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What we know today, Tuesday June 15

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South Australia will reopen its border to regional Victoria today, but travellers will be required to get tested and isolate until they return a negative result.

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SA reopens border to regional Victoria

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that from today, only people in Melbourne will be barred from entering South Australia.

People from regional Victoria who cross into South Australia will be required to undertake a PCR test on day one of their trip and isolate until they return a negative result.

Marshall said the transition committee was still concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak in Greater Melbourne, with two new local cases reported this morning.

He said he was unsure whether South Australia would reopen the border to Melbourne before the July school holidays.

“I’m hoping that we can lift those restrictions because obviously we don’t want to have them in place for one day longer than we need to,” he said.

“We’ve also got to make sure that we’re protecting our state here in South Australia.

“We’re enjoying a very enviable position.”

Marshall said the transition committee did not make any decisions to lift internal restrictions in South Australia.

Australia reaches in-principle trade agreement with UK

Scott Morrison will announce an in-principle agreement towards an Australia-UK free trade deal after meeting with Boris Johnson to finalise the details.

The pair worked through outstanding issues over dinner at 10 Downing Street overnight.

“Their agreement is a win for jobs, businesses, free trade and highlights what two liberal democracies can achieve while working together,” a spokesman for the prime minister told AAP.

“Both PMs will make a formal announcement on Tuesday morning in London and release further information.

The deal will pave the way for more Australians to live and work in Britain and offer exporters more market options.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the agreement would help “South Australian winemakers and other agricultural producers and small businesses across the country [get] back to having fairer, more open access to the big market of the UK”.

Ahead of the formal announcement, the prime minister practised his free trade pitch before an audience of business leaders in London.

“As the United Kingdom moves into a completely new generation of their trading relationships with the world, who better to start that journey with than Australia?” Morrison said.

He described the effect of the UK joining the European common market in the 1970s as a devastating blow to Australian producers.

“The Brexit that has occurred is an opportunity for us to pick up where we left off all those many years ago and to once again realise the scale of the trading relationship we once had.”

Several key sticking points needed to be overcome before the agreement could be reached.

Agriculture firmed as the major obstacle, with consensus on Australian beef and lamb exports proving particularly elusive.

British dairy farmers were also sceptical about the deal.

Australian officials described negotiations as tough and the two trade ministers were in daily contact for more than a week.

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said Labor had concerns about agricultural exports and visa conditions for farm workers, which the party would work through in time.

Swimming board to meet amid culture furore

Swimming Australia’s board will soon meet as Olympic stars try to ignore a widening culture controversy in the sport.

Swimming Australia’s board will convene on Tuesday, a day after the governing body’s ethics and integrity committee also met to discuss claims of a sexist culture in swimming.

The furore was triggered by Maddie Groves, who claimed on social media there were “misogynistic perverts in the sport” when announcing her withdrawal from Australia’s Olympic selection trials in Adelaide.

Swimming Australia will form an independent all-female panel to investigate Groves’ claims and any wider issues of culture problems in elite swimming.

But Groves is still yet to respond to calls and emails from the Swimming Australia hierarchy.

The governing body has urged any swimmer with concerns to come forward.

Swimming Australia chief executive Alex Baumann has said the independent panel would soon be formed to investigate any claims of abuse.

Asked on Sunday if the nation’s elite swim program had systemic problems regarding treatment of female swimmers, he replied: “I don’t think we do.

“But this is what we are setting up to really try to find, so we’re setting up this panel to exactly take a look at that.”

Biloela family to be reunited in Perth

A Tamil asylum-seeker family from Biloela that has been on Christmas Island for two years will be reunited on the Australian mainland.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has decided to allow the Sri Lankan family to reside in the Perth community.

“In making this determination I am balancing the government’s ongoing commitment to strong border protection policies with appropriate compassion involving children in held detention,” he said today.

“The family will now reside in suburban Perth through a community detention placement, close to schools and support services, while the youngest child receives medical treatment.”

Hawke said his decision to release the family from detention did not create a pathway to granting visas.

“As required by court orders, I will consider at a future date whether to lift the statutory bar presently preventing members of the family from reapplying for temporary protection, for which they have previously been rejected,” he said.

The Murugappan family, who had arrived by boat and established their home in the central Queensland town of Biloela, was put in immigration detention upon their visa expiry in 2018.

They were then transferred to Christmas Island in August 2019 after getting a reprieve from deportation.

The family’s plight re-entered the spotlight after four-year-old Tharnicaa was flown to the mainland for medical treatment.

Tharnicaa’s mother Priya is with her at Perth Children’s Hospital but her father and older sister are still on Christmas Island.

The head of the Western Australian health department wrote to the Department of Home Affairs last week advising the Murugappan family be reunited in Perth.

It was not a plea for compassion but based on the clinical advice of Tharnicaa’s treating doctors that she must be with family.

Her treatment for pneumonia and sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection, could take up to eight weeks.

Home delivered jabs a boost for vaccination rates

A plan to allow GPs to give coronavirus vaccinations in the home, a surge in demand for the jab and more access is increasing confidence that the bulk of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccinations can be delivered by the end of the year.

Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday announced an agreement that will see GPs receive a fee for delivering jabs to the frail, elderly or immobile in their own home.

It’s expected the program will help complete the first phase of the vaccination program, reaching people who could not get to a GP surgery or state clinic or initially declined to get a shot.

Over coming months, the amount of vaccine available and the number of places to get a jab are set to considerably ramp up.

But in the short term, the federal government is working with Victoria, which in some areas has had to pause bookings and walk-in appointments due to heavy public demand.

Hunt said in the final quarter of the year a further 800 GPs and the pharmacy network would be given the Moderna vaccine to deliver.

The federal government has ordered 25 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with 10 million doses available this year and 15 million doses of its updated variant booster vaccine candidate expected to be delivered in 2022.

This will come on top of the locally made AstraZeneca and imported Pfizer doses.

The minister said the government now had a “clear line of sight” in terms of AstraZeneca dose supplies, while Pfizer had indicated supplies would grow over the next two months.

“It’s good but we want it to be better,” Hunt said of the rollout.

All Australians aged over 70 will get a letter over the next week from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and Hunt encouraging them to come forward for a jab if they have not already done so.

“The older you are, the higher the risk. Every Australian can play their part,” Hunt said.

So far almost 5.9 million vaccinations have been given nationally, with Tasmania leading the rate of jabs per 100 people.

But on average only 4.2 per cent of people across the states have so far received a second dose, according to covid19data.com.au.

Victoria recorded two new local cases of COVID-19 on Monday, both children who are close contacts of previous cases and have not been in the community while infectious.

There were no cases reported in South Australia yesterday.

China branded a security risk by NATO

NATO leaders say China is presenting “systemic challenges” in a summit communique that marks a forceful stance for the Western military alliance.

In a diplomatic victory for US President Joe Biden, who has urged his fellow NATO leaders to stand up to China’s authoritarianism and growing military might, the final statement branded China a security risk to the Western alliance.

The language, which will now set the path for alliance policy, comes a day after the Group of Seven rich nations issued a statement on human rights in China and Taiwan that Beijing said slandered its reputation.

“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” NATO leaders said in a communique after their summit on Monday.

Biden also told European allies the alliance’s mutual defence pact was a “sacred obligation” for the United States – a marked shift in tone from his predecessor Donald Trump, who had threatened to withdraw from the alliance and accused Europeans of contributing too little.

“I want all Europe to know that the United States is there,” Biden said. “NATO is critically important to us.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Africa meant nuclear-armed NATO had to be prepared.

“China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see China in Africa, but we also see China investing heavily in our own critical infrastructure,” he said, a reference to ports and telecoms networks.

“We need to respond together as an alliance.”

UK pushes back re-opening amid Delta outbreak

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has delayed his plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions by a month, warning that thousands more people might die if he does nothing because of the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

Under the final stage of a plan outlined by Johnson in February, he had hoped to lift most social restrictions on June 21, meaning pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and other hospitality venues could fully reopen.

That much-anticipated step was pushed back to July 19 on Monday.

“I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer,” Johnson told a news conference.

“As things stand, and on the evidence that I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks.”

The extra time would be used to speed up Britain’s vaccination program – already one of the world’s furthest advanced – by shortening the recommended time between doses for those aged over 40 to eight weeks from 12 weeks.

The situation would be reviewed on June 28, which could allow the reopening to be brought forward, although Johnson’s spokesman said that was considered unlikely.

In recent weeks there has been fast growth in new cases caused by the Delta variant, first discovered in India.

Health officials believe it is 60 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant strain and scientists have warned that it could trigger a third wave of infections.

On Monday, Britain recorded 7742 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths, taking the nation’s total number of deaths during the pandemic to 128,171 according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Aussie women smash clock at swim trials

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus has clocked the second-fastest women’s 200m freestyle ever at the Olympic selection trials in Adelaide after Kaylee McKeown dominated the women’s medley to claim another title.

Titmus achieved her feat last night just 24 hours after finishing within 0.44s of the 400m freestyle world record.

All this, with a dodgy shoulder.

“At the start of the week I was a bit worried, it was a bit sore,” Titmus, 20, said.

“But I am just managing it as best I can … it’s hanging in there, it’s getting the job done.”

With Emma McKeon trailing into second place, Titmus clocked one minute 53.09 seconds in the 200m final – 0.11s from the world record set in a super-suit by Italian Federica Pellegrini in 2009.

Titmus will carry gold-medal favouritism into next month’s Tokyo Games. So will compatriot McKeown.

Australia’s latest world record holder, McKeown fought fatigue on Monday yet still logged the fastest 200m individual medley in almost two years.

A night after setting a new 100m backstroke benchmark, McKeown – on just four-and-a-half hours sleep – streeted the medley field.

“That is probably the toughest thing I had to overcome … there was a lot of fatigue,” she said.

“I just did the best I could recovery-wise. I tried to get to sleep and I couldn’t, the adrenaline was still pumping.”

In the men’s 800m freestyle, Jack McLoughlin was the only swimmer inside the Olympic qualifying time.

Mack Horton, who missed selection to defend his 400m freestyle title on Tokyo, finished fifth – his only chance of making the Olympics is as a relay squad member.

– with AAP and Reuters

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