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What we know today, Tuesday December 15


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

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No new cases as SA again declared COVID-free

South Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 infections today as the state is once again declared case free.

SA yesterday recorded its first new case since November 29 when a returned overseas traveller – a man in his 40s – tested positive to his day one test while in hotel quarantine. He is not linked to the Parafield cluster, which forced the state into a brief lockdown last month and stands at 33.

However, in this morning’s update, SA Health said the new infection it reported yesterday was no longer classed as an active case.

According to the SA Health statement, there were 1587 tests carried out yesterday and there is only one contact of the Parafield cluster still in quarantine.

Port Adelaide Legend Eric Freeman dies

Australian cricketer and Port Adelaide footballer Eric Freeman has died at the age of 76.

Freeman died yesterday after a brief illness.

According to an obituary and detailed summary of his sporting achievements published on the SANFL’s website this morning, Freeman  played 11 Tests for Australia as an all-rounder but perhaps his finest cricketing moment came in 1971 when he took 5/41 and 8/64 against NSW in Adelaide to clinch the Sheffield Shield for South Australia.

An outstanding Port Adelaide cricketer, Freeman also played eight seasons of football with the Magpies in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and was a member of the 1965 premiership side. He also played for South Australia.

“It was the essence of Eric Freeman, outwardly friendly and approachable, but inbuilt with a natural, fierce determination on the sporting field,”David Jenkins wrote in his obituary.

“Even on his rare bad days with the Port Adelaide Magpies, Freeman was never downbeat.  It was always, ‘You get the ball to me, I’ll kick the goal’.“

McLachlan not guilty of all charges

Rocky Horror Show actor Craig McLachlan has been found not guilty of indecently assaulting and assaulting his former co-stars.

The 55-year-old was charged with seven counts of indecent assault and six of common law assault against four women during a run of the world-famous musical in Australia.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington on Tuesday tossed out all 13 charges.

But she wanted it noted that all four complainants “were brave and honest witnesses”.

She rejected McLachlan’s suggestions the women colluded with each other against him.

The Gold Logie-winning actor and former Neighbours star has always strenuously denied the allegations.

The court was previously told the musical was a highly sexualised environment, both onstage and behind the scenes.

McLachlan said he’d always been “energised and enthusiastic and over the top in the workplace”.

SA Year 12 results go live

More than 15,000 South Australian students will have access to their Year 12 results online  from this morning

“The Class of 2020 will be remembered as a remarkable group of students who showed the world that they had the resilience and tenacity to achieve success in their SACE,” Education Minister John Gardner said.

“Despite all of the challenges that they have faced through the COVID-19 pandemic, students have focused on their learning and their determination and hard work has truly paid off.

“With the support of the SACE Board, schools and educators have been able to support their students and I commend our educators on doing such an amazing job through a challenging year.”

Figures show a record 402 Aboriginal students completed the SACE along with 323 students with an intellectual disability.

As the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit SA, many schools switched to online learning although schools remained open for most of the year.

Universities also took a flexible approach, offering varied ways for students to qualify for a tertiary place in 2021.

SACE Board chief executive Martin Westwell said while students had faced a challenging year, their results were not compromised.

“As a community, the hallmark of our shared response to COVID-19 has been to continue the learning,” Professor Westwell said.

“We have worked together and held the line on the rigour of learning in the SACE and I am so proud that the SACE of 2020 will stand up against any other year, past or future.”

Biden confirmed as next US President by Electoral College

Joe Biden has been confirmed as next US president after California’s electors voted to give him the state’s 55 electoral college votes, pushing him over the 270 threshold needed to win the presidency.

The college voted in state capitols across the country on Monday to install Biden, as President Donald Trump continued to contest the election result.

Biden is set to garner 306 votes while Trump will get 232. States have all certified their results from the November 3 election.

The electoral college system distributes 538 votes to states based on population size. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate to get more than 270 electoral votes.

The next step will be in Congress on January 6, with certification of the Electoral College vote.

Biden and vice president Kamala Harris are due to be sworn in on January 20.

Adelaide Airport opens expanded terminal

Adelaide Airport has unveiled the latest stage of its terminal expansion project, with the new international departures hall and northern retail concourse now open to travellers.

The opening of the new facilities this morning coincided with the re-opening of several retail stores and dining outlets this week including the Penfolds Wine Bar & Kitchen, Soul Origin and Precinct Kitchen to cater for increasing passenger numbers.

All departing international passengers will now enter the security screening and emigration processing on Level 1 via escalators at the northern end of the terminal adjacent Penfolds Wine Bar & Kitchen in the new retail precinct.

The new international departures hall is three times the size of the old facility.

Once passengers complete emigration processing, they will move back up to Level 2 to access the international departure gates.

Adelaide Airport Managing Director Mark Young said the opening of the new international departures hall was an important milestone and had further stages of the project on track for completion in late 2021.

“It has been an incredibly difficult year for the aviation sector, but the silver lining has been that closing the northern end of the terminal due to COVID-19 made it a bit easier for the builder to access the site and continue construction without creating disruptions for passengers,” he said.

“The opening of international departures and the northern concourse has coincided with us re-opening gates and retail stores at the northern end of the terminal for the first time in nine months.”

The $165 million terminal expansion project is the first major terminal development since the current terminal was opened in 2005.

Acid-carrying truck crashes on freeway

A truck carrying containers of acid has crashed on the South Eastern Freeway near Callington, closing an eastbound section of the main road to Melbourne until this afternoon.

Emergency services were called to the scene just after 1am after a prime mover carrying containers of acid left the freeway and crashed into the barrier on the median strip.

The driver, a 52-year-old man from Victoria, was taken to Murray Bridge Hospital with minor injuries after being trapped in the cabin for a short time.

Motorists are advised that the freeway is closed for all eastbound traffic between Monarto and Callington with diversions in place at the Old Princes Highway.

Speed restrictions will be in place for all westbound traffic.

It is expected the freeway will not be cleared until later this afternoon and investigations are continuing into the circumstances surrounding the crash.

North American vaccinations begin

Canada and the United States have begun inoculations of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine with health workers in Ontario among the first to be inoculated.

Five front-line workers at a Toronto hospital were among the first Canadians to receive the vaccine on Monday as nurses at a nursing home were also vaccinated.

“This is a victory day for science,” said Dr Kevin Smith, president and CEO of Toronto’s University Health Network.

“Here we are today breaking the back of his horrible virus.”

The Canadian province of Ontario received 6000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday night and plans to give them to approximately 2500 health-care workers.

A US vaccination campaign also got underway on Monday as health workers in select hospitals rolled up their sleeves for shots to protect them from COVID-19.

“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” said critical case nurse Sandra Lindsay after getting a shot in the arm at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.

Shipments of precious frozen vials of vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech began arriving at hospitals around the US on Monday.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s a long tunnel,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said as he watched Lindsay’s vaccination via video.

Several other countries also have approved the jab, including the UK which started vaccinating last week.

Singapore approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine late yesterday, paving the way for its deployment in the city-state late this year or in early 2021.

The vaccine developments come as the coronavirus continues surging across much of the world.

More than 71.52 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 1,613,549​ have died.

New COVID-19 variant under microscope

The World Health Organisation is examining a potential new variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in the United Kingdom.

The WHO said on Monday it was aware of the new variant of COVID-19 in the UK but there was no evidence the strain behaved differently to existing types of the virus.

“We are aware of this genetic variant reported in 1000 individuals in England,” the WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan told a news briefing in Geneva.

“Authorities are looking at its significance. We have seen many variants, this virus evolves and changes over time.”

UK authorities said London would be placed in the toughest tier of restrictions from Wednesday morning following a surge in coronavirus infection rates.

“Over the last week we’ve seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire,” Healtyh Minister Matt Hancock told parliament on Monday.

“We therefore have decided to move greater London, the south and west of Essex… and the south of Hertfordshire… into tier three, which is the very high alert level.

“These restrictions will come into force at midnight on Wednesday morning.”

A move to tier three will result in almost 14,000 pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in the capital forced to close or be restricted to takeaway services.

The UK has reported 1.85 million COVID-19 cases during the pandemic and has had the sixth most deaths with 64,268.

Australia launches special Tokyo Olympics project

The Australian Olympic Committee has launched a special project to manage coronavirus logistical challenges surrounding next year’s Tokyo Games.

Dubbed Project Wagasa – the Japanese word for umbrella – the project will steer athletes and sports through the COVID-19 maze for the postponed Olympics.

The project is an overall umbrella plan to guide Australia’s team through qualification, pre-Games camps, competition and travel to and from Tokyo.

Australia’s chef de mission Ian Chesterman described logistics amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a “huge challenge”.

“There is no doubt that organising a team to attend to these Games will be the most complex ever,” Chesterman told AAP.

“But why we are now so incredibly confident that the Games are proceeding is because the Japanese share the commitment to make it happen, so it’s really just something we have to deal with.”

Australia will send a team of about 480 athletes to Tokyo to contest 37 sports – likely to be the third biggest team at the Games behind hosts Japan and the USA.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo Olympic organisers have issued guidelines for the entry and exit of athletes from the Games.

Athletes will fly in and out of Tokyo within days of their competition in a bid to reduce coronavirus risks.

“We now know that the IOC and the organisers are looking to minimise the numbers in the Olympic Village at any one time,” Chesterman said.

He expected more specifics around coronavirus testing protocols, travel and restrictions in Tokyo to be announced by organisers in January.

Eddie McGuire to stand down as Collingwood president

A tearful Eddie McGuire has announced he will step down as Collingwood president at the end of 2021 after 23 years in the role.

McGuire was re-elected for a further three-year term in February.

But a tearful McGuire announced during a fan forum on Monday night that he would step down at the end of next season.

McGuire’s position had come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following the Magpies’ messy trade period in which they shed a host of stars for mostly bargain-basement prices due to salary cap issues.

He became president of Collingwood at the end of 1998, and earned the “Eddie Everywhere” moniker due to his prominent role in the media and outspoken opinions.

During his time in charge, McGuire ensured Collingwood remained one of the competition’s heavyweights.

On the field, the Magpies have won just the one flag under Maguire’s leadership – in 2010 – but they also made grand finals in 2002, 2003, 2011 and 2018.

McGuire played a key role in appointing Mick Malthouse as coach ahead of the 2000 season.

Malthouse led the club to eight finals campaigns in his 12 seasons in charge.

McGuire’s tenure is the third-longest of an AFL president.

He said that he had intended to make his call earlier in the year.

“COVID put paid to many finely laid plans,” McGuire said.

“In conjunction with the change of direction in my media life and the timing of my son’s schooling ending, the time is right and the future is strong for our club and for me to make this call.

“My passion and love and energy for Collingwood remains undiminished. My care for the competition remains deep and abiding.”

– with AAP and Reuters
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