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What we know today, Friday May 28


All Victorians will be banned from travelling into South Australia from this evening, as the Melbourne coronavirus outbreak grows to 30 cases.

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SA shuts border to all of Victoria

South Australia will this evening shut its border to people in regional Victoria, meaning all Victorians will be banned from travelling into SA

Anyone who has travelled from regional Victoria into South Australia from May 26 will be required to isolate and get tested on days one, five and 13.

They will also be banned from attending COVID-safe events, including football matches at Adelaide Oval.

Only people living within 70-kilometres of the border will be allowed to travel into South Australia.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told reporters at 4.30 this afternoon that he would sign the new directions within the following two hours.

It comes after South Australia shut its border to people in the Greater Melbourne area on Wednesday in response to a coronavirus outbreak, which has today grown to 30 cases.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she advised Stevens to make the directions after receiving information from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

“The whole of Victoria is required now to have a stay-at-home order and so this direction from South Australia better supports the requirements that Victoria’s requiring of its citizens, and that’s for both metropolitan and regional Victoria,” she said.

“The other reason for this is we’ve had a little bit more opportunity to look at the wastewater testing and the testing of COVID along the border in those regional areas in Victoria and it would be absolutely expected that Victoria would focus those resources on the metropolitan area and Bendigo, because that’s where the exposure sites have been.

“The wastewater testing and testing on that border area – that is the information we need – they are not doing so much coverage of that at this point in time.

“This is not a criticism of Victoria but we take that into account when we’re making this decision.”

Spurrier said about 21,000 people who are in South Australia and who recently travelled to Victoria have completed a survey asking whether they visited an exposure site.

She said SA Health’s Communicable Disease Control Branch had made contact with 320 people who are considered close contacts and who are currently in quarantine.

They include people who attended the Port Adelaide versus Collingwood AFL match at the MCG on Sunday.

“We haven’t got hold of absolutely everybody who are considered at high risk from the MCG, but that being said, even though my team hasn’t been able to get hold of everybody, the majority of those people have had at least one negative test, so I really am grateful for that, so thank you very much,” Spurrier said.

SA Pathology conducted 8297 tests yesterday.

– Stephanie Richards

SA Labor promises Indigenous statues

SA Labor will spend $1 million on new statues and monuments celebrating the state’s Aboriginal heritage and history if the party wins the next state election.

Labor leader Peter Malinauskas says if elected next year, his government will consult with South Australians to identify the first six Aboriginal leaders to be commemorated in its first term in office.

It will also work with local councils on co-funding the projects and to find prominent homes for the new pieces.

The Labor leader said statues and monuments at the centre of towns and cities were almost exclusively related to those who colonised Australia.

He said they ignored one of the greatest treasures in the world, the oldest living culture on the planet.

“It’s time for our statues and monuments to celebrate those whose history dates from tens of thousands of years in the past and lives on today,” Malinauskas said on Friday.

Federal Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney welcomed the commitment as a celebration of SA’s rich Aboriginal history.

“Emerging Aboriginal leaders will know that in decades and centuries to come, future generations will walk past their legacy and likeness and remember them,” she said.

Kaurna elder Jeffrey Newchurch said young Indigenous people needed to see their leaders and heroes so they could walk in their footsteps and achieve even greater things.

NSW deputy premier sues FriendlyJordies

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro – fed up with being called corrupt and a “greasy Ned Kelly” – is suing Google and the man behind YouTube channel FriendlyJordies.

Entertainer Jordan Shanks-Markovina, whose channel boasts more than 130 million views, is also accused of falsely making out the NSW Nationals leader has blackmailed councillors and pocketed millions stolen from a local government.

The videos in question have greatly injured Barilaro’s personal and professional reputation, according to a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court on Thursday.

“(He) has been and will be brought into public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt,” the document reads.

The MP is of Italian heritage and his hurt and harm has been aggravated by Shanks-Markovina’s “vile and racist attack” in the videos.

In one video, the entertainer refers to Barilaro as a “big, fat, wog c***”, “greasy Ned Kelly” and “a conman to the core, powered by spaghetti”.

The NSW Nationals leader also complains that he was given no opportunity to respond to the allegations in the videos.

Both clips – titled “bruz” and “Secret Dictatorship” and published in September and October 2020 – were online on Friday and had garnered almost one million views in total.

His solicitors sent Shanks-Markovina and Google letters in December 2020, demanding the videos be taken down due to their alleged defamatory nature.

The videos were also subject of another letter in January that asked whether Google “seriously suggested it was acceptable to continue to publish” the allegedly racist attacks.

“No response was ever received to the letter,” the statement of claims says.

NSW Labor leader quits

The NSW Labor opposition is without a leader after Jodi McKay announced her resignation in a tearful press conference.

The party may now face a bruising and lengthy leadership contest if more than one candidate puts up their hand to replace McKay.

The party is divided, with McKay’s allies blaming her fall on bullying and the former opposition leader alleging destabilisation from within.

McKay, who has been opposition leader since mid-2019, on Friday said she was quitting to unite the party despite retaining the support of the majority of her parliamentary colleagues.

“If a ballot was held today I can tell you I would win,” she told reporters.

“But it is clear that although I was elected in a democratic ballot there are those within our party that have never accepted the outcome of that process.

“There has to be a future where there is no destabilising of the party’s leader from within.”

A supporter of McKay said the leader had endured constant backgrounding and white-anting.

“The question is now whether you give in to the bullies,” they said.

McKay’s likely replacement Chris Minns has not yet announced his intention to run but thanked McKay for putting Labor first.

“I intend to continue talking to my colleagues in the Labor caucus, Party and movement about how we unify and win the confidence of the people of NSW,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Ex-opposition leader Michael Daley is also considering a run for the leadership.

Qantas flags vaccine travel incentives

Qantas could soon offer frequent flyer points and other incentives to Australians who get the coronavirus vaccine.

The airline has flagged an incentive scheme to boost vaccination rates and reopen state and international borders.

Travel vouchers and credits could also be up for grabs.

“As a large company that relies on travel to put our people and planes back to work, we’re obviously motivated to help with the national vaccine effort,” Qantas customer officer Stephanie Tully said this morning.

“We’re still thinking through how this would work, but the incentive could be Qantas points, Qantas or Jetstar flight vouchers, or status credits for frequent flyers.”

The national carrier is expected to offer about 1000 Qantas points to people who get vaccinated, which equates to between $20 to $25 in value.

Qantas is a big supporter of Australia’s vaccine rollout because of what it means for public health, but also because it’s the key to keeping our domestic borders open and safely restarting international travel as well,” Tully said.

ATO crackdown on crypto-traders

Cryptocurrency traders who think they’re living in a faceless high-tech world will soon get a letter from the tax office.

Australian Taxation Office data has captured a dramatic increase in trading since the beginning of 2020, with more than 600,000 taxpayers now dabbling in crypto-assets.

They’ll be slugged with penalties and audits if gains are not declared at tax time.

“We are alarmed some taxpayers think the anonymity of cryptocurrencies provides a licence to ignore their tax obligations,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said.

“While it appears cryptocurrency operates in an anonymous digital world, we closely track where it interacts with the real world through data from banks, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency online exchanges to follow the money back to the taxpayer.”

The ATO then matches data to tax returns to make sure investors are paying the right amount of tax.

The tax office will be writing to about 100,000 taxpayers with cryptocurrency assets explaining their tax obligations and urging them to review their previously lodged returns.

The ATO also expects to prompt almost 300,000 taxpayers as they lodge their 2021 tax return to report their cryptocurrency capital gains or losses.

Businesses or sole traders paid cryptocurrency for goods or services will have these payments taxed as income based on the value of the cryptocurrency in Australian dollars.

Fatal crash at Humbug Scrub

A man has died after crashing into a tree at Humbug Scrub in the Adelaide Hills this morning.

Police say they were called to Kersbrook Road near the One Tree Hill roundabout around 6am following reports a Toyota four-wheel-drive had collided with a tree after leaving the road.

The driver, a 58 year-old Yattalunga man, died at the scene.

He is the 45th death on South Australian roads this year, compared to 44 at the same point last year.

Car chase ends with crash in CBD

Elsewhere overnight, police were led on a car chase through the Adelaide CBD which ended on Waymouth street when the driver of an allegedly stolen Ford Ranger crashed into a police car and then a tree in Light Square.

Police say they first spotted the car in Brompton around 11:55 pm last night before it took off through Pym Street, South Road, Hanson Road and then Woodville Road before heading into the city.

After reaching the CBD, police say the car travelled around the backstreets of Goodwood, then west to Glandore, South Plympton, Morphettville and then Glenelg, before going north up Tapleys Hill Road and then back into the city.

According to police, the car then began doing loops around Franklin, Pulteney, Gouger, King William and Wakefield Street in the city prior to being spiked on Currie Street and crashing on Waymouth Street.

Police say no one was injured in the crash.

The driver has been charged with illegal use of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving to escape police pursuit, driving disqualified and breaching bail.

He is scheduled to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today and has been refused bail.

Four new cases in Victoria

Victoria has recorded four new locally acquired cases of coronavirus on the first day of a seven-day, statewide lockdown.

The new cases, confirmed by the Department of Health on Friday, brings the number of cases linked to the Whittlesea cluster to 30.

There were also two new cases in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 39.

A record 47,462 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to Friday morning, while 17,223 received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ghan passengers kicked off train and bused back to Adelaide

Dozens of passengers have been booted off a train in outback South Australia and bused back to Adelaide overnight after the Northern Territory closed its border to Melbourne and Bendigo.

The Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin was forced to make a pit stop at Marla, 970km northwest of the SA capital, on Thursday.

Thirty-two guests from Greater Melbourne and Bendigo, who boarded the Ghan on Wednesday, were taken off the train and put on a bus back to Adelaide.

Journey Beyond, the operator of the iconic outback rail service, said it would ensure the group was provided overnight accommodation upon arrival.

“Effected guests on the south-bound Ghan Expedition who disembarked in Alice Springs and those on the Indian Pacific disembarking in Adelaide will also be accommodated overnight,” Journey Beyond said in a statement.

“We appreciate our guests’ experience have been significantly impacted through no fault of their own, or ours, and we are working to help manage their individual circumstances as best as possible.”

South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said a number of passengers had been at high-risk exposure sites in Victoria.

“My understanding was that they would require quarantine at Alice Springs, and then my team has been working through the rest of the passengers,” Spurrier told reporters on Thursday.

“I can’t tell you the exact plans but I know that my team within SA Health has that under control.”

Vaccine plea as Victorians awake to fourth lockdown

Victorians are this morning waking up to their state’s fourth COVID-19 lockdown as authorities urge people to get vaccinated.

Victoria’s seven-day statewide shutdown kicked in just before midnight on Thursday in a bid to contain the 26-case City of Whittlesea outbreak in Melbourne which started in Adelaide’s Playford medi-hotel on North Terrace.

More than 10,000 primary and secondary close contacts are in isolation, and there are more than 150 exposure sites listed on the Victorian Government’s website.

People are now only able to leave home for five reasons – to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they are unable to from home, and to get vaccinated.

To allow more Victorians to get the jab, those aged 40 to 49 are now eligible for the sought-after Pfizer vaccine.

“The vaccine is really our only ticket out of this,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.

Some people waited on hold for hours on the state’s coronavirus hotline to secure a booking on Thursday.

Victoria Health said it was flooded with over 77,000 calls in a 15-minute window but “technical issues” had since been resolved.

Other all-too-familiar rules Victorians now find themselves living under include a five-kilometre travel limit for exercise and shopping, and compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors.

All non-essential retail is closed but essential stores like supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies will remain open, with shopping limited to one person per day, per household.

Child care and kindergartens will stay open but schools have been forced to return to remote learning for most students, with state-run institutions given a pupil-free day on Friday to prepare for the switch.

The lockdown has again raised questions about the capability of Victoria’s contact tracing system, which was partially blamed for the state’s second 112-day lockdown.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was “absurd” to suggest contact tracing was failing.

Hundreds gathered outside Flinders Street Station on Thursday night to protest the latest shutdown before the stay-at-home rules came into effect.

Liberal Democratic Party MP David Limbrick, previously fined for attending an anti-lockdown protest last November, was among those to address demonstrators.

The lockdown is set to end at 11.59pm on June 3, although Acting Premier James Merlino said it could end earlier.

Merlino said he had faith in the state’s contact tracing team but the Indian variant of the virus was “running faster than we have ever recorded”.

SA COVID test rates surge as authorities look to manage demand

South Australia’s daily COVID testing rates have surged to their highest levels in three months as authorities look to manage demand with longer operating hours and more clinics opening for testing.

SA Health conducted 7042 COVID-19 tests on Thursday – the most recorded in the state since February 12 when Victoria was dealing with an earlier COVID outbreak.

The numbers came after recently returned travellers from Victoria flocked to testing sites across the state, resulting in wait times of up to three hours at Adelaide’s main drive through testing facility in Victoria Park and causing traffic delays in the CBD.

Similar wait times are also observed at the drive-through testing facility at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and the Repat Health Precinct in Daw Park.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said Commonwealth-run GP respiratory clinics in SA would soon be opening their doors to test people for COVID even if they do not have symptoms.

“Generally, when we don’t have problems, those GP respiratory clinics will only test you if you have symptoms,” Spurrier said.

“But I’ve sent a request through to the Commonwealth to ask for those to be switched over to accept asymptomatic testing.”

Premier Steven Marshall defended the State Government’s preparedness for the testing surge despite frustration from those waiting in line.

“We’ve kept a very very good capacity across our testing facilities in South Australia,” Marshall told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re able to flex up, we were able to extend those hours [on Wednesday] and we’ll do that again today.

“I was very pleased that we conducted more than 7500 tests from a standing start … when we didn’t anticipate that we would be anywhere near that.”

There are 124 people in South Australia who have been identified as “close contacts” of positive cases in Victoria and are currently completing 14-days quarantine.

Of those, 104 have already returned negative day one test results.

Spurrier said SA Health is still waiting to hear from around 30,000 travellers from Victoria who have returned to South Australia since May 6.

SA Health has sent those travellers text alerts with a survey asking them whether they have been to any of Victoria’s exposure sites, with Spurrier urging those who have yet to respond to do so “as soon as possible”.

AFL calls play on for Friday night blockbuster

The AFL has switched two games to Sydney this weekend but is pressing ahead with tonight’s top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs despite Victoria’s lockdown.

Adelaide’s away game against Richmond at the MCG on Sunday will now be played at Giants Stadium in western Sydney, while Gold Coast’s match against Hawthorn – originally scheduled for Darwin – will now be played at the SCG on Saturday night.

All other games will proceed as scheduled, just with no crowds at Victorian venues.

Crows coach Matthew Nicks said the venue change would not affect his team’s preparation for the match.

“Obviously [there’s] no crowd there, [Richmond] do have quite a large following and the MCG is a place that you’d love to play as a young group because you get one or two games a year there,” Nicks told reporters on Thursday.

“So we miss out on that but at the moment we totally understand the AFL are working hard to play these games of footy in trying … times.”

The Crows could face more fixture difficulties next week with Victoria-based Collingwood scheduled to fly into Adelaide despite South Australia’s hard border with Greater Melbourne.

Melbourne’s blockbuster against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Friday night will go ahead despite a Demons player attending a COVID-exposed site.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said all Melbourne players and staffers have been tested for COVID-19 and were isolating while awaiting results.

The Demons player at risk will undertake a mandatory 14-day isolation period.

The shifted games were unable to be held at their original venues because of travel restrictions imposed by various state governments.

The start time for Port Adelaide’s fixture against Fremantle on Sunday at the Adelaide Oval has also been pushed back 30 minutes to give the game’s umpires more time to prepare.

“The changes this week have been necessary to best deal with the evolving situation in Victoria and we thank the Victorian state government for allowing us to proceed with matches minus crowds,” McLachlan said.

“The changes are in place for this round only and the AFL will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days before making any decisions on future rounds.”

McLachlan said hubs were “not yet” a consideration but that could change should the lockdown fail to contain the outbreak in Victoria.

“We’ve got nine games scheduled for this weekend and we’re looking ahead to the next two or three rounds, but they will be determined by what happens in the coming week,” he added.

Australians back aged care levy: study

Most Australians back a levy for an aged care system that few have confidence in, a new study says, despite the Morrison government’s $17.7 billion package to fix the system in the budget.

A study of more than 3200 people by the Australian National University found more than four-in-five (85.4 per cent) back a levy to improve the aged care system.

The royal commission into aged care – which was scathing of conditions in the sector – had recommended a levy, but this has been ruled out by the government.

A third of those in favour of a levy believe this should be paid by all taxpayers.

ANU’s Nicholas Biddle said the findings seem to imply Australians back any effort to improve aged care with extra funding.

The study found just 1.8 per cent of respondents had a great deal of confidence in the aged care system, while just under a third said they had quite a lot of confidence.

But more than half said they did not have very much confidence in the system, while a further 12 per cent said they had no confidence at all.

“Our study paints a very timely, and sadly very bleak, picture of the state of aged care according to Australians and our overall faith in a system that has come under close scrutiny in recent years,” Biddle said.

“It is very troubling that only five per cent of Australians said they would definitely recommend a young person work in the industry.”

One-in-10 people aged 45 years or over – which made up 70 per cent of all respondents – said they worried a lot about becoming a burden to their family in later life.

Just less than half said they worry sometimes.

More people were confident (45 per cent) or very confident (11.1 per cent) about being able to afford aged care services at home than being able to afford aged care services in a facility – where 29.1 per cent were concerned and 5.4 per cent were very concerned.

England’s reopening may be delayed by COVID variant: PM

England may need to wait longer than planned before COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted as the Indian COVID-19 variant spreads rapidly in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned.

Johnson had previously laid out a roadmap out of lockdown for England, with all restrictions to end on June 21, but warned that the swift spread of the variant could threaten that plan.

Next steps would depend on how robust the country’s “vaccine fortifications” against the variant were, according to the prime minister.

“I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the roadmap but we may need to wait,” Johnson said.

The UK government manages lockdown restrictions for England while devolved authorities for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland take their own decisions.

Weekly figures showed there were nearly 7000 confirmed cases of the variant B.1.617.2 in the UK – double last week’s total.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament that a formal assessment would be made on June 14 as to whether restrictions could be lifted on June 21.

“We will only do that if it’s safe,” he told parliament.

Later at a news conference, Hancock said up to three-quarters of new coronavirus cases were B.1.617.2.

On Saturday, Public Health England (PHE) said two shots of COVID-19 vaccine were almost as effective against B.1.617.2 as they were against the earlier “Kent” variant, which Hancock said at the time increased his confidence that restrictions would be lifted next month.

Asked why the economy’s reopening would be jeopardised by the variant if COVID-19 vaccines still worked against it, Hancock said that not everyone had taken up vaccines they were eligible for.

Hancock also said that 10 per cent of people hospitalised with the new variant had been double vaccinated – a sign that vaccines work well but not perfectly.

“We already knew this but we’re better able to calibrate as we see these data,” he said.

“We will learn more about this over the forthcoming week or two, before we make an assessment.”

Facebook ends ban on ‘man-made virus’ posts

Facebook will no longer remove posts that claim COVID-19 was man-made, following renewed debate over the origins of the virus and a fresh intelligence push from the US Government.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

“We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.”

The rule change comes after US President Joe Biden announced he has ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus.

He said on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

Social media companies have faced pressure to combat health misinformation on their sites during the pandemic.

Facebook has said it has removed more than 16 million pieces of content for breaking rules on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.

The company announced in February that it had expanded the types of claims it would remove from its platforms, including that the virus was man-made.

-With AAP and Reuters

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