- Committees distracting officials from COVID-response: Hunt
- Sports minister defends vaccine priority for Olympians
- Pusey jailed for 10 months for crash film
- Adelaide 36ers star projected to soar in NBA draft
- International flights bound for Adelaide
- SA eases restrictions on Perth travellers
- Medical supplies reach India as COVID crisis deepens
- Service to mark 25 years since Port Arthur massacre
- Harry, Meghan to lead ‘Vax Live’ concert
- Blood supermoon to rise again in May
Committees distracting officials from COVID-response: Hunt
Health Minister Greg Hunt has claimed parliamentary scrutiny of senior health officials is distracting them from managing the vaccine rollout and broader coronavirus pandemic.
Hunt has written to the chair of the Senate’s select committee on COVID-19 to raise concerns about the amount of time officials spend preparing and appearing before the inquiry hearings.
“I am concerned that recent demands on the Department of Health are detracting too much from their daily responsibilities,” he wrote to Labor senator Katy Gallagher.
“In particular, two hearings with senior officials in less than two weeks is a significant commitment of time taken away from their focus on the vaccine rollout, which is crucial to the health and prosperity of Australians.”
Hunt urged committee members to concentrate their efforts on upcoming budget estimates hearings in May instead.
Senator Gallagher shot back at the minister on social media.
“Greg Hunt, how about you concentrate on getting staff and residents in aged and disability care vaccinated and stop botching the rollout?” she said.
“Then I won’t have to call officials as often to explain why the rollout is going so appallingly slowly.”
Hunt acknowledged the importance of scrutinising the performance of departments and agencies throughout the pandemic.
But he pointed out officials from the Department of Health had appeared 13 times before the committee, and the government had already responded to almost 2000 questions on notice.
“This is in addition to the many briefings offered to the leader of the opposition and shadow ministers,” Mr Hunt said.
Sports minister defends vaccine priority for Olympians
Sports Minister Richard Colbeck has dismissed concerns about Olympic athletes being bumped up the vaccine queue.
Some vulnerable people and frontline workers are furious they are still waiting for vaccine doses while sportsmen and sportswomen roll up their sleeves.
Colbeck said he could not understand their anger or concern, arguing the vaccine rollout stages were always designed to be blurred.
“No, I can’t actually because it was always anticipated there would be some overlap,” he told the ABC this morning.
“It was never going to be that we would finish 1a before we started 1b or we would finish 1b before we started 2a.
“There was always anticipated overlap in the stages. That is largely driven by the availability of vaccine supplies and that remains a consideration.”
More than 2500 athletes and support staff are being prioritised for vaccines ahead of the games in Japan.
“We’ve never said they are more important,” Colbeck said.
“Every aged care centre in Australia has either a date or a two-week window within which their vaccinations will be completed.
“That information has been forwarded to them all and that will be done in the next few weeks.”
Colbeck said the Australian Olympic Committee had contracted a private provider to vaccinate athletes and officials, guaranteeing no extra strain or load on the public health system.
Those aged over 50 will be given the AstraZeneca vaccine and people aged under 50 will receive Pfizer jabs.
Athletes are expected to be given daily coronavirus tests in Japan and only allowed to leave their accommodation to train and compete.
But the minister conceded Olympic villages were crowded and busy places, and outbreaks were unavoidable.
He is concerned about the virus spreading among athletes, and the effect it could have on the games.
“It is inevitable there will be coronavirus at the Olympics – that would have to be a given,” Senator Colbeck said, adding this consideration played into priority access to vaccines.
Japan is facing its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and Tokyo remains in a state of emergency.
Colbeck acknowledged it was legitimate to question whether the games should go ahead.
“I am sure the IOC and the Japanese government are giving that matter serious consideration,” he said.
“But it is a significant question because quite clearly not all athletes from all nations are going to have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
The minister conceded the Paralympics would be even more dangerous and said Australian athletes would need to make “very conscious” decisions about whether they attended.
The AOC wants a “bespoke” quarantine arrangement for Australian athletes and officials when they return home, similar to resort-style hubs used by the AFL.
But Senator Colbeck expects returning athletes will probably be treated more like tennis players who flew into the country for the Australian Open.
The players were given individual rooms and faced harsher lockdowns if infections were detected among the plane-load of passengers they travelled with.
Pusey jailed for 10 months for crash film
Richard Pusey has been jailed for 10 months for his “heartless, cruel and disgraceful” actions in filming dead and dying police officers after a Melbourne crash.
The 42-year-old had been pulled over for driving his Porsche at 149km/h along the Eastern Freeway when a truck crashed into the emergency lane on April 22 last year.
Senior Constables Lynette Taylor and Kevin King, and Constables Glen Humphris and Josh Prestney, died.
Pusey, who avoided injury because he’d been urinating off the side of the freeway, did not help but instead filmed the scene.
He was jailed for 10 months in Victoria’s County Court on Wednesday. The sentence includes 296 days he’s already spent in custody, meaning his sentence is almost completed.
Pusey was also handed an adjourned undertaking and fined $1000.
Judge Trevor Wraight said Pusey’s conduct at the scene was “heartless, cruel and disgraceful”, as well as “callous and reprehensible”.
“Your conduct only added to the shock and grief the families and wider community had to endure,” the judge also said.
Pusey, who has a severe personality disorder, previously pleaded guilty to outraging public decency over his comments in two crash scene videos.
It’s the first time the rarely prosecuted charge has been applied in this way.
Someone else filmed the Eastern Freeway scene and that footage was uploaded to social media, but they were not charged.
It’s accepted Pusey talked to himself in his two videos and was not taunting the officers.
“Oh he’s smashed. Look at that. Look at that. Lucky I went and had a piss,” he said while zooming in on Const Humphris wedged between the truck and Porsche.
Pusey also walked towards the truck and said: “You c***s, I guess I’ll be getting a f***ing Uber home, huh”.
Zooming in on a damaged unmarked police car, he said “that is f***ing justice, absolutely amazing”.
Pusey also admitted to speeding offences and possessing MDMA, which he tested positive to, alongside cannabis, when pulled over by police.
Judge Wraight told Pusey the ongoing media coverage of the case meant “the public has demonised you”.
Adelaide 36ers star projected to soar in NBA draft
Josh Giddey could be the first international player selected in the 2021 NBA draft after the Adelaide 36ers’ guard officially nominated today.
Fresh off becoming the youngest Australian to notch an NBL triple-double, the 18-year-old is ranked 13th in ESPN’s projected top-100 NBA draft rankings.
But with his stocks continuing to rise on the back of a solid NBL debut season – he’s averaging 11 points, 7.1 rebounds and a league-best 7.4 assists – he could climb even higher.
Scouts from the Toronto Raptors arrived in Australia to watch the 202cm talent’s historic performance against the New Zealand Breakers before Giddey announced his intention to enter July’s draft.
He’s tracking similarly to LaMelo Ball, who impressed in the NBL for the Illawarra Hawks last season before going at No.3 in the NBA draft, then quickly establishing himself as a rookie of the year contender before fracturing his wrist.
A gifted passer and versatile defender, Giddey views himself as a similar package to NBA All-Star Ben Simmons, who he could play alongside for the Boomers at the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
“Josh is the most talented 18-year-old the NBL has seen in a generation – and an even better young man,” 36ers general manager of basketball Jeff Van Groningen said.
“We know he’ll represent himself, his family, the Adelaide 36ers, and our league so well on NBA draft day, just as he has represented us so well this season.”
International flights bound for Adelaide
Three international flights are set to arrive in Adelaide over the next two days, after a brief “reprieve” on direct repatriation flights to ease pressure on the city’s medi-hotels expired today.
Premier Steven Marshall revealed yesterday afternoon that he had asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison last Friday for a “three-day pause” on international travel into SA, following concerns about rising COVID cases from international arrivals in Adelaide medi-hotels.
The pause – in place for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – saw three inbound international flights, two from Singapore and one from Doha, redirected from Adelaide to other destinations.
The flight reprieve expired today, with a Singapore Airlines flight from Changi due to land at Adelaide Airport between 2:30 and 3:00pm this afternoon.
Another flight from Singapore is scheduled to arrive in Adelaide at 8:00am on Thursday, followed by a Qatar Airways flight from Doha on Thursday night.
SA Health confirmed to InDaily it is anticipating around 76 people to arrive on each of the three flights.
Read the full story here
SA eases restrictions on Perth travellers
South Australia has eased restrictions on arrivals from Perth and has released Western Australian travellers from hotel quarantine after the city emerged from a three-day lockdown on Tuesday.
SA moved to ban arrivals from the Perth and Peel region on Saturday after WA Premier Mark McGowan on Friday announced the lockdown, which was put in place to manage a COVID-19 leak from a Perth quarantine hotel.
Travellers from the region, who were previously required to quarantine in SA for 14 days, can now enter provided they receive a COVID test on day one, five and 13, and isolate until they receive their first negative test.
The new cross border direction, updated at 4:50pm on Tuesday, also means travellers from WA who were in SA hotel quarantine have now been released.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the decision was made based on information received from the WA Government and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
“We’ll be continuing to monitor the situation in WA,” Kirkpatrick told reporters on Tuesday.
“We feel very comfortable with where we are at this point in time, WA have provided us with a large amount of information.”
Kirkpatrick said border checkpoints for WA travellers will remain in place at Ceduna and Adelaide Airport, with SAPOL asking incoming travellers from the region whether they have bene
One traveller who had been at a high-risk exposure site in WA has been required to stay in quarantine.
Medical supplies reach India as COVID crisis deepens
Vital medical supplies are beginning to reach India as hospitals starved of life-saving oxygen and beds turn away coronavirus patients and a surge of infections push the country’s death toll towards 200,000.
India has recorded 323,144 new cases over the past 24 hours, which is below a worldwide peak of 352,991 it reached on Monday.
But the fewer confirmed infections were largely due to a drop in testing, health economist Rijo M John, of the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala, said on Twitter.
“This should not be taken as an indication of falling cases, rather a matter of missing out on too many positive cases,” he said.
There were 2771 confirmed deaths on Tuesday, taking the country’s COVID toll to 197,894 people.
A shipment from the UK, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in the capital New Delhi, although a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had no surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to spare.
France is this week sending eight large oxygen generating plants and Ireland, Germany and Australia are sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators.
India’s first “Oxygen Express” train pulled into New Delhi, laden with about 70 tonnes of oxygen from an eastern state, but the crisis has not abated in the city of 20 million at the epicentre of the latest wave of infections.
“The current wave is extremely dangerous and contagious and the hospitals are overloaded,” Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, adding that a large public area in the capital will be converted into a critical care hospital.
With frustration mounting, relatives of a recently deceased COVID-19 patient attacked staff with knives at a hospital in the southeast of New Delhi, injuring at least one person, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A video posted on social media showed several people brawling with guards at the same hospital.
Delhi High Court has advised local authorities to provide security at hospitals.
Dr K Preetham, an administrator at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said the oxygen shortage remained a big concern.
“Because of the scarcity (of oxygen), we are forced to put two patients on one cylinder,” he said.
The World Health Organisation said it was working to deliver 4000 oxygen concentrators to India, where mass gatherings, more contagious variants and low vaccination rates have sparked the outbreak.
Even China, locked in a military stand-off with India on their disputed Himalayan border, said it was trying to get medical supplies to its neighbour.
Delhi is in lockdown as is the southern state of Karnataka and the worst-hit state of Maharashtra – home to financial capital Mumbai.
Service to mark 25 years since Port Arthur massacre
A small commemoration service will be held today at Port Arthur in Tasmania to mark 25 years since the 1996 massacre.
At the time, the incident was considered the world’s worst mass shooting, with 35 people killed and 23 injured at the popular tourist site on the Tasman Peninsula.
It remains Australia’s most deadly massacre.
The shooting prompted significant gun reform under then-prime minister John Howard via the 1996 National Firearms Agreement.
The new law banned rapid-fire guns from civilian ownership except under certain, restricted licences.
It also tightened requirements for firearms licensing, registration and safe storage, and established a government buyback of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns.
More than 650,000 weapons were destroyed. By some estimates, the move almost halved the number of gun-owning households.
Martin Byrant is serving 35 life sentences and more than a thousand additional years’ jail without parole over the shooting.
Tasmania’s former Labor premier Michael Field will deliver a welcome at Wednesday’s commemoration, which begins at 1pm AEST.
The poem Garden of Peace, written by the late Dr Margaret Scott, will be read by Julia Palmer who was a young girl in 1996 and later worked at the historic site.
Torquil Canning, who designed the garden memorial which was built in 2000 and features a pool of peace, will also speak.
The names of all 35 victims are inscribed there.
“May we who come to this garden cherish life for the sake of those who died,” the inscription reads.
“Cherish compassion for the sake of those who gave aid. Cherish peace for the sake of those in pain.”
The service will end with the laying of wreaths and a quiet moment for reflection.
Harry, Meghan to lead ‘Vax Live’ concert
Prince Harry and Meghan will serve as the campaign chairs of Global Citizen’s effort to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to medical workers in the world’s poorest countries.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will appear at Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World, to be taped on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and air on US broadcasters and YouTube on May 8, anti-poverty nonprofit Global Citizen announced on Tuesday.
Harry and Meghan are also leading an effort to raise money for the vaccine-sharing program COVAX, which hopes to produce $US19 billion ($A24 billion) to pay for the vaccines for medical workers.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also appear during the broadcast as part of the We Can Do This initiative to increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Croatian Prime Andrej Minister Plenkovic will also appear at the concert which will be hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez.
Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and H.E.R. are also set to perform at the concert, with hosts Chrissy Teigen, David Letterman, Gayle King and Jimmy Kimmel and actors Ben Affleck, Nomzamo Mbatha, Olivia Munn and Sean Penn now also set to appear.
Blood supermoon to rise again in May
Those who missed the chance to see a pink supermoon light up the sky above Australia last night will have another shot to take in the phenomenon in a month’s time.
Australians were treated to the breathtaking spectacle on Tuesday night, with the moon appearing 17 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than usual.
Onlookers watched the moon climb over Sydney Harbour, lighting up the sky behind the famous Opera House.
Although stunning, the moon was not actually pink. Its name relates to the timing of the supermoon.
“Hundreds of years ago the Americans used to call it the pink supermoon because a beautiful wildflower would bloom around the same time, so they would associate that with big, bright full moon,” Astronomer Sara Webb told AAP.
The phenomenon, which usually takes place every year around April, is caused when a full moon occurs while it is on its closest approach to earth.
“It’s one of those moons that when you’re driving along or you’re outside that you really like ‘woah’.”
This year Australians will be treated to two supermoons, with a blood supermoon due on May 26.
“We have one full moon as it is entering its closest point and one full moon as it is exiting its closest point … so it is just a lucky coincidence,” she said.
“This one is not false advertising in the name. It actually is bright red and it’s because it’s going to happen during a partial lunar eclipse.”
-With AAP and Reuters
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