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What we know today, Sunday April 4


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

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Queensland may limit hospitals treating COVID

Queensland is considering limiting hospitals treating COVID-19 in the wake of the state’s recent outbreak.

It comes as the state recorded no new community transmission of the virus on Sunday.

Two clusters that triggered a lockdown of more than two million people have been independently linked to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital staff and patients have been moved from its infectious disease ward.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the outbreaks were not linked to breaches in infection control by individual staff.

“We’ve seen two different individuals coming in as positive cases at different times, infecting two health workers each,” she said on Sunday.

“There is a view that this is about the environment and that is why the deep clean has occurred.”

Instead of having COVID-positive cases in different hospitals around the city, Ms D’Ath is looking at a single, dedicated area, potentially at The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“We believe that will reduce the risk and help with our resources as far as our health workers and making sure that it’s only health workers who are vaccinated also working with the staff,” Ms D’Ath said.

“We’re not suggesting it’ll be one single hospital across the whole state because we’ll still be using others outside the Brisbane area.”

Authorities are investigating bed numbers and services that would be required to consolidate COVID cases.

Queensland currently has 72 active cases and Ms D’Ath said she felt positive about progress following the lockdown, given the high testing numbers and low rates of community transmission.

“This is all part of our plan with the three-day-lockdown, to ensure that we can get enough people out there tested, identify the close contacts and get them into quarantine,” she said.

South Australia meanwhile recorded one new case of COVID-19 on Sunday, reported from a medi-hotel.

The case is a child who recently returned from overseas and has been in a medi-hotel since her arrival.

She is considered an old infection but has been added to SA’s case numbers as she has not been diagnosed and counted overseas.

Voters divided on PM’s handling of sexual misconduct crisis

Scott Morrison’s responses to sexual assault, misconduct and harassment allegations within Parliament House has split voters.

A two-day survey of 817 Australians published by CoreData Research shows 56 per cent of respondents believe the prime minister’s handling of the issue has negatively affected their views on his ability to do his job.

The other 44 per cent said it had no effect, or that it had affected their views positively.

The poll, conducted by lifestyle and research group Hunter and Bligh for CoreData, indicates women are slightly more likely than men to assess Mr Morrison’s ability negatively.

In addition, there has been a significant generational shift in stated voting intentions.

The most negative impact is among ‘pre-boomers’ (76 or older) at 73 per cent,  followed by Gen Z (26 or younger), where more than two-thirds (68.8 per cent) of voters say their views have been negatively affected.

The impact among Gen Y Australians (27 to 41) was only slightly less (62.3 per cent).

Fewer than half of the Baby Boomer generation say their views have been negatively affected by Mr Morrison’s performance.

According to the March 27-28 poll, voting intentions have shifted dramatically week-on-week.

Around one in six or 16.4 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the coalition, down from one in four (25.3 per cent) a week earlier.

But the proportion who said they’d vote Labor also declined from a touch over 35 per cent to 27.6 per cent. Those undecided leapt from 4.6 per cent to 34 per cent.

SA lifts hard border with Queensland

South Australia has lifted its hard border with Greater Brisbane and allowed hundreds of travellers to leave quarantine.

Arrivals from Greater Brisbane and Byron Bay will need to be tested on days one, five and 13.

They will not be allowed to enter high-risk health sites or attend major events with COVID management plans.

The decision to ease restrictions was made at a snap meeting of South Australia’s COVID-19 Transition Committee, which determined that all Queensland cases had been accounted for.

The meeting was brought forward from Tuesday to Saturday following concerns about inconsistent advice provided to travellers wrongly told they could leave quarantine early.

A handful of travellers who have been at exposure sites will remain in quarantine for the full two week period.

It comes as a traveller in hotel quarantine was rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Saturday.

The ill expatriate in his 40s, who tested positive for the South African strain of Covid-19, reported difficulty breathing.

He is understood to be the first COVID patient in the hospital’s intensive care unit since May.

CMO wants states to help vaccine rollout

Australia’s acting chief medical officer has welcomed the idea of NSW helping to speed up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, saying other states and territories could do the same.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to let NSW help deliver the vaccine in the state after Premier Gladys Berejiklian offered to do so.

It follows frustration amongst the states about a sluggish Commonwealth-managed rollout, for which they have felt unfairly blamed.

“I would like to see other states and territories get involved,” Professor Michael Kidd said on Saturday when asked if he would like to see other jurisdictions play a greater role in the rollout.

Labor took the NSW offer of help as a sign of the federal government’s failure to get vaccines to Australians as planned.

Federal opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said delivery of vaccines under Mr Morrison’s leadership had become “a mess”.

“For the umpteenth time in this pandemic, he’s going to have to be bailed out by state governments,” he said.

Four million Australians were due to have jabs by the end of March, a target missed by more than 3.3 million.

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which many vaccinated Australians have received, has been under scrutiny since a Melbourne man was admitted to hospital with a rare blood clotting disorder.

The man received the AstraZeneca jab on March 22 and is the first Australian known to have developed the illness, which has presented in small numbers of vaccinated people in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Prof Kidd emphasised that the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 in the largely unvaccinated Australian population was a “far greater” risk than the “extremely rare” blood clot disorder.

Prof Kidd said on Saturday an initial Therapeutic Goods Administration review had found it was “likely” that the blood clot disorder was linked to the man’s AstraZeneca vaccination.

Couple arrested after wild NSW chase

A couple has been arrested after a wild police chase in NSW that lasted hours and allegedly involved multiple gunpoint carjackings.

A 33-year-old man is facing 10 charges and a 31-year-old woman was hit with five offences after they were arrested at Parramatta on Saturday evening.

The pursuit began shortly after 4pm on the Federal Highway near Goulburn on Saturday when police spotted a stolen ute, which pulled away when officers tried to stop it.

Police used road spikes at Marulan, puncturing the ute’s front tyre.

The pair then got out and allegedly approached another car and threatened a couple and their baby with a shortened firearm.

Police say they stole the family’s SUV and continued along the Hume Highway before crashing at a service station at Sutton Forest.

The couple then allegedly threatened a woman and two teenage girls in a hatchback at the service station and stole that car.

They were again pursued for a short time before police called it off for safety reasons.

The stolen hatchback was allegedly involved in a crash with three cars at Mount Annan in Sydney’s southeast about 5.45pm before continuing.

It was tracked by police helicopter and finally stopped about an hour later at Parramatta, where the pair were arrested with the help of the dog squad.

The man faces charges of armed robbery, threatening injury, firearm possession and several driving offences.

The woman was charged with armed robbery, threatening injury and assault.

Pope urges hope in pared-back Easter vigil

Pope Francis has urged his coronavirus-weary flock to not lose hope even through the continued “dark months” of the pandemic, as he celebrated a scaled-back Easter vigil service in St Peter’s Basilica.

With social-distancing, only about 200 people were allowed to attend the service, which marks the period between Christ’s crucifixion and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

For the second year in a row, the Vatican cut out the traditional sacrament of baptism for a handful of adults to limit the chance of infection.

Usually a long, late-night ritual, this year’s vigil service also started earlier than usual to respect Italy’s 10pm COVID-19 curfew.

But the service began in the dramatic way it always does, with the pope lighting a single candle in the darkened basilica and then sharing its flame with others until the pews slowly begin to twinkle and the basilica’s lights are turned on.

In his homily, Francis said Easter offers a message of hope and new starts.

“In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope,” he said.

On Sunday, Francis will preside over Easter Mass before a similarly small group of faithful and deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing “to the city and the world”.

Usually the Easter Mass and blessing is celebrated before tens of thousands of people in a flower-decked St Peter’s Square.

But this year Francis will celebrate the service in the basilica and deliver the blessing from the altar, to prevent crowds from forming in the piazza.

Taiwan train crash suspect let out on bond

A Taiwan court has released on bond the manager of a construction site whose truck authorities believe caused a train accident that killed at least 50 people, but prosecutors vowed to appeal, as family members mourned the dead at the crash site.

Friday’s crash was Taiwan’s worst rail accident in seven decades, when an express train hit the truck that had slid down a bank beside the track from the building site. The site’s manager is suspected of having failed to properly engage the brake.

The train, with almost 500 people aboard, was travelling from Taipei, the capital, to Taitung on the east coast when it derailed in a tunnel just north of the city of Hualien. Forty people are in hospital, from among the 178 reported.

At least two Australians suffered minor injuries.

Prosecutors had applied to a court to detain the manager on charges of causing death by negligence. But a court in Hualien released the manager, Lee Yi-hsiang, on a bond of $T500,000 ($A23,000), although it restricted him from leaving Taiwan for eight months and said he had to stay in Hualien.

The court said while the truck’s fall into the path of the train was possibly due to negligence, there was “no possibility of conspiracy”.

Officer dies in US Capitol vehicle attack

A motorist has rammed a car into US Capitol police and brandished a knife, killing one officer and injuring another and forcing the Capitol complex to lock down in an attack that police said did not appear to be terrorism-related.

Police shot and killed the suspect.

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the US Capitol Police, said the suspect drove into the officers, then hit a barricade and got out of the vehicle, lunging at them with a knife.

“It is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries,” she told a news conference on Friday.

Police identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force and father of two children. Officials said the other officer was in a stable and non-life threatening condition.

“It does not appear to be terrorism-related but obviously we’ll continue to investigate,” said Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington.

President Joe Biden said he was heartbroken by the attack and ordered flags at the White House be lowered to half-mast. In a statement, he said he was being briefed on the investigation.

Egypt parades royal mummies through Cairo

Egypt has held a gala parade celebrating the transport of 22 of its prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive new museum further south in the capital.

The ceremony, designed to showcase the country’s rich heritage, snaked along the Nile corniche from the Egyptian Museum overlooking Tahrir Square to the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

The mummies were being transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and Pharaonic design for the hour-long journey from their previous home in the older, Egyptian Museum.

The vehicles were designed to appear like the ancient boats used to carry dead pharaohs to their tombs.

Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BC to 1075 BC, according to the ministry of antiquities.

They include Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only woman Pharaoh – who wore a false beard to overcome tradition requiring women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.

The mummies, 18 pharaohs and four other royals, were originally buried around 3000 years ago in secret tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site.

Power players leave the field after their loss to the West Coast Eagles. Image: AAP Image/Richard Wainwright.

West Coast smashes Port Adelaide

The West Coast Eagles have secured a comfortable 37-point AFL win over a listless Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

Andrew Gaff (36 disposals), Tim Kelly (27), Jack Redden (31), and Shuey (28) feasted on the ruck dominance of Nic Naitanui (26 hitouts) in the 16.12 (108) to 11.5 (71) win.

Josh Kennedy kicked four goals and Jack Darling three.

Port’s star-studded midfield barely fired a shot, and the game was over by halftime when West Coast had opened up a 52-point lead.

Robbie Gray and Todd Marshall kicked three goals each for the Power, but it was when the game was already out of reach.

The win came at a cost for West Coast, with captain Luke Shuey suffering another hamstring injury.

– With AAP and Reuters

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