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What we know today, Tuesday December 8


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

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Restrictions to ease as SA declared COVID-free

South Australia has been declared coronavirus free as the state government announces a further easing of restrictions.

The state has now gone 10 consecutive days with no new cases.

The Parafield cluster, which forced SA into a lockdown last month, stands at 33.

However, chief public health officer professor Nicola Spurrier told a press conference just before noon that the last two cases had been cleared at 9am this morning.

The easing of restrictions from Monday includes increasing the number of people allowed at household gatherings from 10 to 50. Patrons in pubs and restaurants will be allowed to consume drinks while standing up.

Premier Steven Marshall said the changes followed a meeting of the transition committee this morning and would apply from December 14.

Other changes include increasing the size of funerals and weddings to 200 while the capacity in entertainment venues, such as theatres and cinemas, will rise from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

The QR code check-in system will be expanded to the retail outlets and SA will drop its general recommendation for people to work from home.

Repatriation flights into Adelaide also resumed this morning with 72 people landing from Singapore.

More international flights are scheduled for later this week, but the final number of arrivals is yet to be determined.

Asteroid sample completes trip from Woomera to Tokyo

A small capsule containing asteroid soil samples that was dropped from space by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft and landed in the South Australian outback on the weekend has arrived in Tokyo for research into the origin of the solar system and life on earth.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says its capsule, tightly sealed and carefully stored in a container box, arrived in Japan on a flight from Australia on Tuesday, attended by JAXA officials.

At the end of its yearlong journey from asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometres from earth, Hayabusa2 released the capsule on Saturday from 220,000km in space, successfully sending it to land in the desert near Woomera.

The box with the capsule inside was transported to JAXA’s research facility in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, for analysis.

Launched in December 2014, the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down twice last year on the asteroid Ryugu.

Scientists say the samples, especially ones taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain data from 4.6 billion years ago unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

They are particularly interested in studying organic materials in the samples to learn how they were distributed in the solar system and if or how they are related to life on earth.

Returned travellers fly in to revamped quarantine system

As hundreds of international travellers begin flying into Adelaide from today, health authorities have revealed they won’t be tested for COVID-19 before arriving, but they will receive an extra test once here – on day six of their quarantine.

That means they’ll now be tested on day one, six and 12 of their 14-day quarantine in a medi-hotel.

Any who test positive will be moved to an “interim” quarantine facility – on two floors of the Pullman medi-hotel in Hindmarsh Square.

The Government promised two weeks ago to establish a dedicated quarantine facility for those who test positive and was considering the old Wakefield hospital, but authorities have now ruled out that site due to inadequate ventilation and air-flow.

The measure was part of an eight-point plan announced by Premier Steven Marshall in response to the Parafield cluster which originated from another one of Adelaide’s medi-hotels – the Peppers on Waymouth Street.

Health Minister Stephen Wade told reporters yesterday afternoon that  “a range of options” were now being considered for a permanent quarantine facility for those with the disease but he refused to name any sites because “we need to have respectful negotiations with the owners and operators of other facilities”.

“We’ll be making an announcement as soon as possible,” he said.

International flights into Adelaide were halted following the spread of the Parafield cluster, but will begin resuming from today – with 72 passengers due to arrive from Singapore, and dozens more later in the week.

“I do not want to be looking back in decades to come ashamed of the fact that we left thousands of Australians stranded in COVID-infested countries,” Wade said.

He said those arriving this week wouldn’t be tested before they arrived because that proposal still needed to go before national cabinet.

Wade said “all of the key attributes of that dedicated facility have been honoured” in an “interim” facility now established on two levels of the Pullman medi-hotel, to be monitored by SA Police and staffed 24/7 by SA Health nurses.

Unlike other floors of the Pullman medi-hotel, there will be no private security involved.

Authorities say there will be more spacing between rooms and CCTV monitoring on each floor.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the old Wakefield hospital site did not meet “strict requirements” around airflow and ventilation.

“Our interim facility needed to have very good airflow and ventilation and I’m pleased to report that the Pullman Hotel was able to accommodate that as part of our dedicated interim facility,” she said.

Kirkpatrick said SA Health had “undertaken a review of all of our hotels and we are still in the process of undertaking a ventilation review of the Peppers hotel” where the outbreak originated.

South Australia yesterday recorded no new coronavirus cases for the ninth consecutive day, with the number of active cases in the state now down to two.

Midnight Oil to headline 2021 WOMADelaide concerts

Midnight Oil, Archie Roach, Lior and Tash Sultana are among artists announced in the line-up for WOMADelaide’s new sunset concert series in the Adelaide Park Lands in March.

As reported last week, COVID-19 constraints have seen organisers pivot to a different type of event for 2021, with the usual four-day world music festival at Botanic Park being replaced by four seated concerts from March 5 to 8 on the oval in King Rodney Park / Ityamai-itpina.

Headlining the series will be rock band Midnight Oil, who will play on the Saturday and Monday. Their second concert will feature songs from their recently released new album The Makarrata Project, with some of the First Nations artists who collaborated on it set to join the band on stage.

The sunset series will open on the Friday night with a performance by Lior and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra of Compassion, a Hebrew-Arabic song cycle written by the singer-songwriter in collaboration with acclaimed composer Nigel Westlake.

Other artists announced today as part of the all-Australian line-up include Archie Roach, Sarah Blasko, Tash Sultana and Sampa the Great.

Read the full story here.

Qld borders open to Adelaide from Saturday

Queensland will open to Adelaide from this Saturday as long as there are no unlinked COVID-19 cases in the next five days.

Making the announcement on Monday, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people travelling from Adelaide to Queensland will not have to quarantine from 1am December 12.

She said it was important for people to remember to get tested if they had symptoms and register at venues as the state welcomed more visitors.

“This is absolutely critical, the more our state opens up nationally, the more we need to be vigilant to ensure that we can contact trace if there is a case that is identified in the community,” she said.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said that by Saturday, 28 days will have passed since the first case in the Parafield cluster.

“If there are no additional cases between now and Saturday morning that are unable to be linked to that outbreak, then Queensland will no longer require quarantine of anyone travelling from those 20 local government authority areas in Adelaide,” she said.

Tough year has SA wine companies fearing for future

China’s exorbitant tariffs on Australian wine are threatening to wipe out small, independent winemakers, the state’s peak industry advocates warns.

With many small growers and wineries impacted by last summer’s bushfires and the pandemic, the tariff hike of up to 212 per cent could be the final nail in the coffin.

A survey of 63 independent wineries in South Australia found almost half were worried about the future of their business, compared to only 25 per cent last year.

Chief executive of the South Australian Wine Industry Association Brian Smedley said while confidence among local wine businesses had declined amid a broad range of challenges experienced in 2020, innovation and evolution has spiked.

“2020 has been the most disruptive year in recent history for South Australia’s wine industry,” he said.

“COVID-19 and China investigations into anti-dumping have followed a series of environmental set-backs, generating uncertainty and making planning for the future more difficult.

“However, in reviewing the challenges experienced by wine businesses this year, we have uncovered many inspiring examples of innovation, evolution and hope.”

The fourth annual South Australian Wine Industry Snapshot – a research collaboration of Bentleys SA/NT and the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) – was released today.

Many of the participating SA wine businesses in this year’s study were in the growth or mature phase of their lifecycle, privately owned, smaller in size, and growing their own grapes for winemaking purposes.

China bans Australian beef exports from sixth supplier

China says it has suspended imports of beef from Queensland supplier Meramist Pty Ltd, the sixth Australian meat exporter to face such a move.

China, which did not say why it took the latest decision, has already banned imports from five other Australian beef suppliers this year, citing reasons that have included issues with labelling and health certificates.

Australia’s ties with top trade partner China, already strained, significantly deteriorated after Canberra called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

China stopped receiving applications and registration for beef exports from the Meramist plant from December 7, China’s General Administration of Customs said in a notice on its website, without giving a reason.

The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

In May, China banned imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors citing issues with labelling and health certificates. In August, it suspended imports from a fifth plant.

Shark attack survivor tells of great white encounter

The 29-year-old surfer who was mauled by a great white shark off Kangaroo Island on Sunday says the attack was “like being hit by a truck”.

The man’s identity has not been released, but in a statement provided to media outlets late yesterday he said he felt incredibly lucky.

“I was sitting on my board when I felt a hit on my left side – it was like being hit by a truck,” the statement said.

“It bit me around my back, buttock and elbow and took a chunk out of my board.

“I got a glimpse of the shark as it let go and disappeared.”

The man was attacked while surfing at D’Estrees Bay on the island’s southeast coast on Sunday afternoon.

After making it to shore he sought help from another surfer who drove him towards Kingscote.

Paramedics met the car on the way and took the man to hospital, where he was airlifted to Adelaide for treatment.

His injuries were not considered life-threatening.

The beach was closed to swimmers and surfers soon after the attack.

Cycling festival program announced to replace Tour Down Under

The Santos Tour Down Under has announced a six-day domestic festival to replace its cancelled international race next month.

The Santos Festival of Cycling will take place from January 19 to 24 and will include a variety of cycling disciplines, including Road, Track, Paracycling, BMX, Mountain Bikes and Cyclo-Cross.

The program will kick off with the Adelaide Track Event at the Gepps Cross Superdrome followed by a 4-stage National Road Series (NRS) race with Men’s and Women’s stages held on the same day, showcasing the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu regions.

Program details for Paracycling, Track, Cyclo-Cross, Mountain Bike, and BMX are set to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

As part of the Festival’s COVID Management plan, selected events will be ticketed which will include limited-capacity entry for the road race start and finishes.  A free ticket will be required to access both race starts and finish locations and will be available from Monday December 14 at

Spacecraft prepares for return journey with moon rocks

A Chinese probe is orbiting the moon as it prepares to return to Earth with samples from the lunar surface.

The ascent module of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft transferred a container with 2kg of samples after docking with the robot spacecraft on Sunday and was then cut free.

The orbiter and re-entry vehicle will circle the moon for another week awaiting a narrow time window to make the roughly three-day, 383,000-km journey back to earth.

It will first “bounce” off the earth’s atmosphere to slow its speed before the re-entry vehicle separates and floats down on parachutes to land on the vast steppes of Inner Mongolia, where China’s Shenzhou crewed spaceships have also made their landings.

If the mission succeeds, it will make China the third country after the United States and former Soviet Union to bring moon rocks to earth.

They will be the first fresh samples of the lunar surface obtained by scientists since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976.

The Chang’e 5 ascent stage blasted off from the moon’s surface on Friday, leaving behind the lander module flying the Chinese flag, according to the China National Space Agency, which also released a photo taken by the orbiter showing it approaching for its rendezvous with the ascender, a sliver of the earth seen in the background.

Chang’e 5 touched down on December 1 on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side close to a formation called the Mons Rumker, an area believed to have been the site of ancient volcanic activity.

The rocks and other debris were obtained both by drilling into the moon’s crust and by scooping directly off the surface.

They are thought to possibly be billions of years younger than those brought back earlier and may offer insights into the moon’s history as well as that of other bodies in our solar system.

– with AAP and Reuters
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