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What we know today, Tuesday November 24


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

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One more COVID-19 case in SA

South Australia has reported one new case of COVID-19 today but the case is not related to the Parafield cluster, which remains at 27.

The case is a male in his 20s in hotel quarantine and is a close contact of a returned traveller who tested positive in recent days.

A man from the cluster in his 30s has been discharged from hospital back to a medi-hotel but a person in their 50s from the cluster has been admitted to hospital after their symptoms worsened.

There are a total of 39 positive cases in the state.

There are about 4100 people in quarantine who are contacts of the infected cases.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said some of those were approaching 14 days in quarantine but they would need to pass a final COVID-19 test before being allowed to be released into the community.

She again reiterated that South Australia was “not out of the woods yet”.

“I haven’t popped the cork on the Champagne bottle yet, but the Champagne is on ice,” Spurrier said.

“I’d like to see how we go this week.”

Premier Steven Marshall said the next lot of restrictions were on track to be eased on Tuesday, December 1.

$10k SA small business grants extended

The South Australian government has extended the deadline for small business grants in the wake of the Adelaide COVID-19 cluster, which forced authorities to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions.

Premier Steven Marshall says instead of closing off applications next month, eligible businesses will now have until the end of February to apply for a $10,000 payment.

“We know there are many businesses who continue to do it tough and we want to do everything in our power to assist,” he said.

“The cash grants will be available to help cover ongoing or outstanding operating costs, such as rent, power bills, supplier and raw materials costs and other fees.”

The government launched the second round of grants two weeks ago and has already received more than 4100 applications.

It has so far paid out grants to about 1200 businesses worth about $12 million.

In the first round of similar grants earlier this year it paid out $186 million to more than 18,700 companies.

Companies that received grants in the first round may also be eligible for another allocation in the second round.

Trump allows Biden transition to begin while refusing to give up

After weeks of defiance, President Donald Trump has allowed officials to proceed with a transition to President-elect Joe Biden, giving his Democratic rival access to briefings and funding even as he vowed to persist with efforts to fight the election results.

Trump, a Republican, has alleged widespread voter fraud in the November 3 election without providing evidence. Although he has not acknowledged Biden’s victory, his announcement on Monday was the closest he has come to admitting defeat.

The General Services Administration, which is the federal agency that must sign off on presidential transitions, told Biden on Monday he could formally begin the handover process.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter that Biden would now have access to resources that had been denied to him because of the legal challenges seeking to overturn his win.

That announcement came shortly after Michigan officials certified Biden as the victor in their state, making Trump’s legal efforts to change the election outcome even more unlikely to succeed.

Trump and his advisers said he would continue to pursue legal avenues but his tweet served as a sign that even the White House understood it was getting close to time to move on.

“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said in a tweet.

A statement by the Biden transition said meetings would begin with federal officials on Washington’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, along with discussions of national security issues.

SA lockdown dents national confidence

The short, sharp impact of South Australia’s coronavirus lockdown was enough to sour the mood of the nation, according to a leading national economic survey.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – fell two per cent in the past week.

It ends a record-breaking run of 11 consecutive weekly gains that took it to its highest level since February.

“With South Australia reopening earlier than expected and restrictions in Victoria and New South Wales relaxed the impact on sentiment may be short-lived,” ANZ economist David Plank said.

The index remains above the 100-point level despite the latest setback, suggesting optimists continue to outweigh pessimists.

The data comes ahead of a lunchtime speech by Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle.

St George economists point out it was a speech by Debelle in September that set minds racing with hints of changes to Reserve Bank policy.

Those changes eventually came in early November, with cuts to the cash rate and other key rates to a record low 0.1 per cent, and the introduction of a $100 billion bond-buying program.

“We doubt Tuesday’s speech will be as seminal as the one given in September, but they always give insight into how the Reserve Bank sees the world and how the RBA can play its role in Australia’s economic recovery,” St George said in a note to clients.

Debelle will deliver his address on “Monetary Policy in 2020” to an Australian Business Economists webinar.

Next week’s national accounts are expected to show the economy grew in the September quarter after six months of contraction, notably the huge seven per cent drop in the June quarter.

Australia has not suffered three consecutive quarters of contraction since the early 1980s recession, when it endured four.

Security footage could pinpoint first medi-hotel transmission

SA Police are questioning three people and reviewing more than 400 hours of medi-hotel security vision as part of an investigation into the case that triggered last week’s short-lived lockdown.

Up to 36 police officers are reviewing CCTV footage from Peppers medi-hotel in Waymouth Street, while a team of 20 detectives interview three people in relation to allegations a coronavirus-infected Spanish national lied to SA Health contact tracing officers about his employment at the Woodville Pizza Bar.

The 36-year-old temporary graduate visa holder instead told contact tracers that he purchased a pizza from the coronavirus hotspot, meaning there was no discernible link between his case and the rest of the Parafield cluster. Investigators have seized the man’s mobile phone, laptop and hard drive as part of the probe.

The man is co-operating with the investigation while two other “key people” are seeking legal representation.

“The two people that we’re still wanting to speak to are certainly related to the pizza shop, but their exact role I’m not going to comment on today,” SA Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey told reporters yesterday.

“I expect this (investigation) will continue for at least several more days, where I’ll then go and make a full assessment on the advice provided to me from the investigative team.”

Harvey said police were yet to determine whether any criminal activity had been uncovered.

SA Health will use the CCTV footage to determine how the coronavirus was transmitted from an overseas traveller who arrived in Adelaide on November 2 to a security guard working at Peppers medi-hotel.

That security guard, who works part-time at the Woodville Pizza Bar, transmitted the virus to the Spanish national while they were on shift together. The Spanish man also worked at the Stamford medi-hotel.

There was one new COVID-19 case reported in South Australia yesterday – a woman who contracted the virus after attending a large family gathering in Adelaide’s north.

She has been in hotel quarantine since last Monday and had an unusually long eight-day incubation period, meaning she only tested positive for coronavirus yesterday after two earlier negative tests.

The number of cases linked to the Parafield cluster has risen to 27, with one – a man in his 30s – in a stable condition in hospital.

There are also over 4000 people in either hotel or home-based quarantine.

Restriction easing on track for ‘normal’ Christmas

South Australia remains on track to ease coronavirus restrictions before Christmas but health officials say this week is crucial in combating the Parafield cluster of COVID-19 infections.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier says she’s quietly confident the current outbreak is under control, but this week will be key.

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

Spurrier said it was normal to wait for 28 days, or two incubation cycles, before declaring an outbreak “all over red rover”.

But the Parafield cluster had been identified very early and officials were quickly aware of the chains of transmission, she said.

The easing of concerns has also left SA on course to open its borders to Victorians from December and positive about the chances of returning to a lower level of local restrictions.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said he was hopeful Christmas “will be celebrated as we would hope to celebrate it”.

“I’ve given a pretty clear indication that we’re aiming at the first of December to go back to a level where most community activities and family gatherings could occur,” he said.

Tarnanthi Art Fair will go ahead

The 2018 Tarnanthi Art Fair. Photo: Nat Rogers

The Art Gallery of South Australia is reopening today and has announced that it will go ahead with the annual Tarnanthi Art Fair as an in-person event from December 4-6 at Lot Fourteen on North Terrace.

The Art Gallery posted a statement on social media last Wednesday saying that in light of the new COVID-19 restrictions it had made the difficult decision to cancel the Art Fair – but with the six-day lockdown cut short, it has now decided to proceed with the physical event as well offering a portal for online sales.

Held annually since 2015 alongside the Tarnanthi exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, the Art Fair is an important source of income for First Nations artists and their communities.

The 2020 event will include paintings, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, carvings, homewares and other works for sale from almost 50 Aboriginal art centres across Australia. Read the full story here.

Takeaway booze with food set to become permanent

Temporary laws introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic allowing hospitality business to sell alcohol with takeaway food will be made permanent by the State Government.

Under the new laws, licensees will be able to sell either two bottles of wine, or one bottle of wine and a six-pack of beer, cider or pre-mixed spirits – with takeaway food.

Premier Steven Marshall said the temporary COVID-19 measure was such a success for South Australia’s hospitality sector that the Government had decided to make it permanent in a bid to further support hospitality businesses during this challenging time.

Liquor licence holders operating with a community club licence, on-premises licence, small venue licence, restaurant licence or residential licence stand to benefit from the new legislation.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said she would introduce the legislation to Parliament at the first appropriate opportunity.

She said 741 SA businesses had successfully applied for the temporary licence since it was first introduced earlier this year.

“Those figures alone show how successful and well-received this temporary measure has been – and why we want to make it permanent,” Chapman said.

Australia won’t take sides in US wrestle with China: Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has argued Australia’s foreign policy is wrongly seen through the lens of China-US competition, needlessly damaging relations with Beijing.

In a speech to conservative UK think tank Policy Exchange, Morrison said Australia wanted a transparent and mutually beneficial relationship with China.

Canberra also remains committed to the US alliance because of a shared world view, liberal democratic values and market-based economies.

“At all times we must be true to our values and the protection of our own sovereignty,” Morrison said in the virtual address made while he is isolating at The Lodge following last week’s trip to Japan.

“These are our national interests. Pursuing these interests in the midst of strategic competition between the United States and China is not straightforward.”

The prime minister said pursuing Australia’s goals was being made more complex by assumptions cast on its actions.

“Our actions are wrongly seen and interpreted by some only through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States,” Morrison said.

“It’s as if Australia does not have its own unique interests or views as an independent sovereign state. This is false and needlessly deteriorates relationships.”

Australia’s relationship with China has suffered in recent years with a diplomatic row bleeding into trade disputes.

“If we are to avoid a new era of polarisation, then in the decades ahead, there must be a more nuanced appreciation of individual states’ interests in how they deal with the major powers,” Morrison said.

“Stark choices are in no-one’s interests.

“Greater latitude will be required from the world’s largest powers to accommodate the individual interests of their partners and allies. We all need a bit more room to move.”

Biden to appoint seasoned diplomat secretary of state

US president-elect Joe Biden will appoint veteran diplomat Anthony Blinken as his secretary of state, the transition team says, along with other key foreign policy positions.

Blinken, 58, is a seasoned and trusted aide who is expected to shoulder much of the burden in Biden’s bid to dismantle President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

Former secretary of state John Kerry will be a special presidential envoy for climate issues and sit on the National Security Council.

Biden is angling to rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be appointed as the ambassador to the UN and Avril Haines is set to become the director of national intelligence.

Alejandro Mayorkas would be appointed to head up the Department of Homeland Security which oversees key law enforcement and immigration agencies.

Jake Sullivan will become the national security adviser, the transition team said.

All the cabinet-level positions need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Russian virus cases on rise as China embarks on testing blitz

The World Health Organisation has urged caution on Christmas gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic as Russia reported a record high number of new cases and Chinese authorities ordered COVID-19 tests for millions of people.

The “safest bet” for some families will be not to have family gatherings this Christmas in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, WHO technical lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Monday.

“In some situations, the difficult decision not to have a family gathering is the safest bet,” she told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

Daily new coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new high on Monday, with authorities reporting a record 25,173 new cases.

The latest figure brings the country’s total to more than 2.1 million.

The government coronavirus task force also reported 361 deaths on Monday, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to 36,500.

Russia, which currently has the world’s fifth-largest number of confirmed cases, has been swept by a rapid coronavirus resurgence since September.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting schools after multiple locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week.

As temperatures drop, widescale measures are being enacted in Tianjin, Shanghai and Manzhouli, even though the number of new cases remains low compared to the other countries that are recording new waves of infections.

Experts and government officials have warned that the chance of the virus spreading will be greater in cold weather.

On Monday, the National Health Commission reported two new locally transmitted cases in Shanghai over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to seven since Friday.

China has recorded 86,442 cases overall and 4634 deaths since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Globally, more than 58.72 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak and 1,391,367​ have died.

– with AAP and Reuters
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