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What we know today, Monday November 23


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

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Taskforce Protect examines 400 hours of CCTV

Detectives have analysed more than 400 hours of CCTV from the Peppers medi-hotel as part of their investigation into an infected man who worked at another quarantine hotel who allegedly “lied” to authorities about his movements, prompting the statewide shutdown.

Taskforce Protect was established on Friday to investigate the movements of the man, who has tested positive to COVID and is in quarantine, and to see whether he could be charged with any offence.

Giving an update this afternoon, Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey told reporters the investigation had so far focused on surveillance at the Peppers medi-hotel – despite the man working at the Stamford medi-hotel.

Peppers has been identified as the source of the state’s cluster, with authorities saying they believe a cleaner first contracted the virus there from a returned UK traveller via surface contact.

Harvey said analysing 400 hours of CCTV had been “an arduous task for up to 36 officers” over the weekend.

They’ve also seized mobile phones, a laptop and a computer hard drive “directly related to the person of interest who is in quarantine”.

“The person has also been spoken to by detectives from the taskforce and I am pleased at this stage to say from what I have seen he has been cooperative and that has been helpful,” Harvey said.

He said officers were still waiting to talk to two other people connected to the Woodville Pizza Bar, where the infected man allegedly said he’d ordered a pizza from, but it later emerged he actually worked there.

“They are certainly working with solicitors, they are seeking legal advice and legal representation before we speak to them further which is their right and that’s appropriate,” he said.

When asked if there was any connection between the Stamford worker and the cleaner from Peppers, Harvey wouldn’t comment.

“It’s important that links are looked at, one from the criminal side of it – if there’s going to be anything – and one from the contact tracing side so we can pass information across,” Harvey said.

“The CCTV has two purposes – it’s mainly for contact tracing but also provides opportunity to look at what happened in the hotel so far as any activity that might interest the criminal side.”

He wouldn’t comment on widespread speculation drugs might have been involved.

Asked if there was anything so far in the CCTV to connect workers and quarantined guests at Peppers, Harvey said: “There is a lot of movement. It’s a matter of now frame by frame working out what the means and identifying who’s who. It’s an unfolding piece of work.”

When asked why investigators were focusing on CCTV from Peppers, and not the Stamford where the man worked, Harvey said: “That’s what the investigators are looking at at the moment, we may look further. We’re looking everywhere.”

Ollie Wines signs four-year contract extension

Port Adelaide vice-captain Ollie Wines will be part of the AFL club’s premiership push well into the future after signing a four-year contract extension.

The 26-year-old has previously been linked to trade moves, with Essendon and Carlton both reported as possible destinations.

But with two years still left to run on his existing deal, the extension now ties Wines to Port until at least the end of 2026.

Wines finished equal-fifth in the Power’s best-and-fairest last season, playing 17 games, as they fell to eventual premiers Richmond in a preliminary final.

“The club is in a really strong position going forward and to be able to be a part of its long-term future is something I’m looking forward to,” Wines said.

“I think we’ve built a powerful list that I’m excited about, so I was only too happy to jump at the opportunity to be locked away to allow me to concentrate on doing what I need to do to put us in a position to chase our premiership goals.

“I’m so excited to be part of this young developing group and I can’t wait to see what we can do together.”

Wines’ new deal follows last week’s contract extensions for young trio Mitch Georgiades, Miles Bergman and Dylan Williams, who have all committed until the end of 2023.

Port football manager Chris Davies said Wines’ commitment was a significant boost to the club.

“Ollie has shown that he’s a key figure at our club and his performance in the back half of 2020 in many ways drove the team to perform the way it did,” Davies said.

“His call to recommit to our club early demonstrates his leadership and belief in the direction the club is heading.”

Wines, the No.7 draft pick in 2012, has played 158 games for the Power since his debut in 2013.

One more case linked to SA cluster

South Australia has reported one new case of COVID-19 linked to a cluster which briefly raised fears of a possible second wave of infections and sparked a shortlived statewide lockdown.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the latest case involved a member of the extended family group originally linked to the Parafield cluster.

The case was finally confirmed after an incubation of about eight days and came after the woman had twice tested negative

It takes the total cases linked to the cluster to 27 with just one of those in hospital.

SA now has 38 active cases, 11 of them returned travellers.

All those with active infections remain in quarantine along with more than 4000 close contacts.

Spurrier said the cluster was still a risk to the wider community and urged anyone with symptoms to get tested and for the wider community to wear masks whenever possible.

“If we have had more community transmission we will be starting to see it this week,” she said.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state was not “out of the woods yet” but he felt more optimistic that SA had avoided a major second wave of coronavirus infections.

“We stared down a catastrophic situation by acting swiftly and decisively,” he said.

NSW-Vic border open as both states record no new cases

The NSW-Victoria border is fully open for the first time in more than four months, with both states again recording no new local COVID-19 cases.

NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday recorded its 16th consecutive day of zero locally acquired COVID-19 infections, with five cases in hotel quarantine.

The tally came from 7836 tests, while no patients are in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the NSW-Victoria border opened a minute after midnight on Monday, allowing Victorians to freely visit NSW for the first time since July 8.

The first passengers arriving at Sydney airport on Monday were welcomed with free donuts, drag queens holding “welcome back” signs and topless male models dressed as lifesavers.

The border was closed by NSW in July to stop the spread of COVID-19 as Victorians hunkered down to deal with a second wave of the virus.

NSW is now the only state in the country with no hard border restrictions in place.

Qantas and Jetstar are operating 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne on Monday, carrying around 4500 passengers.

Virgin Australia will operate four return services per day between Melbourne and Sydney and plans to progressively increase flight frequency ahead of the Christmas holidays.

During the lockdown, flights on the route dropped as low as one per day.

Qantas and Jetstar sold more than 25,000 seats in the first 48 hours after it was announced the border restrictions would be lifted.

Sydney Airport has also issued new guidelines encouraging passengers and visitors to wear a face mask in areas where it is not possible to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from others.

Sydney Airport’s general manager for safety, sustainability and environment, Jane Rotsey, said queuing and congregating was unavoidable.

“From today our message to passengers and visitors is ‘social distance if you can, wear a mask if you can’t’,” Ms Rotsey said.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the police operation at the borders had run over 138 days, involved 100,000 police shifts, 40,000 ADF shifts and five million vehicle movements, with police officers working away from home in five-day secondments.

The operation ran at 64 different sites, stretching for 1000 kilometres.

“The first rotation down there we needed to find 650 police to go and many of those threw their hands up to … feel proud of what the COVID response was from the state of NSW,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

Meanwhile, QR codes are now compulsory for thousands of businesses in NSW to record customer visits, with pen and paper no longer acceptable for record-keeping at hospitality venues, corporate functions, weddings and funerals.

From Monday, choirs in NSW of up to 30 people are also allowed to sing outside, and audiences and congregations may participate in the singing, but anyone 12 years or older must wear a mask.

In-person visits are also resuming for the 12,866 prisoners in NSW jails who have not had any visitors since the system was locked down in March.

Police issue almost 500 COVID expiations

South Australia Police issued almost 500 fines and warnings to people flouting COVID restrictions during the shortened three-day hard lockdown.

The fines included people flouting rules to go to the beach and seven people who staged a house party in the city where 1.5 litres of the drug fantasy was also seized.

Police revealed yesterday afternoon that they issued 157 fines between 12.01am Thursday and 7am on Sunday while 337 expiation cautions were also dished out.

They said the expiations were only issued to people who blatantly disregarded the requirements of the directions and were not able to be broken down further to individuals and businesses.

Despite the high number of expiations, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens yesterday said South Australians had overwhelming done the right thing during the shortened three-day hard lockdown.

Meanwhile, nearly 80,000 tests have been carried out in the past week including a record 19,205 on Friday and 16929 on Saturday.

Before the Parafield cluster outbreak this month, which has led to huge testing numbers, the previous highest daily test number was 7254 during the Thebarton cluster outbreak on August 7.

Fatal shark attack closes WA beaches

Broome’s beaches will remain closed until at least this morning as authorities search for a  shark that killed a man at popular Cable Beach in Western Australia’s north yesterday.

A couple dragged the man from the water but were unable to save his life.

The Broome local, aged in his 50s, was bodyboarding 30 to 40 metres offshore on Sunday morning when he was attacked.

He was recovered from the water and treated by local police before St John Ambulance officers arrived but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said a couple on the beach had seen the man thrashing in the water, dragged him onto the sand and called for an ambulance.

“We commend them for their actions,” Inspector Gene Pears told reporters.

“Obviously that would have been pretty horrific for those people. It was very brave to enter the water and do what they did.”

Police fired shots at the shark, which remained very close to the shore for about half an hour and is yet to be found.

Its species is not yet known, with the water described as being “very murky”, but Pears said it had been described as about three to four metres long.

WA’s fisheries department has deployed a patrol vessel to monitor the area and all local beaches will remain closed until Monday morning.

“It’s a tragic incident, very unexpected, a person going out to have a bit of fun in the water,” Pears said.

“It’s tragic for the family, friends and people of Broome.”

Surf Live Saving WA’s patrols of the beach finished last month.

A popular tourist attraction, Cable Beach has had a number of saltwater crocodile sightings and box jellyfish attacks over the years but rarely experienced shark attacks.

Trump delivers G20 climate rant

Picture: Chris Kleponis/CNP/ABACAPRESS.COM.

US President Donald Trump has told world leaders at the G20 summit that the Paris climate accord was designed to cripple the American economy, not to save the planet.

His comments came in a video statement from the White House to the G20 meeting being hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Trump was making what is likely to be his final appearance at an international summit after losing the US presidential election to Joe Biden.

President-elect Biden, who takes office in January, has said he will rejoin the global pact that the US helped forge five years ago.

Trump contended the international accord was “not designed to save the environment – it was designed to kill the American economy”.

“To protect American workers, I withdrew the United States from the unfair and one-sided Paris climate accord, a very unfair act for the United States,” he said.

Trump, who has worked to undo most of Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change, said since withdrawing from the climate agreement the US has reduced carbon emissions more than any nation.

More than 180 nations have ratified the accord, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” 2C and ideally no more than 1.5C compared with pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say any rise beyond 2C could have a devastating impact on large parts of the world, raising sea levels, stoking tropical storms and worsening droughts and floods.

The US formally exited the Paris pact on November 4, a day after the US presidential election.

During the discussions at the climate session, President Xi Jinping of China, the world’s largest emitter, said the G20 should continue to take the lead in tackling climate change and push for the full implementation of the Paris accord.

“Not long ago, I announced China’s initiative to scale up its nationally determined contributions and strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060,” he said.

“China will honour its commitment and see the implementation through.”

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said “climate change must be fought not in silos but in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way”.

New study sparks calls to protect platypus

Scientists and environment groups are moving to have the platypus declared ‘vulnerable’ after research showed its numbers are dwindling.

Research from the University of NSW has shown the strange creature’s habitats have shrunk by at 22 per cent in the past 30 years, prompting the scientists to nominate the platypus for threatened species listing nationally.

Within Australia’s threatened species categories, a “vulnerable” listing is one step under “endangered”.

The Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF-Australia and Humane Society International Australia are backing the nomination.

The researchers combed through all available data on platypus observations, finding evidence of past and projected declines in platypus populations to support the animal’s listing as vulnerable both on the Australian and international list.

The study found observations were down 32 per cent in NSW, 27 per cent in Queensland and seven per cent across Victoria.

There have been reductions of 18 to 65 per cent in some Melbourne catchments since 1995.

“Given that the causes for these declines have not ceased, will likely continue, and are not reversible in the foreseeable future, the proposed assessment of the platypus is vulnerable,” the report says.

“Continued population reduction of platypuses is also projected in the future, based on threats and the impacts of climate change on rivers.”

Drought, bushfires, wild predators and illegal fishing nets are some of the main threats to platypus numbers.

In Victoria, 56 per cent of 186 platypus deaths were caused by illegal nets or enclosed traps, which have since been banned in the state but are still available in NSW and Queensland.

“The nature of platypus foraging also makes them particularly susceptible to entanglement around their neck and torso by plastic, fishing line, and rubber bands,” the report says.

The semi-aquatic creature is listed as endangered in South Australia and was recently nominated to be listed as vulnerable in Victoria.

If the nomination complies with legal requirements it will be referred to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for consideration, with the federal environment minister to make the listing decision.

If listed, conservation advice is prepared and a recovery plan could be created.

– with AAP and Reuters
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