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What we know today, Monday February 1


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

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Action called for on ‘amateurish’ WA quarantine system

Doctors have criticised Western Australia’s “amateur” hotel quarantine system after a security guard’s COVID-19 infection prompted a five-day lockdown.

West Australians are nervously waiting to learn the full extent of the hotel quarantine breach, which has plunged most residents into lockdown.

Metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West have completed their first night of a five-day lockdown which will run until 6pm on Friday.

All residents must stay at home unless shopping for essentials, attending to medical or healthcare needs, exercising within their neighbourhood or working if unable to do so remotely.

Schools which were due to resume on Monday will remain closed for another week.

It comes after a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Perth’s CBD contracted what is believed to be the highly contagious UK variant of the virus, then attended more than a dozen venues over several days while infectious.

The man in his 20s is also a rideshare driver but authorities believe he had not worked in that job since January 22 – several days before likely becoming infected.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller has labelled the breach predictable, saying the McGowan government had ignored concerns about the hotel regime.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that we are still running what we would describe as an amateurish quarantine system,” he said.

“These are not quarantine facilities, these are hotels.”

Dr Miller has called on WA to invest in dedicated quarantine facilities not used for any other reasons, proper airborne protection including fresh air ventilated through hotels and supply of N95 face masks for all security guards.

He also wants guards to be better paid and banned from taking a second job.

Anyone in the community who has symptoms is being urged to get tested.

Authorities are also pleading with West Australians not to panic-buy after chaotic scenes at supermarkets and pharmacies.

People must wear face masks anytime they leave the house but with many pharmacies sold out on Sunday, the police commissioner has encouraged people to tie a scarf or bandana around their face while going out to buy one.

WA had gone nearly 10 months without a virus case in the community and the breach will determine how far the state’s testing and tracing capacity has come.

Zero active coronavirus cases again in SA

South Australia again has zero active COVID-19 infections after SA Health removed an infection it reported yesterday from its case numbers.

The state reported one new COVID-19 case yesterday, a male in his 40s who has been in a medi-hotel since his arrival from overseas.

However, in a statement this morning, SA Health said it had since determined the overseas case reported yesterday was an old infection that had subsequently been removed from SA’s case numbers.

There have been a total of 596 cases notified in South Australia and four deaths from the coronavirus.

Leaders detained amid Myanmar military coup

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior figures from the ruling party have been detained in an early morning raid, the spokesman for the governing National League for Democracy says.

The move comes after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the powerful military that stirred fears of a coup in the aftermath of an election the army says was fraudulent.

Spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning.

“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding he also expected to be detained.

Phone lines to Naypyitaw, the capital, were not reachable in the early hours of Monday.

A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

An NLD lawmaker, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said another of those detained was Han Thar Myint, a member of the party’s central executive committee.

Military officials on Sunday denied their chief had threatened to stage a coup over complaints of election fraud, saying the media had misinterpreted his words.

Political tension soared last week after a spokesman for the military, which had ruled Myanmar for five decades, said a coup could not be ruled out if its complaints of widespread fraud in November’s election were ignored.

The commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, told senior officers in a speech Wednesday the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.

Adding to the concern was the unusual deployment of armoured vehicles in the streets of several large cities.

Saturday’s statement from the military, known as the Tatmadaw, said “some organizations and media” wrote without foundation that the military threatened to revoke the constitution.

January house prices strong as market hits new peak

Housing prices rose further in January to surpass their previous 2017 peak, with regional property values growing at twice the pace of capital city markets.

The CoreLogic national home value index was up 0.9 per cent in January to stand one per cent higher than its pre-COVID level and 0.7 per cent higher than the previous September 2017 peak.

Adelaide recorded a 0.9 per cent increase in January and was up 6.5 per cent for the past 12 months.

Every capital city recorded a rise over the month, ranging from a 2.3 per cent surge across Darwin to a relatively mild 0.4 per cent increase in Sydney and Melbourne.

But while capital city values were collectively 0.7 per cent higher, CoreLogic’s combined regions index was up 1.6 per cent over the month.

CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless says the divergence between metro and regional housing demand in NSW and Victoria is more substantial than in other states.

He says more people are leaving Sydney and Melbourne for regional areas and this trend is further compounded by the demand shock of stalled overseas migration.

At the same time, housing values continue to outperform those of units.

At a national level, house values have risen by 3.5 per cent over the past six months while unit values have been unchanged.

Collingwood guilty of ‘systemic racism’

An independent investigation has found Collingwood Football Club guilty of “systemic racism” and recommended significant changes to ensure the AFL club eliminates that “toxic” culture.

The review found racism at Collingwood has resulted in “profound and enduring harm” to First Nations and African players which “affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public”.

“While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history,” the report says.

The review found there has been a consistent pattern of Collingwood failing to adequately address incidents when they have arisen.

It also found there was an absence of internal avenues for reporting racism in the club until very recently.

“All of this comes back to the leadership of the Collingwood Football Club — particularly its board — and the need for them to set the vision and values of the club and to drive structural change within the organisation,” the report says.

The review found there is a “genuine acknowledgement of past failures and a strong desire to do better”.

Positive steps already taken by Collingwood include the introduction of policies that directly target racism and the appointment of a new CEO who is committed to making changes.

“It needs to be noted and underlined that, in undertaking this review, the club was unflinching in holding up a mirror to itself,” the report says.

The report made 18 recommendations, including urging Collingwood to “implement a framework to ensure that there is accountability and consequences for acts of racism committed by members of the club community”.

It was commissioned by Collingwood’s board last year after a series of claims made by 2010 premiership player Heritier Lumumba.

The investigation was conducted by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, from the University of Technology Sydney.

Their report was handed to the club’s board on December 17.

Days later, long-standing president Eddie McGuire announced he will step down at the end of 2021.

SA slams WA border shut as Perth lockdown begins

South Australia has shut its border to Western Australia after a hotel quarantine worker in Perth tested positive for COVID-19.

The border closure, which applies to all of WA, came into effect late on Sunday night and coincides with the beginning of a five-day lockdown in Perth.

The closures are in response to a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Perth testing positive for coronavirus.

Authorities believe the man has probably contracted the highly contagious UK variant of the virus.

It comes only a day after SA lifted restrictions for travellers from the wider Sydney region.

SA Police issued a statement just after midnight saying WA had been defined as a prohibited location, meaning that people travelling from the state are not permitted to enter South Australia as of 10.15pm last night.

People who have already entered South Australia from Western Australia any time since January 26 must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days at a suitable place and get a COVID-19 test immediately and on days 5 and 12.

Those who have been physically present on the site or a close contact of a person present at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel between January 21 and 10.15pm on January 31 must contact SA Health immediately and quarantine (at a place determined by an authorised officer) for 14 days, receiving COVID-19 tests on days 1, 5 & 12.

People can apply for permission to travel from WA to SA for essential purposes.

That includes South Australians returning home from WA. They must apply to cross the border.

The approach taken by SA is more severe than other states, which also brought in travel restrictions.

Victoria, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland closed its border to areas affected by a five-day WA lockdown.

South Australia reported one new COVID-19 case yesterday, a male in his 40s who has been in a medi-hotel since his arrival from overseas. He is the only active case in the state.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is no longer considered a prohibited location after federal health authorities yesterday gave the go-ahead for travel to Australia to resume after a small outbreak of locally acquired cases last month.

Morrison to unveil vaccine roll-out plan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will use a speech at the National Press Club today to lay out the government’s plan to vaccinate 26 million Australians by the end of the year.

He will announce an extra $1.9 billion – taking the vaccine program to $6.3 billion – for the workforce involved in the roll-out of the jabs through GPs, pharmacies and thousands of other approved centres.

Morrison will say CSL’s Melbourne manufacturing plant alone should produce enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine to cover the nation.

But the recently approved Pfizer vaccine will still be the first rolled out from late February.

However, he says even with the vaccine “there can be no let-up in the three vital suppression measures that served Australia well in 2020 and must be the focus of continuous improvement in 2021”.

They are: international border controls and quarantine; testing, tracing and hotspot management; and physical distancing and sound hygiene practices.

“In 2021, these suppression measures, which must be exercised in a balanced way to protect jobs and livelihoods, will be complemented by the COVID-19 vaccines,” Morrison will say.

“This will be one of the largest logistics exercises ever seen in Australia’s history — we will be vaccinating 26 million people, having secured over 140 million doses, enough to cover the Australian population several times over.”

Under the vaccine strategy, all Australians will be offered the opportunity to be vaccinated by October 2021.

Involved in the roll-out will be the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian Medical Association and logistics companies including DHL and Linfox, with GPs and community pharmacies administering the jab.

In addition, a special surge workforce is being put in place to ensure it gets to every hard-to-reach area.

Australia has no local COVID-19 cases and more than 90 per cent of the jobs lost in the recession have returned.

However, Morrison said while the comeback was “gathering pace” the virus was morphing into new and more virulent strains, so the nation must remain vigilant.

He again signalled the government was unlikely to continue the JobKeeper wage subsidy beyond its end of March cut-off, saying all emergency measures would be “temporary and accompanied by a clear fiscal exit strategy”.

Key economic data released ahead of first RBA meeting

Signs of a rapid economic recovery from last year’s COVID-19 recession are not expected to alter the Reserve Bank’s view on the interest rate outlook when its board meets for the first time this year tomorrow.

The central bank will get plenty of opportunity to express its current thinking this week, with its governor Philip Lowe addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday and then being quizzed by federal politicians on Friday.

The Reserve Bank will also release its quarterly statement on monetary policy on Friday, which will contain its latest economic forecasts.

There will be a widespread of economic figures for the Reserve Bank and Treasury to digest this week, kicking off with manufacturing, house prices and job advertising today.

Job advertising has been particularly upbeat in recent months, suggesting the rapid recovery in the labour market, which has seen the restoration of 90 per cent of the jobs lost during the recession, is set to continue.

House prices also managed a three per cent rise in 2020, despite Australia’s first recession in nearly 30 years.

Further gains are seen likely this year as the economic recovery continues and interest rates remain low.

Thousands arrested at Navalny protests across Russia

Riot police have broken up protests across Russia, detaining more than 4500 people who had braved the bitter cold and the threat of prosecution to demand the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

In a massive show of force, police imposed a sweeping security lockdown in the heart of Moscow, sealing off streets to pedestrians near the Kremlin, closing train stations and deploying hundreds of riot police as snow fell.

At one point, a column of protesters marched towards the prison in northern Moscow where Navalny is being held, chanting “Let him go!”. In another scene, a crowd raised its hands above its heads in front of a row of riot police and chanted “we’re not your enemies”.

Navalny, 44, was arrested after returning to Moscow from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia. He accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.

His dramatic return to Moscow despite the obvious threat of arrest, and the second straight weekend of protests, pose a challenge for Putin who has dominated the Russian political landscape for more than two decades.

Police said protesters could face criminal prosecution for attending or calling for an unauthorised demonstration and warned they could spread COVID-19.

Navalny’s allies used social media to repeatedly change the location of their rally, scattering the crowds over different parts of Moscow and making it harder to disperse.

Yulia Navalnaya, the opposition politician’s wife, was among those detained.

“If we stay quiet, then they could come for any of us tomorrow,” she wrote on Instagram before joining the protests.

In St Petersburg and Moscow police used force to detain protesters and were occasionally seen using tasers. One protester had a bloodied, bandaged head.

At least 4567 people were detained nationwide, including 1450 in Moscow, according to OVD-Info, a protest monitoring group.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned what he said was the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists, and called for Navalny’s release.

Russia’s foreign ministry responded by accusing the US of hypocrisy, meddling and seeking to encourage the protests as part of a strategy to contain Russia.

“Everyone knows well what the United States does in those cases – it opens fire to kill,” it said.

The West has told Moscow to let Navalny go and his allies have appealed to US President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on 35 people who they say are Putin’s close allies.

Navalny is accused of parole violations which he says are trumped up. A court is due to sit on Tuesday to consider handing him a jail term of up to three and a half years.

WHO team visits Wuhan seafood market

A World Health Organisation team investigating the origins of COVID-19 has visited Huanan market, the now-shuttered seafood centre in China’s Wuhan Province where the new coronavirus was initially detected more than a year ago.

The team arrived at Huanan amid heavy security on Sunday, with additional barricades set up outside a high blue fence surrounding the market. They left in a convoy after about one hour and did not take questions from journalists.

Since being released from a two-week quarantine on Thursday, the team has visited hospitals and markets, as well as an exhibition commemorating Wuhan’s battle with the virus, which included a 76-day lockdown of the city of 11 million.

“Very important site visits today – a wholesale market first and Huanan Seafood Market just now. Very informative and critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID as it started to spread at the end of 2019,” team member Peter Daszak said on Twitter.

The WHO, which has sought to manage expectations for the mission, said on Friday that team members would be limited to visits organised by their Chinese hosts and would not have any contact with community members, due to health restrictions.

No full itinerary for the team’s two weeks of fieldwork has been announced, and journalists covering the tightly controlled visit have been kept at a distance from team members.

Public access to the sprawling Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market has been restricted since it was shut at the beginning of last year.

Before its closure, the market bustled with hundreds of stalls divided into sections for meat, seafood and vegetables. Now it stands as a landmark in a city that was traumatised as the original epicentre of what became the pandemic.

On December 31, 2019, after four cases of a mystery pneumonia were linked to the market, it was shuttered overnight. By the end of January, Wuhan had gone into a 76-day lockdown.

Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus, since the first cluster of cases was identified there.

The WHO-led probe in Wuhan has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

The origins of the virus have become highly politicised, and some Chinese diplomats and state media have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.

Captain Tom in hospital with virus

100-year-old British fundraiser Captain Tom Moore, who was knighted by the Queen after raising millions of pounds for charity by walking laps of his garden in last year’s lockdown, has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

The World War Two veteran caught the public’s imagination in April with his laps, raising almost $60 million for Britain’s National Health Service.

He broke two Guinness world records and was knighted at Windsor Castle but he didn’t rest on his laurels, going on to score a No.1 single with his version of You’ll Never Walk Alone and write an autobiography.

His daughter Hannah on Sunday said Sir Tom was in hospital after contracting COVID-19.

She said the family knew the staff at Bedford Hospital in the English town of Bedford would do all they could to make him comfortable and “hopefully return home as soon as possible”.

Heat’s hot streak continues with win over Thunder

Brisbane Heat are threatening to snatch the Big Bash League title after defeating Sydney Thunder to set up a fourth straight must-win game, which has been shifted from Perth to Canberra.

The Heat started their final game of the regular season on Australia Day needing five consecutive wins to secure the BBL title.

Darren Lehmann’s side defeated Perth at Adelaide Oval to secure their spot in the finals, then trumped Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder in elimination finals.

Batting first at Canberra’s Manuka Oval last night, Sydney could only manage 8-158 from its 20 overs, a total that Brisbane reeled in just three wickets down with five balls to spare.

Brisbane should now have been heading to Perth’s Optus Stadium for another knock-out final, on Thursday night.

But Perth Scorchers have instead been ordered to stay put in Canberra because of the COVID-19 case in their home city.

The Heat boast momentum but also strong recent form at Manuka Oval, having toppled the Thunder in Sunday’s topsy-turvy clash that batsman Sam Heazlett iced with a match-winning 74 not out.

In sharp contrast, the Scorchers suffered a humbling nine-wicket loss to Sydney Sixers in their final at the same ground on Saturday night.

“It’s good to stay here. Coming off a win here gives us some confidence,” Heazlett told reporters after last night’s win.

“It’s a massive result. Very handy, it’s a long plane trip.

“Getting a little bit of extra recovery time (will help) and we can hit a few balls, come up with some pretty good plans.

“We played Perth recently and got up but they’ll come harder, have better plans this game and we’ll have to be right on our game because they’re a great outfit.”

– with AAP and Reuters

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