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What we know today, Monday April 5


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

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Domestic violence surge in SA during pandemic

Newly released police data has revealed a surge in domestic violence assaults during South Australia’s COVID-19 lockdowns and periods of heightened restrictions.

According to the South Australian Police figures, there were 9,526 domestic violence assaults reported to police in 2020 compared to 8,587 in 2019 — an increase of 11 per cent.

There was a particularly pronounced spike in the six months South Australians were encouraged to stay inside from March to August, with an additional 440 reports of DV assaults compared to the same period in 2019.

White Ribbon Australia executive director Brad Chilcott said the figures should compel the South Australian Government to treat the situation as an emergency and immediately put more resources into housing for women and safety services.

The rise in incidents matches similar spikes around the country and globally.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2020 revealed almost 10% of Australian women in a relationship had experienced domestic violence during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, with two-thirds of those women reporting the attacks started or became worse during this period.

The United Nations has declared the global surge in violence against women a “shadow pandemic”.

People who feel concerned should contact the 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) phone number, DV Crisis Line on 1800 800 098, or contact SAPOL through 131 444 or Triple 000 if it is an emergency.

Ardern to reveal bubble opening on Tuesday

After months of planning, abandoned deadlines, dashed hopes and lingering doubts, the time may finally have come for the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet is expected to sign off on an opening date for quarantine-free travel from Australia.

For separated families and tourism-reliant industries, pre-COVID travel rules can’t come soon enough.

Ms Ardern has walked away from two previous deadlines to create the bubble.

Last month, under pressure from her political opponents, Ms Ardern pledged to give a new start date on April 6.

Government officials have been tinkering with plans, including regulations for airports, airlines, how to contact trace Kiwis while overseas, and response protocols to Australian outbreaks.

One of the conditions of the plan is a separation of airports into ‘green zones’ for quarantine-free flights and ‘red zones’ for flights carrying passengers from countries with COVID in the community.

Airport executives say they ll be ready from mid-April, and health officials are due to inspect Auckland Airport this week with a view to clearing the country’s biggest airport for takeoff.

The NZ Herald reports Air New Zealand is planning on adding additional quarantine-free flights from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from next week.

The national carrier hopes to fly from NZ’s three other international airports, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, when the bubble is announced.

Most Australian states have allowed Kiwis to visit without the need for a fortnight of hotel quarantine for months.

Australian couple freed in Myanmar

An Australian couple has been freed from house arrest in Myanmar and allowed to leave the country without charge.

Business consultants Christa Avery and her husband Matthew O’Kane were refused permission to leave Myanmar last month when they were about to board a flight home.

The country has been in turmoil since a military coup on February 1 that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I am, of course, incredibly relieved to have been released and to be on my way home with my husband Matt,” Avery said in a statement.

“Even though I knew that I had done nothing wrong, it was very stressful being held under house arrest for 2 weeks.”

Another Australian, Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to Suu Kyi, has been detained since shortly after the army seized power and is in prison.

“I hope that even if Sean cannot be released very soon, he can, at least, be moved to house arrest for his physical, mental and emotional wellbeing,” Avery said.

Authorities have said Turnell is under investigation, but no charge has been announced against him.

A lawyer for Suu Kyi said last week that he understood Turnell faced charges under the Official Secrets Act, but no charges have been confirmed.

More than 2500 people have been detained since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

Thousands of protesters again took to the streets over the weekend, with demonstrators inscribing messages of protest on Easter eggs.

Messages including “Spring Revolution”, “We must win” and “Get out MAH” – referring to junta leader Min Aung Hlaing – were seen on eggs held in the air by protesters in photographs on social media on Sunday.

SA coronavirus patient in critical condition

A man rushed from hotel quarantine to the Royal Adelaide Hospital on the weekend is in critical condition.

The ill expatriate in his 40s, who is believed to have the South African strain of COVID-19, reported difficulty breathing and was moved to the hospital on Saturday.

He is understood to be the first COVID-19 patient in the hospital’s intensive care unit since May.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) South Australia president Chris Moy told the ABC he felt for the family of the man.

“My thoughts go out to the individual and their family — they’d be very, very worried at the moment. For them, COVID and the serious complications of COVID are real,” he said.

He warned that the increased infectivity of new strains such as the South African variant meant there was a higher risk of the virus “escaping” from controlled settings, and that South Australians should not get complacent about restrictions even as the vaccine is rolled out.

According to figures released on Sunday, 145 vaccinations were administered across the state the previous day.

South Australia reported a new case in hotel quarantine on Sunday in a young girl returned from overseas.

“She is considered an old infection but has been added to our case numbers as she has not been diagnosed and counted overseas,” SA Health said.

Labor wants new vaccine rollout timetable

Labor is demanding the Morrison government provide a new set of target dates for the vaccine rollout, saying it has made a mess of the timetable so far.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt insists as the domestic supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine from CSL ramps up, so will the vaccine program, although he is vague on the precise timetable.

The daily rate of vaccinations is increasing with over 79,000 completed on Thursday, compared with 55,000 on Monday last week.

But that brought the total number of Australians vaccinated to just 841,855, well short of the four million by the end of March once promised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The Morrison Government is making a mess of this vaccine rollout and Australians expect and deserve clearer answers on when they are going to get the vaccine,” Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

He said just 14 per cent of those in aged care have received their two doses of the vaccine, when that program was also supposed to be finished last week.

“Australians want to know when their loved ones who might be in aged care facilities are going to get vaccinated because they know they are the most vulnerable people in our community,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Hunt defended the progress made so far and is confident that everyone that wants to get vaccinated will have their first dose by October.

He said there were three initial targets – to start the 1a Pfizer vaccinations in late February, to commence the 1a AstraZeneca rollout in in early March and to begin the 1b program on March 22.

“The principal three targets in terms of those commencement dates started exactly as we intended and then the other major goal for Australia is the end of October for all first doses,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.

NSW boat explosion leaves four critical

A boat has exploded on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, leaving four people fighting for life with critical burns.

Eight people suffered burns and smoke inhalation in the explosion at Brooklyn near Danger Island on Sunday afternoon.

NSW Ambulance confirmed four of those on board were critically injured in the Easter Sunday incident that drew at least a dozen emergency crews.

They were taken to Royal North Shore Hospital under police escort.

Another two patients were transferred to Westmead Hospital in a serious condition, while the remaining two others were treated at the scene.

Fire and Rescue NSW said firefighters were tasked with driving ambulances to allow paramedics to treat patients in transit because of the seriousness of their injuries.

The vessel has sunk in shallow water with a slow fuel leak, with hazardous materials experts called in to contain it.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Pope slams weapons spending in Easter message

Pope Francis has urged countries in his Easter message to quicken distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly to the world’s poor, and called armed conflict and military spending during a pandemic “scandalous”.

Coronavirus has meant this has been the second year in a row that Easter papal services have been attended by small gatherings at a secondary altar of St Peter’s Basilica, instead of by crowds in the church or in the square outside.

After saying Mass on Sunday, Francis read his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, in which he traditionally reviews world problems and appeals for peace.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened,” he said.

Francis, who would usually have given the address to up to 100,000 people in St Peter’s Square, spoke to fewer than 200 in the church while the message was broadcast to tens of millions around the world.

The square was empty except for a few police officers enforcing a strict three-day national lockdown.

Facebook data on over 500m accounts found

Details from more than 500 million Facebook users have been found available on a website for hackers.

The information appears to be several years old, but it is another example of the vast amount of information collected by Facebook and other social media sites, and the limits to how secure that information is.

The availability of the data set was first reported by Business Insider. According to that publication, it has information from 106 countries including phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, and email addresses.

Facebook has been grappling with data security issues for years. In 2018, the social media giant disabled a feature that allowed users to search for one another via phone number following revelations that the political firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed information on up to 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.

In December 2019, a Ukrainian security researcher reported finding a database with the names, phone numbers and unique user IDs of more than 267 million Facebook users – nearly all US-based – on the open internet. It is unclear if the current data dump is related to this database.

Deadly floods, landslides in Indonesia

Flash floods unleashed by torrential rains have killed 41 people on the Indonesian island of Flores, the disaster management agency BNPB says, and at least three more were reported killed in neighbouring East Timor.

At least 49 families were hit on Flores, in the east of Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago, Raditya Jati, a BNPB spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

“Dozens of houses were buried in mud in Lamanele village… residents’ houses washed away by the flood,” Raditya said, referring to the eastern part of Flores.

On Adonara island to the east of Flores, a bridge collapsed and rescuers were battling heavy rain, strong wind and waves, he added.

In East Timor, a two-year-old child was among at least three people killed in a landslide on the outskirts of the capital, Dili, a Reuters witness said, although there was no official toll of casualties or deaths.

“Heavy rains and overflowing water have drowned people’s homes and have also claimed the lives of several victims,” East Timor deputy prime minister Jose Reis said in a statement.

Power supplies were cut and the presidential palace was flooded as heavy rain and strong winds have lashed Dili since late on Saturday.

Outrage over ‘secret restaurants’ in Paris

France is in an uproar over a television report about secret meals in luxury restaurants in breach of COVID-19 restrictions – and now the authorities have become involved.

The report by channel M6 shows, for one thing, a secret high-end restaurant in Paris open despite the coronavirus measures.

“I have eaten this week in two or three restaurants that are so-called illegal restaurants with a number of ministers,” a man introduced as an organiser of a secret party says in the report.

The Paris prosecutor’s office launched an investigation on Sunday.

“The aim of the investigation is to verify whether parties were organised in violation of health regulations and to determine who the organisers and participants may have been,” it said.

Restaurants in France were closed at the end of October because of the pandemic.

“People who come here take off their masks,” says an unrecognisable staff member.

“Once you are through the door here, there is no COVID.”

The coronavirus situation in France is extremely tense, with new nationwide restrictions only coming into force at the weekend.

SA with edge over Victoria in Shield clash

Victoria were all start but not much finish as they struggled to match South Australia’s first innings 333 in their Sheffield Shield clash.

At stumps on day two at St Kilda’s Junction Oval, Victoria were 7-201 with Sam Harper (25) and Mitchell Perry (4) the not out batsmen.

Much like the Redbacks, the Victorian batsmen largely failed to go on with the job after solid enough starts.

Things started poorly when Travis Dean lasted just two balls, dismissed lbw to the retiring Chadd Sayers (1-22) for a duck.

Marcus Harris (42) and Peter Handscomb (26) kept the score ticking over before falling to Travis Head and David Grant respectively.

Despite a handy 60 from James Seymour, the Bushrangers mostly struggled from there as they slipped from 3-161.

Earlier, spinner Sam Kerber (55) hung in for a bright half century for the Redbacks to help bolster their total.

He was one of seven batsmen to score 25 or more for SA.

The reliable Head had top-scored with 76.

-With AAP and Reuters

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