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What we know today, Monday December 7


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

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Job ads point to continuing rebound in employment

Job advertising has accelerated as COVID-19 restrictions have eased and point to a further rebound in national employment heading into 2021.

In its monthly report, ANZ said job ads jumped 13.9 per cent in November after an upwardly-revised 11.9 per cent rise in October.

However, ads are still 4.7 per cent lower than February’s pre-pandemic level and are down 3.3 per cent on the year.

ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch said job ads are on track to match or even exceed pre-COVID levels by year-end.

“This suggests that the rebound in national employment could continue into early 2021 at least,” Birch said on Monday.

Confirming the upswing in job ads, the Department of Employment in a new preliminary reading of its monthly vacancy report, said job ads on the internet jumped 7.8 per cent in November.

This represents the seventh consecutive monthly rise with job advertisements now 11.2 per cent higher than a year ago.

Over the year, job ads have increased in all jurisdictions except the ACT, but even then the territory posted only 10 fewer ads than 12 months earlier.

Easing restrictions have also given a further boost to the services sector, which is now enjoying conditions not seen for a year.

The Australian Industry Group performance of services index rose a further 1.5 points to 52.9 points in November, another improvement in conditions after a slump for much of the year.

An index reading above 50 points indicates the sector is expanding.

Call for study of Indigenous food security

Food and grocery prices in remote Indigenous communities should be the focus of a competition watchdog probe to make them more affordable, the government has been told.

The recommendation comes from a parliamentary committee that looked into the issue of food pricing and security in remote communities.

The main proposal is for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct a market study of prices at remote community stores.

It would aim to highlight ways competition could be increased and prices could come down.

Improving the complaints process, laws to stop price gouging and the impact of rebates would also be considered by the proposed study.

The probe was launched in May after reports of inflated prices in some communities, including jars of coffee being sold for $55.

Head of the committee Liberal MP Julian Leeser said the reasons for high prices were explained during the inquiry, with poor infrastructure, seasonal stresses and high costs of running remote stores highlighted.

“It became clear that these stories reflected a persisting disquiet regarding the supply of affordable, nutritious, quality food in many remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” he told parliament on Monday.

“That supply is tenuous and needs to be improved.”

The committee has also called for a new national strategy for food security and nutrition for remote communities, to be developed with the states and Indigenous groups.

Leeser said the working group set up to ensure remote communities had adequate food supplies during the coronavirus pandemic should be made permanent.

A real-time price monitoring system across all remote community stores is another recommendation from the committee.

Labor’s Warren Snowdon, a Northern Territory MP, urged the government to respond quickly so things could change in remote communities.

Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for COVID-19, Trump says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for COVID-19, Trump says, after a wave of travel by the former New York mayor seeking to persuade Republican state lawmakers to overturn the election results.

Giuliani was admitted on Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorised to speak publicly.

The 76-year-old Giuliani is the latest in a long string of people close to the White House, including Trump himself, sickened in a pandemic that has killed more than 280,000 Americans.

“@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus,” Trump posts on Twitter on Sunday, using a term for COVID-19 that has drawn backlash.

Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He has spearheaded Trump’s floundering legal efforts to overturn his November 3 election loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly claimed, contrary to evidence, that the outcome was marred by widespread fraud.

Giuliani visited Georgia on Thursday, where he urged state lawmakers to stop certification of Biden’s win after making similar pleas in Michigan on Wednesday and Arizona on Monday.

Trump and many of his close associates have baulked at advice to wear masks and avoid crowds to stem transmission of the illness, which has roared to record levels in the United States.

Flights set to resume as virus-free streak reaches nine days

Pressure is on the State Government to further ease coronavirus restrictions this week after the state recorded its ninth consecutive day of no new infections today.

The number of active cases fell to two today as the state prepares to resume international repatriation flights this week.

SA Health has abandoned plans to use the former Wakefield hospital as a dedicated quarantine facility but will instead beef up rules for quarantining travellers at its city medi-hotels.

However, medi-hotel staff will still be allowed to work second jobs under the state’s new quarantine system, Health Minister Stephen Wade revealed today.

The so-called Parafield cluster was sparked when a worker at one of Adelaide’s quarantine hotels picked up the virus from someone who had returned from Britain.

The cluster stands at 33.

Southern Ocean shark attack closes KI surf beach

D’Estrees Bay on Kangaroo Island’s southeast coast will remain closed after a surfer was attacked by a great white shark yesterday afternoon.

The 29-year-old man was bitten by the shark about 2.20pm but managed to paddle back to shore. He was driven towards Kingscote by a member of the public before  paramedics met the car and transported the man the rest of the way to the hospital.

The KI local was then air lifted to Adelaide for further treatment for his injuries, which were not believed to be life threatening.

Police in conjunction with Fisheries and the local council have erected signs to close D’Estrees Bay beach and are urging people to avoid the area.

Melbourne unmasked as more Vic restrictions eased

Victorians are being encouraged to use their judgment about wearing masks as the state further eases months of tough coronavirus rules from today.

Masks must still be carried at all times and worn on public transport, in ride-share vehicles, at indoor shopping centres and crowded places but it is no longer compulsory to do so in offices or cafes.

Premier Daniel Andrews said people should use their discretion about wearing masks in instances where adequate social distancing cannot be achieved.

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

Melbourne households are now able to receive 30 visitors a day – up from 15 – from an unlimited number of other homes, under changes that came into effect overnight.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted in public places.

Caps have been removed for weddings, funerals and religious events, with attendance instead subject to one person per two square metres.

Patron limits at pubs, cafes and restaurants have also been scrapped, but venues must observe the rule of one person per two square metres. Customers will no longer have to be seated for service.

It follows the quarantining of 176 passengers and crew from a flight into Melbourne after German travellers flying from Tokyo failed to enter mandatory quarantine in Sydney, and boarded Virgin flight VA838 which landed in Melbourne at 1.25pm on Saturday.

Neither of the pair – a 53-year-old woman and 15-year-old boy – have shown symptoms and have since tested negative to COVID, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

A handful of airport-based staff have also been told to self-isolate.

NSW Police has accepted responsibility for the bungle.

WA to rule on border re-openings

The Western Australian government is set to review health advice this week regarding travel to and from South Australia, which remains subject to hard border restrictions following the Parafield cluster.

It comes at a time when the federal government is urging Australians to travel across the nation in an attempt to help the struggling tourism industry.

WA is increasingly likely to proceed with reopening its borders to several eastern states within days after fears of a NSW coronavirus outbreak were allayed.

Premier Mark McGowan will reveal his decision today, having taken the weekend to receive further test results from NSW.

No locally acquired cases have been detected after a Sydney quarantine hotel cleaner caught the virus at work.

WA is scheduled to open up to NSW and Victoria from tomorrow, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for travel from those states.

Another potential threat emerged over the weekend when two German travellers managed to avoid quarantine upon landing in Sydney and instead board a flight to Melbourne.

The duo have since tested negative to the virus and NSW police have accepted responsibility for the bungle, which forced the entire plane into self-isolation.

“It’s certainly not the gold standard,” McGowan said, referencing a phrase used by NSW counterpart and political adversary Gladys Berejiklian to describe her state’s handling of the pandemic.

“It obviously shows that COVID is a risk and that’s why we continue to have a controlled border to ensure we can protect people into the future.”

Travellers from NSW and Victoria have been blocked from entering WA for almost nine months unless they went into quarantine and, until recently, secured exemptions.

The decision on whether to proceed with reopening the NSW border will be significant for many Australians separated from loved ones with Christmas around the corner.

Big-hitting finish delivers T20 series win for India over Australia

Indian batsman Hardik Pandya smashed two sixes in the final over to hand his side victory an unassailable 2-0 lead in its T20 cricket series against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground last night.

Missing star players Aaron Finch, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, an understrength Australia posted 5-194 from its 20 overs wth stand-in skipper Matthew Wade (58) and Steve Smith (46) top scoring.

Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan (52) helped India to a fast start in reply and Virat Kohli made 40 before a rampaging Pandya delivered the six-wicket win.

Debutant Daniel Sams took the prized wicket of Kohli and bowled the final over with India needing 14 to win. But Pandya hit the second and fourth balls for six to seal the victory.

The dead-rubber third T20 of the series will be played in Sydney tomorrow night.

World watches as UK vaccine roll out counts down

Final checks have been taking place on the deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech before its rollout to hospitals across the UK from tomorrow.

About 800,000 doses of the vaccine, in super-cold containers, are expected to be delivered and in place for the start of the immunisation program on Tuesday.

It will be the country’s biggest ever and is being closely watched all around the world.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly dubbed Tuesday as “V-Day” – a nod to British triumphs in World War II.

“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director.

“The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.”

Last week the UK became the first country to authorise the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for emergency use.

In trials, the vaccine was shown to have around 95 per cent efficacy.

Vaccinations will be administered starting on Tuesday at around 50 hospital hubs in England.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination rollouts the same day.

Governments and health agencies around the world will be monitoring the British vaccination programme, which will take months, to note its successes and failures and adjust their own plans accordingly.

The United States hopes to start vaccinations later this month.

British regulatory authorities are also examining data on the vaccines from American biotechnology company Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford University.

Russia on Saturday began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centres in Moscow with its Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which was approved over the summer after being tested in only a few dozen people.

China is also expected to roll out its experimental vaccines from this week.

The excitement in Britain, which has Europe’s highest virus-related death toll at more than 61,000, was palpable.

“This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19,” said Hancock.

Patients aged 80 and above, who are already attending hospitals as outpatients, and those being discharged after a stay in the hospital will be among the first to receive the jab.

– with AAP and Reuters
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