- SA to close border with NSW
- Sydney clusters grow as 10 new cases reported
- Victoria’s streak-breaking COVID cases grow to eight
- British parliament rushes to approve Brexit deal
- City convenience store arrest
- Ebert begins battle against cancer
- Trump’s $2k relief bid killed off in Senate
- Global virus deaths approach two million as UK cases soar
SA to close border with NSW
South Australia will impose a hard border closure with NSW from New Year’s Day in response to the steady increase of COVID-19 cases in Sydney.
The closure will apply from Friday with only returning SA residents, people permanently relocating to SA and essential travellers exempt from the new rules.
Returning residents or people relocating will still need to quarantine for 14 days.
A 100-kilometre buffer zone will also be put in place on each side of the SA-NSW border to allow cross-border residents free movements across the state line.
SA Premier Steven Marshall says the changes are in response to the latest health advice.
He says officials are also monitoring the situation in Victoria, where cases have just emerged, but no changes are planned at this stage.
NSW reported 18 new locally acquired cases yesterday and 10 this morning while Victoria has reported six new cases in the past 48 hours – its first locally acquired infections in two months.
The SA border changes followed warnings on Wednesday from Police Commissioner Grant Stevens for anyone travelling from SA to NSW in coming days to “very seriously consider whether that travel is essential.”
He said South Australians on holiday or travelling in NSW should also consider returning home as soon as possible.
“The continued spread of cases in New South Wales is of particular concern,” a police statement said.
Sydney clusters grow as 10 new cases reported
NSW has reported 10 cases of community transmission of coronavirus, with five linked to Sydney’s northern beaches cluster.
The so-called Avalon cluster, which emerged earlier this month, now totals 144.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said almost 28,000 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, which was a good result compared to previous days.
The 10 cases reported on Thursday, compared to 18 the day before.
“So pleasingly, we have seen the numbers go down today but it’s very volatile,” Berejiklian said.
“They’re going to bounce around.
“What is really important is for all of us to do everything we can to reduce our mobility, to reduce the number of people that we’re mixing with and to make sure that we stick to the rules and the health advice.”
Three of the 10 coronavirus cases are linked to the Croydon cluster in Sydney’s inner west.
The source of this infection, which emerged on Wednesday, is still under investigation.
The Croydon cluster began with six cases from the same extended family and three different households who had gathered for several events over a number of days.
Of the two other cases reported on Thursday, one is a close contact of a previously reported infected patient transport driver and the other is from western Sydney and the source is under investigation.
Authorities are also still investigating two COVID-19 cases involving a pair of women from the same household in Wollongong, on the NSW south coast.
The NSW government continues to resist calls to make mask-wearing outside of the home mandatory.
Stay-at-home orders applying to northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge will continue until at least January 9. A lockdown for the peninsula’s southern zone will be in place until January 2.
Victoria’s streak-breaking COVID cases grow to eight
Victoria has confirmed another two locally-acquired coronavirus cases, taking its total to eight.
The increase has prompted a hard border with NSW from 11.59pm on January 1, acting premier Jacinta Allan said this afternoon.
Anyone who arrives back in Victoria from anywhere in NSW after that time will have to go into isolation for 14 days.
“This is going to cause some disruption for Victorians who may be holidaying,” Allan said, apologising for the disruption.
“However these difficult decisions are about protecting the community, protecting and keeping case numbers low and doing everything we can to lock in the gains we have made over the course of 2020.”
Masks will be mandatory indoors from 5pm tonight and the number of visitors allowed in Victorian homes is down to 15 from 30 under changes annouced by Allan earlier in the day.
The two additional cases identified on Thursday afternoon are close contacts of the six previously announced.
The new cases, which first emerged on Wednesday night, ended a 60-day streak without infections for Victoria.
It’s believed all six cases – including two women in their 40s and a woman in her 70s – are tied to outbreaks of the virus in Sydney.
All are directly or indirectly linked to the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock on December 21, which was attended by a NSW returned traveller.
That traveller returned before border permits were in place and is being tested on Thursday.
Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said early information indicated a potential exposure window between December 17 and 19.
Earlier on Thursday Health Minister Martin Foley has urged Victorians not to travel to NSW and for any Victorians in the previous NSW green zone to return immediately.
“You do not want to be caught on the wrong side of a rapidly evolving situation,” he said.
The new Black Rock exposure site is on top of a series of locations released by the health department late on Wednesday, with exposure dates between Boxing Day and December 28.
Anyone already in Victoria who travelled to those regions since December 27 should get tested and stay at home until their results come back.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said Victorians shouldn’t panic and new cases were inevitable.
“What’s really important is we keep in place the measures to keep us safe,” he said, supporting the latest restrictions.
Celebrations for the Victorian new year were already going to be muted on Thursday night.
“It has been a very hard year and we have done an incredible thing as Victorians – let’s not risk it as we celebrate the end of 2020,” Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
British parliament rushes to approve Brexit deal
Boris Johnson’s EU trade deal has cleared the British parliament after the government rushed approval through the Commons and Lords in a single day.
Peers gave the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, ratifying the deal finally agreed on Christmas Eve, an unopposed third reading.
Their approval came just hours after MPs backed the Bill by 521 to 73 at third reading, with just two Tories abstaining but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suffered a rebellion.
The Bill will shortly go to the Queen for royal assent, with an announcement expected around midnight.
That will pave the way for the deal to take effect at 11pm tonight, London time, when the current Brexit transition period ends.
Opening the debate in the Commons, the prime minister said the deal would enable the UK to trade and co-operate with the EU on the “closest possible terms” while taking “sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny”.
He said he hoped it would end the “old, desiccated, tired, super-masticated arguments” which have dogged the country for years and enable it to move forwards to a “new and great future”.
“It embodies our vision shared with our European neighbours of a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals joined by friendship, commerce, history interests and values while respecting one another’s freedom of action,” he said.
“We are going to open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world and reasserting global Britain as a liberal, outward-looking force for good.”
Labour backed the deal, despite misgivings from some pro-European MPs who said they would be abstaining or voting against.
However, party leader Sir Keir Starmer said that, while the agreement is “thin” with “many flaws”, the alternative is to leave the EU single market and customs union with no agreement, pushing up prices and driving businesses to the wall.
“There’s only one choice today, which is to vote for implementing this deal or to vote for no-deal. Those that vote ‘no’ are voting for no-deal,” he said.
Earlier in the day, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel formally signed the agreement.
Following the brief ceremony in Brussels, the documents were then flown to London by the RAF where Johnson put his name to it.
City convenience store arrest
A man who allegedly threatened staff members at three separate city convenience stores demanding cash overnight has been arrested.
Police were called to a service station on Pulteney Street after a hold up alarm was activated by a staff member at about 11.15pm last night.
They said a man entered the service station, threatened the staff member and demanded cash. He was last seen leaving the area on foot after allegedly stealing cash.
About two hours later a man entered a convenience store on King William Street in the CBD and demanded money from the till.
The staff member refused to hand over money and the man left the store and was last seen heading north on King William Street.
Just after 1.30am police were called to a convenience store on Hindley Street after reports a man entered the store and threatened the staff member and again demanded cash.
The man left empty handed and was last seen heading south on Morphett Street.
No one was physically injured as a result of the incidents.
Police reviewed cctv footage from the store and set up cordons in the area.
About 15 minutes later the suspect was located walking on Leigh Street, the 33-year-old man of no fixed address was arrested without incident.
He was taken to the City Watch House where he was charged with robbery, attempted robbery, assault and breach of bail. He has been refused bail and he will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court later today.
Ebert begins battle against cancer
Champion Port Adelaide footballer Russell Ebert is undergoing intensive treatment after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a form of cancer which affects the production and function of blood cells.
Ebert, 71, was recently diagnosed after a routine health check with his doctor.
The Australian Football Hall of Fame member and four-time Magarey Medallist has already begun a course of treatment, which will continue over the coming months.
In a statement on its website, the Port Adelaide Football Club said Ebert would take time away from his role in the club’s community programs to focus on his health.
“Russell and his family thank those who have already made contact to pass on their support and well wishes,” the statement said.
“He would like to in particular thank the members and supporters of the Port Adelaide Football Club for their wonderful support over so many years.
“The club asks everyone to respect the privacy of Russell and his extended family at this time so they can focus on his treatment.”
Ebert played 391 games for the Magpies between 1968 and 1985 and 25 in the VFL for North Melbourne in 1979.
He also coached Port Adelaide from 1983-1987 and Woodville from 1988-90.
Trump’s $2k relief bid killed off in Senate
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shut the door on President Donald Trump’s push for $US2000 ($A2600) COVID-19 relief cheques, declaring Congress has provided enough pandemic aid as he blocked another attempt by Democrats to force a vote.
The GOP leader made clear he is unwilling to budge, despite political pressure from Trump and even some fellow Republican senators who demanded a vote.
Trump wants the recently approved $US600 ($A800) in aid increased threefold. But McConnell dismissed the idea of bigger “survival checks”, saying the money would go to plenty of American households that don’t need it.
McConnell’s refusal to act means the additional relief Trump wanted is all but dead.
“We just approved almost a trillion dollars in aid a few days ago,” he said, referring to the year-end package Trump signed into law.
McConnell added, “if specific, struggling households still need more help,” the Senate will consider “smart targeted aid. Not another fire hose of borrowed money”.
The showdown between the outgoing president and his own Republican Party over the cheques has thrown Congress into a chaotic year-end session just days before new lawmakers are set to be sworn into office.
Global virus deaths approach two million as UK cases soar
Global COVID-19 cases are set to end the year at about 83 million and more than 1.8 million deaths.
Cases in the United States will likely surge past 20 million in the next few days as infections in the United Kingdom continue to grow at alarming rates.
India has the world’s second-highest infections at 10.2 million but new cases there have been steadily declining since reaching a peak in late September, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
Brazil has recorded more than 7.5 million cases and almost 200,000 deaths while Russia (3.1 million) is fourth following a sustained second wave, which began in early October.
The UK (2.44 million) is set to overtake France (2.65 million) in fifth place in the coming fortnight as new British cases increase at the rate of 30,000 to 50,000 a day compared with less than 20,000 a day across the channel.
Britain has recorded more than 71,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the second-highest toll in Europe after Italy.
The country on Tuesday reported a record number of new confirmed cases.
The British government has extended its toughest coronavirus restrictions to more than three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading new variant of the virus has reached most of the country.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that at midnight local time on Wednesday the government’s top infection-warning level, Tier 4, would be expanded beyond London and the southeast to cover large parts of central, northern and southwest England, including the major cities of Manchester and Birmingham.
The move will severely curtail New Year’s Eve celebrations in parts of England that are home to 44 million people, or 78 per cent of the population.
– with AAP and Reuters
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