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What we know today, Sunday March 14


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Quarantine leak ends NSW’s virus-free run

A person who works in two NSW COVID-19 quarantine hotels and has already had their first-dose of the Pfizer vaccine, has come down with the virus.

The positive result was recorded after 8pm on Saturday, meaning the state’s virus-free run will end at 56 days.

NSW Health said in a statement the source of the Sydney worker’s infection remains unclear and testing of their close contacts is underway.

There were no locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday and three cases in travellers in hotel quarantine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday told reporters the hotel quarantine worker had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“There are no risk-free responses when you deal with COVID-19, it is unrealistic and naive to think so … there are always vulnerabilities,” Mr Morrison said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said there was a time lag between receiving the vaccine and its protection kicking in, particularly with the Pfizer jab.

“This is not a silver bullet that will fix everything right away,” Prof Kelly said.

“There will still be outbreaks, even as we go through this vaccination program.”

NSW Health also said anyone who had arrived in NSW from Queensland since March 11 should follow the Queensland government’s health advice and avoid NSW aged care homes and hospitals until further notice.

It comes after a doctor last week contracted COVID-19 from a patient at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Those who have entered NSW and attended the Brisbane venues on the health alert list should immediately self-isolate and contact NSW Health.

WA result ‘quite extraordinary’: Albanese

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has described Mark McGowan’s landslide victory in Western Australia election as “quite extraordinary”.

Labor is predicted to claim up to 53 out of the 59 lower house seats, reducing the Liberals to just two or three seats and leaving the Nationals as the main opposition party with less than a handful of seats.

Mr Albanese said the win is not just about how WA Labor has handled the pandemic with its stiff border closures.

“It’s about the way WA Labor have run the economy, they have produced surpluses, they have created jobs and they have kept West Australians safe,” Mr Albanese told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program,

“This is primarily about Western Australia but it has to be good new for federal Labor as well.”

He said the fact a branch of the Liberal party has essentially been wiped off the map shows that they are going to struggle with a lack of resources to run an effective campaign over the next year when a federal election is due.

“They can fit people in a Mini,” Mr Albanese quipped.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack messaged Mr McGowan offering his congratulations.

“People understand the difference between state and federal,” he told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

Further $1.1b for COVID-19 response: PM

The Morrison government is providing a further $1.1 billion to extend the national COVID-19 health response until the end of the year.

“As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the nation, protecting Australians from the ongoing threats of the pandemic remains a priority,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

Mr Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly received their second Pfizer COVID-19 jab on Sunday.

“Australia’s suppression strategy has been extremely successful to date, particularly when compared with the devastation caused by the virus in many places overseas,” the prime minister said.

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australia is not in a better position than the rest of the world with regard to the vaccine rollout.

He said the government had said four million people would have got their first jab by the end of this month but with just over two weeks to go, only about 150,000 people have been vaccinated.

“We are way way short,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

The promise of getting everyone vaccinated twice by October has now also fallen by the wayside.

“We had Scott Morrison in his usual way say that black is white and suggest that he hadn’t really meant that everyone would be vaccinated by October when they have said they would on multiple occasions,” Mr Albanese said.

Liberals crushed in historic WA election landslide

Premier Mark McGowan will lead the most dominant government in Western Australia’s history after Labor consigned the Liberals to a generational defeat.

Labor is predicted to claim up to 53 out of 59 lower house seats on the back of a stunning 13 per cent swing in Saturday’s election.

It is a nightmare scenario for the Liberals, who are set to be reduced to as few as two MPs and lose their opposition status to the Nationals.

Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup called Mr McGowan within two hours of polls closing to formally concede, having lost his own marginal seat of Dawesville.

The huge win vindicates Mr McGowan’s tough response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with voters ignoring a Liberal campaign against handing Labor “total control”.

“The magnitude of what happened today is not lost on me,” the 53-year-old premier said in his victory speech.

“With it comes great responsibility. We will continue to deliver stable, competent, responsible and caring government for all West Australians.”

Deputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam and David Honey have retained their safe seats of Vasse and Cottesloe respectively.

But Labor was ahead late on Saturday in the blue-ribbon Liberal seats of Nedlands, Churchlands and Carine.

Mr Kirkup is the first WA Liberal leader to lose his seat since the 1930s and has reiterated that he will not seek re-election at a state or federal level.

“It is a loss that will be difficult to bear,” he said.

“We all have to make sure that over the next four years, we do all we can to help rebuild this party.”

Retiring former Liberal leader Mike Nahan was one of several party members to immediately call for party reform, labelling the defeat a “disaster”.

Then-leader Liza Harvey’s call to open WA borders early in the pandemic had done “immense” political damage, he added.

Nationals leader Mia Davies is on track to become WA’s opposition leader, with her party predicted to hold five lower house seats.

Her colleague Vince Catania, a former Labor MP who defected to the Nationals in 2009, has not ruled out challenging for the leadership.

Seasonal workers bound for Riverland quarantine

Up to 1200 seasonal workers will quarantine at a facility in Paringa in the coming months, as part of a program to bring in Pacific workers to pick fruit in South Australia.

The seasonal workers will be tested for Covid-19 on arrival to the state and taken to the Riverland facility for a fortnight of quarantine before harvest season begins.

They will be tested on the first, fifth and twelfth days of their stay, with any positive tests to be transferred to the dedicated medi-hotel at Tom’s Court Hotel in Adelaide.

The program comes in response to claims by the agriculture sector of shortages in fruit picking labor, although unions have pointed to rampant exploitation within the industry for dissuading Australia workers.

The first 200 workers are expected to arrive within weeks.

SA records five COVID-19 cases in returned travellers

South Australia has recorded five new COVID-19 cases, all among returned overseas travellers in medi-hotels.

The new infections include a woman in her 20s, a man in his 30s and three children.

They have all recently returned from overseas and have been in hotel quarantine since their arrival.

It comes after the latest wastewater testing in central Adelaide has shown no signs of the coronavirus after strong positive results were recorded earlier this week.

The most likely explanation for the earlier positive tests was virus shedding from old infections.

That could have come from people who had travelled into the city for the Adelaide Festival and Festive Fringe activities, including some from interstate.

The five cases represented half of the 10 new overseas cases recorded in Australian hotel quarantine on Saturday.

Widespread warnings as Qld doc gets virus

States and territories are chasing down potential contacts of a doctor who contracted COVID-19 while working at a Brisbane hospital.

Health authorities across the nation have asked for people recently in Brisbane to monitor their symptoms after the doctor caught the virus from a patient at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

The infection has caused aged care homes and hospitals in the city to enter isolation.

The doctor – who is yet to be vaccinated – had contact with two patients in the early hours of Wednesday before testing positive on Friday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters on Saturday.

The patients believed to have passed on the virus have the more-contagious UK strain, and genomic testing is underway to confirm whether the doctor has the same strain.

Three high risk sites in the community, including a cafe and gym, have been identified.

Tasmania logging burn ‘brain dead’: locals

Derwent Valley residents have criticised Tasmania’s forestry authorities over an escaped logging burn that has grown to almost ten times its intended size.

The fire was lit a week ago following logging operations and was intended to burn 23ha of debris, but the blaze has grown to 200ha since getting out of control on Wednesday.

The fire is burning near the Styx River, south west of Bushy Park near world heritage forest that contains some of the tallest trees in the world.

Ashley Huntington runs the Two Meter Tall brewery near Hayes, and says he called triple-zero for the first time in his life when smoke from the fire saturated his property.

“It’s brain dead, I’m totally against it,” he said.

“It’s as dry as a chip in the Derwent Valley in early March and it’s Tasmania’s peak fire season.”

There are three choppers working on the blaze, with eight tankers, two bulldozers and one excavator cutting containment lines.

Cormann ‘can’t wait’ to be new OECD leader

Mathias Cormann says he can’t wait to start his new role as the new head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Australia’s longest-serving finance minister will take over as secretary-general of the Paris-based organisation from outgoing Angel Gurria.

“There is much work to be done, global cooperation on economic social and environmental policies is more important than ever,” Mr Cormann told reporters in Perth on Saturday.

“I can’t wait to get stuck into it,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it’s the most senior appointment of an Australian candidate to an international body for decades, and a “recognition of Australia’s global agency”.

Mr Cormann said he was honoured to be selected and would focus on promoting stronger, cleaner, fairer economic growth and raising employment and living standards following the coronavirus pandemic.

He singled out climate change as a key challenge, saying he plans to pursue an ambitious and “global” approach to help countries become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Environmental groups had worked to prevent Cormann from landing the job over his role in obstructing climate action in Australia while he was in politics.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (top, right), U.S. President Joe Biden (top, left), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (bottom, left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (bottom right) are shown on the screen monitor during the first Quad leaders meeting. Image: Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images.

Quad agree to vaccination diplomacy plan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday met with counterparts US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in a historic first meeting of the leaders of ‘The Quad’ nations.

In the meeting the leaders agreed to expand global vaccinations and counter China’s growing vaccination diplomacy in Southeast Asia and around the world.

During the meeting leaders agreed to pool financing, manufacturing and distribution capacity to send one billion coronavirus vaccines across Asia by the end of 2022, India’s foreign secretary said.

India – the world’s biggest vaccine maker – will use its manufacturing capacity to make US vaccines, with financing coming from the US International Development Finance Corporation and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Australia will finance training and provide last-mile logistical support for the distribution of vaccines that will predominantly go to the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia and countries in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, vaccinations are being accelerated in the Torres Strait amid concerns that growing outbreaks in Papua New Guinea could spread to the vulnerable communities.

Dees into AFLW top-six after Crows win

A fired-up Melbourne stayed on track for an AFLW finals berth with a 28-point win against Adelaide in cold, wet conditions on Saturday night.

The disciplined Demons dished up Crows-like pressure to dominate the contest 6.7 (43) to 2.3 (15) at Casey Fields.

Aside from Melbourne’s fierce tackling across every line, their midfielders – inspired by Tyla Hanks – were more than a match for the Crows elite onballer group led by Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall.

Hanks was unstoppable with 19 disposals, five tackles and a goal, well supported by Eden Zanker, Lily Mithen and the consistent Karen Paxman in the crucial midfield battles.

Melbourne coach Mick Stinear lauded the performance as their best win in five years of the competition.

“Adelaide gave us that treatment on this ground a couple of years ago and some of the girls remembered that,” he said.

-With AAP and Reuters

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