- Local Vic COVID case linked to Perth hotel
- Body found in SA Riverland
- Thilthorpe tapped for Crows debut
- Huge spike in mental health support for Olympic athletes
- Clock ticking to find Indonesian sub
- India overwhelmed by COVID surge
- Vaccine rollout changed, limits on flights from “high risk” countries
- Biden’s ambitious new climate target
- Australia Post reverses its ban on perishable goods
- Controversial LNP politician to quit parliament
- SA artists finalists in Ramsay Art Prize
Local Vic COVID case linked to Perth hotel
A man has tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria after contracting the virus in Perth hotel quarantine, ending the state’s eight-week run without a locally acquired case and prompting health authorities to put passengers of a cross-country Qantas flight into 14-days isolation.
Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed the man, from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, returned a positive test on Friday morning.
The man completed 14 days’ quarantine at Perth’s Mercure Hotel before returning to Melbourne on Qantas flight QF778 on Wednesday.
The Victorian public health team is working to contact everyone on the flight, who will be required to get tested and isolate for 14 days.
He was contacted upon arrival at Melbourne Airport by Western Australian health authorities, who instructed him to get tested and isolate.
Foley said the man was picked up from the airport by his spouse and went straight home.
He has only come into contact with his spouse and their two children, who were tested on Friday morning.
“We will be examining the gentleman’s movements, particularly through the airport, where he did wear a mask, as he did on the flight,” Foley said.
He said he was not aware of how many people were aboard the flight.
The man, who is asymptomatic, was moved on Thursday at his request to The Holiday Inn on Flinders Street, which functions as a “health hotel” for international arrivals with COVID-19.
Three people have contracted the virus while staying at Perth’s Mecure Hotel.
WA authorities have confirmed through genomic testing that the virus spread in the corridor of the hotel from a couple who had returned from India.
Foley said the man had stayed in an adjacent room to the couple, while pregnant mother and her four-year-old daughter contracted the virus after staying in a room across the corridor.
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced on Thursday the Mercure would no longer accommodate returned overseas travellers.
The Victorian man will be included in Victoria’s COVID-19 figures for Friday, which will be released on Saturday, bringing to an end the state’s 56-day run of no locally-acquired community transmission.
“This is an important and timely reminder to all of us that this global pandemic is not over,” Foley said, urging eligible Victorians to get vaccinated.
Body found in SA Riverland
A man’s body has been found on the banks of the Murray River near Blanchetown, northeast of Adelaide.
Fire crews had been called to the area on Thursday to battle a small blaze in reeds.
While investigating the cause of the fire on Friday, police found the man’s body at the base of cliffs.
They are yet to determine the cause of death.
Thilthorpe tapped for Crows debut
Adelaide will unveil their highest-ever draft pick, Riley Thilthorpe, in Sunday’s AFL game against Hawthorn.
But Crows coach Matthew Nicks is calling for tempered expectations on the 18-year-old key forward, selected at No.2 in last year’s draft.
“It’s a really exciting time for our footy club,” Nicks said.
“It’s going to be a challenge for him, he’s a young key position player.
“But we think he’s ready to step up and have a crack at the higher level.
“It’s about tempering expectation because it’s not all on Riley how he performs.
“There’s delivery, there’s how we perform in the midfield, are we getting the job done across the ground … does that give him opportunities.
“So we’re really mindful of what the expectation is we put on a young kid.
“He’s a high draft pick and he’s a talented footballer but there’s a lot more that goes into his performance on the weekend.”
Nicks described the 200cm-tall Thilthorpe as already being an “ultimate professional”.
“From a training point of view, you don’t get many better,” he said.
“Riley, we talk about being a pro, well he is that and some.
“Sometimes we have to pull him back with the amount of load that he’s trying to put through his young body.
“Super-competitive … so we know he will bring that side of the game.
“And then obviously it’s a huge step up so from an expectation point of view … it’s going to come with some challenges, he is going to come up against some really strong opposition.”
Thilthorpe’s inclusion puts the selection squeeze on fellow tall forward Billy Frampton, who kicked two goals in round one but hasn’t scored a major in four games since.
Nicks was yet to settle his team for the clash against the Hawks in Launceston though first-year midfielder Sam Berry appears unlikely to recover from an ankle injury.
Linkman Tom Lynch is also in doubt with the stalwart unable to train properly in recent weeks because of toe injury.
However, Nicks cleared ex-captain Taylor Walker to play after the Coleman Medal leader suffered a low-grade calf injury in last Sunday’s 12-point loss to Fremantle.
Huge spike in mental health support for Olympic athletes
In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, demand from elite athletes and staff for mental health support has increased almost 80 per cent on the same period last year.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) revealed a huge spike in requests for assistance from its Mental Health Referral Network (MHRN) at the start of 2021 compared to the same period a year ago.
The impact of COVID-19 was the primary or secondary issue in about 80 per cent of the referrals.
AIS boss Peter Conde said the delay to the Olympics and continuing uncertainty surrounding the Tokyo Games, which are set to get underway in late July, has caused anxiety for some.
“It has been an extended wait for these Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and excitement is no doubt building as the Games countdown continues,” Conde said in a statement.
“It’s natural, however, that there will also be anxiety given the unique and complex preparation for these Games as well as the shifting environments here and abroad.”
Conde wasn’t alarmed by the rise in demand but attributed to the growing awareness of the service, with some sports and teams adopting it as a regular check-in.
The MHRN has a national network of mental health practitioners and is available to almost 3000 people in Australian high-performance sport including athletes, coaches, support staff and even family of athletes.
The AIS has also funded and embedded more than 30 athlete wellbeing and engagement managers in national sporting organisations to directly support athletes.
Jodie Henry, who won three swimming Olympics gold medals at in Athens in 2004, holds the role within her former sport.
Henry said it was understandable for athletes to feel anxious ahead of any Games, but Tokyo would have unique challenges.
“There’s a lot of unknowns and that’s going to be the biggest challenge of these Games,” she said.
“But there is support and one of the encouraging things I’ve noticed in this role is the openness of current athletes to discuss their feelings.
“Talking to someone can make all the difference.”
Clock ticking to find Indonesian sub
Indonesia’s president has ordered an all-out effort to find a missing submarine in a race against time to save the 53 crew, whose oxygen supply defence chiefs says will last only until Saturday.
Indonesia sent a helicopter and five ships to search waters north of the holiday island of Bali but found no signs of the KRI Nanggala-402, which went missing early on Wednesday during a torpedo drill.
“I have ordered the military chief, navy chief of staff, the search and rescue agency and other instances to deploy all the forces and the most optimal efforts to find and rescue the submarine crew,” President Joko Widodo said on Thursday.
“The main priority is the safety of the 53 crew members.”
Yudo Margono, the navy chief of staff, said the search was being aided by calm conditions but the crew’s air supply would last only until the early hours of Saturday.
“Hopefully before they can be found, the oxygen will be enough,” he told a news conference in Bali.
The vessel had been cleared for use and was in good condition, he added.
The 1395-tonne vessel 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.
Indonesia said several countries had responded to requests for assistance, with Malaysia and Singapore sending ships and Australia offering “help in any way we can”.
The US Defence Department is sending “airborne assets” to assist in the submarine search, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to speak with Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto on Friday “to convey our sorrow and to discuss how else the United States can be of assistance”, Kirby 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.
The oil slick could indicate damage to the vessel or could be a signal from the crew, the navy said.
Chief of staff Yudo said authorities had found an item with “high magnetic force” floating at a depth of 50 to 100 metres.
Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told KompasTV that the diesel-powered submarine that runs on electric batteries while submerged could sustain a depth of 250-500m.
“Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous,” the spokesman told KompasTV.
The waters in the area are shallower than in other parts of the archipelago but can still reach depths of more than 1500m.
Indian hospitals run out of oxygen amid COVID surge
India has recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 coronavirus infections.
Health officials across northern and western India including the capital New Delhi said they were in crisis on Thursday, with most hospitals full and running out of oxygen.
Some doctors advised patients to stay at home while a crematorium in the eastern city of Muzaffarpur said it was being overwhelmed with bodies and grieving families had to wait their turn.
A crematorium east of Delhi built funeral pyres in its parking lot.
“Right now there are no beds, no oxygen. Everything else is secondary,” said Shahid Jameel, a virologist and director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University.
“The infrastructure is crumbling.”
Six hospitals in New Delhi had run out of oxygen, according to a tally shared by the city government, and the city’s deputy chief minister said neighbouring states were holding back supplies for their own needs.
“It might become difficult for hospitals here to save lives,” Manish Sisodia said in a televised address.
Another 2104 people died in the space of a day, taking India’s cumulative toll to 184,657, according to the health ministry data.
The previous record rise in cases was in the United States, which had 297,430 new cases on one day in January although its infection rate has since fallen sharply.
Television showed images of people with empty oxygen cylinders crowding refilling facilities, hoping to save relatives in hospital.
In the western city of Ahmedabad, a man strapped to an oxygen cylinder lay in the back of a car outside a hospital as he waited for a bed.
“Helplessness,” tweeted former foreign secretary Nirupama Menon Rao.
“We never thought a second wave would hit us so hard,” Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, executive chairman of the healthcare firm Biocon, wrote in the Economic Times.
“Complacency led to unanticipated shortages of medicines, medical supplies and hospital beds.”
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the city needed about 5000 more intensive care beds.
Vaccine rollout reset, restrictions on travel from “high-risk” nations
All Australians over-50 will be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine from next month as the nation’s leaders reset the coronavirus jab rollout.
The move comes as health authorities seek to make best use of supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to finish off the first phases of the rollout – which have fallen well short of predicted timeframes – and move into a broader phase.
Earlier this month the AstraZeneca jab was linked to rare but deadly blood clots, and was not recommended to Australians under 50.
In order to ramp up the rollout, Australians over-50 can get the AstraZeneca jab at state and territory facilities and GP respiratory clinics from May 3, before all GP clinics have them from May 17.
The national cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday, also agreed to tackle the problem – raised by a number of premiers – of a high proportion of hotel quarantine cases coming from India and other high-risk nations.
The number of repatriation flights from India will be cut along with the number of direct flights allowed to land in Australia.
It will also be harder for Australians to be granted an exemption to travel to India, and pre-flight COVID-19 test requirements for people returning will apply.
“As time goes on and the pandemic continues to rage, there are countries that are frankly of greater risk than others,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
India recorded more than 314,000 cases in one day according to recent figures, the worst single day for any country during the pandemic.
Other countries could also be included in the restrictions, once Australia drafts its high-risk nation list which will be similar to that in use in the UK.
South Australia recorded another nine new cases of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine yesterday, bringing the state’s number of active cases to 30.
Three of the nine cases are old infections that have been added to SA’s COVID tally as they were not recorded overseas.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said it was the largest number of active cases in the state since the Parafield cluster last November.
“This puts me on edge and members of my staff to make sure that we’re still protecting South Australians,” she said.
“We need to make sure that all of our processes in our quarantine stream and our medi-hotels are as tight as possible.
Biden massively increases climate ambitions
The United States and other countries have hiked their targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions at a global climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden.
Biden unveiled the goal to cut emissions by 50-52 per cent from 2005 levels at the start of a two-day climate summit kicked off on Earth Day and attended virtually by leaders of 40 countries including big emitters China, India and Russia.
The US, the world’s second-leading emitter after China, seeks to reclaim global leadership in the fight against global warming after former president Donald Trump withdrew the country from international efforts to cut emissions.
“This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Biden said at the White House.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the new US goal “game changing” as two other countries made new pledges.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who visited Biden at the White House this month, raised Japan’s target for cutting emissions to 46 per cent by 2030, up from 26 per cent.
Canada’s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, raised his country’s goal to a cut of 40-45 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels, up from 30 per cent.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced his most ambitious environmental goal yet, saying the country would reach emissions neutrality by 2050, 10 years earlier than the previous goal.
The new US target nearly doubles former president Barack Obama’s pledge of an emissions cut of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Most of the countries did not offer new emissions goals.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not commit to a new target, instead arguing that Australia is betting on technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Australia is on the pathway to net zero,” Morrison said early on Friday morning.
“Our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.”
The US, the UK and the European Union say they are aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, a target the federal government has not previously provided a solid commitment to.
“For Australia, it is not a question of if or even by when for net zero, but importantly how,” Morrison said, adding the government was putting money towards finding new technology solutions.
Australia Post reverses its perishable delivery ban
Australia Post has back-flipped on its decision to stop sending perishable goods from June 30 following widespread concern from artisan food producers, which rely heavily on the delivery service.
The taxpayer-funded service on Monday announced it would no longer deliver perishable foods including meats, seafood, dairy and fruit because of food safety and regulatory requirements across different states and territories.
The decision caused confusion and frustration among South Australia boutique food producers who were concerned with how the move would impact online orders and supply chains.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson urged Australia Post to extend its self-imposed deadline and allow small businesses more time to consider alternative delivery options.
On Thursday, Australia Post conceded the June 30 date would cause “significant disruption” to small food producers and said it would work with Billson to “find solutions to support small business food producers”.
It said Billson would lead an industry working forum – to include representatives from industry bodies, the small business sector and artesian producers – to resolve cross-state regulatory issues.
“Through this new forum, we will better understand what our customer capabilities and needs are and work hand-in-hand with regulators to determine, where changes may be required,” Acting Australia Post Group CEO Rodney Boys said.
“I am so pleased Bruce Billson has agreed to co-chair this forum with Australia Post to develop a long-term, sustainable solution to support this growing eCommerce industry.”
Billson welcomed Australia Posts’ about-face.
“I am encouraged by the willingness of Australia Post and industry stakeholders to work together to help resolve any issues Australia Post is experiencing across its delivery network,” he said.
“So let’s roll up our sleeves so that we can achieve a better outcome for e-commerce powered small businesses who rely on these essential postage services.”
Australia Post will meet with Billson on Tuesday, with the broader industry group to begin meeting in May ahead of regular sessions.
Controversial LNP politician to quit parliament
Outspoken MP George Christensen has used his impending retirement from federal parliament to condemn the “broken” state of Australian politics.
The Queensland Liberal National MP on Thursday announced he would not re-contest his seat of Dawson at the next election, ending his controversial career in federal politics.
Into his fourth term, Christensen said he had only intended to stay in parliament for three stints and wanted to spend more time with his family which includes Filipina wife April Asuncion.
“While I’ve been repeatedly encouraged by the party, my staff, my colleagues and my voters to run again, the reality is in the past year I’ve been separated from my family who was caught up overseas with the pandemic,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
“They’re now here in the country so I want to focus more on them going into the future.”
He also expressed his frustration with the inability of Australia’s “broken” political system to make progress on conservative causes including enshrining religious liberties, safeguarding strategic assets from China and installing coal-fired power.
“Unfortunately, I’m not so sure any more that these issues can be properly fixed by legislation and via the ballot box,” Christensen said.
“The mainstream media and other cultural institutions in this nation, sadly, have the dominant influence over our politics.
“On all of these issues and more, I can potentially have a stronger, more unfiltered voice outside of our parliament.”
In the meantime, Christensen has vowed to continue to support the Morrison government and won’t leave Canberra quietly.
“While I’m in parliament until the next election and while there’s still breath in me, I’m going to continue speaking out on the issues that matter, without fear or favour, or the need to get re-elected,” he said.
The Mackay-based politician was first elected to federal parliament in 2010 after spending six years in local council.
He came under fire for spending 294 days in the Philippines between 2014 and 2018 and later repaid more than $2000 after questions were raised about taxpayer-funded domestic travel being used to link up with overseas flights to the southeast Asian nation.
2021 Ramsay Art Prize finalists announced
Six young South Australian artists are among the 24 finalists selected for this year’s $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize for contemporary Australian artists under the age of 40.
Presented biennially by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the prize is open to artists working in any medium. The 2021 competition attracted more than 350 artists.
“We are thrilled to present contemporary talent from every state and territory for the first time in the third iteration of the Ramsay Art Prize,” says Art Gallery director Rhana Devenport, adding that the prize and associated exhibition “celebrates the energetic pulse of artistic practice in Australia right now”.
South Australian finalists are Zaachariaha Fielding, Juanella McKenzie, Kate Bohunnis, Liam Fleming, Solomon Kammer and Kasia Tons. The full list comprises Hoda Afshar (Vic), Cigdem Aydemir (NSW), Ella Barclay (ACT), Nathan Beard (WA), Sam Cranstoun (Qld), Dean Cross (NSW), Julia Gutman (NSW), Kieren Karritpul (NT), Daniel McKewen (Qld), Alasdair McLuckie (Vic), Hayley Millar Baker (Vic), Nabilah Nordin (Vic), Tom O’Hern (Tas), Tom Polo (NSW), Anna Madeleine Raupach (ACT), Anna Louise Richardson (WA), Lisa Sammut (ACT) and Nicola Smith (NSW).
See the full story and a photo gallery of a selection of finalist artworks on InDaily.
-With AAP and Reuters
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