- New local COVID-19 case in Sydney
- India travel ban won’t hurt relations: PM
- Vic hotel quarantine manager stood down
- Biloela family may be freed from detention
- Stuart MacGill named as kidnap victim
- Upper House set for euthanasia vote
- Trans-Tasman bubble opens to SA
- Australian cricketers stranded after IPL cancellation
- Heritage protection legislation introduced
- Australia’s vaccine rollout not handled well: survey
- Mexico vows justice after 24 train deaths
New local COVID-19 case in Sydney
A man who lives in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the man in his 50s has not recently travelled overseas and does not work in a hotel quarantine, border or a health role.
He was tested on Tuesday and the positive result was recorded on Wednesday.
NSW Health contract tracers are urgently working to identify any contacts.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the man is believed to have been infectious since last Friday.
Genome sequencing is underway, with results expected in the next 24 hours.
He has a number of close contacts who were being tested and were isolating, Dr Chant said.
He visited a number of venues while potentially infectious, she said.
India travel ban won’t hurt relations: PM
Scott Morrison has rejected concerns Australia’s Indian travel ban could damage the relationship between the two countries.
There has been a fierce reaction to the government’s temporary flight pause after the prospect of jail time and fines for Australians caught dodging the ban was raised.
While the prime minister has denied the move was racist, there is deep anguish among citizens trapped in India and the local diaspora community over the ban.
Morrison said Australia’s humanitarian support including oxygen, masks and ventilators showed a significant effort to help a nation in crisis.
“India is a great friend of Australia,” he told reporters in Townsville on Wednesday.
The prime minister insists the pause was necessary to drive down coronavirus case numbers at the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine camp.
“We’ve got a bit more distance to travel there but the pause is working,” Mr Morrison said.
“The pause will enable us to get Australian citizens and residents and their immediate families back on those repatriation flights.”
Australia has ramped up its diplomatic relationship with India in recent years as China grows increasingly assertive in the Indo-Pacific region.
With pressure mounting to repatriate Australians trapped in India’s coronavirus nightmare, the government is backing away from its earlier jail threats.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said there needed to be a hard line but ruled out biosecurity laws being applied.
“Nobody’s going to be jailed,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.
“We made that decision based on medical advice. We didn’t want plane loads of people coming back and swamping our quarantine system.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government shifted from a late-night announcement of the penalties last week to ruling out enforcing the law days later.
“This is a shambles. The government should be getting the vaccinations right and it should be getting quarantine right,” he told the ABC.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the government was looking at measures to strengthen the quarantine before lifting the pause, which is due to end on May 15.
Andrews said vaccinating Australians in India was under consideration.
“Everything is being done to ready Australians to come home,” she told ABC radio.
India’s official count of cases surpassed 20 million on Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while the death toll has passed 220,000.
Former Test cricketer Michael Hussey, who is one of about 40 Australians in India for the IPL, has reportedly tested positive.
Vic hotel quarantine manager stood down
A senior Victorian public servant in charge of infection control at the state’s quarantine hotels has been stood down after they reportedly committed multiple compliance breaches.
Matiu Bush, general manager of infection prevention and control at COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV), was stood down overnight.
Bush, who has been involved in the program since June, uses the pronouns they/them.
“Last night I become aware of reports in relation to Mr Bush and I formed the conclusion overnight that it would be appropriate Mr Bush stood down pending a review in relation to his conduct and behaviour,” Danny Pearson, the minister responsible for hotel quarantine, told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.
Bush is one of 15 CQV leaders approved to work across a number of the state’s hotel quarantine sites.
According to reports published in The Australian on Wednesday, they had to be counselled for initially refusing to undergo a mandatory test after visiting one of the hotels.
“I’m the head of IPC and I override that protocol,” Bush reportedly told an Australian Defence Force member working at the hotel.
Emma Cassar, head of CQV, said Bush was tested at another location on the same day.
Bush was also accused of breaching infection controls after visiting another quarantine hotel.
They reportedly left the hotel, which was not hosting returned travellers at the time, to get a coffee and returned without changing their mask or sanitising.
“From an IPC perspective, the risk was minimal, if not zero,” Cassar said, though she conceded their behaviour was not befitting of a leader.
“I don’t think the public would want to see someone in a senior leadership role continue to behave in this way,” Pearson said.
He said Victorians expected hotel quarantine to work as efficiently and safely as possible.
“I want the best team in hotel quarantine keeping us all safe,” Pearson said.
“Everyone in hotel quarantine has got to take this seriously.”
Other incidents reported by The Australian include contractors and bureaucrats being allowed to enter or trying to enter hotel sites in Melbourne despite not be being vaccinated, as is required.
While nearly all were told to leave once their vaccination status was known, in some cases it was not checked when they entered.
The incidents reportedly occurred at the Holiday Inn Airport, Novotel IBIS, InterContinental Melbourne and Four Points Hotel.
The state’s second wave, which last year resulted in more than 18,000 new infections, 800 deaths and an 112-day lockdown, leaked from hotel quarantine.
The program was overhauled after a judicial inquiry.
Biloela family may be freed from detention
A family of Tamil asylum-seekers being held on Christmas Island could soon be released into community detention.
Priya, Nades and their two young daughters have been kept in immigration detention centres for more than 1000 days.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has indicated the family could be released into the community while their claims for protection go through the courts.
“The welfare of that family on Christmas Island is clearly an issue that I have turned my mind to,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“I am seeking advice on that at the moment and I will continue to seek advice.”
Andrews said the family was being very well supported in detention.
“In terms of other accommodation that may be available to them on Christmas Island, that’s an ongoing discussion that I am having with our officials,” she said.
“I will make a response in the not too distant future.”
In a separate interview, Ms Andrews was asked whether she felt compassion for the Biloela family.
“I am a very compassionate person by nature. I will never walk away from that. But compassion takes many different forms,” she told ABC News.
As the home affairs minister, Andrews could intervene and grant the family protection, allowing them to return to their adopted home in central Queensland.
But she has been reluctant to step in while the legal case remains afoot.
“The matter is currently before the courts, so there is nothing I am prepared to say or do at this point in time that would either jeopardise the positions of the government or of the family concerned,” Ms Andrews said.
“So, at this point, it is a wait and see what the results are through the court systems.”
Stuart MacGill named as kidnap victim
Former Test cricketer Stuart MacGill has been named as the victim of an alleged Sydney kidnapping and extortion attempt.
While NSW Police did not identify the victim, described as a 50-year-old man, MacGill was quickly named by multiple media outlets.
The alleged victim was confronted by a man at Cremorne on Sydney’s north shore at 8pm on April 14, police said.
Then two other men arrived and helped force him into a car before driving him to Bringelly, in Sydney’s southwest, where he was threatened with a firearm.
An hour later the victim was driven to Belmore and released.
The incident was reported to police on April 20 and four men – aged 27, 29, 42 and 46 – were arrested in dawn raids on Wednesday.
The men have been taken to police stations where charges are expected to be laid.
Police officers are in the process of executing search warrants at homes at Sutherland, Caringbah, Brighton Le-Sands, Banksia and Marrickville.
Upper House set for euthanasia vote
Members of the South Australian Legislative Council are set to vote on voluntary assisted dying legislation today, with euthanasia advocates confident the controversial bill will reach the floor of the Lower House where it faces a bigger legislative hurdle.
The bill, which represents the 17th attempt in 25 years to legalise euthanasia in SA, was introduced in December last year by Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher and Deputy Opposition Leader Susan Close.
It would give terminally ill patients who have up to six months to live the right to die if approved by two separate doctors.
The legislation contains 68 safeguards aimed at minimising the risk of the law being misused.
The bill passed its second reading vote on March 31 in an emotional sitting of the Legislative Council, with today’s conscience vote potentially stretching long into the night as lawmakers debate amendments to the contentious legislation.
Voluntary Assisted Dying SA President Frances Coombe said her organisation is now “cautiously optimistic” the bill will pass.
“We’re hoping that the members of parliament will look rationally at the bill before them and they’ll have confidence from the law passed in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania,” Coombe said.
South Australia’s legislation is based on a similar bill passed in Victoria in 2017 that came into force in 2019.
“Knowing that that’s worked well over the last 18 months will hopefully give the members of parliament reassurance, and the Upper House reassurance, to vote for the bill.”
Coombe said the legislation could be more of a challenge to pass in the Lower House, but hopes the bill’s passage in the Legislative Council will “give confidence” to members of the House of Assembly.
Those final early morning preparations before a vote on Voluntary Assisted Dying in the SA Legislative Council…. expected sometime in the next 24 hours
The last Parliamentary vote in 2017 was just after 4am and it failed after an initial tied vote.
— Kyam Maher (@kymaher) May 4, 2021
Opponents of the bill, including Treasurer Rob Lucas, have previously said their viewpoint on the issue has become a minority in the Upper House.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it’ll pass the Upper House,” Lucas told InDaily last week.
“It will then essentially be in the hands of the House of Assembly as to whether or not it will pass the parliament.
“I always have been opposed [to VAD legislation]. You can never have enough safeguards.”
A new Australia Institute poll of 511 South Australians shows 83 per cent support for the law’s passing.
This includes 80 per cent support from Coalition voters, 84 per cent from Labor and 97 per cent from the Greens.
The left-leaning think tank said the poll, conducted in February, shows “overwhelming” support for the passing of VAD laws.
“As Upper House MPs prepare to vote on this legislation, the extraordinary level of community support for passing these laws is clear,” Australia Institute SA director Noah Schultz-Byard said.
Trans-Tasman bubble opens to SA
The first direct flight between New Zealand and South Australia in over a year is set to touch down in Adelaide this morning, with incoming Kiwis to be greeted with a welcome party at the airport.
Air New Zealand flight 191 from Auckland is scheduled to land in Adelaide at 10:45am.
It is the first direct flight between South Australia and New Zealand since March 27, 2020, according to the State Government.
The milestone flight follows the opening of the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble on April 19, with the eastern states already enjoying a regular flow of travel to and from New Zealand.
Premier Steven Marshall said he looked forward to opening South Australia to its first international market since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Pre-COVID, New Zealand was South Australia’s fourth largest international inbound market, with a record 43,000 trips made by Kiwis to SA in 2019,” Marshall said.
“This is why New Zealand is such an important market for our state. It’s going to create and sustain tourism jobs as well as investment at a time the sector needs it the most.”
The premier said there has been a 30 per cent increase in visits to the South Australian Tourism Commission’s travel portal since the trans-Tasman bubble was announced.
A welcome party showcasing Coffin Bay oysters, Maggie Beer canapes, Bleasdale sparkling shiraz and other South Australian brands has been organised by Adelaide Airport in conjunction with the tourism commission.
Australian cricketers stranded after IPL cancellation
Star cricketer Steve Smith is one of around 40 Australians isolating in India after they became stranded following the suspension of the IPL on Tuesday amid a widening coronavirus outbreak.
Indian cricket officials say they’ll work to secure safe passage home for all IPL participants, but Smith and the other Australians at the tournament must stay in India until at least May 15 because of a federal government ban on any Australians returning home before then.
Cricket Australia and the players union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, say they won’t seek exemptions from the government ban.
A fourth franchise from the lucrative Twenty20 tournament reporting a positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday prompted the competition to be called off indefinitely.
The captain of Smith’s Delhi Capitals – coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting – has also tested positive.
Delhi skipper Amit Mishra’s positive test has forced Smith, his Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis and compatriots Ponting and bowling coach James Hopes into isolation.
Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.
Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.
And Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak with three staffers at his Chennai Super Kings testing positive.
As India buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus, the IPL faced little choice but to halt the competition.
“The tournament stands suspended,” IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said on Tuesday.
“Right now, we can’t say when we can reschedule it.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) voted unanimously to suspend the tournament, which had been due to finish on May 30.
In a statement, the BCCI said it was “imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.
“The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021,” a BCCI statement said.
Nationals of other countries playing in the Indian Premier League will begin returning home from Wednesday, a senior Indian cricket board official reportedly told Reuters.
Eleven players from England at the tournament face a mandatory 10-day quarantine period when they return home.
Heritage protection legislation introduced
New legislation seeking to protect South Australia’s heritage listed buildings has been introduced to state parliament, with proponents arguing South Australia’s current planning code is insufficient to protect historic sites.
Independent MP Sam Duluk on Tuesday introduced the Heritage Places (Protection of Heritage Places) Amendment to the Lower House.
The exiled Liberal says the legislation will require both houses of parliament to approve the destruction or reduction in heritage significance of any State Heritage Listed building.
It will also introduce fines of up to $120,000 for anyone in breach of the legislation.
“My Heritage Places Bill seeks to legislate greater measures of protection for the historic buildings and spaces that grace our State,” Duluk said.
“Heritage plays such an important role in illustrating the history of our State and provides a special place for people to meet and community groups to establish themselves.”
Duluk said the “attack” on the Waite Gatehouse earlier this year, which saw the State Heritage listed building tapped for demolition to make way for an intersection upgrade, convinced him that “State Heritage listing was not in itself great enough protection from future development and destruction”.
An alternative location for the Gatehouse has since been organised after plans to demolish it attracted significant community opposition.
Dr Warren Jones, Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, said the legislation would be needed given the new Planning and Design Code that came into force in March.
“We know that the Government favours development over heritage and this will get worse with the new Planning and Design Code,” Jones said.
Australia’s vaccine rollout not handled well: survey
Almost two-thirds of Australians think the coronavirus vaccine rollout is not being handled well, according to a new study.
The Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods, which surveyed more than 3000 adults, asked one group if the process was “going well” and another whether it was “fair”.
The survey found only 3.6 per cent of people thought the vaccine rollout was going very well.
A further 32.7 per cent believe it is going “somewhat well”, while 42.5 per cent said it is going “not too well” and 21.2 per cent “not going at all well”.
In the second group, 32.4 per cent of Australians thought the process was “very fair”, and 53.3 per cent “somewhat fair”. A further 11.1 per cent said it was “not too fair ” and 3.2 per cent “not at all fair”.
“These findings are extremely important as the government attempts to reconcile public sentiment and confidence in its vaccine program at a time when there are questions about how fast it is being delivered across our community,” study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said.
There were also patterns when political views were taken into account.
“Those who had said they would vote for a party grouping other than the coalition were less likely to think the process was going well,” Biddle said.
“While still under half of the population, 45.3 per cent of those who said they would vote for the coalition said the vaccine process was going well.
“This declines to 29.9 per cent among Australians who said they would have voted Labor, 27 per cent of those who said they would have voted for the Greens, 33.3 per cent of those who would have voted for an ‘other’ party, and 25 per cent of those who did not know who they would vote for.”
Between January and April there was an increase in the number of Australians who say they would get a “safe and effective vaccine” – rising from 43.7 per cent to 54.7 per cent over the period.
However, it was still down on last August’s figure of 58.5 per cent, as concerns were raised about side-effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The study also estimated as of April 9.3 per cent of Australia’s adult population had been vaccinated.
A total of 172,408 vaccines have been administered in South Australia, the majority of which have been administered in primary care centres (92,867 doses), followed by state-run clinics (62,094) and Commonwealth aged care centres (17,447).
Mexico vows justice after 24 train deaths
Mexico will punish those responsible for an overpass collapse that killed at least 24 people and injured dozens when a train on Mexico City’s newest metro line plunged onto a busy road below, the government says.
Accompanied by officials involved in the construction and maintenance of the elevated metro line that collapsed, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the investigation should be done quickly and that nothing should be hidden from the public.
“There’s no impunity for anyone,” he told a news conference.
The city has been governed since the turn of the century by former mayor Lopez Obrador and his allies.
The crash has raised wider questions about safety on one of the world’s busiest metro systems, which carries millions of people daily across an urban sprawl home to more than 20 million people.
Firefighters using heavy chains to stabilise the site pulled bodies and survivors from the wreckage before lowering one dangling carriage onto a truck in the afternoon.
Authorities said 79 people were injured, including three children.
Video on social media showed the moment when the overpass suddenly plummeted onto a stream of cars near the Olivos station in the southeast of the city about 10.30pm, sending up clouds of dust and sparks.
Monserrat, 26, said she was at the back of the train wagon when she heard a loud noise and the lights went out.
“Everybody screamed and we fell on top of each other,” she told Mexican radio, speaking from the Belisario Dominguez hospital where she was receiving treatment for an injured rib.
Outside hospitals, family members grew frustrated waiting for information on relatives, including some who were still missing.
Angelica Cruz Camino, 31, said she had not heard from her husband since he was on his way home from work about 10.30pm on Monday.
She visited several hospitals and was told all victims were identified but she still had not located him by Tuesday afternoon.
“I called and called but he wasn’t answering me. Then it was my son who realised the metro collapsed,” she said outside Tlahuac public hospital.
“I cannot find my husband.”
It was the second serious accident this year, after a fire at a central control building knocked out service on several lines for weeks following budget cuts.
The overpass that collapsed was part of Linea 12, an addition to the network finished less than a decade ago and long plagued by allegations of corruption and structural weakness.
In 2014, just two years after it opened, several of the line’s stations were closed for structural repairs.
Four people who live in the area told Reuters they observed the support structures below the elevated tracks visibly shaking when trains crossed.
-With AAP and Reuters
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