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What we know today, Monday December 14


A returned overseas traveller to Adelaide has tested positive to COVID-19, becoming the state’s only new case since this month and posing the first serious challenge to its beefed-up hotel quarantine system. 

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Returned traveller tests positive to COVID-19

South Australia has recorded its first COVID-19 case since November 29.

SA Health issued a statement at 11.40am saying a man in his 40s had tested positive to his day one test while in hotel quarantine.

The man recently returned from overseas and is not linked to the Parafield cluster.

The new infection takes the total number of cases in SA to 563 since the pandemic began in January.

The Parafield cluster, which forced the state into a brief lockdown last month, stands at 33.

Only two close contacts of the cluster remain in quarantine.

Today’s positive case is the only active COVID-19 infection in the state.

It will test the state’s rejigged hotel quarantine regime, which has been revamped since the coronavirus was allowed to escape into the community last month and international repatriation flights into Adelaide resumed last week.

SA Premier Steven Marshall took a plan to Friday’s national cabinet meeting in Canberra proposing COVID-tests for Australian citizens returning from overseas before they boarded their flights home.

But the idea was quickly shot down.

Marshall last month unveiled an eight-point plan as a response to concerns about the state’s medi-hotel system, which included transferring all positive COVID-19 cases from medi-hotels to a dedicated health facility and asking national cabinet to “consider testing all returning Australians citizens prior to their flight with the view they must have negative test results before boarding”.

A dedicated facility is yet to be established, with positive cases now quarantined on separate floors of an existing facility at the Pullman Hotel.

NZ commits to trans-Tasman bubble by March

The return of quarantine-free travel across the Tasman could be possible within weeks, with New Zealand committing to forming a bubble with Australia by the end of March 2021.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used her final press conference of the year to announce her cabinet had signed off on a timeline for the bubble.

Despite an absence of community cases on either side of the Tasman, Ardern had resisted pressure to open NZ’s borders to Australia, saying “I’m not willing to take risks right now”.

“The big focus for me right now is everyone in New Zealand to be able to experience and enjoy a free summer … New Zealanders desperately need a break,” she said.

“We haven’t taken risks before that mean New Zealanders won’t be able to keep their freedoms, and I certainty don’t want to take those risks now.”

Ardern said the timeline was conditional on Australia’s support and case numbers remaining low.

An exact date would be given “in the New Year once remaining details are locked down”.

Those details include a resurgence plan should a new Australian outbreak occur which might strand thousands of Kiwis outside their homeland.

It also includes agreements from airlines, who are keen to return to the skies, and segregation of airports and air crews, given flights to high-risk areas will be occurring concurrently.

Crows stand down Stengle

Adelaide Football Club has stood down forward Tyson Stengle from AFL duties for another off-field matter.

The Crows say they’re again investigating Stengle, who was caught drink-driving and then in possession of drugs in separate incidents this year.

“Stengle … has been stood down from all club duties effective immediately as the club ascertains all relevant details on the situation,” the Crows said in a statement on Monday.

It comes as the club is considering imposing sanctions on young Crows player Josh Worrell after he was booked for drink driving yesterday.

The No.28 pick from the 2019 national AFL draft, was stopped by police in Adelaide’s western suburbs about 9am on Sunday after staying overnight at a teammate’s house.

The 19-year-old, who holds a probationary driver’s licence, was found to have a low-level prescribed concentration of alcohol in his blood (0.056).

Under South Australia’s laws, it’s illegal for probationary drivers to have any alcohol in their system.

Worrell was also issued with an expiation notice for using his mobile phone while driving.

Adelaide’s head of football Adam Kelly said while it was a police matter, the club would consider enforcing its own sanction.

“Josh is disappointed and rightfully so as this behaviour is clearly a breach of our standards and those of the community,” Kelly said.

Police shoot gunman dead in New York cathedral

A gunman has opened fire from the steps of a New York City cathedral just after an outdoor choir performance there and was himself shot dead by police.

New York Police Department spokesman Sergeant Edward Riley said the gunman had fired on police, but no officers or bystanders were believed to have been injured in the late-Sunday afternoon violence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The suspect, who was not identified, was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition, where he later died.

The shooting occurred outside the city’s landmark Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, located at Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street, about 15 minutes after the conclusion of an outdoor choir performance on the church steps drew an audience of about 200 people.

The choir’s annual Christmas holiday concert had been moved outside in keeping with COVID-19 health safety rules.

Only about 15 people were still present when the gunman appeared at the top of the steps, screaming, “Kill me,” and “shoot me,” as he fired a handgun, sending bystanders running for cover in panic, according to a Reuters photographer who was on the scene.

Police officers who had taken cover ordered the suspect several times to drop his weapon before shooting him, the photographer said.

Members of the choir were already back inside the church by the time of the shooting, which lasted several minutes.

City opens up as restrictions ease

South Australian workers are expected to flood back to city offices today for the first time in four weeks as the easing of restrictions on businesses provides a much-needed economic boost in the lead up to Christmas.

From today, stand up drinking will be allowed in pubs, capacity at entertainment venues such as cinemas will increase to 75 per cent, and gyms will move to a one-person per two square metre density.

Play cafes and centres such as Bounce, Lattitude and AFL Max will also be able to re-open, coinciding with the beginning of the school holidays.

Caps on home gatherings will increase to 50 people, private functions, weddings and funerals to 200.

Workers will be encouraged to move back into the office and masks will no longer be advised when out in public.

The capacity for Thursday’s test match between Australia and India will remain at 25,000.

The state government’s QR scanning code system has also been extended to include all retail shops from today.

Only two close contacts of the Parafield Cluster remain in quarantine today as South Australia looks to notch its 16th consecutive day of no new coronavirus infections.

The cluster, which forced the state into a brief lockdown last month stands at 33. There were 186 close contacts of the cluster still in quarantine on Wednesday but that number has fallen significantly to just four as of 9am this morning.

The state currently has no active infections.

Brexit deal misses deadline

London and Brussels have agreed to “go the extra mile” in coming days to try to reach an elusive trade agreement despite missing their latest deadline to avert a turbulent exit for Britain from the European Union at the end of the month.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the president of the EU’s executive Commission Ursula von der Leyen had given negotiators a Sunday deadline to find a way to resolve an impasse on arrangements that would guarantee Britain zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the EU’s single market.

On Sunday, they mandated negotiators to continue, although Johnson sounded a downbeat note on prospects for a breakthrough.

“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” Johnson and von der Leyen said in a joint statement.

Britain quit the EU in January but remains an informal member until December 31 – the end of a transition period during which it has remained in the EU single market and customs union.

Johnson said the two sides would try to be as creative as possible but Britain could not compromise on key “red lines”, so the most likely option was no deal, with trade reverting to the non-concessionary terms set by the World Trade Organisation.

A final Brexit without a trade deal would damage the economies of Europe, send shockwaves through financial markets, snarl borders and sow chaos through the delicate supply chains across Europe and beyond.

“Every opportunity to reach a deal is highly welcome,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin.

The two sides have struggled to agree on fishing rights in British waters and EU demands that Britain face consequences if in the future it diverges from the bloc’s rules for fair competition – what it calls a level playing field.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will brief ambassadors from the bloc on Monday morning about the state of negotiations.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins in US

The first American shipments of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine have left a factory in Michigan on a convoy of trucks, kicking off a massive effort to stop a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2,400 lives a day in the United States.

Mask-wearing workers at a Pfizer factory in Michigan began packing the first shipments of its vaccine in dry ice early on Sunday.

Three trucks carrying pallets of boxed, refrigerated vaccines rolled away from the Kalamazoo facility at 8.29 am, escorted by body armour-clad security officers in a pickup truck and a SUV.

The United States expects to immunise 100 million people, or about 30 per cent of its population, by the end of March, US Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News.

In a novel process that will need to become daily routine, workers removed pizza-boxed sized cartons containing vaccine vials from a freezer.

They placed them in large, blue coolers, before these were boxed and labelled, as shown on a network television video feed.

The massive logistical effort is complicated by the need to transport and store the vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech SE, at minus 70 Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit), requiring enormous quantities of dry ice or specialised ultra-cold freezers.

Workers clapped and whistled as the first boxes headed to the trucks.

The long-awaited moment comes as the US death toll was approaching 300,000 and infections and hospitalisations set daily records.

It will take months before most US residents can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The federal government plans to send the nation’s first 2.9 million doses to more than 600 locations.

Although the federal government is coordinating distribution efforts, states have the final say over who gets the first shots.

Dozens arrested in clashes after Trump rally

Clashes between Republican loyalists and anti-Donald Trump demonstrators over the weekend in Washington DC led to dozens of arrests, several stabbings and injuries to police officers.

The disturbances came hours after rallies in support of Trump’s baseless claims that he won a second term as President.

Police in the District of Columbia said they arrested nearly 30 people for a variety of offences, from assault to weapons possession and resisting arrests and rioting.

The violence had broken out after sundown on Saturday.

Four men were stabbed around 10 pm after a fight downtown, police said.

Eight police officers were also injured during the demonstrations, officials said.

The earlier rallies of mostly unmasked Trump loyalists were intended as a show of force just two days before the Electoral College meets to formally elect Democrat Joe Biden as the 46th president.

Trump, whose term will end on January 20 refuses to concede, while clinging to unfounded claims of fraud that have been rejected by state and federal court and, on Friday, by the Supreme Court.

Full Aussie squad unites ahead of Adelaide Test

Australian cricketer Cameron Green is on the mend and on his way to Adelaide as he bids to make a remarkably quick recovery from concussion and debut in Thursday’s day-night Test against India.

Green was substituted out of a tour game at the SCG on Friday after a frightening blow to the head but will fly to Adelaide this morning to join the Australian squad ahead of Thursday’s long-awaited pink ball test match.

There is now little time for the 21-year-old to prove his fitness before the four-Test series between Australia and India.

“From reports I think he’s in really high spirits,” Australia A captain Alex Carey said, having been behind the stumps when Green was felled.

“If he’s flying out to Adelaide that is a great sign I suppose.

“Fingers crossed, the way he’s playing at the moment is outstanding.”

Carey added his voice to the chorus of praise for Green, who scored an unbeaten century in the first of India’s two tour games.

Green’s fitness could determine whether out-of-form opener Joe Burns is axed for the pink-ball Test.

There have been calls for Matthew Wade or Marnus Labuschagne to open alongside Marcus Harris in a rejigged order, while Mark Waugh on Sunday floated the even more radical idea of skipper Tim Paine performing the job.

Burns and Harris, who both missed out on a score of substance in the SCG tune-up, will also fly to Adelaide on Monday.

The rest of the Australian squad is already in South Australia, completing a net session and fielding drills on the main arena at Adelaide Oval yesterday.

Penfolds Grange set sells for $430,000

A complete 64-bottle set of Penfolds Grange was last night sold for a record $430,000 in the Langton’s Penfolds Rewards of Patience auction – a world record price.

Christmas came early for a Sydney sommelier who successfully won the bidding war of the coveted set, which contains all vintages of Penfolds Grange from 1951 to 2015.

“This Penfolds set is unique because some of the bottles are signed by Max Schubert, Penfolds first Chief Winemaker and the man behind Penfolds Grange. Many of the older vintages have also been certified in the Penfolds clinic,” said Langton’s Head of Auctions Tamara Grischy.

The previous record was from December 2019, when a set of Penfolds Grange sold for $372,800.

There are believed to be only about 30 complete Penfolds Grange sets in existence, making them incredibly rare.

“This auction result is a great news story for Australian fine wine, as it shows that Penfolds goes from strength to strength – it’s like liquid gold.” Grischy said.

Other highlights in the online auction included a Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz 1962 which sold for $15,005 and a Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz 1962 which went under the hammer for $18,472.

– with AAP and Reuters
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