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What we know today, Thursday April 22


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

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India records global record for new COVID cases

India has reported more than 300,000 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily global total, while COVID-19-related deaths also jumped by a record.

India’s daily jump in cases of 314,835 surpasses the previous highest one-day rise in the world of 297,430 cases posted by the United States in January.

India’s total cases are now at 15.93 million, while deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657, according to health ministry data on Thursday.

The news comes after 22 COVID-19 patients on ventilators died in an Indian hospital after their oxygen supply was disrupted by a leak in a supply line.

The supply disruption hit the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik in Maharashtra state, which is the worst hit by the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Search for Indonesian submarine enters second day

The search for an Indonesian submarine that went missing with 53 crew on board continues after rescuers found an oil slick and neighbouring countries including Australia pledged to help.

The 44-year-old submarine, KRI Nanggala-402, was conducting a torpedo drill north of the island of Bali on Wednesday but failed to relay the results as expected, a navy spokesman said.

An aerial search found an oil spill near the submarine’s dive location and two navy vessels with sonar capability had been deployed to assist in the search, officials said.

A navy spokesman said the diesel-powered submarine that runs on electric batteries while submerged could sustain a depth of 250-500 metres.

“Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous,” First Admiral Julius Widjojono told KompasTV.

In a statement on Wednesday, the navy said: “It is possible that during static diving, a blackout occurred so control was lost and emergency procedures cannot be carried out and the ship falls to a depth of 600-700 metres.”

The seas in the area are shallower than in other parts of the archipelago but can be more than 1500 metres deep.

The defence ministry said Australia, Singapore and India had responded to requests for assistance.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia would “help in any way we can”.

“We operate very different submarines from this one, but the Australian Defence Force … will work with defence operations in Indonesia to determine what we may be able to do,” Payne told ABC radio today.

Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told Reuters in a text message on Wednesday that contact with the vessel was lost at 4.30am and a search was underway 96 kilometres off Bali.

The oil slick could indicate damage to the vessel or could be a signal from the crew, the navy said.

The 1395-tonne KRI Nanggala-402 was built in Germany in 1977, according to the defence ministry, and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981. It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.

WA premier wants pause on Indian arrivals

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has proposed a temporary ban on arrivals from India amid a surge of COVID-19 infections on the subcontinent.

It comes as authorities investigate how two returned travellers contracted the virus while in hotel quarantine in Perth.

McGowan will on Thursday ask his national cabinet colleagues to consider seeking health advice about implementing a temporary pause on arrivals from India.

He says quarantine systems are under pressure from a surge in cases overseas and particularly in India, which is dealing with almost 300,000 new daily infections.

“Just in WA, in the past month alone 40 per cent of cases in quarantine had recently been in India. In the previous month it was just 11 per cent,” McGowan said in a statement.

“India is facing a severe third wave, one that we haven’t seen anywhere else.

“With more and more arrivals coming from India, we need to seriously look at temporarily restricting travel of people who have been in or through India.”

Health experts believe a new “double mutant” strain – dubbed B.1.617 – is likely to be behind the surge in cases on the subcontinent.

WA authorities are closely monitoring infections linked back to the strain, which has also been detected in other countries.

“Our thoughts are with our friends in India at this difficult time, as well as with our Western Australian Indian community,” Mr McGowan said.

“They are trying to put a stop to the third wave, however in Australia we need to do everything we can to keep this double mutant variant away.”

An investigation is underway into how two returned travellers contracted the virus while in hotel quarantine.

WA Health had reported the infections as being acquired overseas, but genome sequencing has since confirmed transmission occurred at the Mercure Hotel Perth.

“The virus was transmitted in hotel quarantine at the Mercure Hotel Perth, as two sets of guests, in rooms opposite each other, had the same sequence of virus – despite arriving from different countries at different times,” it said in a statement.

Other guests who stayed on the same sixth floor at the same time were previously released from the hotel after testing negative.

They will be re-tested and directed to self-isolate until cleared.

People who were in rooms immediately adjacent to the infected people will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

US reaches 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations

The 200 millionth coronavirus vaccine shot has been injected in the US but President Joe Biden has wasted no time on celebrations.

Instead he has rolled out a new financial incentive for those who have yet to get immunised.

The incentive comes in the form of a tax credit allowing businesses with fewer than 500 employees to fully offset the cost of providing upward of 80 hours, or 10 workdays, of paid time off for employees who need it to get the vaccine, Biden said.

The extensive span in paid time off is meant to give workers time to recover from any vaccination-related side effects without having to worry about missing a pay cheque, he said.

“One concern I’ve heard from so many Americans is that they can’t afford to take a day off to get vaccinated,” Biden said at the White House on Wednesday.

“No working American should lose a single dollar from their pay cheque because they chose to fulfil their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.

“We’re calling on every employer, large and small, in every state: give employees the time off they need with pay to get vaccinated.”

The push for pumping out more vaccine came on the same day as the US reached Biden’s goal of administering 200 million shots within his first 100 days in office.

“It’s an incredible achievement for the nation” said Biden, who at first anticipated the US would inject 100 million shots within his first 100 days in office, but raised the stakes after that goal was met faster than expected.

Wednesday marked Biden’s 91st day in office.

The 200 million milestone translates to about half of the American population getting at least one shot.

More than one-third of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Australian unis dominate sustainability rankings

Australian universities have dominated a global ranking system measuring their work in solving some of the world’s greatest sustainability challenges, including poverty, gender equality and climate change.

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings looked at the achievements of 1240 tertiary institutions across 16 sustainable development goals with four Australian universities ranked in the top 10, three more than any other country.

While the University of Manchester took the top spot, it was followed by the University of Sydney, and then Melbourne’s RMIT and La Trobe universities.

The University of Wollongong was ranked equal sixth alongside the Aalborg University in Denmark.

The rankings’ Chief Knowledge Officer Phil Baty said while the COVID-19 pandemic had been difficult for all universities around the world, they had shown just how important they were in helping global society.

“The quality of Australian university’s performance in this year’s ranking demonstrate how seriously they are taking their role in building a sustainable future,” he said.

“The position of Australia’s universities show they are championing the fight for a cleaner, healthier world.

“This is not the first time they have excelled in these rankings, and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

“We are excited to see what Australia’s universities have to offer in the future as the restrictions of the global pandemic are slowly lifted around the world.”

As well as the strong overall performance, Australian institutions ranked top in four of the individual sustainable development goals.

The University of Sydney took out the top spot for its work on clean water and sanitation, including its research into water use and management in the wider community.

The University of Canberra was top for reducing inequalities, which recognised its policies on discrimination and its commitment to recruiting staff and students from under-represented groups.

La Trobe University was ranked highest for solving problems associated with life on the land, including the support of land ecosystems.

And the University of Newcastle was ranked highest for partnering and collaborating with other countries.

In another major achievement, all 24 Australian universities were ranked in the top 200 overall.

‘Tragic murder-suicide’ at Whispering Wall

A 38-year-old man and his nine-month-old daughter have died after what SA Police suspect to be a “tragic murder-suicide” at the Whispering Wall in the Barossa yesterday.

SA Police assistant commissioner Ian Parrott told reporters this afternoon that while formal identification was yet to take place, police believe 38-year-old Henry Shepherdson from Adelaide’s western suburbs jumped off the edge of the Whispering Wall dam wall at Williamstown on Wednesday afternoon with his nine-month old daughter Kobi, who was attached to him in a child carrier.

Both died at the scene.

An unknown number of witnesses reported seeing Shepherdson and his daughter go over the edge of the dam wall on Wednesday afternoon.

Parrott said police understood that some of the witnesses were children.

Henry Shepherdson was found dead when police arrived at 4.30, while paramedics were unable to save Kobi, who was initially unresponsive and being assisted by members of the public.

“Sadly, the little girl passed away at the scene,” Parrott said.

Read the full story here

National vaccination revamp expected today

A plan to bring forward COVID-19 jabs for Australians aged 50 and over and proposals for state and territory mass vaccination sites are expected to be unveiled today.

The prime minister will meet with the premiers and chief ministers for national cabinet, which reached an in-principle agreement on changes to the vaccine rollout at Monday’s meeting.

While GPs will continue to be the main delivery point for vaccinations for people aged 50 and older, states and territories are considering options to supplement the rollout through expanded state vaccination centres.

As the program topped 1.7 million jabs on Wednesday, there has been broad concern about the speed of the rollout and vaccine supply shortages.

An inquiry heard this week only 6.5 per cent of disability care facility residents have received their jab, despite them being included in the first priority group of the vaccine rollout.

Victoria has moved to boost the initial phase with a number of large facilities, including Geelong’s former Ford factory, providing AstraZeneca shots for anyone over 70 with or without bookings as part of phase 1a and 1b of the national rollout.

Queensland says it won’t shift to mass vaccination centres until bulk supplies can be guaranteed, which it does not expect until the final three months of the year.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan is in Europe for talks on fast-tracking supplies of vaccines ordered by Australia, but yet to be delivered.

The hold-up on deliveries, as well as public concern about AstraZeneca vaccine links to blood clots, have been blamed for the slowness of the rollout.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, being imported and made by CSL in Melbourne, is being diverted to use in the over-50s group, while Pfizer will be used in the younger cohort.

The Australian Medical Association says national cabinet should take specific action to reset the vaccination program.

These included improved distribution of the vaccine to GPs, adjustments to the Medicare system, better explaining of the vaccine benefits to the whole community, and a greater role for the states and territories in administering the Pfizer vaccine.

Indonesia asks for Australian help as submarine goes missing

Indonesia’s navy is searching for a submarine that went missing north of Bali with 53 people on board and has sought help from Australia and Singapore, the military says.

The KRI Nanggala 402 was participating in a training exercise when it missed a scheduled reporting call, military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said on Wednesday.

The submarine is believed to have disappeared in waters about 95 kilometres north of Bali, he said.

Tjahjanto said the navy has deployed scores of ships to search the area, including a hydrographic survey ship, and has asked for help from Singapore and Australia, which have submarine rescue vessels.

The Defence Ministry said the submarine lost contact after being granted clearance to dive. It said a helicopter later spotted an oil slick near the dive’s starting position.

The submarine was carrying 49 crew members, its commander and three gunners, it said.

An electrical failure may have occurred during the dive, causing the submarine to lose control and become unable to undertake emergency procedures that would have allowed it to resurface, the navy said.

It said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet).

The German-built submarine, which has been in service in Indonesia since 1981, was rehearsing for a missile-firing exercise that was to take place on Thursday. Tjahjanto and other military leaders were to attend.

Indonesia currently has a fleet of five submarines and plans to operate at least eight by 2024.

Morrison looks to tech to sell climate action credentials

Another half a billion-dollar cheque has been written by the Morrison government to help Australia foster international partnerships on clean energy technology.

It’s the latest climate-related budget announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he gears up to take part in a summit organised by US President Joe Biden.

It brings together the world’s biggest polluters in a bid to ramp up global climate action.

Morrison has today announced $565.8 million to co-fund research and demonstration projects in low-emissions technologies.

Former chief scientist Alan Finkel will lead work on fostering international collaborations as part of his new gig spruiking the government’s climate action on the world stage.

The government is focused on Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, the UK and the US.

Morrison hopes the funding creates up to 2500 jobs and says for each dollar of taxpayer money invested $3 to $5 will be leveraged through the international partnerships.

“The world is changing and we want to stay ahead of the curve by working with international partners to protect the jobs we have in energy-reliant businesses, and create new jobs in the low emissions technology sector,” he said.

On Wednesday, the government announced $263 million for carbon capture and storage, and another $275.5 million to set up regional hydrogen hubs.

Netflix stocks hit as subscriber growth slows

Netflix’s pandemic-fuelled subscriber growth is slowing far faster than anticipated as people who have been cooped at home are able to get out and do other things again.

The video-streaming service added four million more worldwide subscribers from January through March, its smallest gain during that three-month period in four years.

The performance was about two million fewer subscribers than management and analysts had predicted Netflix would add during the first quarter.

It marked a huge comedown from the same time last year when Netflix added nearly 16 million subscribers. That came just as governments imposed lockdowns that created a huge captive audience for the leading video-streaming service.

Signalling the trend is continuing, Netflix forecast an increase of just one million worldwide subscribers in April-June, down from an increase of 10 million subscribers at the same time last year.

“It’s just a little wobbly right now,” Netflix co-chief executive Reed Hastings said.

Overnight on Wall Street, shares of Netflix slumped 7.4 per cent.

European football ‘super league’ falls apart

The European Super League has collapsed as eight of the 12 founding members from England, Italy and Spain abandoned the breakaway project under massive pressure from fans, politicians, soccer officials and even the British royals.

Founder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli told Reuters that he was reluctantly calling time on the new league after six English clubs withdrew on Tuesday, with Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid following suit and AC Milan indicating they would too.

“The voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and AC Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport,” the Italian club said in a statement.

Agnelli said he still believed in the merits of the Super League despite the overwhelming criticism and had no regrets about how the breakaway had been conducted.

“I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,” Agnelli said, adding it would have been the best competition in the world.

The Super League argued it would increase revenue for the top soccer clubs in Europe and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.

But the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fan organisations said the league would only boost the power and wealth of elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure went against European football’s long-standing model.

Players, fans, pundits and politicians celebrated the U-turns of the English teams on Tuesday that left the league in tatters and pushed other founding members to jump ship.

“This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Britain’s Prince William, President of the English Football Association, who had criticised the planned breakaway on Monday, said in a signed tweet: “I’m glad the united voice of football fans has been heard and listened to.”

The founding members were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur from England, AC Milan, Inter and Juventus from Italy and Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid were the only two founders yet to issue official statements by Wednesday evening (European time).

Two sources told Reuters they could yet enforce break-up fees on the clubs that have withdrawn.

-With AAP and Reuters

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