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What we know today, Sunday January 17


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

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Tennis stars face tough SA virus rules

Tennis stars and support staff currently quarantining in Adelaide will be subject to South Australia’s strict coronavirus measures should any test positive ahead of an event later this month, Premier Steven Marshall says.

A host of the world’s leading players, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, flew into Adelaide last week ahead of a one-day exhibition tournament at Memorial Drive on January 29.

They are all in hotel quarantine and have special arrangements in place to allow them to train over the next two weeks.

Premier Steven Marshall says there’s no suggestion any of the players or their support crews have tested positive at this stage.

But he says if they do, they will be moved to Adelaide’s dedicated COVID-19 facility along with other active infections.

“There is very tight scrutiny around the people who have come into South Australia,” Mr Marshall said on Sunday.

“We have very strict protocols in place in regard to anybody infected with the coronavirus.

“The reality is, it would be impossible for somebody who has contracted this disease to be out and about in public.

“We would have to have them very securely supervised, there would be no more training for them.”

The premier’s comments came after almost 50 players who flew into Melbourne were confined to hotel rooms for two weeks after three people tested positive for COVID-19.

SA reported no new virus cases on Sunday and currently has just 11 active infections, all returned travellers in quarantine.

NSW records six new cases

NSW has recorded six locally acquired cases of COVID-19 linked to the western Sydney man whose positive result was reported on Saturday.

Five of the six cases were household contacts of the man after more than 12,700 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday evening.

All new cases are believed to be linked to the Berala bottle shop cluster.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged more people to come forward for testing, especially those in close proximity to western Sydney suburbs.

“It’s really important to note that through households, it’s really easy to spread the virus, as we have seen, so in one household, we had six people get the virus,” Ms Berejiklian said on Sunday.

“What is really important is to make sure that given we are towards the tail end of this particular outbreak, there haven’t been other super-seeding events, we want to keep it that way.”

New public health alerts have also been issued for a western Sydney venue and additional public transport routes following confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Anyone who attended Centrelink in Auburn on January 14 in the afternoon should get tested immediately and self-isolate until a negative result occurs.

Those who travelled on train services between Warwick Farm and Auburn on January 14 and 15 have also been given the same health directions.

It comes after days without a locally transmitted infection.

All people who were in the dental, physio and imaging waiting room of the Wentworthville Medical and Dental Clinic between 11.30am and 1.15pm on Friday are now considered close contacts.

“(They) must immediately get tested and self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the result,” NSW Health said on Saturday afternoon.

“Anyone who was in other areas of the clinic at that time should monitor for symptoms and immediately isolate and get tested if they appear.”

NSW has flagged the possibility of loosening restrictions on Greater Sydney next week but one of the conditions is high testing rates.

South Australia’s hard border arrangements for Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and the Wollongong regions are set to remain in place.

Queensland meanwhile reported no new locally-acquired coronavirus cases on Sunday, further boosting hopes a cluster linked to a quarantine hotel has been contained.

Victoria too recorded no new locally-acquired cases on Sunday.

Hunt investigating Norway Pfizer concerns

Australia is investigating reports Norwegian authorities are concerned about the safety of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after a number of elderly people died after being inoculated.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency has reported 29 people had suffered side effects from having the vaccine, 13 of them fatal.

“We have immediately sought and I have been in contact with the Australian medical regulator … this morning, and requested that they seek additional information, both from the company, but also from the Norwegian medical regulator,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has also tasked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to seek advice directly from the Norwegian government.

“So as further information is available, we’ll share that with the Australian public,” Mr Hunt said.

The Pfizer vaccine forms only part of Australia’s response to COVID-19, as there will be a greater use of the AstraZeneca, and home produced, vaccine once it has been approved.

Vaccinations are due to start next month.

On a more positive note, Mr Hunt said there are no remaining coronavirus hotspots in Australia.

“What this shows is that we are containing the virus,” Mr Hunt said.

“Of course, inevitably, there will be days of new cases. There will be days where there may be a requirement for Commonwealth hotspot definition to be re-introduced.”

SA grants aim to boost tourism

A $2 million boost to South Australia’s tourism sector will create more than 100 jobs and help regional communities overcome the twin impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and last summer’s bushfires, Premier Steven Marshall says.

Wineries, boutique accommodation venues, a distillery and a micro-brewery are among the latest venues to receive money from the state’s Tourism Development Fund.

“Today’s cash injection will create more than 100 jobs and support regional communities from the bushfire-affected Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island, to the Flinders Ranges and the Riverland,” Mr Marshall said on Sunday.

“This will not only help them attract more visitors to their businesses, but to their region as well.”

The SA government has allocated $20 million to the development fund with $3.7 million handed out so far.

Applications for grants will continue until the end of March 2022, or until all the grant money is exhausted.

Biden outlines ‘Day One’ agenda

In his first hours as president, Joe Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The opening salvo would herald a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Biden seeks to swiftly redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, without waiting for Congress.

On Wednesday, following his inauguration, Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the US from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

Those are among roughly a dozen actions Biden will take on his first day in the White House, his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a memo to senior staff.

“President-elect Biden will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward,” Klein said in the memo.

Other actions include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

Positive tests cause Open player havoc

The Australian Open lead-up has been plunged into chaos with at least 47 players now confined to their hotel rooms for the next 14 days following three positive coronavirus tests from two separate charter flights into Melbourne.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber and 2019 US Open victor Bianca Andreescu are among the players affected.

An aircrew member and a non-playing participant tested positive following their arrival from Los Angeles on Friday morning, initially leaving Azarenka among 24 players having to quarantine.

But the situation quickly escalated, with Tennis Australia on Saturday evening confirming another positive COVID test returned from a passenger on a charter flight into Melbourne from Abu Dhabi.

TA said that flight included 23 players, meaning 47 players will now be out of action for at least a fortnight and until they are medically cleared.

“Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training,” the Victorian government’s COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) body confirmed.

“Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time.”

But frustration has already grown among players with several taking to social media to vent their frustration and resentment.

“Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to Covid in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane,” tweeted France’s Alize Cornet.

Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens criticised the decision to quarantine all the players on the flight, calling it “Russian roulette”.

Players were originally given an exemption to leave their quarantine hotel to train for up to five hours a day, however an email from TA confirmed all who were aboard the flights would now be in hard lockdown.

SA reopens to Brisbane but Sydney restrictions remain

South Australia is today lifting its coronavirus travel restrictions with Greater Brisbane.

Queensland recorded no new cases of community transmission on Saturday, with Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young saying that due to “very quick work by a lot of people and the people of greater Brisbane that there is every chance we have contained this cluster.”

The change means people travelling to SA from Brisbane will no longer need to spend 14 days in quarantine.

However they will be required to seek a COVID-19 test on day 1, day 5 and day 12.

The only exceptions will be any people who visited specific high-risk locations at particular times:

People currently in quarantine from the Greater Brisbane Area must remain in quarantine until contacted by SA Health and authorised to leave.

Victoria meanwhile dropped Brisbane’s “traffic light” virus risk rating to “orange” from Saturday evening, meaning Victorians will not need to apply for an exemption to return home.

Charter flight hope for stranded Aussies

Australians desperate to come home can hold on to hope of repatriation, after the government announced 20 more chartered flights not subject to traveller caps.

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham announced the plan on Saturday to get more stranded Australians home on flights running between January 31 and March 31.

It came in response to a decision by major airline Emirates to suspend its services to the east coast after Australia slashed its international arrival cap.

Government-facilitated flights will quarantine at Howard Springs and in states and territories willing to work above the current caps on a case-by-case basis, a statement from Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.

“These flights will bring people back from the United Kingdom, Europe, India and other places where vulnerable Australians are most in need of assistance,” he said.

Around 37,000 Australians overseas have told DFAT they want to return.

Far-right personality arrested in US probe

Far-right media personality Tim Gionet, who calls himself “Baked Alaska”, has been arrested by the FBI for his involvement in the riot at the US Capitol, officials say.

Gionet was arrested by federal agents in Houston on Saturday.

Thousands of supporters of US president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6 as congress was meeting to vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s election win. Five people died in the ensuing mayhem.

Law enforcement officials across America have been working to locate and arrest suspects who committed federal crimes, and so far have brought nearly 100 cases in federal court and the District of Columbia Superior Court.

Gionet posted video that showed Trump supporters in “Make America Great Again” and “God Bless Trump” hats milling around and taking selfies with officers in the Capitol, who calmly asked them to leave the premises.

It comes as all US state capitals are on alert and Washington DC is locked down in preparation for possible violent protests at the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Authorities have geared up for pro-Trump marches in all 50 state capitals, erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops to try to prevent the kind of violent attack that rattled the nation on January 6.

Farmers back new quad bike safety rules

Australia’s farmers have offered strong support for federal government moves to improve the safety of ATVs or quad bikes, backing new laws to fit rollover bars amid a “horrific” death and injury toll.

The National Farmers Federation believes the devices, which will become mandatory on all new bikes from October, will help save lives.

This puts it at odds with Australia’s peak automotive body which has urged the government to reconsider the new regulations, arguing there is a lack of data to support safety claims.

It has also warned the new rules could result in major overseas manufacturers abandoning the Australian market.

The safety stoush comes at a time when quad bike accidents claim an average of 16 lives in Australia each year.

By mid-December the death toll in 2020 was 21, with about half of those the result of rollovers according to figures compiled by Safe Work Australia.

A security guard stands on the boundary line during a rain delay during day two of the fourth Test Match between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane, Saturday, January 16, 2021. Image: AAP/Darren England).

Rain stalls Aussie momentum at the Gabba

Australia were left cursing a Brisbane thunderstorm after rain stalled their push for victory in the series-deciding fourth Test at the Gabba, where India will resume at 2-62 on day three.

Nathan Lyon delivered with bat and ball on day two, scoring 24 as part of a wagging tail that dragged Australia from 8-315 to a first-innings total of 369 in Saturday’s morning session.

The offspinner then snared the key scalp of Rohit Sharma, who had looked increasingly dangerous prior to giving Mitchell Starc some catching practice in the deep while on 44.

India, having earlier dismissed well-set batsmen Tim Paine (50) and Cameron Green (47) during a collapse of 3-4 in 14 deliveries, trimmed Australia’s lead to 307 runs by tea on day two.

Wet weather meant no more play was possible, with the action due to resume half an hour early at 9.30am (local time) on Sunday.

Road damage hinders Indonesia quake rescue

Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and a lack of heavy equipment are hampering rescuers after a powerful earthquake left at least 49 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

Rescue efforts on Saturday were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed to be trapped following the magnitude 6.2 quake on Friday.

Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta had landed for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami.

It comes as Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java, erupted, spewing ash and hot clouds as far away as 4.5 kilometres.

There were no immediate evacuations, but the National Disaster Mitigation Agency has warned people who live in the villages on the slopes of the mountain to be vigilant in looking for signs of danger.

Uganda leader wins vote, rigging alleged

Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, election officials have confirmed, despite his top challenger Bobi Wine dismissing the results as “cooked-up” and “fraudulent”.

Polling chiefs also struggled to explain how the results of the election were compiled amid an internet blackout.

But 76-year-old Museveni, in power since 1986, dismissed the allegations of fraud in an evening address to the nation, saying Thursday’s election may turn out to be the “most cheating free” in Uganda’s history.

In a generational clash watched across the African continent, the 38-year-old singer-turned-legislator Wine was arguably Museveni’s greatest challenge yet in almost 35 years in power.

The self-styled “ghetto president”, Wine enjoyed strong support in urban centres where frustration with unemployment and corruption is high. He has claimed victory.

– with AAP and Reuters

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