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What we know today, Friday June 25


NSW authorities have announced a lockdown for four Sydney council areas after the state recorded another 22 local cases of COVID-19.

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Sydney lockdown called as NSW records 22 new cases

NSW will enforce a lockdown for four Sydney council areas as the state records 22 new local cases of COVID-19.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian presented the numbers on Friday morning after a crisis meeting to review the growing amount of cases across the state.

Eleven of the cases were detected in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday night, six of which were already reported. There were 17 further infections which will be recorded in Saturday’s tally.

People who live or work in Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney will not be able to leave home for a week except for essential purposes.

These include work or education, shopping, providing care or outside exercise.

“If you live or work in those local government areas, you need to stay at home unless absolutely necessary,” Berejiklian said.

There are now 65 cases linked to the Bondi cluster that erupted in the city’s east last week.

The government had previously held off declaring a lockdown, instead preferring to restrict the movements of residents, increase mask wearing and limit social and other gatherings.

Berejiklian on Thursday warned the state was facing its “scariest” period since the pandemic began.

NSW Health has added several exposure sites including two cafes in Potts Point, two cafes in Alexandria and a health club in Bondi Junction to its list of venues of concern on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Labor delays Spence preselection amid legal threat

The SA Labor Party has agreed to a crucial delay in the preselection of its new candidate in the safe northern seat of Spence.

The party’s Right faction is backing Transport Workers Union official Matt Burnell for the plum preselection, but their plans have been complicated by strategic relations consultant Alice Dawkins, whose own nomination has forced a ballot of local members.

Dawkins stunned the party this week by threatening Supreme Court action, declaring in a legal letter that the preselection process was flawed and “anti-democratic”.

State secretary Reggie Martin is yet to comment on the matter, but Dawkins told InDaily today the party had agreed to postpone mailing out ballot papers to eligible voting members for a week.

However, she said, it is yet to respond to her substantive claims.

“Our team is confident in our legal argument,” she said today.

– Tom Richardson

Marshall rules out asking feds for quarantine funds

South Australia has ruled out increasing its intake of repatriated Australians, a requirement for attracting federal funds for a dedicated quarantine facility.

Premier Steven Marshall said in order to receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth, SA would be required to increase its weekly cap on overseas arrivals above the present level of 530.

He said that was something the State Government was not prepared to do.

“The feds are only interested in providing any support for beds if it is above the cap. We’ve made it crystal clear we’re not interested in doing that,” the premier said on Friday.

“We already believe we are taking more than our fair share, about eight per cent.

“That’s where we think the limit is. We’re not interested in increasing the risk further.”

The premier’s comment came after confirmation the Queensland government is considering a federal proposal for a mass COVID-19 quarantine facility near Brisbane Airport.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is offering to pay for the 1000-bed facility on the site of the Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba.

Under the proposal, the state government would build and operate the hub.

AFL take $15m COVID hit in last few weeks

The latest COVID-19 outbreaks have cost the AFL around $15 million over the past three weeks, league boss Gillon McLachlan has revealed.

With a surge of cases in NSW coming on top of a lockdown in Melbourne due to the pandemic, the AFL has been scrambling to relocate teams and games.

Crowd sizes have also been heavily impacted by restrictions, with fans capped at 25,000 at the MCG and Marvel Stadium this weekend before a planned boost to 85 per cent capacity next round.

McLachlan said it had come at a huge cost to the AFL.

“In between charter flights, the testing, the additional hotel rooms as players have been in these quarantine hubs going in and out of states, it’s worked out for three weeks at about 15 (million),” McLachlan told 3AW.

“It’s very expensive but right now it’s the only option.”

McLachlan said it was money that the league could never recover.

Fears Australians caught up in Florida building collapse

A number of Australians are believed to have been in a Florida residential tower when it collapsed.

Rescue crews are combing through rubble for anyone who may have survived the pre-dawn collapse of part of an oceanfront residential tower, with officials reporting at least one person found dead and nearly 100 more missing.

A fire official said 35 people were rescued from the building in Surfside, a seaside enclave of 5700 residents on a barrier island across Biscayne Bay from the city of Miami, including two who were pulled from the rubble as response teams used trained dogs and drones in the search for survivors.

An entire side of the 12-storey building gave way and fell to the ground around 1.30am on Thursday.

The building was home to a mix of people including families and part-time “snowbird” residents who spend the winter months in Florida.

Danny Rivero, a reporter from National Public Radio in South Florida, tweeted on Friday: “We’ve been told many Argentinians and Australians were in the building as well, and that all are unaccounted for. This is an international disaster.”

Two new COVID cases in Qld

Two new local coronavirus cases have been reported in Brisbane, but the State Government is more concerned about the risk posed by an outbreak in Sydney.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says both new cases were in quarantine during their infectious period and being closely monitored.

There are now seven cases in the Brisbane cluster, all of which are believed to be the Alpha variant.

Six of those cases became infected after being in contact with a flight attendant at the Portuguese Family Centre in Ellen Grove and at DFO in Brisbane on Saturday, before the woman tested positive.

Young says she’s more concerned about people from NSW bringing the Delta virus variant into the state.

“We are continuing to see cases in NSW, so it is really important, that we could have a case in Queensland any day,” she said.

“So please as Queenslanders have been doing for now the last 18 months if you have any symptoms at all, immediately come forward and get tested and isolate until you get a negative result.”

Vic quarantine facility gets green light

A purpose-built quarantine facility will be constructed in Melbourne’s north and will begin taking returned overseas travellers by the end of the year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday confirmed the 1000-bed facility will be constructed on the Commonwealth-owned land in Mickleham in Melbourne’s north, next to an existing quarantine facility for plants and animals.

It will, however, open when the first 500 beds are available.

‘I have asked my officials to prioritise this project and I want to see that all efforts are made to deliver the first stages of the facility by the end of 2021,” Morrison wrote in a letter to Acting Premier James Merlino.

“A facility with a 1000-bed capacity will increase the number of Australians that can return to Australia and provide options to assist in our economic recovery by enabling arrivals of international students, skilled migrants and other economic intakes into the medium term.”

The prime minister thanked Mr Merlino for the state government’s co-operation and partnership in delivering the project.

The state government had committed $15 million to get the project ready for construction.

They had estimated a 500-bed facility would cost $200m.

PM offers to fund Qld quarantine facility

The Queensland government is considering a federal proposal for a mass COVID-19 quarantine facility near Brisbane Airport.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is offering to pay for the 1000-bed facility on the site of the Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba.

Under the proposal, the state government would build and operate the hub.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office says she’s considering the offer.

“A letter was received last night,” a spokesman told AAP on Friday.

“The Queensland government is considering the contents of the letter.”

The Damascus Barracks is mainly used for storage, rather than being a traditional Australian Defence Force operating base.

The prime minister’s office is keen on the site as it’s close to the international airport.

It’s also near three major hospitals that are equipped to treat and isolate COVID-19 cases.

If the two governments can strike a deal, the new facility would be operating by early 2022.

A possible impediment to a deal is the issue of whether the proposed facility would replace or supplement hotel quarantine.

The Commonwealth insists mass quarantine should supplement the hotel quarantine program’s capacity.

But the Queensland government wants the Commonwealth to replace the hotel quarantine system.

SA reopens to Melbourne amid new COVID scare

South Australia has reopened its border to arrivals from Greater Melbourne this morning as Victorian health authorities search for the close contacts of a second COVID-19 case in the state linked to an outbreak in Sydney.

The border move will mean travellers from the Victorian capital can arrive in South Australia provided they isolate before undertaking a COVID test.

They are not required to isolate while waiting to receive a negative result, but are banned from attending high risk settings such as aged care and are not allowed to attend events with a COVID management plan that host more than 1000 people.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has said authorities are hoping to remove all requirements on arrivals from Melbourne by Wednesday.

From today, there are also no restrictions on movement for those who live in Victoria outside of Greater Melbourne.

South Australia recorded four new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine on Thursday, two of which are considered old infections.

The new Victorian case, who works at a dry-cleaning business in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Sandringham, returned a positive test late on Thursday afternoon.

His family has been isolated and are being tested, with the state’s public health department saying it is urgently trying to understand his movements and is analysing QR code data from the business.

The man was a close contact of another worker at the dry cleaners, a man from Oakleigh who tested positive on Wednesday after going to a party at his daughter’s house in West Hoxton in Sydney on Saturday night.

The party has since been declared a “super-spreader” event with more than 12 attendees having become infected.

The first case, who is aged in his 60s, returned to Melbourne on Jetstar flight JQ523 that left Sydney at 5.30pm on Sunday, with all passengers on the flight required to get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days.

Terminal four of Melbourne Airport is also now listed as a tier two exposure site for those there on Sunday evening.

NSW politicians isolating as state braces for more cases

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is among those isolating after state parliament was declared a potential exposure venue on one of its busiest days of the year, as Sydney residents brace for more COVID-19 cases associated with the growing Bondi cluster.

The positive coronavirus result for Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall on Thursday morning threw parliament into chaos, with many of the state’s leaders deemed contacts and hundreds of people potentially exposed.

South Australia remains closed to all travellers from NSW except those who live within 100km of the border between the two states.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian was tested and cleared on Thursday morning, as was Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

However, Nationals leader Barilaro on Thursday night revealed he had tested negative to the virus but had been deemed a close contact.

He will be tested at least twice more, he said, before he is released from isolation at midnight on July 6.

“I will continue to perform my duties as deputy premier while isolating and adhering to all health advice,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

NSW Health on Thursday afternoon warned anyone who visited parliament on Tuesday – state budget day – must monitor for symptoms.

Berejiklian on Thursday warned the state was entering its “scariest” period since the pandemic began.

A total of 11 new cases were announced on Thursday linked to the outbreak that began in Bondi last week that now stands at 36 infections.

All but one of the new cases are linked to a known case or cluster.

Despite widespread speculation that Sydney was on the brink of another lockdown, the premier instead flagged a police blitz to nab anyone defying tough new restrictions announced on Wednesday.

“Since the pandemic has started, this is perhaps the scariest period that NSW is going through,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“It is a very contagious (Delta) variant but at the same time we are at this stage comfortable that the settings that are in place are the appropriate settings, but that is so long as everybody does the right thing.”

Four Crows join club’s hall of fame

The Adelaide Football Club has inducted inaugural captain Chris McDermott, premiership captain Mark Bickley and players Tyson Edwards and Nigel Smart into the club’s hall of fame.

The four players who played a combined 988 games for the club were honoured at a gala ceremony at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.

They are only the second group to ever be inducted in the club’s hall of fame, following its creation in 2015 to mark the club’s 25th season.

They join dual Norm Smith medallist Andrew McLeod, Brownlow medallist Mark Ricciuto, 300-game players Simon Goodwin and Ben Hart, two-time premiership coach Malcolm Blight, inaugural chairman Bob Hammond and administrator Bill Sanders in the hall of fame, with the selection committee honouring those who make a “profound” contribution to the club.

McDermott joined the Crows as a 27-year-old after a long career with SANFL side Glenelg, and was Adelaide’s first ever captain when they took the field against Hawthorn in round one of 1991.

He was named to the All-Australian team and won the club’s best and fairest in 1992, and led the Crows in their first ever finals campaign in 1993.

Already a South Australian Football Hall of Fame member, the inaugural captain played a total of 117 games for the club.

Bickley took over captaining the team in 1997 for Adelaide’s first ever premiership, playing a total of 272 games including 102 as skipper.

The midfielder would later come back to the club in an assistant and caretaker coaching role.

Fellow midfielder Edwards is also a two-time premiership winner and played the second highest-number of games for the club, 321, during his 16-year career.

A fan favourite, he is a three-time members’ MVP as well as three-time best and fairest runner up.

Smart was a two time All-Australian who played 278 games for the club from its inaugural season through to 2004.

The first-ever Crow to reach 250 games, Smart has since moved on to become a board member and administrator at the Crows where he oversaw the development of the club’s AFLW side.

One dead, 99 missing after US apartment collapse

Part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Hundreds of fire and rescue workers have scoured through tonnes of rubble after a 12-storey oceanfront residential building partially collapsed in southern Florida, with at least one person dead and 99 still unaccounted for, officials say.

Sally Heyman, a Miami-Dade County Commissioner, said officials have been unable to make contact with 51 people who “supposedly” live in the building, home to a mix of people including families and part-time “snow birds” who spend the winter months in Florida.

Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez later told reporters that 99 people were unaccounted for and that 53 others whose whereabouts were initially unknown have since been located, though he did not make clear whether everyone in the second group was alive.

“I don’t want to set false expectations,” he said.

“This is a very tragic situation for those families and for the community.”

A fire official said 35 people were rescued from the building in Surfside, a seaside enclave of 5700 residents on a barrier island across Biscayne Bay from the city of Miami, including two who were pulled from the rubble as response teams used trained dogs and drones in a search for survivors.

After speaking with local officials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said it was possible that more victims could be found in the rubble.

“We’ll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries but we are bracing for some bad news, just given the destruction that we’re seeing,” DeSantis said.

Built in 1981, the Champlain Towers South had more than 130 units, about 80 of which were occupied.

It was unclear how many people were inside at 1.30am when an entire side of the building pulled away and fell to the ground below.

“It’s hard to imagine how this could have happened,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters.

“Buildings just don’t fall down.”

The mayor said construction work was being done on the roof but it was unclear whether the project involved any heavy gear.

He added that part of the building with balconies facing the beach “pancaked” where one floor appears to have fallen atop another, cascading down.

“The back of the building, probably a third or more, is totally pancaked,” he said.

The Miami-Dade Police have assumed control of the investigation.

Canada rocked by discovery of 751 unmarked graves

An indigenous group in Canada’s Saskatchewan province has found the unmarked graves of 751 people at a now-defunct residential school, the group says, just weeks after a similar discovery in British Columbia rocked the country.

The Catholic church that ran the Marieval Indian Residential School about 140km from the provincial capital Regina removed the headstones, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters.

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Delorme said.

“There are oral stories that there are adults in this gravesite as well.”

According to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the country’s residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

“We are not asking for pity. We are asking for understanding,” Delorme said.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2 after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families.

Responding to the discovery, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was his country’s responsibility to tell the truth about the injustices suffered by indigenous communities.

“I recognise these findings only deepen the pain that families, survivors, and all Indigenous peoples and communities are already feeling, and that they reaffirm a truth that they have long known,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“The hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear, and the government will continue to provide Indigenous communities across the country with the funding and resources they need to bring these terrible wrongs to light.”

UK to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated people

The United Kingdom will next month publish plans to allow fully vaccinated people to travel unrestricted to all countries except those with the highest COVID-19 risk, in a boost for a travel industry wrecked by the pandemic.

Airlines welcomed the move and they were further cheered by news late on Thursday that the UK will add Malta, Spain’s Balearic Islands and the Portuguese island of Madeira to its “green list” for safe travel spots from June 30.

British Airways and welcomed the news.

“We cannot afford another missed summer,” BA chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said in a statement.

“There are jobs at stake, Britons separated from family members and we cannot afford to allow the success of our vaccine program to be wasted.”

EasyJet said the reopening fell short of a safe and sustainable easing of restrictions promised by the UK government.

“The science shows that travel to many European countries would have very little impact on hospitalisation and this is even more the case now given that COVID cases in Europe have declined,” EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said.

The government has come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions as the peak July and August holiday season approaches.

Pilots, cabin crew, travel agents and other workers from the travel industry held protests on Wednesday, calling on the government to open up more routes while BA and EasyJet backed a court case questioning the government’s travel rules.

The UK has one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world but so far the government has effectively prevented travel to most countries through quarantine and testing rules, prompting the industry to warn of multiple business failures and job losses.

Eritrea, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda will be added to the UK’s red list for the most severe travel restrictions.

The UK reported 16,703 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with the spread of the Indian variant of the virus continuning to delay the country’s full reopening.

-With AAP and Reuters

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