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What we know today, Tuesday June 1


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Nearly half of Vic aged care residents not fully vaccinated

Almost half of Victoria’s aged care residents have not received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine despite the state being in the grip of an outbreak, while the federal government also isn’t sure how many aged care staff have been immunised in the state and concedes national data is unreliable.

Senior health bureaucrat Caroline Edwards told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday that worker vaccination numbers were under-reported.

Officials said in Victoria – which has close to 50,000 aged care residents – that 44,333 have received one dose while 25,319 have had a second.

A 99-year-old Melbourne aged care resident and two staff have tested positive for coronavirus, forcing four facilities into high alert or lockdown.

Nationally, 153,641 out of about 183,000 aged care residents have received their first jab and 116,688 a second dose.

Edwards said 85 per cent had consented to a vaccine but some residents and families declined due to illness, being close to death or for other reasons.

“We respect all of those decisions,” she told the hearing.

Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said staff vaccination data was initially voluntary but providers were now required to give the federal government information.

“We have been working with the sector and the unions to ensure we have access to the data,” he said.

“As workers are progressively vaccinated, that reporting data will come to us via the aged care providers.”

Under sustained questioning from Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher, Senator Colbeck said nationwide 36,710 staff had received both doses.

But officials conceded a more accurate number would not be known until at least later in the week.

“It is a critical question – you should know the answer,” Senator Gallagher told the minister.

“It seems to me you have no urgency and no accountability for what’s going on.”

Of Australia’s 910 coronavirus deaths, 685 have been aged care residents.

The Morrison government is seeking advice on whether to mandate vaccines for all staff.

More vaccine data needed for Indian strain: CMO

Australia’s chief medical officer has warned real-world data will be needed to determine how effective one dose of the nation’s vaccines are against the Indian coronavirus strain.

Melbourne is in the midst of an outbreak of the variant, which has infected more than 50 people and plunged Victoria into lockdown.

A Public Health England study found last month two doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer were 88 per cent effective against the strain.

But that fell to 33 per cent three weeks after a single dose.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he was wary of the “pre-print” study because it had not been peer reviewed.

“Many of those articles have been proven to be false,” he told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday.

Professor Kelly said the data came from a laboratory study and real-world information was needed to determine effectiveness against the Indian strain.

“We don’t know. We will know when we’ve had more experience.”

He cited a different study in the British Medical Journal, which reported both vaccines were 80 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisations after a single dose.

Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy defended the effectiveness of a single dose.

“We don’t know. It may be the vaccines are less effective against the Indian variant after one or two doses,” he said.

“The point I was making, and this applies to all of the variants and vaccines, was that the first dose within weeks provides very good protection. That’s all the data we have.”

Professor Murphy said new strains could change vaccine efficacy.

“If in the Indian variant the vaccines are less effective after one dose, they’re probably less effective after two doses. We just don’t know that.”

Nine reaches deals with Google, Facebook

Nine has struck deals with tech giants Google and Facebook that will mean it gets paid for its news content.

The media company announced the deals in a statement to the ASX on Tuesday.

Facebook will pay Nine for news video clips and access to digital news articles on Facebook news products. The deal will initially last for up to three years.

The parties have agreed on a minimum amount to be paid under the deal.

Nine will supply news content to Google for its News Showcase and other news products, while Google will do more marketing across Nine’s platforms.

Nine says the amount payable is a fixed annual fee with modest growth in the early years.

Nine’s own newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are reporting that the deals are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Porter still faces serious allegation: ALP

Scott Morrison is under renewed pressure to launch an independent inquiry into a decades-old rape allegation against Christian Porter, which he denies.

Labor wants an independent investigation while the Australian Greens want an independent commission of inquiry into the claims made by a woman who is deceased.

Both parties also want any inquiry to look at whether Mr Porter is a fit and proper person to be a minister.

It comes after Mr Porter announced on Monday he could not proceed with his defamation action against the ABC, which first reported the claim dating back to 1988.

The former attorney-general, who took mental health leave earlier this year after outing himself as the person referred to in the story, now serves as industry minister.

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said there was a need for an independent inquiry now Mr Porter had dropped the legal action against the broadcaster and reporter Louise Milligan.

“The government were touting this as the means by which there would be some form of independent inquiry,” Mr Marles told Sky News on Tuesday.

“There are very serious allegations. There is a cloud there which should be resolved for everyone concerned, not least for Christian Porter himself.”

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham responded that NSW Police had already investigated. The woman had declined to be interview by police.

The broadcaster will pay the cost of mediation during the case, but no damages will be paid.

Return of ‘ring of steel’ considered for Melbourne

A return to the so-called “ring of steel” separating Melbourne and regional Victoria is not off the table if the state’s lockdown drags out beyond seven days.

Acting Premier James Merlino warned the outbreak could get worse before it gets better, as three of 11 new cases reported on Monday were linked to a Melbourne aged care home.

Merlino said it was too early to tell if the statewide lockdown would be extended beyond 11.59pm on Thursday, saying the next few days would be critical.

None of Victoria’s 60 active cases reside in the regions, although several of the state’s more than 320 exposure sites are outside the city.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton could not rule out a return of the “ring of steel”, a series of road border checkpoints that stood for weeks last year as the regions recovered from the second wave quicker than Melbourne.

“It will be determined as we go through a review of the situation day by day. It is not out of the question,” he said.

A 99-year-old female resident at Arcare Maidstone was among three new cases on Monday linked to the facility in the city’s northwest.

She was within the area where a COVID-positive female healthcare employee worked, and has now been moved to hospital with mild symptoms.

The other two cases included the staffer’s son and an unvaccinated colleague, who also worked at BlueCross Western Gardens in Sunshine from Wednesday to Friday.

Contact tracers are yet to determine how the first worker caught the virus as authorities await a genomic sequencing report, expected to be finalised as early as Tuesday.

Serious road crash run continues

A run of crashes on South Australian roads has continued with a car hitting a tree near Yankalilla on the Fleurieu Peninsula last night.

Police and emergency services were called to Forktree Road, Wattle Flat, about 8.45pm after reports a Hyundai sedan had crashed into a tree.

The car’s two occupants were seriously injured with one airlifted and the other going by road to hospital.

The two males aged 20-years old from Morphett Vale and Moana were in a stable condition this morning.

It follows three deaths on country roads across the weekend.

A 20-year-old local man was pronounced dead at the scene after being found lying by the side of the Augusta Highway near Port Augusta on Sunday night.

Police said it appeared the man was struck by a vehicle travelling along the Augusta Highway.

About two hours later, a teenager was killed after a collision between a car and a motorbike near Mannum.

The motorbike rider, a 17-year-old local boy, died at the scene. The car driver, a 17-year-old Murray Bridge boy, was not physically injured but was taken to hospital as a precaution.

A cyclist was also killed when he was involved in a crash with a car on the Augusta Highway at Redhill on Saturday afternoon.

In a further incident, a pedestrian was hit by a truck on Portrush Road near the intersection of Stannington Avenue just before 7.30am on Monday morning.

The male pedestrian was taken to the RAH in a stable condition.

There have been 48 people killed on SA roads this year compared to 44 at the same time last year.

China boosts child limit to three to combat ageing population

Married Chinese couples may now have up to three children as the government looks to educate young people “on marriage and love” after recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country.

Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly aging population.

But that failed to result in a sustained surge in births given the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities, a challenge that persists to this day.

The policy change will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an ageing population”, the official Xinhua news agency said following a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.

Among those measures, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on “sky-high” dowries, it said, without giving specifics. It would also look to educate young people “on marriage and love”.

China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level.

Early this month, a once-in-a-decade census showed that the population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s, to 1.41 billion, fuelling concerns that China would grow old before it gets wealthy as well as criticism that it had waited too long to address declining births.

Fearing a population explosion, in 1979 China implemented its one-child policy, which succeeded in curbing population growth but also led to coerced sterilisations and sex-selective abortions that exacerbated a gender imbalance as many parents preferred male children.

Osaka quits French Open amid press conference furore

Tennis star Naomi Osaka has opened up about her struggles with depression while announcing her withdrawal from the French Open because of the furore caused by her boycott of media duties.

The world No.2 won her opening match against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday but her decision not to take part in press conferences or interviews has been the biggest talking point of the tournament.

The grand slams reacted strongly to Osaka’s move, releasing a joint statement on Sunday that, along with a fine of $US15,000, threatened her with potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments should she not reconsider.

Osaka wrote on Twitter: “Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago.

“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.”

Osaka said she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first slam title at the US Open in 2018, when she lifted the trophy to a chorus of boos after opponent Serena Williams was awarded a game penalty, and that talking to the media triggered anxiety.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” she continued. “More importantly, I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”

Meanwhile,  20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer returned to the grand slam stage with a 6-2 6-4 6-3 triumph over fellow veteran Denis Istomin.

Federer, who turns 40 in August, is playing in his first major tournament since last year’s Australian Open after two knee operations.

But it was a tough day for the Aussies with all four Australian players in action knocked out of the tournament.

Storm Sanders kept her promise to give it a “red hot go” against overwhelming favourite Elise Mertens at Roland Garros but the Queenslander was eventually overwhelmed after her early gale of winners had shocked the 14th seed.

Sydney wildcard Chris O’Connell was then left “devastated” after delivering a magnificent fightback from two sets down to drag American Tommy Paul into a final set dogfight, only to fall agonisingly short, losing the 63-minute decider 10-8.

Jordan Thompson was the next to fall, slogging away for over four hours and 23 minutes before losing to Spanish toiler Jaume Munar in four sets.

John Millman’s was forced to withdraw with a back injury minutes before being due to take to the court for his opening round match.

Veart faces ban over local referee criticism

Adelaide United coach Carl Veart could be fined or banned for his harsh criticism of referee Daniel Elder following last week’s 4-1 A-League loss to Sydney FC.

Adelaide’s Jordan Elsey was sent off for a second bookable offence just after the hour, with Sydney 3-0 up.

Veart was furious about the standard of refereeing from South Australian Elder, and he made his views well known in the post-match press conference.

“You’d think that in a game of such importance we would have got one of the top referees,” Veart said.

“But we get a South Australian referee that shows everyone he doesn’t want to be South Australian and goes harder against Adelaide United.

“He did it last time when we had him and he did it again.”

Veart has an opportunity to provide a submission to Football Australia by 5pm on Monday.

Fourth-placed Adelaide (38 points) will be back in action on Thursday when they host the eighth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers (34 points) in the final match of their regular season.

– with AAP and Reuters

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