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What we know today, Friday June 4

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The AFL has been asked to investigate claims Adelaide Crows players and staff breached COVID protocols on their flight home from Sydney last weekend.

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AFL set to probe Crows COVID breach claims

The AFL has been asked to investigate claims the Adelaide Crows breached COVID protocols on their flight home from Sydney last weekend.

The Crows played Richmond at Giants Stadium last Sunday and flew back to Adelaide straight after the match in western Sydney.

In a statement, the Club said they have asked the AFL to investigate “claims that several players and staff were not appropriately wearing masks on a return flight from Sydney last Sunday”.

The Club said it acknowledges government requirements for masks to be worn in airports and on all domestic flights.

“Our coaches, players and staff understand it is a privilege to be playing football during these times, as well as the need to adhere to protocols and guidance from health authorities,” the club said in a statement.

“The Club is fully cooperating with the League and awaits the findings of the investigation.”

The investigation was prompted by a caller on Triple M who was on the same flight as the Crows.

“When I got on the plane, we were all told we needed to wear a mask,” the listener told the Roo & Ditts program.

“The stewards told … the Crows team that had just got on that they need to put their mask on.

“As soon as they were told, they took them off – they totally disregarded everything.

“It was complete disregard for the welfare of everyone on board.”

The caller went on to say that stewards on the flight asked members of the squad to put their masks on but the players “didn’t comply with it”.

“There was a great deal of discomfort,” she said.

“I was sitting next to two elderly people who were going ‘they’re putting us at risk’.”

Premier Steven Marshall said he “hasn’t seen the specifics” of the claims and it would be best to wait and “find out exactly what has occurred”.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier declined to comment on the breach allegations, saying it was “an issue for the AFL”.

The scare comes after SA Health granted the Collingwood Football Club an exemption to enter South Australia on Saturday for their match against the Crows at Adelaide Oval.

Crows players and staff are also required to adhere to strict COVID protocols before and after the Collingwood game.

Players will be COVID tested 48 hours after the match and have restrictions on their movement until they record a negative test.

Variant of ‘significant concern’ in Vic outbreak

A new COVID-19 variant has emerged in Victoria’s outbreak, putting health authorities on alert.

Genomic sequencing from two cases in a West Melbourne family reveals they are infected with the Delta variant, which Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says has become the predominant variant in India.

“It is a variant of significant concern,” Sutton said.

It remains unclear how those family members, who also travelled to Jervis Bay in NSW, contracted the virus.

Three of Friday’s four new cases are linked to the family, taking that West Melbourne cluster to seven. The total number of infections in the current outbreak has reached 65. Prof Sutton says one person has recovered taking the number of active cases to 64.

The three new cases are two parents and a child, with another child in the same family returning an indeterminate test result – Prof Sutton thinks that will also become a positive case.

“It is a concern that it is not linked to other cases, but we are chasing down all those primary case contacts for that family and looking into where it might have been acquired,” Sutton said.

New NSW Labor leader

Michael Daley has withdrawn from running for the NSW Labor leadership, ensuring Chris Minns becomes the new opposition leader.

The NSW Labor caucus met on Friday in the NSW parliament, with Mr Daley withdrawing his candidacy for the party’s leadership.

Daley, who represents the seat of Maroubra, had previously insisted he had the 15 signatures needed to back his nomination.

Minns had already secured at least 23 votes from a caucus total of 50.

The caucus meeting was the first since Jodi McKay stepped down as Labor leader last week following a poor showing in the Upper Hunter by-election.

Labor MP Janelle Saffin told reporters after the meeting Mr Daley ultimately did not nominate for leadership, making Mr Minns the sole candidate.

He was thus elected unanimously.

Pell court breaches cost media $1 million

Media companies will be forced to pay more than $1 million in fines after publishing details of Cardinal George Pell’s child sexual abuse convictions in breach of court orders.

Supreme Court Justice John Dixon on Friday blasted a dozen companies for their “blatant and wilful defiance of the court’s authority” in banning publication of Cardinal Pell’s convictions.

The companies, including The Age, Herald and Weekly Times, Mamamia, Geelong Advertiser and Nationwide News, pleaded guilty to contempt charges earlier this year.

Suppression orders at the time of Cardinal Pell’s conviction in December 2018 – since overturned by the High Court – was banned until February 2019 when a second trial was scrapped.

But several newspapers and websites published details referencing a guilty verdict in a high-profile Australian’s trial.

Companies agreed in February to pay $650,000 in prosecution costs and make a formal apology to County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd. They admitted 21 charges, whittled down from more than 100 initially.

Feds, Vics reach deal on quarantine facility

Victoria’s stand-alone virus quarantine facility will go ahead although the state and federal governments are yet to agree on where it will be built.

Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed on Friday he has signed a memorandum of understanding with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“I am very, very pleased that today we have an agreement, we are going to get cracking and deliver this facility,” Merlino told reporters.

But a site for the facility still hasn’t been decided, with a site at Mickleham, north of Melbourne, the state’s first option, while the federal government appears to favour Avalon Airport near Geelong.

“Our preference is Mickleham, we are very happy to have it at the Avalon site as well, it will work equally well there,” Merlino said.

He added now the proposal has Commonwealth approval, the Victorian government will now try to have the facility built more quickly than the current timeline.

Victoria this morning recorded four new locally acquired virus cases, taking the state’s COVID outbreak to 65.

SA prepares for India repat flight

A flight repatriating 150 Australians from India will arrive at Adelaide Airport today, as SA Health continues preparations within the state’s medi-hotel system.

The flight, scheduled to arrive at 1pm, is the first direct flight to arrive in South Australia from India since the federal government’s controversial travel ban came into force last month.

The arrivals, who have to undergo a pre-flight COVID test, will be quarantined at the Pullman Hotel near Grenfell Street.

Premier Steven Marshall said all arrivals will also be subject to a daily saliva test and a PCR test on day one, five, nine and 13 of their quarantine.

Any positive cases will be moved to the Tom’s Court Hotel and their close contacts isolated to mitigate transmission within the state’s quarantine system.

“We’ve also made sure that all of the staff that have come into contact with them have been retrained … just to make sure that we are absolutely abiding by every protocol we have regarding protective equipment,” Marshall told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re very concerned about the strain in India at the moment … but nevertheless we have as a national cabinet made sure we can identify the most vulnerable Australian citizens and then bring them back here.”

One person has already recorded a positive result on their pre-flight COVID test and has been removed from the flight.

The repatriation flight comes after revelations yesterday that there are more than 200 Australian children stranded in India.

There are almost 11,000 people in India wanting to return home including 1024 that are vulnerable.

The last flight that arrived in South Australia carrying passengers from India saw 14 cases recorded in South Australia’s medi-hotels two days later.

That flight, which arrived from Chennai via Kula Lumpar on April 24, also prompted the State Government to ask for a three-day reprieve on international flights from India.

Another international flight from Doha is due to arrive in Adelaide just before 9pm tonight.

Vic Health reverses call on ‘fleeting’ COVID cases

Two suspected “fleeting” transmission cases of coronavirus used to justify Melbourne’s lockdown extension have been declared false positives, giving hope restrictions may ease in Victoria earlier than scheduled.

Just hours before the city entered its second week of the shutdown on Friday, Victoria’s Department of Health revealed information that will prompt fresh scrutiny of the seven-day extension.

Health authorities initially thought a woman caught COVID-19 at a Metricon display home at Mickleham, and believed a man similarly picked up the virus at Brighton Beach Hotel.

That was not the case, with an expert panel review confirming neither was even infected.

The COVID-free pair and their primary close contacts will be released from isolation and any associated exposure sites stood down, including all in Anglesea along the Great Ocean Road.

The Metricon display home and Brighton Beach Hotel remain linked to other confirmed cases and will remain exposure sites.

Victoria’s health department explained authorities always enact immediate health measures for every positive case, with test results “re-run” alongside “further investigations and reviews” to confirm their “true nature”.

COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar cited up to five cases of suspected “stranger-to-stranger transmission” as evidence the Indian variant was more contagious and faster moving.

“People are brushing past each other in a small shop, they are going to display homes, they are looking at phones in a Telstra shop,” he said on Tuesday.

“This is very, relatively speaking, fleeting contact. They do not know each other’s names and that is very different from what we have seen before.”

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has repeatedly described the variant as a “beast”, while his deputy Allan Cheng estimates it is probably 50 per cent more infectious than the strain that led to the city’s 112-day lockdown last year.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has been critical of the “apocalyptic” language used to describe the Indian variant.

Aged care jabs on national cabinet agenda

Finishing the job of vaccinating aged care workers and residents for COVID-19 and slicing up the cost of support for families and business will be on the agenda when national cabinet meets today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced states and territories going into lockdown for more than seven days to deal with outbreaks will get access to disaster-style payments of up to $500 a week for affected residents.

Morrison and the premiers will discuss how to fund the scheme at the virtual meeting on Friday.

The options are a straight 50-50 split of costs, or one level of government funding business support while the other handles households.

In any case, support will start to flow to Victorians from Tuesday, with the amount depending on whether they are casual or full-time workers and how much they have in savings.

“What matters is that businesses get the support they need and households get the support they need and the politicians don’t need to have a discussion in public about how that is going to get done,” Morrison said.

“We just need to get on with it.”

The federal government is also looking at ways to find out how many aged care workers have been vaccinated, as states step in to boost the lagging Commonwealth rollout.

Because there are five pathways for staff to get their jabs there is no way of knowing how many have been vaccinated.

But aged care providers will be asked to gather the information from their staff.

The South Australian Government on Thursday opened all state-run vaccination clinics – including the hubs at Wayville, Elizabeth and Noarlunga – to bookings for aged care staff.

Anyone working in aged care facilities can have priority access to the Pfizer vaccine, with SA authorities preferring it over the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the shorter wait times between the first and second shots.

Premier Steven Marshall said the current proportion of aged care staff vaccinated in SA is “way too low”.

“There is an elevated risk within our residential aged care facilities and that’s why we’re wanting to get the staff there vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Biden reveals plans to share 25 million COVID jabs

President Joe Biden has laid out how the United States will share 25 million of a planned 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the rest of the world.

The United States will donate nearly 19 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine supply through the COVAX international vaccine sharing program, he said in a statement.

Through COVAX, 6 million doses would go to Latin America and the Caribbean, about 7 million doses to South and Southeast Asia and roughly 5 million for Africa.

The remaining doses, amounting to more than 6 million, would go directly from the United States to countries including Canada, Mexico, India and South Korea, he said.

“We are sharing these doses not to secure favours or extract concessions,” Biden said in a statement.

“We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values.”

Biden has come under pressure from the world community to share the US surplus of COVID-19 vaccines.

For months, the White House has remained focused on getting people in the US vaccinated after the coronavirus killed more than half a million people in the country within the last year.

But the president has promised that the US would become a supplier to other countries and pledged to send abroad at least 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca Plc doses he had already planned to give to other countries.

Adelaide United make A-League finals

Adelaide United have secured their place in the A-League finals with hard-fought 2-2 draw against a 10-man Western Sydney Wanderers at Coopers Stadium.

The draw ensures the Reds will play finals football but they won’t know their position on the table until the conclusion of the Macarthur-Wellington fixture on Friday night.

The Reds took an early lead but soon fell behind after two quick goals from the visitors.

A red card to Tass Mourdoukoutas late in the first half gave Adelaide some hope of salvaging the contest and their playoffs hopes.

United coach Carl Veart was satisfied his side achieved its goal of sealing a top-six berth.

“It’s been a long season and our goal was to make finals,” he said.

“We’ve achieved that but we’ve still got long way to go.”

Adelaide started hard and fast and after a handful of early chances took the lead on 12 minutes when Ziggy Gordon scored an own goal off a shot from Ryan Strain.

Ironically, Strain then put one into his own net to give the Wanderers an equaliser before Graham Dorrans volleyed the visitors into the lead.

The Reds were given a lifeline when Western Sydney defender Tass Mourdoukoutas was sent off late in the first half, placing United in the perfect position to stage a fightback after the interval.

Veart acknowledged his side would have to do much better in the finals if they are to progress after another patchy performance.

The Reds were in control from the first whistle until conceding the own goal against the run of play, but they almost gifted the Wanderers a third goal on two separate occasions.

Thomas Aqualina hit the woodwork minutes before Craig Goodwin’s equaliser, while keeper James Delianov passed straight to Jordon Mutch in the closing minutes but managed to keep out the one-on-one chance when it seemed certain the Wanderers midfielder would score.

“We started well, then had a bad patch in the middle and finished strongly,” Veart said.

“If we’re going to go a long way in the finals we can’t allow opposition teams back in games and it’s been an Achilles heel of ours all season.

“When we’ve been on top of games and haven’t closed them out.”

Injured Barty forced to exit French Open

Ash Barty is out of the French Open, beaten by a debilitating hip injury which forced her to retire during her second round match against Poland’s Magda Linette.

The world no.1’s bid to regain the title she won in 2019 ended in hugely anti-climactic circumstances on Thursday as she looked a shadow of herself on Court Philippe Chatrier, unable to move freely and in evident discomfort.

After losing the first set 6-1, Barty underwent a medical timeout to see if she could somehow battle through the match but, after a brief revival at the start of the second set, she had to offer her hand to Linette with the scores locked at 2-2.

It was a desperate end to Barty’s dream of winning back the title after giving her defence a miss in COVID-hit 2020 but the “acute” injury that she picked up in practice at the weekend proved too much.

Ultimately, though, she reckoned the “acute” injury that she picked up in practice at the weekend had made it “unsafe” for her to carry on.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

“We’ve had such a brilliant claycourt season, and to get a little bit unlucky with the timing of this injury, with something acute happening over the weekend and just running out of time, it’s disappointing.

“But It won’t take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.

“I’ve had my fair share of tears this week. It’s all good. Everything happens for a reason. There will be a silver lining in this eventually.”

It was a dire day for the Aussies elsewhere, with the nation’s number 1 men’s player Alex de Minaur knocked out by Italian Marco Cecchinato in four sets, while James Duckworth missed out on a third-round date with Novak Djokovic after crashing out to Lithuanian Ričardas Berankis.

-With AAP and Reuters

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