Trump’s allies would have more success in courts going forward. But so far, most of their legal actions have been dismissed.

Chris Krebs, the Trump administration election official fired last week over the comments about the security of 2020, tweeted: “That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”

Among other last-ditch tactics by the Trump team: personally calling local election officials who are trying to rescind their certification votes in Michigan, suggesting in a legal challenge that Pennsylvania set aside the popular vote there and pressuring county officials in Arizona to delay certifying vote tallies.

Election law experts see it as the last, dying gasps of the Trump campaign and say Biden is certain to walk into the Oval Office come January. But there is great concern that Trump’s effort is doing real damage to public faith in the integrity of U.S. elections.

Trump’s own election security agency has declared the 2020 presidential election to have been the most secure in history. Days after that statement was issued, Trump fired the agency’s leader.

The increasingly desperate and erratic moves are not expected to change the outcome of the 2020 election, where Biden has now received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history and has clinched the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.

Morrison ready to ditch carry-over credits

Scott Morrison appears poised to drop controversial plans to count “carry-over credits” towards carbon emission reduction targets.

The prime minister has told business leaders the government might reach its 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels through technology.

This would avoid having to use Kyoto credits amassed before 2020, which the government has been criticised at home and abroad for not ruling out.

“I have always said we will only use carryover to the extent required. My ambition is that we will not need them and we are working to this as our goal, consistent with our record of over-delivering,” Morrison said.

“I am confident our policies will get this job done.”

The prime minister said he would have more to say before the end of the year “as we update our emissions projections to take into account new policies and measures”.

Morrison again pledged to reach net zero emissions as quickly as possible, but was silent on joining Australia’s major trading partners in setting a 2050 deadline.

Stevens clarifies position on medi-hotel workers

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has clarified his position on medi-hotel workers, saying he sympathises with their financial situations and believes it is unfair to be “cherry picking” their outside employment for criticism.

“Isolating a second job to my way of thinking is not addressing the risk,” Stevens told ABC Radio this morning.

“You are cherry picking one aspect of their private lives and saying ‘you can’t do that but you can do everything else’.

“In terms of how you pay security officers, that’s certainly not something that I can address, but I certainly am sympathetic to the fact that these people have lives to live.

“We’re asking them to do a very important job for us right now that is critical to us ensuring that we are keeping SA as safe as possible from COVID-19, but while we’re allowing people to come in from overseas, returning Australians, people with Australian citizenship, we need to accept that there’s a level of risk that goes with that.”

Stevens acknowledged one of the recommendations of the Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry is security guards are salaried to cover their financial requirements and their need to isolate if they contract the infection.

Yesterday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced his state’s hotel quarantine reset would include a requirement for medi-hotel security guards to be exclusively employed by the Victorian government.

City partygoers fined, drugs seized

Police have handed out fines and seized 1.5 litres of the drug fantasy after breaking up a party in the city last night.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told ABC Radio this morning that seven fines were handed out at the CBD party where the party drug was seized.

He said fines had also been issued to a group of people at the beach yesterday who were deemed to be blatantly disregarding lockdown rules.

However, Stevens said overwhelmingly South Australians were doing the right thing.

“It’s quite impressive how the community has responded,” he told the ABC.

“People can stay at home unless they are essential workers or need to obtain essential goods,” Stevens said when asked what people should be doing on day two of the six-day lockdown.

The police commissioner said his daughter’s wedding, planned for this weekend, had also been postponed as a result of the lockdown.

Earlier Stevens defended the state’s hotel quarantine workers, saying no one has the right to criticise someone for having a second job.

His comments followed the public furore over an infected security guard who had a second job at the Woodville Pizza Bar and went on to infect a co-worker and a customer.

“It’s unreasonable to expect someone not to get on with the rest of their lives when not working in quarantine hotels,” Stevens told Nine Network this morning.

“Stopping them from having a second job doesn’t stop them from spreading the virus if they do contract it in a medi-hotel.

“They still have families and other commitments in the community.”

Stevens stressed having people quarantining when they’re not working in a medi-hotel was unrealistic.

SA is now into its second day of a hard lockdown to circumvent a potential second wave of infections in the state spreading from the so-called Parafield cluster in Adelaide.

The restrictions are expected to be eased back on Tuesday to at least a partial lockdown, depending on case numbers.

On Thursday the number of confirmed infections was reduced by one to 22, but 17 more people are suspected of having the virus.

Overnight ‘Stay at Home’ changes ease strain on essential workers

Essential workers can now be driven to and from their place of work by their spouse or domestic partner by the most direct route following changes to the state’s COVID-19 Stay at Home directions released by SA Police overnight.

As South Australia enters day two of the six-day lockdown, visiting a petrol station has also been added as a valid reason to leave home. This includes petrol stations that sell groceries but not to obtain food or drinks prepared on-site for take-away or dine in.

Bakeries that supply wholesale baked goods can also operate but cannot sell directly to the public.

A full list of the latest updates is available here

There were no new COVID-19 cases reported in South Australia on Thursday, but there remain 35 active cases – 22 of which are linked to the Parafield cluster.

SA Health initially reported 23 cases linked to the cluster, but it revised that figure down to 22 late on Thursday after one person, who initially tested positive for coronavirus one week ago, was reclassed as a negative case.

An additional 17 people have been deemed “suspected cases” after they came in contact with a positive case and are either waiting for a test result or returned an initial negative test and are getting retested.

Three people linked to the cluster are in hospital in a stable condition.

SA Health on Thursday afternoon added two new locations to its list of contact tracing alerts.

They include Alive Catholic ELC at Parafield Gardens and Mount Carmel College at Rosewater.

If you visited the ELC on Friday November 13 or College on Thursday 12 to Friday 13 November, you must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days and get tested.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said on Thursday that health authorities were still trying to locate people who visited hotspot locations to get tested.

Spurrier said areas of “real concern” include the Woodville Pizza Bar on Woodville Road, Lyell McEwin Hospital emergency department, Eblen Collision Repairs at Somerton, Morphett Arms Hotel at Glengowie, Mint Leaf Lounge at Mawson Lakes, Funk Coffee at Port Adelaide and Spotlight at Gepps Cross.

More than 20,000 South Australians have been tested this week, not including today’s figures, which are yet to be released.

SA Health was forced to temporarily shut several testing clinics yesterday due to strong wind.

Two new testing clinics in Adelaide’s north and west will open on Friday, but their locations are yet to be revealed.

The Victoria Park drive-through testing clinic is now open 24 hours until midnight Friday and the Elizabeth testing station has had its opening hours extended until midnight.

National experts ‘rubbish’ SA hype around new virus strain

Experts have criticised claims by the SA government that a super-strain of COVID-19 is behind the state’s coronavirus outbreak, The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has repeatedly described the virus as having a very short incubation period this week, meaning it can spread from one person to another within 24 hours of a person being exposed. She has also said the strain displayed few or no symptoms.

Premier Steven Marshall has described it as a highly contagious strain that is “quite different than anything we’ve seen before”.

But after describing the claims on Twitter as “Rubbish”, Kirby Institute epidemiologist Professor Greg Dore told The Sydney Morning Herald it was more likely South Australia was simply misinterpreting its own test results.

“The virus has not changed at all. It’s just the detecting strategy,” he said.

Genetic data from the Parafield cluster, which could reveal a new mutation, has not yet been released.

University of Queensland virologist Associate Professor Ian Mackay told The Sydney Morning Herald that the virus causing COVID-19 mutated very slowly and had not yet changed enough to have multiple strains.

Leading microbiologist at the Australian National University Professor Peter Collignon said there was “no evidence” dramatically different strains existed.

“This idea of a one-day incubation period and all the characteristics being put to it are very unlikely to represent a new strain,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Victorian testing blitz begins after hard border closure

Victoria has shut its border to South Australia as it embarks on a COVID-19 testing blitz in two regional towns.

The “hard border” with virus-hit SA came into effect just before midnight on Thursday and will remain in place until Sunday when a permit system is implemented.

The 48-hour shutdown was prompted by the unexpected detection of virus fragments in wastewater at Benalla and Portland, both along freight corridors, and Adelaide’s growing cluster which has sparked a six-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown.

Residents of those towns, as well as anyone who visited them between November 15 and 17 with any symptoms, are being urged to get tested and isolate until receiving their result.

New testing sites will be opened on Friday afternoon as part of the testing push.

Portland’s will be based at a Princess Highway truck spot in Winnap, while the Benalla location is due to be announced on Friday morning.

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Allan Cheng said the virus fragments could either be from an active infection, or a recovered case who may still be shedding the virus.

Under the hard border, only freight drivers and those with medical or emergency reasons, as well as people authorised by law, such as child protection officers, will be able to cross the border.

More than 300 police will patrol the Victorian side of the South Australian border, from Mildura down to Portland.

It’s the first time Victoria has shut its border to any state during the pandemic.

SAS squadron disbands over Afghan war crime claims

Future generations will be reminded of alleged unlawful Afghan killings when they see the gap in Special Air Service squadron numbering, the chief of the army says.

The SAS second squadron has been disbanded following a damning report.

An investigation by Justice Paul Brereton found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 Afghan nationals were unlawfully killed.

Australia’s defence chief Angus Campbell told reporters the Chief of Army Rick Burr had advised the Special Air Service Regiment on Thursday the second squadron had been “struck off the Army order of battle”.

“Not because it was the only squadron involved in these issues, but because it was at a time one of the squadrons involved in the allegations made,” he said.

The Army chief would “over time” adjust and re-raise a different squadron, which would have a different title, General Campbell said.

Lieutenant General Burr said the decision wasn’t reflective of the current members of the squadron, but they would be reassigned to other units.

“As the chief of army this is not a decision I have taken lightly,” he said in a statement.

“The issues in the inquiry report are so shocking that a clear message is required.

“Future generations will be reminded of this moment in our military history from the gap in our squadron numbering system.”

Lieutenant General Burr will accelerate existing plans for personnel in Special Operations Command to take up postings outside of the command.

“It’s important we learn from this experience and begin the healing process so we can focus on the future. This must never be allowed to happen again, anywhere in our army,” he said.

“Our profession demands we must always operate lawfully, ethically and responsibly. Even in the most complex and challenging environments.”

The Australia Defence Association supports scrapping the second squadron.

“It sends a powerful and symbolic message, not just now but essentially for all time,” executive director Neil James told AAP.

“It will disappoint veterans who have served in that unit in previous wars and no doubt make them angry. But unfortunately it’s necessary for the greater good of the regiment and the army.”

West End workers vote to strike over closure

West End brewery workers have voted to take indefinite industrial action against the brewery’s owner Kirin, as the multinational prepares to force redundancy on 100 workers in the midst of the pandemic due to the brewery’s 2021 closure.

United Workers Union notified the operators of the historic South Australian brewery late yesterday that workers were prepared to take “an unlimited number of stoppages of work of indefinite duration”.

“These essential workers at West End will be working throughout the latest shutdown – putting their health and their families’ health on the line as they did earlier this year,” United Workers Union food and beverage co-ordinator Mark Whenan said.

“The commitment of West End workers to their jobs and the residents of South Australia has not been matched by the owners of the brewery – Kirin’s bosses only seem committed to giving West End workers the worst end.

“The pandemic has exposed the determination of essential workers at West End who have worked throughout the crisis; it has also exposed the hard times workers face when they lose their jobs.

“The brewery bosses have given workers no sign they understand the gravity of the situation facing these workers when the brewery closes next year.

“Many of these workers have devoted the best part of their lives to this brewery.

“Yet the Kirin beer bosses are ready to throw them on the scrapheap with no special consideration about the finality of this closure.

“The sad thing is this closure is a case study of corporate greed – Kirin is closing a profitable brewery as part of the endless pursuit of greater profits and executive bonuses.

“Workers feel like they have been left little choice but to strike for improved redundancy pay that recognises the dire situation they are facing when the brewery closes.”

Whenan said workers have been buoyed by the support from South Australians angered by the brewery closure and the disappearance of West End Draught as a beer made in South Australia.

“When West End said ‘It pays to be a local’, South Australians stood behind the brand,” he said.

“Now South Australians will be asking themselves how much support they should be giving Kirin and the brands of its Lion offshoot – including Hahn, Tooheys, XXXX, Furphy, James Squire and Little Creatures.”

A spokesperson for the West End Brewery said they are negotiating with the unions in “good faith” and believe they have put forward an offer that is “fair and reasonable.

“We continue to negotiate with the unions and our team at West End in good faith,” the spokesperson said. 

“Our priority is the wellbeing of our team, and we recognise this is a difficult time. We are working with each and every team member to support them through this change and will make up to $1 million available for re-skilling those who wish to access training, in addition to redundancy payments.  

“The beer industry is facing a range of headwinds, and we have made an offer that is fair and reasonable.

“We do not foresee any stock issues arising as a result of this action, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring continuity of supply for our customers.” 

Man killed in Sturt crash

A motorbike rider man has died in a crash at Sturt.

Emergency services were called to the intersection of Sturt and Diagonal Roads about 4.20pm yesterday after reports that a motorcycle had collided with a bus.

A police patrol had reported seeing the motorcycle rider driving erratically shortly before the crash, but did not pursue the motorcycle.

The rider, a 23-year-old Morphett Vale man died at the scene.

Major Crash investigators are examining the circumstances of the crash, and anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,

The man’s death is the 80th life lost on South Australian roads and the 16th motorcyclist to die on South Australian roads in 2020.

Hopes fade for Trump win in Georgia recount

The US presidential election battleground state of Georgia is expected to affirm Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump after a painstaking recount, which would deal another setback to Trump’s efforts to cling on to power.

Georgia’s top election official, a Republican, has said the manual recount of almost five million votes is unlikely to erode Biden’s initial 14,000 winning margin by enough to hand Trump victory in the state.

That would leave Republican Trump with a dwindling number of options to overturn the results of an election in which Democrat Biden won 5.8 million more votes nationwide.

Barring a series of unprecedented events, Biden will be sworn in on January 20.

In the state-by-state electoral college that determines the winner, Biden has captured 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, well ahead of the 270 needed for victory. The winner in each state is awarded that state’s electoral votes, a number roughly proportional to the population.

Flipping Georgia’s 16 votes would still leave Trump at least two closely contested states away from overturning Biden’s victory. Georgia officials say they expect to release results on Thursday before a certification deadline on Friday.

In Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 82,000 votes, the Trump campaign is asking a judge to declare him the winner there, saying its Republican-controlled legislature should choose the state’s slate of 20 electoral college voters.

In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign has paid for a partial recount, even though election officials there say that will likely only add to Biden’s 20,000-vote advantage in a state that carries 10 electoral votes.

Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits in a number of other states, including Michigan, with scant success so far.

Those legal motions, sprinkled with factual errors, have been dismissed by Biden’s campaign as “theatrics” that are not based on sound law.

Arizona’s top election official, Democrat Katie Hobbs, said she and her family had been getting violent threats and urged Trump to stop casting doubt on the result, in which he lost by just over 10,000 votes.

Trump, who has largely stayed in the White House and kept out of public view since the election, has no public events scheduled for Thursday.

His administration has so far refused to recognise Biden as the winner, which has held up funding and security clearances to ease the transition from one president to another ahead of the January 20 inauguration.

Biden said on Wednesday the delay was preventing his team planning a new assault on surging coronavirus infections, which is straining the US healthcare system.

– with AAP and Reuters
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