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What we know today, Tuesday February 9

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Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. SA records no new COVID-19 cases as it closes in on one million tests, and the government has released concept designs for the $44 million Memorial Drive redevelopment.

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Eddie McGuire quits as Collingwood president

Eddie McGuire has stepped down as Collingwood president following severe backlash from a damning report that found systemic racism at the AFL club.

The media personality had been set to leave the Magpies at the end of the 2021 season. However, his response to the findings of a leaked report that found systemic racism at Collingwood and the backlash that followed, forced him to bring forward the end of his 22-year tenure.

McGuire announced his resignation at Collingwood’s headquarters on Tuesday with the entire Magpies playing group in the room.

“I try my best and I don’t always get it right, but I don’t stop trying,” he told reporters.

“Effective immediately, I step down from the presidency of the Collingwood Football Club.

“From the moment I became the president of the Collingwood football club on my 34th birthday back in 1998, my sole motivation was to heal, unite, inspire and drive a new social conscience, not just into this club, but sport and the community in general.”

McGuire’s decision comes on the same day an open letter signed by politicians and Indigenous leaders circulated and called for him to quit.

The long-serving president declared the release of last week’s Do Better report as a “proud and historic day” for Collingwood.

The next day at the club’s annual general meeting, McGuire apologised for how he described the findings of the club-commissioned independent review.

“I remind people that our recent review, inspired by Black Lives Matter, that part of a six-year journey of our reconciliation action plan was to look to what we need to do in the next ten years,” McGuire said.

“People have latched on to my opening line last week, and as a result, I have become a lightning rod for vitriol but have placed the club in a position where it is hard to move forward with our plans.”

No new COVID cases in SA as state closes in on one million tests

SA Health has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today from a total of 4188 tests.

There are two active cases in the state.

Today’s testing figures bring SA just 1340 tests away from reaching one million tests conducted during the pandemic.

Health Minister Stephen Wade says the figure gives SA one of the world’s highest testing rates per capita.

“Building up our testing capacity to conduct one million tests in just over a year is an incredible achievement,” he said.

“While this is a fantastic response, we must keep up the fight against COVID-19 and not get complacent. Even if you have the mildest of symptoms, you must go and get tested immediately.”

Daily testing rates in SA have fluctuated considerably over recent months but peaked at more than 17,000 during November’s Parafield cluster in Adelaide.

Since January rates have stayed between about 2000 and 6000 with higher numbers often associated with people from interstate being forced into isolation.

Wade said maintaining high testing numbers was critical to finding new cases and controlling the spread of the virus.

“SA Pathology established the nation’s first drive-through testing service and introduced an SMS service which almost halved the average waiting time for negative results,” he said.

“It also introduced testing at private residences, residential aged care facilities and at our borders, which has allowed us to test even more people within the community.”

SA Pathology director Tom Dodd said in the critical early stages of the pandemic in March and April, South Australia had one of the highest testing rates both nationally and internationally and still remained among the highest per capita.

“Each and every one of us still has an important role to play, so we encourage all South Australians to remain alert and get tested even if you experience the mildest of symptoms.”

Victorian hotel quarantine worker has UK virus strain

A second Victorian hotel quarantine worker who tested positive to coronavirus has the highly-infectious UK strain.

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday morning that genomic testing had confirmed the woman has the UK variant.

A person in Victorian hotel quarantine in Victoria also has been transferred to intensive care.

The premier said the person was a returned traveller, not a community case.

According to the Department of Health, the last time Victoria had an active virus case in intensive care was October 10.

Images released of Memorial Drive redevelopment

The state government has released concept images of the $44 million Memorial Drive redevelopment, showcasing two new spectator stands to the east and west of the venue, new food and beverage amenities and a precinct upgrade.

The second stage of the development is due to start in March and be event-ready for the Adelaide International in January 2022, with full completion expected later in the year.

It follows stage one of the development last year: a $10 million roof upgrade.

Minister for Sport Corey Wingard said the investment in the arena would help the venue attract more international tennis events.

“Stage Two will create a world-class venue that can accommodate a range of sporting and entertainment events,” Wingard said.

“The project includes two new spectator stands to the east and north of centre court with new seating with great sightlines, food and beverage facilities and enhanced amenity.

“We were able to hold A Day at the Drive and attract the calibre of players we did because of our investment in the venue – starting with the roof.”

Transition committee meeting amid Victorian testing blitz

The South Australian transition committee will meet today as the state monitors coronavirus situations in Victoria and NSW where local authorities have ramped up testing capacity to account for newly detected cases.

Victoria embarked on a testing blitz of Melbourne’s northwest yesterday after a second hotel quarantine worker contracted COVID-19 in less than a week.

More than 100 people, including 12 Australian Defence Force members and nine police officers, have been identified as close contacts of a woman they worked with at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

They have been tested and are required to self-isolate for 14 days after their last contact, as have a further 17 people deemed social and household close contacts.

Genomics testing today revealed the COVID-positive quarantine worker contracted the more infectious UK-variant of the virus.

Meanwhile in NSW, health officials have now listed 11 exposures sites an infected person attended before they tested positive for COVID-19 on day 16 of their return to Australia.

Health authorities are not ruling out that the returned Wollongong local caught the virus in hotel quarantine.

NSW Health updated the advice overnight for two exposure sites in Wollongong, requiring anyone who attended the Bulli Beach Café on February 6 or the Headlands Hotel Austinmer Beach on February 2 to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

There are 44 active cases in NSW.

Travel into SA is open from both Greater Melbourne and Greater Sydney, although incoming travellers from the two areas must submit to COVID testing on day one, five and 12 of their stay.

Premier Steven Marshall said a decision on the Victorian or NSW border is “not immediately on the table”, but noted the government’s concern about infections recorded outside of hotel quarantine.

“We’re obviously very concerned about any new infection in Australia, in particular those that occur outside of a hotel quarantine arrangement,” Marshall said.

“So we’re working very closely with the health officials in other jurisdictions at the moment as that data comes through.

“If we need to make any changes whatsoever to our settings then we’re very happy to do so.”

Transition committee will also consider whether to adopt day-16 testing for returned travellers, given the recent adoption of the measure by NSW Health.

SA recorded one new coronavirus case yesterday: a man in his 20s who recently returned from overseas and tested positive in a medi-hotel.

Child protection review to be handed down

A judicial review into the Child Protection Department’s reporting protocols following the sexual abuse of two teenage girls in state care is set to be handed down today.

Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said in a statement that the Government would not pre-empt the review’s outcomes or recommendations ahead of its public release, scheduled for later this week.

The review, conducted by District Court Judge Paul Rice, was launched in December after it was revealed Sanderson was kept in the dark about the sexual abuse cases of two 13-year girls in state care.

The first case involved a girl in a residential care home, who was preyed upon last January by paedophile Matthew McIntyre.

McIntyre was found guilty in September of grooming the girl on a teenage dating app and having unlawful sexual intercourse.

In a separate case, paedophile Philip McIntosh was found to have been living with a different 13-year-old girl while she was in state care and pregnant to a different man.

McIntosh met his victim at a Hindley Street nightclub and started a sexual relationship with her despite later learning her actual age.

Rice was asked by Sanderson to review the Department’s policies and procedures and to examine the failures of the Department to notify her of the charges against McIntyre and McIntosh.

“This review involves two, vulnerable young girls in care and their privacy is paramount,” Sanderson said.

But Opposition child protection spokesperson Katrine Hildyard has urged the Government to make the review’s findings public.

“The Marshall Liberal Government must release the findings of Judge Rice’s review immediately,” she said.

“The South Australian public has a right to know why the Minister was unaware of these horrific cases in care until they went through the courts and were reported in the press.”

– Stephanie Richards

Kyrgios, Djokovic through as Australian Open off to quiet start

The Australian Open got off to a subdued start on Monday with an attendance cap, overcast weather and no school holidays making for an unusually quiet day one at Melbourne Park where Nick Kyrgios and world number one Novak Djokovic made light work of their opponents to make it through to the second round of the tournament.

The total crowd at Melbourne Park on the first day of the Australian Open hit 17,922, including day and night sessions in three divided zones.

It was well down on the 64,387 fans that crammed onto the grounds on the opening day of last year’s championship, but way more than any other grand slam held since then.

The Victorian government is allowing up to 30,000 people per day into Melbourne Park for the tournament, which is less than 50 per cent of capacity.

On the tennis court, Kyrgios overcame a slow start to beat Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira Silva 6-4 6-4 6-4 in 119 minutes.

The world No.47 blew a series of break-point opportunities in the first set, but his overall class and powerful serving proved too much to handle for Ferreira Silva.

The result sets up a tricky second-round clash with world No. 34 Frenchman Ugo Humbert.

Kyrgios was one of four Australian men to win their first round match up, with Bernard Tomic, James Duckworth and Alex Bolt also advancing to the next stage.

Djokovic cruised past veteran Jeremy Chardy in a straight-sets masterclass, beating the Frenchman 6-3 6-1 6-2 in 91 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.

In the women’s draw, both the Williams sisters made it past their first round opponents, while world number two Simona Halep made light work of Australian Lizette Cabrera, finishing off the Queenslander in straight sets 6-2 6-1.

Australian world number one Ash Barty will make her first appearance tonight as she goes up against unseeded Montenegrin Danka Kovinić.

Meanwhile, another player at the tournament has spoken out against the different arrangements for players quarantining in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Frenchman Benoit Paire, who lost his first-round matchup in four sets, criticised Australian Open organisers for their “shameful” treatment of players during quarantine ahead of the Grand Slam event and said lack of training due to strict restrictions had contributed to his first-round exit.

“I think it’s shit, and what happened is shameful,” Paire told French media.

“I’m very happy with my level … but this tournament, I think it’s really crap.”

Paire was one of 72 players unable to leave their rooms to train during quarantine after passengers on their flights to Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19.

A few top-ranked players, including Djokovic and US Open champion Dominic Thiem, had self-isolated in Adelaide ahead of the Day at the Drive exhibition event at Memorial Drive and were allowed to train five hours a day.

“Either we do the same things and the same rules for everyone. I do not understand why it’s not fair for everyone.”

Family plea for release of Australian academic detained in Myanmar

The family of an Australian academic detained in Myanmar after a military coup has called for his release, saying he had done nothing wrong.

Sean Turnell, an economics advisor to overthrown leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained at the weekend by police after the army seized power.

“He is a member of our family and a well-educated academic who did no wrong,” Professor Turnell’s wife Ha Vus wife said in a statement posted on his Facebook page yesterday.

“We all know that wherever he is now he will be worried.

“He worked for Myanmar by using his knowledge of economic from 20 years. He is someone who brings job opportunities and jobs to Myanmar people.”

It follows calls from the Australian government to release the academic.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the government had raised the issue with Myanmar’s ambassador to Australia.

“We will continue to do that and press strongly for Professor Turnell’s release,” she told reporters in Sydney yesterday.

“Our ambassador and embassy had been engaging with him. I don’t think it is helpful to go into the precise details of the circumstances, particularly third hand from me, but certainly we were endeavouring to provide that support to him and to a number of others.”

Senator Payne says the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is supporting other Australians in Myanmar to “ensure that they are as safe as possible”.

Professor Turnbull was doing a media interview when Myanmar authorities came to his door.

“Being charged with something, but not sure what. I am fine and strong, and not guilty of anything,” he told Reuters.

Professor Turnell is director of the Myanmar Development Institute in Naypyitaw and has served as special consultant to Ms Suu Kyi since December.

He had earlier posted on Twitter about the volatile situation, saying he was heartbroken for the people of Myanmar.

Concerns grow over AstraZeneca vaccine as WHO urges calm

It is too early to write off the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because more data is needed, UN health experts have said, in reaction to a new study indicating its limited effectiveness against the South African variant.

Research by Oxford University in Britain and Witwatersrand University in South Africa has found the AstraZeneca vaccine is markedly less effective in protecting against milder forms of COVID-19 that stem from the mutation first detected in South Africa.

“This is clearly concerning news,” World Health Organisation Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday.

However, he stressed that the study was based on a trial with a small number of largely young participants.

“We mustn’t start concluding that this vaccine doesn’t work at all,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

She said the available evidence shows that this vaccine reduces deaths, hospitalisation and severe disease.

South African health authorities earlier halted plans for the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to front-line workers and would instead start using shots by US firm Johnson and Johnson.

“We don’t want to end up with a situation where we have vaccinated a million people or two million people with a vaccine that may not be effective,” Salim Abdool Karim, a senior health adviser to the South African government, said in the online WHO briefing.

But he said South Africa might further test the AstraZeneca vaccine by giving it to only 100,000 people and monitoring hospitalisation rates.

The AstraZeneca vaccine forms the backbone of WHO’s plans to help immunise people in poorer countries that have not been able to secure priority supplies from pharmaceutical companies.

Britain will continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine despite the new study, the country’s vaccine minister said on Monday.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt also yesterday dismissed concerns about the AstraZeneca jab which the federal government has secured 53.8 million doses of – more than any other COVID vaccine.

“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“That is the fundamental task to protect the health of not just Australians, but people all around the world.”

Indian glacier collapse death toll rises to 26

At least 26 people have been confirmed dead and more than 170 others were missing after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off in northern India, triggering a devastating flood.

The surging water, ice and debris washed away parts of hydropower plants and bridges on Sunday morning in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, some 2000 metres above sea level.

Uttarakhand police chief Ashok Kumar said 26 bodies had been recovered as of Monday evening, while 170 were still were still to be found.

Most of those killed or missing are believed to be power plant workers. Some 25 people had been saved by rescuers so far, Kumar said.

Floodwaters carrying glacier chunks damaged two hydroelectric plants and five bridges on the Alaknanda river system and swept away roads and homes, forcing authorities to evacuate villages in the region.

At least 34 workers were trapped in a 2.5 kilometre tunnel at a power plant that had been cut off by the floods, mud and rocks, Power Minister RK Singh said.

“We have cleared our way some 70 metres into the tunnel and need to negotiate another 180 metres more to a bend in the tunnel where we hope the debris hasn’t entered and our men are still alive,” Singh said.

“No communication has been established with them so far.”

Residents of the Raini village where the glacier collapsed said they were jolted by the loud sound and the sight of huge torrents of water and sludge in the river hurtling towards them.

“Before we could make out what was happening, the raging muddy waters of the river had devastated the landscape,” 50-year-old Dharam Singh told Tribune newspaper.

National and state disaster response teams, including army and navy divers, were deployed for the rescue effort.

Various theories have emerged as to what caused the glacier to burst, from parts of the glacier itself collapsing and releasing water, or an avalanche higher up crashing into a glacial lake, causing a surge of water and debris.

Environmentalists blamed the disaster on the rapid pace of development in the region and on climate change weakening the glacier.

Experts say environmental degradation from the widening of highways and building of power projects have made the region more vulnerable.

First commercial flight powered by synthetic fuel

A commercial KLM airlines flight powered with synthetic fuel carried passengers from Amsterdam to Madrid in a world-first last month, the Dutch government and airline have revealed today.

The KLM 737-800 used regular fuel mixed with 500 litres of synthetic kerosene produced by Royal Dutch Shell with carbon dioxide, water and renewable energy sources, along with regular fuel to power the aircraft, a statement said.

The carbon dioxide was captured from Europe’s biggest oil refinery near Rotterdam and a cattle farm.

Development and deployment of synthetic and biofuel alternatives to kerosene are seen as key to longer-term efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from aviation, with the industry accounting for 12 per cent of global transport emissions and unable to move to electric alternatives at scale.

“Making the aviation industry more sustainable is a challenge facing us all,” Dutch Infrastructure Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said.

“Today, with this world first, we are stepping into a new chapter of our aviation.”

Sustainable fuel will potentially make the biggest contribution to emissions reductions in new airline fleets, according to KLM CEO Pieter Elbers.

“The transition away from fossil fuel to durable alternatives is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry,” Elbers said. 

The world-first journey comes amid other developments in the field after a team of researchers at the University of Oxford late last year discovered a new method of producing carbon-neutral jet fuel by reverse engineering carbon dioxide emissions.

The process involves extracting carbon dioxide from the air and mixing it with an inexpensive catalyst to produce jet fuel, whereas previous methods were dismissed by the industry for being too expensive or energy-intensive.

KLM was also the first airline to operate a flight using biofuels, with the Dutch airline using a 50/50 mix of biofuel and fossil fuels to power a 737-800 from Amsterdam to Paris in 2011.

– With AAP and Reuters

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