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What we know today, Wednesday December 30


South Australia has recorded three new COVID-19 cases, the State Opposition promises to reinstate motorsport funding and firefighters issue a warning over New Year’s Eve fireworks. Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Three new COVID-19 cases in SA

A man in his 30s, a man in his 50s and a child who recently returned to South Australia from overseas have tested positive for coronavirus on day one of quarantining in a medi-hotel.

Today’s update brings the number of infectious people in SA to eight and the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 575.

Two people remain in hospital.

Just under 5000 tests were carried out yesterday.

Opposition pledges to reinstate axed Motorsport Festival funding

The State Opposition has announced it will reinstate funding for the scrapped Adelaide Motorsport Festival if it wins the 2022 election, after the Marshall Government cut sponsorship funding last year.

The festival, which only ran in its full form for five years before being scaled back, is held over several days in December and was considered one of the country’s premier motorsport events.

In the past, it was attended by several notable motorsports stars including former Ferrari F1 driver Ivan Capelli and Supercars favourite Craig Lowndes.

The Government stopped funding the event in 2019, citing a write-down in GST revenue.

The decision forced event organisers to run the event in a scaled-back form and cancel the popular Victoria Park sprint of rare and classic vehicles.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today announced Labor would reinstate government funding and work with sporting car clubs and other associations to deliver a “bigger and better” event if it succeeded at the March 2022 state election.

He said doing so would cost taxpayers about $500,000.

“Events like the Adelaide Motorsport Festival and Adelaide 500 attract interstate and overseas visitors and support jobs in our tourism, hospitality and retail industries,” he said.

“Hospitality and tourism is on its knees in our state.

“The State Government’s got an obligation to invest in events into the future so as to generate the economic activity that is required to bring people back in and spend money in our local economy.”

It comes after the Marshall Government announced earlier this year that it would no longer run the Adelaide 500 – formerly the Clipsal 500 – due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Malinauskas promised to return the Supercars event to Adelaide if elected.

“We know that the cuts to the Clipsal 500 have reaped devastation across the motorsport community, not just here in South Australia but around the country,” he said today.

“We’re going to bring back the Clipsal 500, we’re going to bring back the Adelaide Motorsport Festival and see Adelaide continue to be the centre of motorsport in this country and the beacon for tourism and investment dollars that so many motorsport enthusiasts want to spend.”

Marshall said in October that SA tourism events would need to “pivot” from a “small number of large events to a large number of small events which are COVID-safe”, saying fixtures such as the Royal Show, Tour Down Under and future Christmas Pageants are “all under a cloud”.

The state’s 2021 sport events calendar will also be without the Tour Down Under, Adelaide International tennis tournament and Women’s Australian Open golf due to COVID-19.

Fire services warn against ringing in the New Year with a bang

The state’s fire services have put out a blunt warning to people planning to illegally set off fireworks at home on New Year’s Eve, after most public fireworks events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People using fireworks put themselves, their loved ones and the broader community at risk of serious injury, disfigurement – or even death,” Metropolitan Fire Service community engagement officer Angelo Mastripolito said. 

“We do not want New Year celebrations turning to tragedy because of one irresponsible act,” Country Fire Service state duty commander Sam Quigley added. 

Setting off fireworks on public or private land is banned in South Australia, unless the person holds a pyrotechnician’s licence.

Those caught infringing the law face a maximum fine of $5000.

Sparklers can only be used if there are no total fire bans declared and parents are urged to always supervise children when they are using them.

Sky lanterns – paper lanterns that are set alight to make them float in the air – are also banned as they pose a high fire risk if they were to land on dry grass or become trapped under the eaves of a building.

The CFS has also urged people planning to use smokers or wood fire ovens to have a fire extinguisher or plenty of water on hand to stop any potential fires from spreading.

Warm, dry conditions are forecast across much of the state tomorrow, bringing potential bushfire danger.

Koalas back on Cleland menu

People will once again be able to cuddle a koala at Cleland Wildlife Park, after the park was forced to put a hold on its animal encounter experiences due to COVID-19.

The koala, snake and lizard hold experiences will return this Saturday, along with two new close-up animal encounter experiences with echidnas and native South Australian birds.

A third “mini beast experience” will launch on January 12 and is touted as a “fun, interactive opportunity to explore the interesting world of bugs, spiders, beetles, ants, scorpions and other critters from the ocean to the outback”.

Experiences and tours incur additional cost and due to expected popular demand, visitors are encouraged to book their tickets online to secure their preferred experience.

Bushfires prompt renewed focus on species survival

Wildlife authorities will conduct more rapid assessments of threatened species and improve feral pest controls under a new government plan to help habitats rebound from bushfire devastation.

Released today, the South Australian Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Framework outlines how the Government will better preserve and re-establish natural environments during and following bushfires.

The plan states wildlife authorities will conduct more rapid assessments of species survival and emergency wildlife rescue, implement feral predator controls within burnt areas and rehabilitate fire control lines.

It comes after the Cudlee Creek and Kangaroo Island Bushfires last summer wrought havoc on the state’s native wildlife, killing hundreds of thousands of animals and destroying large swathes of natural bushland.

SCG Test bubble to guard against virus outbreaks

Cricket Australia says its plan to play the third Test at the SCG is watertight and the ensuing passage to Brisbane wouldn’t be endangered by a rise in Sydney COVID-19 cases.

Officials last night locked in the historic ground as the venue for the January 7 Test against India, but only after a week of high-powered meetings.

The decision puts to rest speculation that Melbourne would host the match after India squared the series 1-1 there yesterday.

Crowds of more than 22,000 could still be let in despite Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak, with the 50 per cent capacity at this point considered only a baseline.

But it was only possible after an 11th hour agreement by the Queensland Government to grant exemptions to players and officials to cross the closed border for the fourth Test at the Gabba.

As part of the deal, players will move from Melbourne to Sydney just days out from the Test and remain in a strict bio-secure bubble that will limit contact with the outside.

On arrival into Queensland, conditions will be just as stringent, with players only allowed to leave the hotel to train or play under the terms of the exemption.

That had prompted questions over whether a surge in Sydney cases could impact those exemptions, but interim Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley said there was no such risk.

“That was precisely the reason why we have our biosecurity protocols,” Hockley said.

“It’s why we have measures in place and why we are in a bubble in Sydney.

“The arrangements we have with the Queensland Government are that we can keep the players and broadcast crew all safe and they can move safely into Brisbane.”

New South Wales this morning reported 18 cases of community transmission of coronavirus as a second cluster of the deadly disease emerges in Sydney’s inner west. The so-called Avalon cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches, which erupted earlier this month, generated another nine case in the 24 hours to 8pm last night to take its total to 138.

Biden pans sluggish vaccine rollout pace

President-elect Joe Biden has criticised President Donald Trump’s promise of a swift coronavirus vaccine rollout, saying it has fallen behind expectations, and that if the pace wasn’t stepped up, it could take years before the bulk of Americans receive the necessary shots.

Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said some two million people had been vaccinated so far, well short of the 20 million Trump had promised by the end of the year.

He said at the current rate, “it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people”.

“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” the Democrat added.

Biden’s goal of ensuring that 100 million shots are administered by the end of his 100th day in office would mean “ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day,” he added, noting that it would require Congress to approve additional funding.

“Even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the United States’ population vaccinated,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a COVID-19 vaccination live on television in a bid to boost confidence in the inoculation even while warning it will be months before it is available to all.

Senator Harris became the second high-profile person from an ethnic minority background to receive the vaccine after Surgeon General Jerome Adams on December 18.

“I want to encourage everyone to get the vaccine – it is relatively painless … it is safe … it’s literally about saving lives. I trust the scientists,” she said.

Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said he will make the fight against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 19 million Americans and killed over 334,000, his top priority. He received his first injected dose of the vaccine live on television last week. Two doses are required for full protection.

Trump, who had COVID-19 in October, frequently has played down the severity of the pandemic and overseen a response many health experts say was disorganised, cavalier and sometimes ignored the science behind disease transmission.

The United States has so far authorised two COVID-19 vaccines: one developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE and the other by Moderna. Others are being evaluated.

Separately on Tuesday, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put off a vote on Trump’s call to boost COVID-19 relief cheques for Americans to $2,000, in a rare challenge to his fellow Republican. Biden has said he favours the increase from an already approved $600.

Croatian earthquake kills seven

An earthquake has struck central Croatia, killing seven people, injuring more than 20 and rattling several neighbouring countries.

Rescuers pulled people from the rubble of collapsed buildings in Petrinja and other towns, and army troops were sent to the area to help.

Tremors were also felt in Croatia’s capital Zagreb and as far away as Austria’s capital Vienna. Slovenia shut its only nuclear power plant as a precaution.

It was the second quake to strike the area in two days.

The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences said the 6.4 magnitude quake hit just before 10pm South Australian time last night at a depth of 10 km, with the epicentre in Petrinja, 50 km south of Zagreb.

“By now, in the vicinity of the town of Glina we have five fatalities. Together with a (12-year-old) girl from Petrinja there are altogether six dead,” Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved said while visiting Glina.

State news agency Hina, citing firefighters, later reported that a seventh victim had been found in the rubble of a church in the village of Zazina.

Police said at least 20 people were slightly injured and six more severely wounded.

– with AAP and Reuters
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