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What we know today, Tuesday January 19


More tennis players and staff quarantining ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne have tested positive for coronavirus while SA keeps border restrictions in place for Sydneysiders and Australia’s bowlers struggle to dismiss India on the final day of the Gabba Test.

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India’s miraculous series win

India have secured a remarkable 2-1 series win against Australia with a record final-day run chase of 328 at the Gabba, where the hosts hadn’t lost since 1988.

A freewheeling Rishabh Pant has stormed Australia’s Gabba fortress in record-breaking fashion, helping India snatch an astonishing three-wicket win to cap one of the greatest Test series of the modern era.

A stoic Cheteshwar Pujara refused to release India’s four-year hold of the Border-Gavaskar trophy on a dramatic final day of the four-Test series, weathering 211 balls and 10 body blows while denting Australia’s hopes of victory.

Pujara scored 56 and his vigil set the platform for Pant to complete a venue-record chase of 328, clinching a 2-1 series win in the process.

The dashing keeper-batsman made remarkably light work of the pressure-laden situation, bringing up the winning runs with a driven boundary off Josh Hazlewood.

Pant finished 89 not out, securing victory at 5.37pm (local time) with three overs remaining.

“This is one of the biggest things in life right now,” man-of-the-match Pant said.

The once-in-a-generation defeat could have long-term ramifications – at a minimum it has clouded Australia’s path to this year’s world Test championship final at Lord’s.

It was a fatiguing and frustrating Tuesday for Tim Paine and Australia’s attack.

The ignominy, for a range of reasons, may linger longer in their minds than the heartbreak at Headingley that Ben Stokes inflicted in 2019.

The highest successful chase in a Gabba Test was previously 7-236, which Australia completed in 1951, while this shock loss ended Australia’s 32-year undefeated run at the venue.

Paine cursed his team’s inability to close out a series win at multiple junctures after skittling India for a record-low total of 36 in Adelaide.

“Absolutely disappointed,” Paine said.

“India have outplayed us for the majority of the series and fully deserve to win the series.”

The wicketkeeper is also likely to bemoan a potential missed stumping when Pant was on 16, and a review that went within a whisker of removing Pujara for two.

There will be questions asked about Paine’s captaincy, potential changes and Australia’s lack of ruthlessness.

There should also be praise for an inexperienced Indian XI that threw the kitchen sink at the hosts, refusing to buckle when severely under the pump on countless occasions in the series-deciding fourth Test.

Pat Cummins worked overtime throughout day five of the series-deciding fourth Test, snaring four of the first five wickets to fall to give Australia a fighting chance.

But Cummins, who was named man of the series, lacked support as Shubman Gill (91), Pujara and Pant shifted momentum yet again in the topsy-turvy series.

“Here and in Sydney, the game was there to win on day five but we just didn’t take enough wickets,” Cummins said.

The world’s top-ranked bowler removed Pujara and Mayank Agarwal in a seven-over spell with the second new ball.

Pant proceeded to steamroll his way to victory with some assistance from debutant Washington Sundar’s quick-fire 22.

Tassie rekindles bid for AFL team

Tasmania is playing hardball with the AFL in its quest for its own team, with the state government putting negotiations to host visiting teams on hold until the league delivers a timeline.

The island state is pushing for a licence to be the 19th team in the national competition.

North Melbourne and Hawthorn are scheduled to host four “home” matches each in Tasmania this season but the long-standing agreements are set to expire next year.

Premier Peter Gutwein said negotiations with the two Melbourne clubs for 2022 had begun but were on ice.

He said it had been made clear to AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan that the arrangements could not be finalised until there was clarity about the state’s bid.

A state government-backed report released last February found a five-year plan culminating in a Tasmanian side entering the league in 2025 stacked up financially.

“Tasmania is part of the federation and you cannot have a truly national Australian Football League if one of the states does not have a team in it,” Gutwein said.

“I’ve made that perfectly clear to the AFL.”

McLachlan said in 2019 it is unlikely Tasmania would be given a team in the competition in the next five years.

More Aus Open virus cases emerge in Melbourne

Three new coronavirus cases in Melbourne have been linked to tennis players and staff quarantining ahead of next month’s Australian Open.

Victoria has recorded no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus for a 13th consecutive day.

However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine this morning, three of which are linked to the contingent in town for the grand slam.

It brings the number of active infections in the state to 34, an increase of one.

More than 70 players – almost a fifth of those set to take part in the Australian Open from February 8 – have been forced into strict quarantine after nine people on their charter flights to Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19.

But Andrews has indicated some of the cases linked to the tournament will be reclassified as non-infectious shedding.

It could mean some players will be allowed to leave their rooms for training.

“If you’ve got say 30 people who are deemed a close contact because they’ve been on a plane with a case, and the case is no longer an active case but a historic shedding, well that would release those people from that hard lockdown,” Andrews told reporters.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has warned the virus could still be incubating in some of the 1200 people who have arrived in Melbourne for the Open since Thursday.

Cases have been linked to three flights, from Abu Dhabi, Doha and Los Angeles.

“People may still turn positive, obviously the last exposure was when they last left their country of origin or indeed on a flight where there was a case,” Sutton said on Monday.

“So there might be some more positives in coming days but that that will take place over time.”

Meanwhile, 25 of Sydney’s 35 local government areas were downgraded from “red” to “orange” zones at 6pm on Monday as part of Victoria’s “traffic light” permit system.

It follows the downgrading of Greater Brisbane from red to orange at the weekend.

Sydney local government areas Blacktown, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Inner West, Liverpool, Parramatta and Strathfield remain red zones for now.

The 10 areas were all linked to Sydney’s Berala cluster, which totals 35 cases.

SA to keep border restrictions in place for Sydneysiders

South Australia will keep border restrictions in place for visitors from Sydney despite a second day of no new COVID-19 infections in NSW.

SA’s transition committee met this morning but decided against changing the current measures.

Under the current rules, people travelling from Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong are not allowed into the state unless they secure an exemption or are an essential worker.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the committee still wanted to see 14 days of no community transmission before the restrictions are eased.

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters it was important to get the balance right between the health of the state and the economy.

“If we can keep that in place, we should be able to push through with more jobs in South Australia this year,” he said.

“We really needed to understand the situation in NSW. We don’t want to take any risks that put our great quality of life and our economy in jeopardy.”

Marshall said it was still hoped the remaining travel restrictions could be lifted in time for the Adelaide Festival and the Festival Fringe next month.

SA reported no new COVID-19 cases today.

There are currently 11 active infections, all people in hotel quarantine after returning to Australia from overseas.

There have been no positive cases in any of the tennis players or their support staff currently quarantining in SA ahead of a one-day exhibition tournament later this month.

Aussie bowlers struggle to dismiss defiant India

A defiant India is closing in on a draw or win in the fourth Test at the Gabba, either of which will see it retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

The series is locked at 1-1 but a draw will mean India retains the trophy it has held since 2017.

With only about an hour of play remaining, India is on 3-224, chasing 328 for victory.

Opener Shubman Gill top-scored with 91 while Cheteshwar Pujara was not out on 55 and Rishbah Pant 34 at 4.30pm.

Australia’s bowlers have struggled to take wickets on the final day, just as they did in the drawn SCG Test last week.

Tim Paine’s team require a victory to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

A win today will also put Australia in a strong position to qualify for the Test Championship final at Lord’s in June.

However, a loss or draw will mean Australia will need to win its three Test series in South Africa starting next month to be a chance of playing in the final.

Suspicious fire, explosion rock northern suburbs

Crime scene investigators are looking for the cause of a fire that caused significant damage to a northern suburbs playground in the early hours of this morning.

Police and fire crews were called to a fire at a playground on the corner of Burton Road and Liberator Drive at Paralowie about 3am.

When police patrols arrived they found the playground engulfed in flames.

Fire crews quickly extinguished the blaze before it spread any further but significant damage was caused to the play equipment.

Police believe that the fire was deliberately lit.

Meanwhile, police are also investigating after a homemade explosive device was placed at the front of a home in nearby Parafield Gardens overnight.

Just after midnight, an explosion was reported in Bauhinia Drive, Parafield Gardens.

The front window of the house shattered but there were no reported injuries to the six occupants.

Crime scene investigators attended and examined the scene and the remnants of the homemade device.

Although the investigation is in its early stages, police do not believe it was a random incident.

Coronavirus deaths on rise in US as winter bites

Coronavirus deaths are rising in nearly two-thirds of American states as a winter surge pushes the overall toll toward 400,000 amid warnings that a new, highly contagious variant is taking hold.

As Americans observed a national holiday on Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pleaded with federal authorities to curtail travel from countries where new variants are spreading.

Referring to new versions detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, Cuomo said: “Stop those people from coming here. Why are you allowing people to fly into this country and then it’s too late?”

The US government has already curbed travel from some of the places where the new variants are spreading – such as Britain and Brazil – and recently it announced that it would require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for anyone flying into the country.

But the new variant seen in Britain is already spreading in the US, and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has warned that it will probably become the dominant version in the country by March.

The CDC said the variant is about 50 per cent more contagious than the virus that is causing the bulk of cases in the US

While the variant does not cause more severe illness, it can cause more hospitalisations and deaths simply because it spreads more easily.

As things stand, many US states are already under tremendous strain. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths is rising in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and on Monday the US death toll surpassed 398,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University – by far the highest recorded death toll of any country in the world.

Amid the rise in cases, a vast effort is under way to get Americans vaccinated – what Cuomo called “a footrace” between the vaccination rate and the infection rate. But the campaign is off to an uneven start.

According to the latest federal data, about 31.2 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, but only about 10.6 million people have received at least one dose.

In California, the most populous state, counties are pleading for more vaccine as the state tries to reduce a high rate of infection that has led to record numbers of hospitalisations and deaths.

In other areas of the country, officials are working to ensure that people take the vaccine once they’re offered it amid concerns that many people are hesitant.

Burnside man dies in hospital after motorcycle crash

A 20-year-old motorcycle rider has died in hospital following a crash at Prospect on Sunday morning.

The Burnside man and his pillion passenger, a 21-year-old man from Clearview, both sustained serious head injuries and were taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital about 1.30am after the motorcycle they were riding crashed on Guilford Avenue near the intersection of Maud Street.

The Burnside man died in hospital yesterday afternoon from his injuries.

The injured Clearview man remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Fresh push to boost JobSeeker payments

Australia’s peak social services group is again urging the federal government to raise the long-term rate of JobSeeker, with the payment set to drop back to $40 a day in April.

The unemployment support is currently being boosted by $150 a fortnight but the higher rate is slated to finish on March 31.

Services Australia’s website reads: “From 1 April 2021, your payment will change to the normal JobSeeker payment rate for your situation”.

According to a payment rate chart on the government agency’s website, that means single Australians with no children will receive $565.70 per fortnight.

The Australian Council of Social Service’s senior advisor Charmaine Crowe said people were struggling on the payment, even with the $150 fortnightly increase.

Read the full story here

WHO warns of “catastrophic moral failure”

Global deaths from the coronavirus are expected to top 100,000 per week “very soon” from more than 93,000 reported last week, the World Health Organisation’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan says.

In an epidemiological update provided to the WHO’s executive board meeting, he added that the Americas region accounted for about 47 per cent of current deaths.

In Europe, cases and deaths are stabilising but at a high level, he said.

“Currently our epidemiological situation is dynamic and uneven, it’s further complicated by variants,” he told the board.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday criticised drug makers’ profits and vaccine inequalities, saying it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in wealthy countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people or healthcare workers in poorer countries.

Tedros kicked off the WHO’s week-long executive board meeting – virtually from its headquarters in Geneva – by lamenting that one poor country received a mere 25 vaccine doses while more than 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer countries.

“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country – not 25 million, not 25,000 – just 25. I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” Tedros said.

He did not specify the country but a WHO spokeswoman identified it as Guinea.

“It’s right that all governments want to prioritise vaccinating their own health workers and older people first,” he said.

“But it’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. There will be enough vaccine for everyone.”

Tedros, an Ethiopian, nonetheless hailed the scientific achievement behind rolling out coronavirus vaccines less than a year after the virus was first detected in China, where a WHO-backed team has now been deployed to look into origins of the pandemic.

He noted the WHO-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines out to all countries based on need has so far secured 2 billion vaccine doses from five producers and options on a billion doses more.

“We aim to start deliveries in February,” he said.

That target date could be a tall order because a key producer of vaccines for the developing world – the Serum Institute of India – has not confirmed a date and predicted that its roll-out might not happen before March or April.

Navalny urges unrest as he begins 30-day jail sentence

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for civil unrest as he was sentenced to a month in prison on charges of violating the terms of his parole while he was in Germany recovering from a poisoning attempt he says the Kremlin launched.

“Don’t be scared. Take to the streets,” he called from the hastily constructed courtroom in a message that was shared online by his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

“Don’t be silent! Defend yourselves! There are many of us and we can do something.”

Navalny returned to Russia on Sunday after five months of recovery time in Germany after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok while in eastern Russia.

Authorities had said publicly that he would be arrested if he returned.

They argued that he had failed to check in with authorities, as required after a previous jailing.

The 44-year-old is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics.

He was taken into detention upon arrival and then disappeared for about half a day before reappearing to complain in a video message on his way to a snap trial in the facility where he was detained.

Navalny said the Russian judiciary had reached a new level of “lawlessness” with its “open session” of a court in Khimki, outside Moscow.

“I’ve seen a lot of mockeries of justice, but this time (the man) in his bunker is so afraid that they tore up the code of criminal procedure and threw it into the trash,” Navalny said from the improvised courtroom before the verdict.

The “man in the bunker” seems to be a reference to Putin.

The verdict will keep him in detention until February 15, Navalny’s spokeswoman said.

The detention drew international criticism.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Russian authorities “must immediately release him”.

Speaking on behalf of EU members, High Representative Josep Borrell called for the release of Navalny and other detained activists and journalists supporting him.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a similar call on Monday: “The Russian authorities have detained the victim of an assassination attempt with (chemical) weapons and not the culprits,” she said via her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

The United Nations Human Rights office also called for Navalny’s release and for a “thorough and impartial investigation into his poisoning” in a tweet.

Cyclone weakens off Queensland coast

A cyclone Kimi that threatened parts of far north Queensland has weakened into a category one system and forecasters say it now appears unlikely to cross the coast.

North Queenslanders had earlier been battening down the hatches as the former category two tropical cyclone lurked off the coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said Cyclone Kimi was travelling southeast about 135km north of Townsville about 1am AEST on Tuesday.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued an emergency alert cyclone warning for Palm Island residents at 4.50pm AEST on Monday, with Kimi expected to pass near the island within 24 hours.

“Palm Island residents should prepare now for destructive winds and heavy rain tonight and Tuesday. Please advise family and friends in the area,” the alert said.

The BOM told people living between Lucinda and Ayr, including Palm Island and Townsville, to prepare by securing boats and property.

But the bureau also said a coastal crossing as a tropical cyclone was becoming unlikely and destructive winds were no longer expected near coastal and island areas.

Kimi was expected to drift towards the south-southeast and become slow moving early on Tuesday off the coast between Hinchinbrook Island and Townsville.

Forecasters warned the weather system was still likely to pack winds up to 95km/h, with heavy rain and flash flooding possible.

Residents from Innisfail to Bowen, including Townsville, have also been told to prepare for abnormally high tides.

A flood watch was issued for waterways including the Tully, Thomson, Cooper, Diamantina, Georgina, Norman and Gilbert rivers, as well as Eyre Creek.

Kyrgios labels Djokovic “a tool” over quarantine letter

Controversial Victorian tennis player Nick Kyrgios has criticised Novak Djokovic after the world No.1 reportedly wrote to Australian Open organisers asking them to ease quarantine restrictions for players.

There are 72 players in hard quarantine and unable to train outside their hotel rooms for 14 days after positive COVID-19 tests on tournament charter flights.

Djokovic reportedly sent Australian Open boss Craig Tiley a letter with six demands he wanted met for the players in lockdown in Melbourne.

A Spanish tennis website reported that Djokovic’s “demands” included reduced isolation periods, better food and having players moved to “private houses with tennis courts”.

Kyrgios, ranked 47th in the world, took to Twitter on Monday night to share his opinion on the matter.

“Djokovic is a tool,” Kyrgios wrote while sharing a news report.

Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend, Vanessa Sierra, also drew some flak from Kyrgios after complaining that the food served at their quarantine hotel room was cold and grumbling about having to wash her own hair.

“This is the worst part of quarantine,” Sierra said on her YouTube channel.

“I don’t wash my own hair. I’ve never washed my own hair. It’s just not something that I do. I normally have hairdressers that do it twice a week for me.

“This is the situation that we’re dealing with. I can’t wait to get out of quarantine just so I can get my hair done.”

Kyrgios, who has railed at tennis players who have breached COVID-19 protocols since the start of the pandemic, was not amused.

“I don’t mind Bernie but his Mrs obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes,” he wrote.

Kyrgios criticised Djokovic time and again in 2020 for organising the Adria Tour exhibition event in the Balkans, where multiple players including the top-ranked Serbian contracted the virus.

Djokovic, who opted to rent a private house instead of staying at a hotel during the 2020 US Open, is among top players who are serving their mandatory quarantine in Adelaide before travelling to Melbourne for the year’s first Grand Slam.

Rain looms as Australia, India Test series approaches epic conclusion

An epic four-Test series between Australia and India will be in the lap of the weather gods on final day at the Gabba today, where the tourists will resume on 0-4 after being set a target of 328.

Australia was yesterday bowled out for 294 on a topsy-turvy fourth day of the series-deciding fourth Test.

India were scheduled to face 25 overs on Monday afternoon but wet weather, having earlier resulted in a brief delay at tea, meant stumps were pulled after just 11 balls.

Further showers are predicted for today, when Tim Paine’s team require a victory to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

“I believe a drawn series here for Australia… it’s actually as bad as a loss,” Ricky Ponting said on the Seven Network.

The highest successful chase in a Gabba Test came in 1951, when Australia finished 7-236.

However, the hosts have fresher memories of how India incredibly salvaged a draw after threatening to reel in a target of 407 last week at the SCG.

“The wicket is certainly different to what it was in Sydney,” Steve Smith said after top-scoring with 55.

“There’s a bit more happening. We saw a few balls shoot up, a couple keep low, a couple went off the cracks.

A win today will put Australia in a strong position to qualify for the Test Championship final at Lord’s in June.

However, a loss will mean Australia will need to win its three-Test series in South Africa starting next month to be a chance of playing in the final.

– with AAP and Reuters

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