- Millions more Pfizer vaccine doses head for Australia
- Australian COVID team heads to PNG
- Deadliest day as virus overwhelms Brazil
- Matt Gudinski takes reins of Mushroom empire
- One dead, six injured in Texas shooting
- Australia’s vaccination timeline in doubt after new health advice
- One dead, another fighting for life in separate crashes on SA roads
- SA Supreme Court Justice to retire
- PM urged to do more on sex harassment laws
- Biden announces gun control measures
- Port call up teenager for prelim final rematch
Millions more Pfizer vaccine doses head for Australia
Australia has secured an additional 20 million Pfizer coronavirus vaccines, doubling the number of doses set to arrive in the country this year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the supply boost after the government-backed health advice to avoid people under 50 receiving the AstraZeneca jab because of extremely rare blood clots.
The deal means 40 million Pfizer doses, enough for 20 million people, are due to be shipped to Australia in 2021.
Less than one million doses have so far arrived in the country, with supply issues hampering the speed of the rollout.
Pfizer jabs have become far more crucial following the advice around AstraZeneca, which was going to be administered to most Australians.
The extra doses are due to arrive in the final three months of 2020.
Australia broke the one million-dose barrier on Friday – a week after the date the government had committed to administering four million jabs.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said more than 81,000 shots were given in the past 24 hours, the highest daily increase since the program started in late February.
Australian COVID team heads to PNG
Australia has deployed a second medical team to help combat soaring infections and a struggling health system in Papua New Guinea.
A team of 17 nurses, doctors, emergency care specialists and infectious disease experts will assist Port Moresby General Hospital in handling its most urgent cases.
The Pacific nation, which lies just kilometres from Australia’s northernmost islands, is facing a crisis as its health systems grapple with a steep rise in infections.
“They’re stretched at the moment and that’s what we’re going in there to try and help,” intensive care expert Catherine Tacon told reporters on Friday.
“It’s certainly very concerning, we don’t have exact numbers. It has been increasing and doubled since about February.”
PNG’s official COVID-19 death toll stood on April 5 at 67 with more than 7400 infections.
Australian officials say that tally vastly underestimates the extent of the crisis as PNG doesn’t mass test.
The island’s biggest hospitals have reported positive results rates as high as 80 per cent.
The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) will join an advance team of three sent to assess the country’s overburdened health system on March 23.
The 17 will remain in PNG for about four weeks pending further assessment.
They flew from RAAF Darwin on Friday will two pallets of supplies, including aspirators, defibrillators, vital signs monitors, an X-ray machine, refrigerators and eskies to store vaccines.
No vaccine was aboard the plane and the team won’t be inoculating people, Dr Tacon said.
With a sprawling population of roughly 9 million, PNG has started a modest vaccination program using 8480 AstraZeneca doses sent by Australia.
Deadliest day as virus overwhelms Brazil
Brazil has set a record of 4249 coronavirus deaths in a day, as overwhelmed hospitals run low on supplies and the country nears record levels of deaths seen in the United States.
The single-day record from the worst of the US outbreak was 4405 deaths registered on January 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While cases there wane as immunisations ramp up, Brazil’s outbreak is spiralling out of control, with vaccines in short supply and the president fighting lockdowns.
Brazil’s public healthcare system has shown growing signs of buckling under the caseload, and a survey by the National Association of Private Hospitals (ANAHP) this week suggests even the richest hospitals are running short on critical medicine.
Three out of four private hospitals said they had a week or less of supplies for treating COVID-19, including oxygen, anaesthesia and essential drugs for intubation, according to the ANAHP survey of 88 member hospitals across the country.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has played down the risk of the country’s hospitals running out of medicine, as the right-wing leader tries to allay fears of the virus, while railing against state and local efforts to restrict movement.
“Let’s not cry over spilled milk. We’re still going through a pandemic that, in part, is being used politically – not to defeat the virus but to bring down the president,” Bolsonaro said in a public address on Wednesday.
“In what country on earth do people not die? Unfortunately, people die everywhere.”
More than 345,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, making it the second-deadliest outbreak after the United States, whose population is about 50 per cent greater.
Matt Gudinski takes reins of Mushroom empire
Five weeks after the sudden death of music industry legend Michael Gudinski, his son Matt has been today announced as the new chief executive of the Mushroom Group empire.
The Australian entertainment icon died suddenly on March 2, aged 68.
Matt, 36, has been executive director of Mushroom Group since 2013, when he was confirmed as his father’s successor.
He had helped Michael oversee more than 250 employees and two dozen companies.
Michael formed Mushroom Group in 1972 and it now encompasses record labels, touring and events, publishing, film and TV production and other sectors of the entertainment industry.
Matt joined Mushroom in 2003, aged 17.
“This isn’t a role that I expected to assume yet, but I am determined to honour the great legacy my father left,” Matt said in a statement today.
“Mushroom Group is in its strongest position ever and as we fast approach our 50th year I know that our incredibly talented Mushroom family will help me deliver the vision Dad and I had for the next 50 years of our business.”
Gudinski’s death stunned the international entertainment industry, prompting tributes from Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Barnes, Kylie and Dannii Minogue and Paul Kelly and many other stars.
Ed Sheeran headlined performances at Gudinski’s state memorial service, held on March 24 at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.
Michael Gudinski also had a daughter, Kate, with his wife Sue.
One dead, six injured in Texas shooting
A man has opened fire at a Texas cabinet-making company where he worked, killing one person and wounding five others before shooting and wounding a state trooper.
Bryan Police Chief Eric Buske told reporters he believed the suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was an employee at Kent Moore Cabinets, where Thursday’s shooting happened.
He said investigators believed the man was solely responsible for the attack and he was gone by the time officers arrived.
Four of the five people who were wounded at the business were hospitalised in critical condition, authorities said.
During the manhunt for the suspect, he shot and wounded a state trooper, who was hospitalised in serious but stable condition, the Texas Department of Public Safety said on Twitter.
Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said about two hours after the attack, the suspect was arrested in Bedias, a tiny community northeast of Bryan, which is about 160 kilometres from Houston.
Australia’s vaccination timeline in doubt after new health advice
Australians may not receive their first COVID-19 jab by the end of October as initially planned, with the federal government advising those under 50 not to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
European authorities on Wednesday identified a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, prompting Australia’s drug regulators to hold urgent meetings to consider their findings.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison received recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation on Thursday night, and moved to make Pfizer the vaccine of choice for people under 50.
The recommendations were made out of an “abundance of caution”, he said, with the rare yet serious side effects more commonly found in younger people.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the adverse reaction appeared in four to six cases per million vaccine doses and had a 25 per cent death rate.
ATAGI also recommended those under the age of 50 who have received their first AstraZeneca jab proceed with their second, as the medical advice indicates the rare blood clots only develop after the first dose.
Only where the benefit clearly outweighs the risk should an initial AstraZeneca dose be administered to someone under the age of 50.
“Ultimately here, the choice is with individual Australians and their doctor,” Morrison said.
“This is not a directive. This is not an instruction.
“It’s a caution that has been exercised consistent with many other countries around the world.”
Britain’s vaccine advisory committee is advising people under 30 not receive the AstraZeneca jab, while France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Belgium and most recently the Philippines and South Korea have all set minimum age requirements for the jab.
Health care workers in Australia aged under 50 who were due to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine will now be prioritised for the Pfizer vaccine, which will likely delay phase 1b of the rollout.
ATAGI’s advice essentially relegates most of the government’s vaccine rollout timetable to the waste bin.
The federal government had planned for every Australian to be offered at least their first dose of the vaccine by the end of October, with most receiving the AstraZeneca jab.
But the prime minister now concedes that timeline is in doubt.
“We expect that this will require some changes to the arrangements we have as part of the vaccination rollout,” Morrison said.
“This includes when we might expect first doses ultimately to be able to be offered to all Australians.”
The new health advice also casts doubt over the 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to be manufactured at the CSL facility in Melbourne.
Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said “all options are on the table” regarding CSL’s future manufacturing output.
“Clearly, CSL, we still have a big need for AstraZeneca – it is going to be a really important vaccine to vaccinate a significant proportion of the population,” Murphy said.
“So [CSL] will continue to make AstraZeneca. We will be reviewing with them over [the] coming months just what the output will be.
“They can’t make another vaccine while they’re making AstraZeneca – they made that very clear.”
The use of the Pfizer vaccine will be ramped up to accommodate for the change, with some 20 million doses due in Australia by the end of the year.
The government also hopes deliveries of the 51 million doses of the Novovax jab Australia ordered will begin from October, despite the vaccine remaining in the clinical trial phase.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the government should have made deals for the supply of a wider range of vaccines.
“Since last year, Labor has been calling on the Morrison Government to get five or six vaccine deals – for a situation exactly like this,” Albanese said on Twitter last night.
“Scott Morrison dismissed these concerns.”
The rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia began at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Murray Bridge on March 5, a day after the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave the jab its final tick of approval.
SA Health administered 1814 COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, bringing the state’s vaccination total to 32,635.
South Australia’s vaccination rate per 100 people is the second slowest in the country ahead of only New South Wales, with the slow pace prompting a slide in business confidence.
Premier Steven Marshall will attend National Cabinet today to discuss the latest health advice on the AstraZeneca jab and the state of the rollout across the country.
One dead, another fighting for life in separate crashes on SA roads
A woman has died after a car crash in Hindmarsh Valley on Thursday while a pedestrian is fighting for their life in hospital after two separate incidents on South Australian roads.
Around 12:10 pm yesterday, emergency services were called to a crash between a Ford Territory and a Subaru Forester at the intersection of Victor Harbor Road and Hindmarsh Tiers road.
The passenger of the Subaru, a 62 year-old woman from Queensland, died at the scene, while the driver and a second passenger suffered non-life threatening injuries and were taken to the Flinders Medical Centre.
The driver of the Ford was also taken to the Flinders Medical Centre with non-life threatening injuries. A child in the back of the Ford was uninjured.
Victor Harbor Road has since been reopened after major crash investigators examined the scene.
South Australia’s road toll this year is now 36 people, compared to 32 at the same point last year.
Meanwhile, a pedestrian is in the Royal Adelaide Hospital after being hit by a truck at Clearview in Adelaide’s north.
Emergency services were called to Hampstead Road around 10:45am on Thursday following reports a pedestrian had been struck by a truck on Windsor Avenue.
The truck driver was not injured but taken to hospital as a precaution.
SA Supreme Court Justice to retire
South Australian Supreme Court Justice and Court of Appeal President Trish Kelly will retire in September this year – bringing forward her retirement by three months.
Kelly has been a judge on SA’s highest court since 2007, and started her role as the inaugural President of the SA Court of Appeal on January 1 this year.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has appointed Justice Mark Livesey to replace Kelly as Court of Appeal President, and will appoint a new Supreme Court judge in August.
Kelly, whose retirement will come into effect on September 1, said the new Court of Appeal has a “sound foundation” to work from.
“It has been a great privilege to serve the state as the inaugural President of the Court of Appeal,” Kelly said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Court rules and practices we have adopted provide a sound foundation for the just and efficient determination of appeals.
“For several reasons I thought it best to give an early indication of my intention to retire.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice Chris Kourakis said he was “grateful” for the early notice Kelly has provided on her retirement, which will allow the court to better organise its case lists.
The Attorney-General thanked Kelly for her service on the newly formed appeals court.
“She took on this responsibility and challenge with gusto, overseeing a seamless transition to the new court,” Chapman said
“Under Justice Kelly’s leadership, the Court has been established and is now efficiently handling its appellate work, resulting in consistent, high-quality judgments.”
PM urged to do more on sex harassment laws
The Morrison government has promised changes to make Australian workplaces safer but critics say its plan does not go far enough to combat sexual harassment.
The government has released its response to the Respect at Work report, promising to make politicians and judges subject to the same laws as the Australian public.
Sexual harassment will be a valid reason for dismissal and included in the definition of serious workplace misconduct.
Victims will have also two years to bring complaints forward rather than six months.
But the government did not commit to implementing all 55 recommendations.
Assistant minister for women Amanda Stoker says it supports them either in exact terms or in spirit.
In some instances the government disagrees on how Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who conducted the report, recommended they occur.
“We see where you’re coming from but we’re going to do it a slightly different way,” Stoker told the ABC on Thursday.
One recommendation is to change sex discrimination laws to force all employers to proactively take measures to eliminate the behaviour.
However the government is only promising to assess whether that change would create complexity, noting similar provisions in work health and safety legislation.
There was also a call for the Human Rights Commission to have broad powers to investigate systemic harassment.
While releasing Thursday’s response Prime Minister Scott Morrison said sexual harassment was unacceptable.
Labor is challenging him to dump Queensland MP Andrew Laming to show he takes those words seriously.
Laming is on paid leave to undertake empathy training after being accused of harassing two female constituents and taking a photo of a woman while she was bending over.
He is quitting at the next election but Morrison has resisted calls to dump him from the coalition party room with the government holding a wafer-thin majority in the lower house.
Senior Labor senator Kristina Keneally said Morrison’s response to the report could not be taken seriously while Laming was a member of government.
“Stop sheltering Andrew Laming,” she told reporters in Sydney.
Labor is also calling on the government to introduce 10 days of paid domestic violence leave.
Biden announces gun control measures
US President Joe Biden has announced six executive orders aimed at addressing a proliferation of gun violence across the country that he says is an “epidemic and an international embarrassment”, on a day when another five people were killed in a mass shooting – this time in South Carolina.
“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” Biden said during remarks at the White House on Thursday.
Family members whose children were killed at the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school massacre in 2012 and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 attended the hearing and Biden thanked them for attending, saying he understood it would remind them of the awful days when they got the calls.
Biden’s announcement delivers on a pledge the president made last month to take what he termed immediate “common-sense steps” to address gun violence, after a series of mass shootings drew renewed attention to the issue.
His announcement came the same day as yet another, this one in South Carolina, where former NFL player Phillip Adams shot a prominent doctor, his wife and their two grandchildren before shooting himself, according to authorities.
Biden emphasised the scope of the problem: between the mass killings in Atlanta massage businesses and the Colorado grocery store shooting last month, there were more than 850 additional shootings that killed 250 and injured 500 in the US, he said.
His executive orders tighten regulations on homemade guns and provide more resources for gun-violence prevention but fall far short of the sweeping gun-control agenda he laid out on the campaign trail.
Biden reiterated his call for Congress to act, urging the Senate to take up House-passed measures closing background check loopholes.
He also said Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act, eliminate legal exemptions for gun manufacturers and ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“This is not a partisan issue among the American people,” Biden insisted.
While Biden asserted that he’s “willing to work with anyone to get it done,” gun control measures face slim prospects in an evenly divided Senate where Republicans remain near-unified against most proposals.
Most of the actions he announced will go through the Justice Department.
Port call up teenager for prelim final rematch
Port Adelaide have axed versatile tall Peter Ladhams while summoning teenager Lachie Jones for an AFL debut in tonight’s blockbuster preliminary final rematch against reigning premiers Richmond.
Power coach Ken Hinkley described Jones – a solidly-built 18-year-old half-back from Yorke Peninsula – as “aggressive and ready to play”.
“He is one of those mature young people that is just right to go out and play men’s footy,” Hinkley told reporters on Thursday.
“He is a big boy … he is explosive. He has got a lot of things that you’d suggest would make him successful at AFL football, now he gets his first test.
“What a game to debut, against the reigning premiers.”
Jones was pick 16 at last year’s national draft.
Tonight’s encounter is a rematch of last season’s preliminary final when the Tigers pipped the Power by six points en route to a third premiership in four seasons.
Hinkley dismissed any theme of belated revenge, noting both clubs were badly beaten last weekend.
“Everyone would like to say it’s going to be a big moment because of the prelim final,” he said.
“It will be a big moment because both teams had a loss last week and both teams are trying to create their season this year – and that’s nothing about last year.
Despite the forecast for warm, dry weather, Hinkley dumped Miles Bergman and Ladhams but the 202cm forward-ruckman may yet earn a reprieve with forward Todd Marshall facing a match-day fitness test after rolling an ankle at training.
“We expect he will be okay – if he doesn’t come up, Ladhams will come in,” Hinkley said.
Richmond made a series of changes with Dion Prestia (hamstring) and Kayden McIntosh (concussion) unavailable, while Josh Caddy, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith and Daniel Rioli were dropped.
Rebounding backman Bachar Houli returns for his first game of the season with Jack Ross and debutants, Will Martyn and Rhyan Mansell.
Meanwhile, the Crows have lost midfielder Matt Crouch for at least another month due to a groin injury.
The 2017 club champion has not played a game this season due to a hip injury.
“We have been really conservative with Matty,” Crows coach Matthew Nicks told reporters on Thursday.
“He is a super-important part of what we’re doing – a big, experienced midfielder that we know we are going to need throughout this season.”
The Crows face unfancied North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
-With AAP and Reuters
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