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What we know today, Sunday December 6

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

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NSW police own up to quarantine mistake

NSW police have admitted it was their mistake that allowed two overseas travellers to board a domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne and forced the entire plane into self-isolation.

The pair, German nationals travelling from Tokyo, managed to land in Sydney and fly straight to Melbourne on a Virgin flight on Saturday.

All 176 passengers and crew from Virgin flight VA838 which landed in Melbourne at 1.25pm, as well as five airport staff, have been told to quarantine at home.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, a NSW Police Force spokesperson said the pair told officers they were booked on a flight to Melbourne, and were therefore deemed to be exempt from quarantining in Sydney.

“The NSW Police Force has since conducted a review into the circumstances of the incident and identified police had incorrectly allowed the two travellers to proceed to Melbourne,” the spokesperson said.

“Police practices and systems at the airport have also been reviewed and strengthened as a result of this incident.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews earlier revealed the pair – now in hotel quarantine in Melbourne – had tested negative to the virus.

He hopes those quarantining as a result of the incident will be released from their requirements on Monday, if the pair test negative to the virus for a second time.

Five returned overseas travellers in Sydney quarantine were diagnosed with the virus from over 9000 tests across the state in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday. There were no locally acquired cases.

Trump spreads vote lies at Georgia rally

US President Donald Trump has appeared at a rally in Georgia for Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and recycled the falsehood that he won the state.

“You know we won Georgia, just so you understand,” Trump told the large crowd gathered for the first post-election rally for the president, in Valdosta.

President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia by about 12,500 votes out of five million cast.

Trump said he travelled to Georgia to help ensure the two Republicans win runoff elections that will decide which party controls the US Senate.

Earlier, Trump fruitlessly pressed Georgia’s governor to call a special legislative session aimed at overturning the presidential election results in that state as Trump’s fixation with his defeat overshadowed his party’s campaign to save its majority in the Senate.

Trump and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp spoke by phone hours before the rally.

According to a tweet from the governor, Trump also asked him to order an audit of absentee ballots from the presidential race in his state, a step Kemp is not empowered to take because he has no authority to interfere in the electoral process on Trump’s behalf.

Trump’s personal contact with the governor demonstrated he is intent on amplifying his conspiratorial and debunked theories of electoral fraud even as Georgia Republicans want him to turn his focus to the January 5 runoff elections and encourage their supporters to get out and vote.

No new cases in SA or Victoria

South Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

There were 2,117 tests carried out on Saturday, and approximately 203 contacts remain in quarantine across the state.

Across the border, Victoria on Sunday reported a 37th day in a row without a locally transmitted case.

The streak prompted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday to further ease restrictions. Melbourne’s mandatory COVID-19 face mask rules have been eased as the city lifts caps on social gatherings.

Andrews said that masks must still be carried at all times and worn on public transport and at indoor shopping centres and crowded places.

But from midnight Sunday, Melburnians should use their judgment as to when masks are needed in instances where 1.5-metre social distancing can’t be achieved.

“Masks have been a great insurance policy and remain as such,” he said.

From midnight Sunday Melbourne households will be able to receive 30 visitors a day, from multiple other homes and Mr Andrews also announced easing workplace restrictions from early 2021.

Space capsule lands in South Australia

A Japanese space capsule bringing back samples from a distant asteroid has landed in the South Australian outback after a six-year mission.

The capsule has been travelling on board the Hayabusa2 spacecraft which first landed on the Ryugu asteroid, more than 300 million kilometres from earth, in February last year.

Once released, it entered Earth’s atmosphere early on Sunday morning before deploying a parachute and landing in the Woomera prohibited area.

It briefly turned into a fireball before deploying a parachute and landing.

Scientists have since collected the capsule.

“It was great … It was a beautiful fireball, and I was so impressed,” said Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda from a command centre in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.

“I’ve waited for this day for six years.”

Professor Masaki Fujimoto, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, says the asteroid samples may help answer a fundamental question: how did water and subsequently life, begin on Earth?

“Earth was formed close to the sun, so it was formed dry,” he said.

“Original Earth didn’t have water at all. So something had to bring water to our planet to make it habitable.

“Something like Ryugu brought water to earth and that’s why we are here.”

The Deep Space Communication Network based in Canberra has tracked Hayabusa2 since its launch in 2014.

Director Ed Kruzins said the mission had certainly reached the most exciting phase.

“What’s particularly interesting about this vehicle is it runs solar-electric ion thrusters,” he said.

“So 66 kilograms of fuel can take you billions of kilometres. An extremely efficient way of manoeuvring.”

The capsule was initially released over the USA late Saturday afternoon Australian time and tracked from there.

The Canberra centre is tracking Hayabusa2 as it “skips away” and leaves Earth on its extended mission, a 10-year journey to rendezvous in July 2031 with a much smaller asteroid known as 1998 KY26.

SA to resume repatriation flights

South Australia will resume accepting returned Australians on international flights from next week after arrivals were suspended because of the Parafield cluster.

The outbreak was sparked when a worker at one of Adelaide’s quarantine hotels picked up the virus.

The state government put flights on hold for several weeks as it reinstated a range of restrictions and embarked on widespread contact tracing to bring the cluster under control.

Premier Steven Marshall said flights were clear to resume from next week but schedules were yet to be determined.

“We are ready to take incoming flights from next week,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“They could occur from Monday but those schedules haven’t been determined yet.”

Any returned travellers found to be COVID-19 positive will be moved from hotel quarantine to a dedicated medical facility.

Mr Marshall said plans were underway to establish an interim facility ahead of finalising a more permanent location.

Detectives investigate Marino fire

Detectives are investigating a scrub fire that damaged the Marino Conservation Park in Adelaide’s south on Friday night.

Shortly before 11pm emergency services were called to the park near Bundarra Drive.

Firefighters fought to protect infrastructure and nearby homes, with trains running on the Seaford line halted after the fire jumped the train tracks.

Approximately three hectares of scrub were burnt.

The western side of the park has been left blackened by the fire, with the cause unknown but officers have reason to believe it may have been deliberately lit.

Anyone who has information that may assist police is asked to contact Crime Stoppers.

It comes as a fire burns on Kangaroo Island in heavy, largely inaccessible vegetation.

It began in grassland north of Flea Castle Rd about 3pm on Friday.

Severe weather warnings for damaging winds across most of the state make the fire fighting conditions challenging.

The winds have also shut off power to 627 residents in Lewiston and Two Wells, 2244 in Nurioopta, 1500 in Algate and Brigewater, and 500 in Salisbury.

New TV series to be filmed in SA

Filming of a new mystery series, The Tourist, will begin in South Australia next year with the federal government tipping in $3.6 million to help fund the project.

The six-part series follows a man who, after losing his memory, is on a quest to unlock the secrets of his identity before those who are trying to kill him catch up with him.

Filming is expected to take place predominantly in regional areas of SA, including the Flinders Ranges, as well as in Adelaide.

The Tourist is being developed for BBC One and streaming service Stan and will be produced by Two Brothers Pictures in association with Highview Productions.

Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said the production was expected to generate more than $25 million in economic activity.

“The production will bring with it a significant level of activity, directly employing more than 270 Australian cast and crew and nearly 850 extras, injecting millions into the South Australian economy,” he said.

A medical worker injects a man with a vaccine against COVID-19 at an outpatient clinic in Moscow. Image: Karpukhin/TASS/Sipa USA

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination

Moscow has begun distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force says.

The Russian-made vaccine will first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they run the highest risk of exposure to the disease.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a nationwide voluntary vaccination program to begin next week. He said Russia will have produced two million vaccine doses within the next few days.

Russia has already vaccinated more than 100,000 high-risk people, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said earlier this week during a separate presentation to the United Nations.

Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for both yet to be completed.

Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has introduced the vaccine.

The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose expected to be given 21 days after the first.

Russia reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth highest in the world.

It comes as the UK’s National Health Service staff will be working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, with the first inoculations taking place from Tuesday.

Thousands demand removal of Armenia’s PM

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters have marched across the Armenian capital to push for the resignation of the nation’s prime minister over his handling of the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In six weeks of fierce fighting that ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal on November 10, the Azerbaijani army reclaimed land that Armenian forces have held for more than quarter of a century.

Armenia’s opposition parties warned Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan there would be civil disobedience across the country if he does not resign by noon on Tuesday.

Pashinyan has refused to step down, defending the peace agreement as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

More than 20,000 protesters rallied in Yerevan on Saturday, chanting “Nikol, you traitor” and “Nikol, go away” as they marched to the prime minister’s official residence.

“The seat of the prime minister of Armenia is currently being occupied by a political corpse,” Artur Vanetsyan, the leader of the opposition party Homeland and the former head of the National Security Service, said at the protest rally.

In 44 days of fighting that began on September 27, Azerbaijani troops routed the Armenian forces and wedged deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept the November peace deal that saw the return to Azerbaijan of a significant part of the region.

Azerbaijan celebrated the end of fighting as a national triumph, and President Ilham Aliyev established a new national holiday called Victory Day to commemorate the event.

Wallabies rue another one that got away

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie concedes the Australian team have “a long way to go” after finishing a year that started so promisingly with the Tri Nations wooden spoon after another lacklustre draw with Argentina.

The Wallabies and Pumas finished deadlocked at 16-16 on Saturday night after fullback Reece Hodge missed with a long-range last-minute penalty goal attempt for the third time in three stalemates in 2020.

He could only hang his head in despair after his latest miss in driving rain at Bankwest Stadium.

It was another cruel finish for Hodge, who has otherwise been among Australia’s best during a six-Test campaign that yielded just one win to go with two losses and the three draws.

Had Hodge not slotted three earlier penalty goals plus a pressure conversion from out wide 12 minutes from fulltime to tie the scores up, the Wallabies would have lost.

The Pumas, roundly written off after having inspirational skipper Pablo Matera and two teammates stood down for disciplinary reasons, looked like keeping the Wallabies try-less for the second game running.

The Wallabies only salvaged a draw after fighting back from 10 points down while playing the last 20 minutes with 14 men following the red-carding of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for dangerous contact to Santiago Grondona’s head.

– with AAP and Reuters

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