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What we know today, Sunday November 22


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

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Victorian minister explains new SA border rules

Victoria has reopened to South Australia after a brief “hard border” was replaced on Sunday by a permit system.

SA residents can apply for a permit via the Services Victoria website but Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said not everyone would be eligible.

“For people from South Australia who are exposed to the South Australian government’s defined high-risk sites, you will not be granted a permit,” he said.

Communities in a 70km bubble around the interstate border can continue using SA government-issued permits.

The Northern Territory removed all coronavirus hotspot declarations for South Australia on Saturday.

New South Wales is maintaining its approach of requiring South Australians to fill out entry forms identifying if they are connected with any of the state’s hotspots.

Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania have all indicated that travel restrictions will remain in place for SA.

NSW and the ACT will open their borders to Victoria on Monday.

It comes as months of compulsory face mask-wearing coming to an end in Victoria as part of a further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced the latest round of rule changes to take effect from midnight, as well as future plans for Christmas events and the return of staff to offices.

“Masks will be required inside in all settings, they will not be required while outside,” he told reporters.

“However you need to carry the mask with you because you will have to wear the mask outside if you can’t distance.”

Melburnians have been required to wear face masks outside since mid-July. As virus cases leaked out of the city, the rules were implemented for regional Victorians in early August.

Other tweaks from Monday include an allowance for 15 home visitors per day, up from two, while outdoor public gatherings can have up to 50 people.

The latest changes to social restrictions were unveiled as Victoria extended its streak without a new COVID-19 infection or death to 23 days.

SA storms cause mass power outage

Nearly 4500 homes across South Australia have lost power due to lightning strikes and strong winds as storms pass across the state.

Those without power include roughly 1500 premises in Blair Athol and 820 in Mount Barker.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Sunday issued a warning over the potential for damaging winds in excess of 90km/h in the Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Flinders, Mid North, Riverland, Murraylands, Upper South East and parts of Mount Lofty Ranges, Yorke Peninsula, Lower South East, North West Pastoral and North East Pastoral districts.

Adelaide has recorded 3.6mm of rain since 9am and 6.6mm across the Mt Lofty Ranges over the same period.

The city is expecting a maximum temperature of 34C today with rain easing into the afternoon, before a cool change comes in tomorrow.

There is a very high fire danger in the Mt Lofty Ranges and a high danger level for the metropolitan region.

G20 vows to help poor nations post-COVID

Leaders of the 20 biggest economies have vowed to ensure a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and do what was needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” the leaders said in a draft G20 communique seen by Reuters.

The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia.

“We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.

G20 leaders are concerned that the pandemic might further deepen global divisions between the rich and the poor.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit on Saturday and will attend again later on Sunday.

Mr Morrison, himself in isolation in The Lodge after his visit to Japan, told the summit G20 had an important role to provide hope as they work to bring the world out of the pandemic and global recession.

The European Union urged G20 leaders quickly to put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics – called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator – and its COVAX facility to distribute vaccines.

Germany was contributing more than 500 million euros ($A811.54 million) to the effort, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the G20, urging other countries to do their part, according to a text of her remarks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries and said Moscow was also preparing a second and third vaccine.

China, where the pandemic originated a year ago, also offered to cooperate on vaccines.

US President Donald Trump, who lost the presidential election but has refused to concede to former Vice President Joe Biden, addressed G20 leaders briefly before golfing.

He discussed the need to work together to restore economic growth, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a summary released on Saturday.

She made no mention of any US pledge to support the global vaccine distribution effort.

Marshall slams Labor call for medi-hotel suspension

Premier Steven Marshall has hit out at state Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas over the Labor leader’s call on Sunday to indefinitely suspend the state’s hotel quarantine system and all repatriation flights. 

At the daily COVID-19 press conference on Sunday, Marshall described the move as “disgusting” and that Malinauskas had “jumped on a bandwagon, deliberately undermining health experts in South Australia”.

Malinauskas wrote to both Marshall and Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling for a suspension until issues that led to the Parafield outbreak are adequately addressed. 

Marshall also criticised plans flagged by Malinauskas to consider processing overseas arrivals at remote areas such as Woomera or Christmas Island, saying the former did not have the capacity.

The state has suspended repatriation flights until December 1.

No new cases added to Parafield cluster

South Australia’s chief public health officer Prof Nicola Spurrier has announced that no new cases have been added to the Parafield COVID-19 cluster.

In the daily COVID-19 press conference on Sunday morning, Spurrier revealed that one positive case was registered in hotel quarantine, a female in her 20s returned from overseas.

Spurrier also detailed the modelling that informed the decision to send the state into lockdown.

She said the estimated reproduction number of the virus in the community was above two, and could have been as high as four, meaning the state was on track to having 200 cases per day by mid-December.

“So that meant to me that every one of our cases had passed it on to at least two other people, if not four other people,” she said.

“At that time and based on that information, we had a 99% chance that the wave that was starting off in South Australia was not going to be just a little blip, but it was going to be a very significant wave.”

Premier Steven Marshall added that a total of 77,000 Covid-19 tests have been undertaken in South Australia this week, including 16,928 on Saturday.

He warned the state is “still not out of the woods” with the lockdown having lifted at midnight, noting that strict restrictions will remain in place through to 1 December.

“I know that many South Australians would be absolutely delighted that the stay-at-home order has now been released,” he said.

“This was taken off as of midnight last night, but I do need to emphasise we still do have high level restrictions in place over and above where we were at this time last week.”

South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said there had been “somewhere in the order of” 182 official warnings over lockdown breaches in the past two days and around 103 fines.

“And I just stress, the fines issued were for people who were blatantly disregarding the directions,” he said.

“We also acknowledge the fact that people were starting to modify their behaviour on the anticipated changes as of midnight last night.”

SA ends the ‘shortest lockdown in history’

South Australians are awaking to a host of new freedoms on Sunday, after the state’s hard lockdown came to an end at midnight.

Some bars and pubs across the city wasted no time taking advantage of the 12:01am easing of rules, opening up for post-midnight drinks.

That included city bar Hains & Co’s celebration of the “Shortest Lockdown in History”, with the business warning potential customers on social media that police had contacted them over concerns that patrons would leave their homes before midnight to attend the reopening.

Premier Steven Marshall said compensation for businesses hit by restrictions was not being contemplated.

He was unapologetic about the decision to send SA into lockdown.

“Experts … presented us with information and we acted swiftly and decisively to keep the people of South Australia protected,” he said.

Restrictions have been eased on a whole range of industry sectors, events and social activities:

A full list of the new restrictions is available here.

Fines issued but most observe lockdown rules

South Australian Police have issued 60 fines and 103 cautions to people caught breaching COVID-19 rules, as the state emerges from lockdown.

They say both business and individuals caught out on Thursday and Friday “blatantly disregarded” safety directions but most people have been “amazing” in doing the right thing over the past few days.

Commissioner Grant Stevens says his investigators are speaking to a pizza shop worker who authorities claim lied to contact tracers about his whereabouts, sparking the lockdown.

He is believed to be a 36-year-old Spaniard living in Australia on a temporary graduate visa.

Police also want to speak to two other people of interest as part of the investigation which is being undertaken by 20 detectives.

Just one new case was confirmed on Saturday, a man linked to the now 26-strong suburban Adelaide cluster at Parafield, who was already in quarantine after his partner tested positive.

All the outbreak’s known cases have been traced to close contacts.

Authorities are yet to contact about 40 people linked to the outbreak.

More than 19,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Friday and some 5400 people remain in isolation.

Health officials say anyone who was at steel supplier SA Structural from 7.30am to 3.30pm on November 12 should isolate and get tested.

Students can return to school on Monday but people are being encouraged to continue working from home for the next eight to 10 days if possible.

Labor calls to suspend SA medi-hotel program

Labor Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has called for an indefinite suspension of the medi-hotel program and all repatriation flights into South Australia, until a safer alternative is found.

Mr Malinauskas has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Steven Marshall calling for a review of the quarantine system.

He flagged consideration of plans to process overseas arrivals at remote areas such as Woomera or Christmas Island.

Mr Marshall rejected the move to suspend the program, arguing that it is important to keep international trade routes to Adelaide open to export local produce. The trial to fly international students to SA has been postponed until 2021.

The state has suspended repatriation flights until December 1, to give the state capacity for local cases should the Parafield cluster develop further.

Morrison responds to war crimes inquiry

Scott Morrison says allegations Australian soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan are “disturbing and distressing” but veterans should be given absolute support.

Australian special forces are accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and torturing two prisoners.

Speaking for the first time since the report was released this week, the prime minister said the actions of a “small number” of defence force personnel did not represent the majority.

The Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force recommended 19 current and former personnel be prosecuted for war crimes.

Mr Morrison said it was important veterans were treated with respect in the community and at remembrance services.

“I want Australians to look them in the eye the same way they used to, with nothing more than respect and thanks because that is exactly what they deserve,” he said on Saturday.

Mr Morrison said the allegations must be dealt with by the Australian justice system.

“I think there has been a lot of courage shown by those who have come forward through this process, that would not have been easy,” he said.

“This is a terrible, terribly disturbing and distressing report but the thing about Australia is is we will deal with it.

“And we will deal with it under our law, under our systems, and our justice system.”

A special investigator has been appointed to examine criminal matters raised in the report.

Compensation will be paid to Afghan families who lost loved ones but Mr Morrison said that was “not currently being considered” by the government.

The investigation found junior patrol members were ordered to execute Afghan detainees, while weapons and evidence were planted on bodies to cover up unlawful deaths.

Trump persists with efforts to overturn election

President Donald Trump is persisting with baseless claims of massive voter fraud, two weeks after Democrat Joe Biden was declared president-elect.

Trump’s efforts, which critics call an unprecedented push by a sitting president to subvert the will of voters, has so far met with little success in the courtroom or on the ground.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that a manual recount and audit of all ballots cast had confirmed Biden as the winner in the southern state.

He is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in nearly three decades.

Two leading Republican lawmakers from Michigan delivered another blow on Friday when they said after a meeting with Trump that they had no information that would change the outcome of the election in the state.

“(As) legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a joint statement.

On Saturday, Trump said the media were misreading the statement, in which the pair also said they have faith in a review of Michigan’s election process being conducted by state lawmakers.

“Massive voter fraud will be shown!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

With the vote certified in Georgia, the Trump campaign now has two business days to request a recount there. Trump’s legal team has already said it plans a lawsuit in the state.

After a series of court defeats, the Trump campaign’s new tactic is to convince Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states won by Biden to set aside the results and declare Trump the winner, according to three people familiar with the plan.

The long-shot effort is focused on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, but even if both those states flipped Trump would need to overturn the vote in another state to vault ahead of Biden in the Electoral College.

Some groups were countering with their own legal action.

On Friday, a group of Black voters in Detroit and a voting rights organisation filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Trump and his campaign of breaching the 1965 Voting Rights Act by falsely claiming voter fraud.

Biden, who has denounced Trump’s attempt to reverse the election results as “totally irresponsible”, was planning to spend Saturday meeting with transition advisers.

It comes as Trump says that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. is doing “very well” in quarantine after becoming infected with coronavirus.

More than 250,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus, the highest death toll of any country.

Trump Jr. learned of his positive test result earlier this week, has had no symptoms and was following all medically recommended guidelines for treating the illness, a spokesperson said.

Thai students dressed in dinosaur costumes take part in an anti-government demonstration organized by the ‘Bad Students’ group in Bangkok, Thailand. Image: EPA/Narong Sangnak

Thai students protest against ‘dinosaurs’

With a parade of people dressed in dinosaur costumes to represent Thailand’s establishment, high school students led a protest by thousands of people in Bangkok with calls to bring down the government and reform the monarchy.

It was the first major protest since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday that police would use all laws against protesters, who have become the biggest challenge to Thailand’s rulers in years.

“We represent the meteorites crushing the dinosaurs to extinction,” 15-year-old high school student leader Benjamaporn Nivas told Reuters.

Benjamaporn and another leader of the Bad Student group were summoned on Friday for charges over a previous protest, but police said Saturday’s demonstration could go ahead.

Protests since July have been around three core demands: the removal of former junta leader Prayuth as prime minister, a new constitution and reforms to the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

But the high school students also seek greater freedom and fairer treatment within an education system they say is archaic and aimed primarily at inculcating obedience. Many spoke of the importance of gender equality.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister hoped protesters would exercise their freedom constructively and within the law.

Wallabies and Pumas in Tri Nations draw

The Wallabies are lamenting an opportunity lost after blowing a golden opportunity to win the Tri Nations title in a tense 15-15 draw with Argentina in Newcastle.

The Wallabies relinquished a nine-point second-half lead as the Pumas fought back to move into pole position to claim the trophy.

Australia and Argentina joined New Zealand in a three-way tie on the competition table, but the unbeaten Pumas have two games to play compared to one each for the Wallabies and All Blacks.

Just as he did against New Zealand two weeks ago, Reece Hodge looked like he had booted the Wallabies to victory at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.

But after nailing his first five penalty goals, the sharp-shooting flyhalf missed his chance to put the Pumas away three minutes from fulltime in a try-less and spiteful encounter.

– with AAP and Reuters

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