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What we know today, Monday May 3


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. The nation’s chief medical officer warned the federal government that stranded Australians could die during an Indian travel ban he recommended, Senate Estimates has revealed.

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Three new COVID-19 cases in SA

South Australia has reported three new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24-hours, including a woman in her 30s and a teenage boy and girl.

The three people are a family group who arrived in South Australia from overseas and have been quarantining in a medi-hotel since their arrival.

Two infectious people remain in hospital in a stable condition.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said of the 35 active cases currently in SA, seven have been identified as the Indian variant of the disease.

She said the Indian variant was yet to be identified as a “variant of concern”, but scientists overseas and in Australia were treating it as as a “variant of interest”.

Top health officer advised harsh India ban

The nation’s chief medical officer warned the federal government that stranded Australians could die during an Indian travel ban he recommended, Senate Estimates has revealed.

Paul Kelly also advised Health Minister Greg Hunt to use biosecurity laws, for the first time, with penalties of up to five years’ jail and fines of $66,600.

While Professor Kelly said on Monday he gave the government no advice on fines or jail, his letter to Hunt specifically notes the penalties.

He told the minister he was satisfied making it an offence for a person to enter Australia if they had been in India in the preceding 14 days was necessary to control the spread of coronavirus.

The chief medical officer said the biosecurity laws should only be used for as long as necessary in line with a pause on all flights until at least May 15.

“I wish to note the potential consequences for Australian citizens and permanent residents as a result of this pause on flights and entry into Australia,” Kelly wrote.

“These include the risk of serious illness without access to health care, the potential for Australians to be stranded in a transit country, and in a worst-case scenario, deaths.”

The advice – revealed at Senate Estimates this morning – contradicts the chief medical officer’s claim he didn’t recommend the threat of jail or fines.

“There was no advice given in relation to the fines or jail terms, that’s just how the Biosecurity Act works,” he told ABC radio.

The government has copped strident criticism from doctors, human rights groups and the Indian-Australian community over the punitive measures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended claims of racism but agreed the measures would be reviewed this week amid a major backlash.

“It’s being put in place to ensure we do not get a third wave here in Australia and that our quarantine system can remain strong, Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday.

“I understand the measures have strong sanctions with them but we’ve had the Biosecurity Act in place for over a year and no one’s gone to jail.”

There are about 9000 Australians in India who want to return home with 650 considered vulnerable.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said it would be viewed as a dark period in the nation’s history.

“It’s not Australian to trap people overseas,” he told the Nine Network.

“To suggest that a particular segment of the community should get fined for this is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous.”

Yadu Singh, a Sydney cardiologist and president of the Federation of Indian Associations of NSW, said the government had a moral obligation to help its citizens.

“There is a panic. There is a worry because coronavirus is a big, big problem in India and these people are stranded,” he told ABC radio.

India is recording about 400,000 new coronavirus cases each day but the real number of people contracting it is believed to be higher.

The Australian Human Rights Commission wants the government to prove that its decision to fine or jail Australians is not discriminatory.

Workers still in demand post-JobKeeper

Strong demand for workers continued in April, undaunted by the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy a month earlier.

The ANZ job advertisement series – a pointer to future employment – showed ads rose for an 11th straight month in April, up by a solid 4.7 per cent.

It means that job ads are now 27.8 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch isn’t surprised job ads have continued to strengthen.

“Businesses looking to hire new workers are, on the whole, unlikely to be those that were heavily dependent on the JobKeeper payment,” she said.

Even so, like Treasury, she estimates up to 150,000 people will have lost or will lose employment in the months following the end of JobKeeper.

“But we’ve also seen almost 160,000 additional people employed over the past two months,” Birch said.

“Strong labour demand should mean that many – but not all – will be able to find work elsewhere relatively quickly.”

Other figures show manufacturing is growing at is strongest in three years and also showing no signs of slowing following the demise of JobKeeper.

“Instead the industry continued to grow and in fact lifted the pace of expansion in April,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

The Australian Industry Group performance of manufacturing index rose by a further 1.8 per cent to 61.7 in April.

This was the seventh consecutive month of recovery from the severe disruptions of COVID-19 in the middle of 2020 and was the index’s highest monthly result since March 2018.

All six manufacturing sectors covered by the index expanded.

“To date the sector as a whole has not been adversely affected by the stronger Australian dollar, although a number of businesses are keeping a close eye on where the currency goes from here,” Willox said.

“That said, the further expansion of new orders in April is an encouraging pointer to continuing positive conditions over the next couple of months.”

Tas premier stands by resignation pledge

Tasmania’s Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein says he will follow through on a pledge to step down if his party doesn’t secure majority government.

Gutwein is confident the Liberals will secure the 13th seat required to deliver majority representation in the state’s 25-member lower house.

But the final results from Saturday’s election are still up in the air and won’t likely be known until next week as postal votes trickle in and preferences are distributed.

Gutwein made a commitment during the campaign to resign if he fails to secure a majority.

“One of the reasons why Tasmanians have worked with me so well over the last 12 months as we dealt with coronavirus … is that they understand that I’m a man of my word,” he told the ABC on Monday.

“Should we not get that 13th seat, I’ll stand by my word. Simple as that.”

Gutwein on Saturday night claimed a Liberal victory – the first time the party has won three consecutive terms in Tasmania.

All eyes are on two in-doubt seats in the Hobart electorate of Clark, where independents Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey, the former Liberal Speaker, remain in the running.

Liberal success in one of the two Clark seats would deliver the party a majority, while if both independents get in, it would give rise to a kingmaker.

Under Tasmania’s unique Hare-Clark voting system, five MPs are elected in each of the state’s five electorates.

The Liberals moved closer on Sunday evening to gaining one of the Clark seats after further counting, which has now covered almost 84 per cent of the vote.

Political analyst Kevin Bonham said the Liberals appear likely to pick up one of the in-doubt Clark seats but the situation was “very complex”.

“We’re probably not going to know for sure until the preferences are distributed, which is many days away because they have to wait for all the postals to come in,” he told AAP.

Labor opposition leader Rebecca White, who was also leader when the party lost in 2018, hasn’t spoken publicly since conceding on Saturday night.

Labor appears to have clinched at least eight seats and the Greens two.

The election result follows a recent trend of incumbent governments being returned, with all four state and territory elections since coronavirus going that way.

Tasmania went to the polls after Hickey quit the Liberals to run as an independent, plunging the government into minority.

Phase 2a of COVID vaccine rollout begins

COVID-19 vaccinations will today be available to all South Australians over 50 years old, with a new AstraZeneca clinic to open at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital as the vaccine rollout enters phase 2a.

The Women’s and Children’s Hospital vaccination clinic is open by-appointment only.

SA Health expects to administer 100 vaccinations at the site each day, or 600 a week, with the hospital’s CEO Lindsey Gough telling reporters this afternoon that the clinic would remain open “as long as SA Health and the community need us to”.

It follows a National Cabinet decision last month to fast-track vaccinations for the over-50s cohort, after health advice recommended against using the AstraZeneca vaccine for under-50s due to extremely rare incidents of fatal blood clots.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the new clinics would support the Commonwealth’s GP rollout, which has shouldered the majority of vaccinations so far.

“We are opening dedicated AstraZeneca clinics across the state so that South Australians aged 50 and over will have increased access to the vaccine, before the vaccine becomes available to this group through General Practices from Monday 17 May,” Wade said.

“In addition to the WCH clinic, a clinic will also open today at the Ceduna Town Hall and more clinics will be opening across the state in the weeks to come.

“Those eligible can identify upcoming clinics in their region online and schedule an appointment online.

“We look forward to high levels of interest and ask people to be patient should they not be able to secure their appointment at the time they are hoping for.”

The call for patience comes after GPs have threatened to withdraw from the vaccine rollout following abusive calls from patients frustrated about not getting an appointment.

Wade also said the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds vaccination hub, which opened as a Pfizer-only clinic on Friday, will open for AstraZeneca vaccinations next Monday.

He added that a vaccination team has also been sent to Kangaroo Island, as the government continues to plan for a “mass” vaccination site to be set up at Noarlunga and Elizabeth.

Bookings for vaccinations at the WCH can be made through SA Health’s website.

The latest federal government data shows SA Health has administered 60,139 COVID-19 vaccines, including 697 in the last 24-hour reporting period.

A total of 166,950 vaccines have been administered in South Australia since the rollout began. in February.

India reports new COVID deaths record

India has recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic yet with 3,689 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, as the country’s caseload surged to 19.5 million with 392,488 fresh infections according to government data.

This is the fourth straight day India has recorded over 3,000 deaths as the second wave of the pandemic carries on unabated and keeps setting grim new records, data showed on Sunday.

Altogether, 215,542 people have died from COVID-19.

India became the first country to cross 400,000 daily cases on Saturday.

It recorded 6.6 million infections and 45,000 deaths in April, compared to the little over 1.2 million cases and 5,417 deaths in March, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Health care systems are overwhelmed, and a shortage of medical oxygen has emerged as the most serious challenge.

Thirty-four patients died for alleged want of oxygen in hospitals in the national capital, New Delhi, and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Haryana on Saturday, the Times of India reported.

Thirty-one more with COVID-19-like symptoms and “breathing difficulties” died in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state, the report cited authorities as saying.

The Delhi High Court has warned that it will start punishing officials if life-saving supplies of oxygen and medical supplies don’t make it to hospitals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday held a meeting with experts and officials to tide over the oxygen and drugs crisis.

Indian Railways has converted 4,000 railway carriages into “isolation coaches” with 64,000 beds. As many as 213 coaches had been handed to various states for COVID-19 care, it said.

While the worst-affected cities and states like New Delhi and Mahrashtra are in prolonged lockdowns, states like Odisha and Haryana also announced new lockdowns to halt the spread of infections in rural areas.

India’s COVID-19 taskforce has pushed hard for a nationwide lockdown to help subdue the second wave, the Indian Express reported.

Last month, Modi said all efforts should be made be avoid a lockdown.

The federal government fears another lockdown will have a devastating impact on the economy. The lockdown imposed last year after the first COVID-19 outbreak led to job losses as economic output fell a record 24 per cent in April-June 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Modi’s government has been criticised for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states through March and April. Daily cases in these states have spiked since then.

Fallout continues from State Govt’s homelessness reforms

The State Government has come in for renewed criticism over its planned reforms to homelessness services, with the St Vincent de Paul Society saying the move will lead to more rough sleepers during winter due to a “significant funding cut” to the organisation’s crisis centre for men.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink on Friday announced a new system for homelessness services to provide “much better early intervention for people getting into homelessness”, but it has been widely criticised by advocacy groups and the State Opposition for budget cuts of over $1 million each to the Hutt Street Centre and Catherine House.

The system, branded “Future Directions for Homelessness”, is based on similar models used in the United Kingdom and went out to tender last year.

As part of the changes, homelessness organisations have been grouped into “alliances” – two in metropolitan Adelaide, two covering regional areas of the state and a separate alliance dedicated to family and domestic violence support.

But St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Louise Miller Frost said her organisation, which operates a range of homelessness support services, is now having to reconsider the operations of its 44-bed men’s crisis centre in Whitmore Square.

She added that the State Govt’s reforms are misguided given how the homelessness sector already functions.

“While we respect the Government’s intention to provide a more joined-up service for people facing homelessness, the fact is the sector already operates under a collaborative model,” Frost said in a statement on Sunday.

“Most recently this has been demonstrated through the Adelaide Zero Project, which was largely run by contributions and pro bono work from agencies in the sector, many of whom have just been defunded.”

Frost said investment in social housing would be a more effective measure to tackle the state’s homeless problem.

“Cutting funding to existing services and bringing new players into the sector will make no difference to the numbers of people experiencing homelessness unless there is more social housing for people to move into,” she said.

“Funding cuts to services like the Vinnies Men’s Crisis Centre will lead to more rough sleepers on the streets in the short term at least.

“Leading into winter, nobody wants to see that.”

Frost’s criticism follows similar statements from the Hutt Street Centre and Catherine House.

Shadow Minister for Human Services Nat Cook called on Member for Adelaide Rachel Sanderson to lobby to reverse the planned reforms.

“These central services help thousands of South Australians every year, and the axing of these programs right before winter is shocking,” Cook said this morning.

“At a time when South Australia’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation, these services and the people who rely on them should be made stronger, not callously cut.”

The reforms are due to be introduced in July.

Manchester United game called off after protests

Manchester United fans protesting outside Old Trafford (Photo: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire)

Manchester United fans have forced the postponement of their club’s Premier League game against Liverpool overnight after supporters stormed the stadium and made it onto the pitch to protest the team’s ownership.

Thousands of other fans also gathered outside Old Trafford on Sunday to demand the Glazer family ownership sell the club.

Long-running anger against the American owners has boiled over after they were part of the failed attempt to take United into a European Super League.

Supporters have been kept out of games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

United and Liverpool players were unable to travel to the stadium where there were clashes briefly between fans and the police under a shower of glass bottles as flares were sent off.

Although the crowds were later dispersed around the time the game was due to start, United said the game was postponed “due to safety and security considerations around the protest” after discussions with police, authorities and the league.

“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest,” United said in a statement.

“However, we regret the disruption to the team and actions which put other fans, staff, and the police in danger.

“We thank the police for their support and will assist them in any subsequent investigations.”

The Premier League, who are yet to announce a new date for the match, expressed concern about the disorder.

“We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated COVID-19 breaches,” the statement said.

The Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have declined to engage with fans since buying United in 2005 in a leveraged takeover that loaded debt onto the club.

“Get out of our club,” fans chanted as flares were set off. “We want Glazers out.”

Fans found a way into the stadium and also climbed onto vantage points next to turnstile entrances.

More than 100 fans got inside the stadium and some could be seen from windows waving down to protesters.

Corner flags were held aloft and one supporter was seen throwing a tripod from the interview zone.

Police on horseback later cleared protesting fans from outside the stadium, with glass bottles being thrown in brief clashes. Some fans moved back to a main road near the stadium with police forming a line to stop them returning.

If United had lost the planned game, Manchester City would have won the Premier League title but will now have to wait.

Hamilton wins Portuguese GP, Ricciardo finishes ninth

Lewis Hamilton delivered a bold pass on Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and drove off into the Portimao sun to win the Portuguese Grand Prix and increase his lead in the Formula One world title standings, while Aussie Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a poor qualifying performance to finish ninth.

Hamilton started second but had to regain a spot lost to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen before securing victory by sweeping around pole sitter Bottas on lap 20 of 66 around the 4.684-kilometre Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on Sunday.

Verstappen then struggled behind Bottas until he overtook the Finnish driver straight after mid-race pit stops, but Hamilton had already built a gap substantial enough to earn a second win from three races this season and the 97th of his career.

Hamilton now leads the championship on 69 points with Verstappen eight points behind going into the Spanish Grand Prix on May 9.

“That was such a tough race, physically and mentally, keeping everything together,” Hamilton said.

“There’s a lot to download from today, improvements we can make. It wasn’t all perfect so we will look at those points.”

Bottas was under pressure after crashing out last time at Imola but made a clean start from pole and had six laps cruising behind the safety car caused by veteran Kimi Raikkonen inexplicably driving into the back of his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

The restart was also fine for Bottas but Verstappen jumped Hamilton only to lose the place following a lap 11 error.

Hamilton probed at Bottas but was not gifted the lead and swept around the outside with just enough room in a move which would likely have had the Mercedes garage holding its breath.

“I had to try and reposition myself best I could, I think Max made a mistake at some point and that was perfect,” Hamilton said.

“With Valtteri I had to make the move early on before the tyres were destroyed and I just managed to get him at turn one.”

As Verstappen was held up by Bottas, Hamilton produced a series of fastest laps and though he emerged from his lap 38 pit stop behind the Red Bull of Sergio Perez – who drove a massive 51-lap first stint – he was comfortable in the effective lead.

Daniel Ricciardo had a good day, taking his McLaren to ninth having started 16th following Saturday’s disappointing qualifying performance.

“It’s hard to shake it off … when you don’t execute what you believe you’re capable of it eats at you,” Ricciardo said of his qualifying performance.

“I think today there was moments of speed and moments of still not quite there.

“I took a lot from today’s race, even just with set up I think there’s some things on the car that now I can start to work in my style and in my favour – Barcelona should be good.”

-With AAP and Reuters

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