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What we know today, Monday May 24

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Regional South Australians aged 16 and over will be able to book in for a COVID vaccination from tomorrow, authorities have announced.

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New SA age group eligible for COVID vaccination

Regional South Australians aged 16 and over will be able to book in for a COVID vaccination from tomorrow, authorities have announced.

Premier Steven Marshall this afternoon told reporters that as well as the Noarlunga mass vaccination clinic opening tomorrow, those aged 16 and over who live in regional SA will also be able to book in for a jab at one of 35 country clinics.

“It’s part of our overall rollout to increase that run-rate of the vaccination against the coronavirus,” he said.

Marshall said 7000 people had booked in for their shot this week at the Wayville mass vaccination clinic, with more than 1000 places still available.

A mass vaccination clinic is also due to open at Elizabeth next Monday.

Marshall said in light of two new likely cases in Melbourne, anyone who has recently travelled to the affected areas should get tested as soon as possible if they develop any symptoms.

He said at this stage there were no plans to close the border with Victoria.

South Australia recorded one new COVID case today – a man in his 30s in a medi-hotel, being treated as an “historical” case.

Two ‘likely’ local COVID cases in Vic

Victoria has recorded two “likely” cases of coronavirus in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

The Victorian Health Department says it was notified on Monday morning of “two likely cases of COVID-19”.

“It’s currently understood the two cases are connected,” the department said.

The people have been isolated and will be retested, while a full investigation is underway.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton on Friday said there may be an active but undiagnosed infectious case in Melbourne’s north after traces were picked up in wastewater in the Epping and Wollert area on Thursday.

On Friday, the department admitted it had listed the wrong supermarket as an exposure site during an outbreak earlier this month.

People had been warned of potential exposure at Woolworths in Epping a fortnight ago after a Victorian man contracted coronavirus in Adelaide’s Playford medi-hotel.

The department acknowledged its error, identifying the correct site as Woolworths Epping North, three kilometres away.

They said anyone who was at Woolworths Epping North on Saturday May 8 between 5.40pm and 6.38pm must get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

If confirmed, the two suspect cases could bring Victoria’s 86-day run of no community transmission to an end.

Victorian-based federal cabinet minister Dan Tehan said the government would support Victorian efforts to deal with the two possible cases.

“The potential outbreak of these two cases shows … we still need to make sure we are vaccinating against it,” he told Sky News.

KI vaccine hub to open in June

The Royal Flying Doctor Service will support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across Kangaroo Island so residents don’t have to travel to the South Australian mainland to get the jab.

The state government says the RFDS will work in partnership with the Barossa Hills Fleurieu Local Health Network and the Kangaroo Island Council to operate a vaccine program for about three months, starting in early June.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said 3500 vaccines would be delivered to the island by the flying doctor.

“The joint effort is ensuring the vaccine is within the reach of every South Australian and, in particular, ensuring Kangaroo Island residents have access to the vaccine close to home,” Wade said.

“We are focused on providing a safe and steady vaccine rollout for the community to ensure everyone has access to this vital vaccination.”

The program comes after a team was sent to the island earlier in May to vaccinate priority groups, including frontline healthcare workers, aged care residents and emergency workers.

RFDS spokeswoman Natalie Szabo said the flying doctor would support the vaccination program on the ground with a team of authorised immunisation specialists.

The federal MP for the Island, Rebekha Sharkie said she first raised the issue of access for island residents in January and was pleased the state government had found a solution, working with the council to open the Kingscote Town Hall as a vaccine hub.

“I appreciate that rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations across the state is a complex and challenging logistical exercise,” she said.

“But it shouldn’t take five months to set up a vaccine roll-out for a community that has limited options for accessing this important health program.

“Just under 5000 people live on the Island and more than a thousand of them are aged 65 years and over.”

The Kangaroo Island vaccination clinic will operate six days a week, from Monday to Saturday.

Residents will be able to book through the SA Health website.

New travel pass to include vaccination data

People entering Australia could provide coronavirus vaccination status through a new pre-check-in digital declaration when international borders reopen.

Home Affairs boss Michael Pezzullo is expecting the federal government’s digital passenger declaration to be trialled by early next year.

“The DPD will have the capability to validate the vaccination status of people who have been vaccinated in Australia when they return from overseas,” he told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday.

“At the appropriate time, subject to public health advice, this could support Australians’ ability to travel without the need for 14 days quarantine on return.”

The new system could also recognise international vaccination certificates, both digital or in other forms.

“This will help to mitigate the risks posed by the use of fake or fraudulent vaccination certificates,” Mr Pezzullo said.

The old regime of filling out a form shortly before landing in Australia will be replaced with a pre-check-in declaration including health status, visa information and travel history.

Pezzullo said health data would be securely shared with state public health authorities.

“We’re going to have to bake in and build in health information into that declaration. There’s no point being told that an hour or two out from landing,” he said.

The Australian Border Force was dealing with close to 50 million passenger movements a year before borders closed but the number is now about two per cent of that.

Pezzullo is confident the new system will be ready to operate “at scale” to coincide with the federal budget’s assumption of international travel returning in mid-2022.

SA fire danger just before winter

A late autumn burst of warm and windy weather across South Australia has prompted warnings of high fire danger.

Country Fire Service Commander Brett Loughlin says that while the forecast conditions on Monday don’t warrant total fire bans, the community still needs to remain vigilant.

“Parts of the state are extremely dry. The dry fuels and wind will be enough to see a fire quickly catch and take off,” he said.

Adelaide is forecast to have a top temperature of 25C, with the mercury pushing into the low 30s in the north of the state.

Windy conditions will also bring the prospect of raised dust across regional districts.

Commander Loughlin urged people to check that any burn-offs or campfires were fully extinguished and to hold off any risky behaviours, such as using angle grinders or cutting tools.

“We won’t have formal bans in place but we still need the community to ensure they are playing to the conditions,” he said.

“If you’re going to be using any sparking machinery, make sure you have plenty of extinguishing agents on hand.”

“If you’re planning to conduct a burn-off on Monday, assess your local situation and, if possible, wait until the wind calms down.”

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Tom Boeck said the level of fire danger was rare in May and was the result of the extremely dry autumn the state had experienced,

“Over the last three months, we have seen below-average rainfall, causing fuels across parts of the state to remain very dry,” he said.

“Our modelling suggests that rainfall may be slightly above average over winter, but until we get significant rain parts of the state will remain at risk of high and very high fire danger weather.”

But Monday’s burst of warm weather will be short-lived with rain forecast across SA on Tuesday as a vigorous cold front moves through.

Adelaide is forecast to have up to 15 millimetres with more likely in the Adelaide Hills.

The CFS said the rain would reduce the immediate fire threat.

Cable car plunge kills 14 in Italy

At least 14 people have died and a child was seriously injured when a cable car linking Italy’s Lake Maggiore with a nearby mountain plunged 20 metres to the ground.

The Stresa-Mottarone cable car takes tourists and locals from the town on Lake Maggiore, almost 1,400 metres above sea level to the top of the Mottarone mountain in 20 minutes.

“We are devastated, in pain,” Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor told broadcaster RAI, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi voiced his condolences to the families of the victims.

The cable car was travelling up the mountain when the cabin fell some 20 metres to the ground and rolled several times down the steep slopes before it was stopped by trees, Severino said.

People hiking nearby heard a loud hiss just before the crash, she said, adding that the accident was believed to have been caused by one of the cables breaking.

Italy’s alpine rescue service said a call had first come just after noon, adding that the cable car was lying “crumpled” in the woods and two children were taken by helicopter to a paediatric hospital in the nearby city of Turin.

Severino said that some of the victims had been found trapped inside the car, with others thrown out into the woods.

The Stresa-Mottarone lift had only recently re-opened following the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s a terrible moment for me and for our community and I think also for the whole of Italy. Especially now that we were just beginning to restart (after the pandemic),” Severino said.

The Mottarone peak is popular among tourists because of its panoramic views on Lake Maggiore and its picturesque islands as well as the vista of the surrounding Alps.

The cable car service first opened in August 1970 after almost three years of works to replace a cog railway, its website said.

New Great State voucher scheme announced

The ballot for a fourth round of Great State vouchers to help boost sections of South Australia’s tourism sector will open this Friday, the State Government has announced.

The latest round will be for a $100 voucher for use on participating CBD and North Adelaide Hotel or a $50 voucher for use across suburban and regional SA.

It will also offer special ‘mid-week’ deals at some CBD venues in a bid to attract more visitors to the city during the week.

Open to Australians living in any state, the online ballot will open at  southaustralia.com/voucher at 9am Friday and closes 5pm on Tuesday, June 1.

Applicants will be notified on Wednesday, June 2, whether they have been successful or not, and can book from 2 June to 30 June, for travel from 2 June to 31 August 2021 (excluding Saturday nights).

The first Great State Voucher scheme opened in January with further schemes in March and April.

While tourism operators in many regional areas are experiencing boom times, CBD hotels have generally struggled since the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Steven Marshall said round four of the Great State Voucher Scheme would be a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for our CBD hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants and businesses, helping to create and sustain jobs across the entire state.

“We’ve seen the data – during the travel period of the last round of accommodation vouchers, regional South Australia had its best occupancy rates for a three-month period ever recorded and CBD hotels hit the highest occupancy of any mainland Australian city,” Premier Marshall said.

“These vouchers stimulate travel, they get South Australians and interstate visitors booking overnight stays in our great state, and they sustain and create jobs in our visitor economy.”

Pandemic blow to gender equality

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a significant blow to gender equality in the Australian workforce, a new report reveals.

Three-quarters of Australian women say their workload has increased since the onset of the pandemic, women’s job satisfaction has declined from 69 to 47 per cent, and nearly half of working women are feeling less optimistic about their career prospects than they were before the pandemic.

The results of a survey of 500 Australian women are revealed in a new report from Deloitte Global, “Women @ Work: A Global Outlook”.

The firm also interviewed 5000 women across 10 countries, with similar trends in each.

Deloitte’s Chief Strategy Officer Clare Harding said the survey findings showed that business and government need to rethink the level of flexibility and support women need.

“While the adverse impact on women’s wellbeing, motivation, and engagement is obvious, our research also shows that some employers are getting it right: The women who work for these organisations report higher levels of mental wellbeing, job satisfaction, motivation and productivity,” she said.

“As we start to build workplaces for the future, we have an opportunity to get gender equality and inclusion right. Rather than setting back years of progress we can use this moment to move forward.”

While most women say their workloads have increased, 64 per cent of women also say they take on the bulk of tasks and household management at home.

Six in 10 Australian women surveyed say their household commitments have increased with the pandemic.

They also reported a 35-point drop in their mental health and a 27-point drop in motivation at work, when asked to compare how they felt now compared to before the pandemic.

Globally, almost a quarter of women say they are considering leaving, or are likely to leave, the workforce altogether as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

Feds to face more vaccine scrutiny

The vaccine rollout, quarantining and the opening of international borders are likely to be high on the agenda of debate when federal parliament sits this week in the run-up to national cabinet on Friday.

Australia reached 500,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in a week for the first time as the rollout topped 3.6 million, still shy of the four million that had been initially promised by the end of March by the Morrison government.

Still, the government continues to press the case for people to get the jab as soon as they are eligible.

Over 50s have been able to get an AstraZeneca jab over the past couple of weeks, although there are concerns some may wait until later in the year for the Pfizer vaccine when 20 million doses arrive over the fourth quarter.

Ten million Moderna doses are also due later in the year.

“The message is very simple. Do not wait to be vaccinated. If you are in a qualifying group, please come forward now,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters from Melbourne on Sunday.

“Vaccination can save lives and protect lives, and if you are not vaccinated and you do catch COVID, you can die.”

There were no locally acquired COVID-19 cases reported in the past week, but NSW and Victoria both reported new infections in quarantine on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the second repatriation flight from India since the government lifted its ban landed in Darwin on Sunday with 165 Australians on board.

The arrivals will now spend 14 days in quarantine in the Howard Springs facility.

The first flight a week ago was marred by a large number of positive COVID-19 results that left just 80 of the 150 seats filled.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is prioritising passengers who were barred from boarding for future flights, as are vulnerable Australians.

Of the 11,200 Australians in India registered with the government as wanting to return, about 1000 are considered vulnerable.

Eight flights are scheduled by June 4, with NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland volunteering to take returning Australians.

Congo lava flows destroy homes, kill 15

Torrents of lava poured into villages after dark in eastern Congo with little warning, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying more than 500 homes, officials and survivors say.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on Saturday night sent about 5000 people fleeing from the city of Goma across the nearby border into Rwanda, while another 25,000 sought refuge to the north-west in Sake, the UN children’s agency said.

More than 170 children were still feared missing on Sunday and Unicef officials said they were organising transit centres to help unaccompanied children.

Goma was largely spared the mass destruction it suffered the last time the volcano erupted in 2002. Hundreds died then and more than 100,000 were left homeless.

Residents said there was little warning before the dark sky turned a fiery red, sending people running for their lives in all directions. One woman went into labour and gave birth while fleeing to Rwanda, the national broadcaster there said.

Smoke rose from smouldering heaps of lava in the Buhene area near the city on Sunday.

Witnesses said lava engulfed one highway connecting Goma with the city of Beni, but the airport appeared to be spared the same fate as in 2002 when lava flowed on to the runways.

Goma is a regional hub for many humanitarian agencies in the region, as well as the UN peacekeeping mission.

While the city is home to many UN peacekeepers and aid workers, much of surrounding eastern Congo is under threat from armed groups vying for control of the region’s mineral resources.

United win keeps top two hopes alive

Adelaide United have edged Melbourne Victory 1-0 to keep in touch with the race for second place in the A-League but coach Carl Veart concedes exciting attacker Kusini Yengi’s season could be over.

The Reds snatched the lead through Craig Goodwin in the 39th minute and held on at AAMI Park to draw within three points of second-placed Sydney FC.

“We should have had at least three goals in that first half but tonight we dug in,” Veart said.

“(In the ) second half we knew it was going to be tough, we dug in and we got three points,” Veart said.

Adelaide will complete the regular season with crunch back-to-back home games against Sydney and Western Sydney.

But they are likely to be without Yengi, who suffered a hamstring strain in the warm-up and was replaced by Pacifique Niyongabire.

“That could be season over for him, I’m not sure,” Veart said.

“… it’s a hamstring injury, so it’s his second one this season so it’s not great.”

The game’s only goal came when Goodwin played a one-two with Joshua Cavallo, skipped past Victory defenders Storm Roux and Dylan Ryan and slid a clinical finish past Matt Acton, before celebrating with Adelaide’s impressive contingent of travelling fans.

Scrappy Port scrape home over Collingwood

A gritty Port Adelaide victory could help set up their AFL premiership tilt, Power coach Ken Hinkley says.

Last year’s preliminary finalists scrapped their way to a one-point win against lowly Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday and move to 7-3.

It followed a week where they were lashed as flat-track bullies after suffering a rare loss at home to the red-hot Western Bulldogs – their third defeat of 2021 against a legitimate flag contender.

Hinkley was simply relieved to win the hard way, despite the Power playing well below their best against the 2-8 Magpies.

“We’re fifth on the ladder and we get a bit of a break on some of the other teams in the comp,” Hinkley said.

“At the end of the season, we’re not going to sit back and go ‘gee, you played bad against Collingwood at the MCG’.

“That’s somewhat disrespectful to the opposition because they’ve had enough stuff thrown at them.

“There’s no messing around, we didn’t play our best footy.

“We’re going to have to get better, and if we don’t get better, we won’t contend when it matters.”

Hinkley admitted his team was playing too defensively and something needed to change heading into the final term.

It worked as Port kicked four goals – as many as they kicked in the previous three quarters.

“Let’s just go after this a little bit and take some risks in the game, that we had to take,” Hinkley said.

– with AAP and Reuters

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