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What we know today, Tuesday June 29


Large parts of Queensland including Greater Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Townsville and Sunshine Coast have been forced into a three-day lockdown after recording two new local COVID-19 cases.

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Outbreak forces Queensland lockdown

The Queensland government will lock down the southeast, Townsville and two islands for three days after recording two new COVID-19 cases in the community.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says one new case is unlinked and in a clerical worker from the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, who has travelled to Magnetic Island in Townsville and the markets in the north Queensland city.

The premier says because of the woman’s extensive travel, the entire southeast, Townsville and two islands will have to be lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday.

Residents of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Palm Island will be subject to the order.

“I want to say to everyone, I know we are in the middle of school holidays, and I know people have made plans, but we have just got to do this,” Palaszczuk told reporters this morning.

“We have got to do this for three days, there will be a lockdown for three days, and I don’t want it to be 30 days.”

Residents on those area will only be allowed to leave home to shop for essential items, exercise, or receive or give medical care until 6pm on Thursday.

Queensland reported another virus case in the community on Tuesday in a miner from Ipswich who was infected at a mine in the Northern Territory.

Two other cases were reported in hotel quarantine.

NZ to re-open travel bubble with some states next week

New Zealand will require South Australian travellers to produce a negative COVID-19 test when it restarts the trans-Tasman bubble next week.

From Monday, travellers from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and ACT will be welcomed back to New Zealand.

Australia’s four other jurisdictions – NSW, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia – won’t see a return of quarantine-free travel until their COVID-19 situations improve.

All four of those places have ordered their capital cities into lockdown after reporting multiple community cases in the past week.

The door will be closed to NSW travellers until at least July 7.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said Victoria, Tasmania, SA and ACT already fulfilled the “green zone” requirements that would allow for the return of quarantine-free travel.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said cabinet decided to defer openings until Monday to introduce the new pre-departure testing requirement.

“We see that as key to maintaining the confidence of New Zealanders in the bubble and ensuring that at periods of uncertainty across states, it gives us that extra layer of protection,” she said.

Details on how to fulfil the pre-departure test requirements are available on New Zealand’s COVID-19 website.

The Ardern government slapped the whole-of-country suspension on quarantine-free travel last Saturday night.

Barnaby Joyce fined for breaking mask rules

Less than a week after being sworn in as deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has had a run-in with the law – after he was nabbed not wearing a face mask.

The Nationals leader was dobbed in to Crime Stoppers by a member of the public in his hometown of Armidale on Monday morning, after he was spotted without a face mask while paying for petrol after filling up at the bowser.

Police say they checked the service station’s CCTV and issued a $200 fine to a 54-year-old man for breaching an order under the NSW Public Health Act.

State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said it was just one of 54 breaches of NSW public health orders on Monday.

“Police were alerted to that. They took some action. That person was apologetic and co-operative with police and an infringement notice was issued,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

NSW records 19 new COVID-19 cases

NSW has recorded 19 new COVID-19 cases as the state government announced new financial support for small businesses hit by the Sydney lockdown.

Businesses will receive thousands of dollars in grants and the NSW Dine and Discover voucher program for state residents will be expanded as part of the package.

“We know that our lockdown … has created much stress,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“We don’t want anyone to feel stressed during this lockdown that they won’t be able to manage their household situation or their business situation.”

Grants of between $5000 and $10,000 will be available to small businesses, depending on declines in turnover, during the health restrictions.

NSW residents will now have until August 31 to spend their Dine and Discover vouchers, which will also be able to be used on takeaway food orders.

Of the 19 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, 17 are linked to previous cases and two are under investigation.

One of the mystery cases lives in the eastern suburbs and the other works there.

Seven of the new cases were in isolation for their infectious period.

Berejiklian praised the around 67,000 people who came forward for testing in the latest 24-hour as “outstanding”.

Some 149 people have picked up the coronavirus locally since June 16, when the first case was reported at Bondi in Sydney’s east.

Tuesday marks the third full day of a two-week hard lockdown for the Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour regions.

Millions of people can only leave home for work that can’t be done at home, to shop for essentials, for exercise, to seek medical care and for caregiving or compassionate reasons.

NT close contact list grows

The number of Northern Territory close contacts linked to a delta variant COVID-19 outbreak that started in a central Australian mine continues to grow.

The most recent and seventh case is a man in his 50s, who left Newmont’s Granites Mine, about 540km northwest of Alice Springs, on Friday.

He returned to Darwin, where he travelled to multiple venues, including the Buff Club for more than four hours, before being ordered into quarantine.

NT Health estimated there were about 150 close contacts from the members-only watering hole but this morning that ballooned to 180.

Contact tracers have only been able to track down about 60 of the people, with the remainder believed to be still moving about the community.

“We’re very confident we’ll be up over 100 this morning,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“We know all of them, we are approaching all of them. We’re getting them isolated.”

Meanwhile, there has been a slow start to COVID-19 testing in Darwin and its surrounding districts, which are in lockdown until Friday.

Just 256 tests were performed at a car park testing facility on Monday with no figures immediately available from NT Health for other sites despite repeated requests.

The Top End’s outbreak started with a Victorian man on Saturday who travelled to the mine via a Brisbane quarantine hotel before testing positive.

About 170 fly-in, fly-out workers from the mine travelled in recent days to Brisbane, 250 flew to Perth and 29 headed to South Australia, with 259 remaining in the Top End.

A close contact of the first case, the Victorian miner, who lives in Palmerston, south of Darwin, tested positive to COVID-19 on Sunday while in the Howard Springs quarantine centre.

Vic records three days without new local case

Victoria has recorded its third consecutive day without a local COVID-19 case as the state ramps up its road border regime.

The Health Department confirmed no new locally acquired infections from more than 20,000 tests in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning.

Two returned travellers in hotel quarantine tested positive, with active cases in the state falling to 44.

Some 18,000 Victorians also received a vaccine dose at state-run hubs over the same span.

Tightened SA restrictions begin

New coronavirus restrictions have come into effect overnight as hundreds flock to testing centres and the state government seeks to prevent a national outbreak from spreading into South Australia.

Under the tightened rules that started at midnight, masks must be worn indoors in high-risk settings, private gatherings will be capped at 150 people and licensed premises will return to a one-person per two-square-metre density cap.

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters yesterday afternoon that Australia had entered a “critical point” in its fight against a series of outbreaks of the highly contagious delta strain of COVID-19, and South Australia had “no alternative but to take… pre-emptive action in South Australia to keep our state safe and our economy strong”.

He said authorities hoped the restrictions would only need to be in place for one week.

“We have to be very vigilant at the moment,” Marshall said.

“The alternative is a full-scale lockdown here in South Australia.”

The high-risk settings for mask wearing include hospitals, residential aged care facilities and personal care settings, such as hairdressers and beauty salons.

Mask wearing is also mandatory in indoor seated entertainment venues and masks are recommended on public transport, including in Ubers and taxis.

A 150-person cap has been put in place for private gatherings in homes and halls, including for weddings and funerals.

A ban on drinking alcohol while standing indoors at licensed venues and karaoke has been reinstated and buffets and shisha bars have also been shut down.

The heightened vigilance resulted in hordes of symptomatic people rushing to COVID-19 testing clinics yesterday.

SA Health reported that almost 6000 people had a COVID-19 test in the 24 hours to 2pm but South Australia recorded no new cases of coronavirus yesterday.

Hundreds of cars queued at Victoria Park’s drive-through clinic on the eastern fringe of the CBD last night with a long line of cars spilling out onto Wakefield Road.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said that if the delta strain made its way to South Australia, an infectious person would pass the virus on to three and a half other people.

“This is probably as significant as our first wave here in Australia, but particularly because of this new variant,” she said.

Both Spurrier and Marshall pleaded with people to get tested if they develop COVID symptoms, to get vaccinated if they are eligible and to continue checking in to venues using QR codes.

Compulsory jabs for aged care workers

COVID-19 jabs will be compulsory for aged care and quarantine workers and doctors will be allowed to give the AstraZeneca shot to under-60s as governments seek to revive Australia’s vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with state and territory leaders for a virtual national cabinet meeting on Monday, as the proportion of fully vaccinated Australians stood at just under five per cent.

Until now the advice from medical experts has been not to force workers to be vaccinated.

But Morrison said that advice had changed and state public health orders and Commonwealth measures would be used to enforce the new rules, with the aim of completing the task by mid-September.

“This has been a difficult group to get vaccinated (but) … I’m pleased we have finally got here tonight,” he said.

Advocates in the sector have been concerned forced vaccinations will lead to a flood of staff leaving, or large gaps in rosters as workers are impacted by vaccine side-effects.

To make this easier, the federal government will provide $11 million to cover paid leave for workers having vaccinations.

Vaccination and testing of all quarantine workers will also be made mandatory, including those involved in transporting people to quarantine.

The states and territories will be in charge of the program and no timeframe has been set for its completion.

National cabinet also agreed to compulsory post-quarantine testing for returned travellers, which must occur two to three days after they leave.

As well, there will be a ban on accommodating low-risk domestic travellers next door to high-risk international arrivals, which triggered an outbreak in Queensland.

Travellers who have gone through 14-day quarantine in one jurisdiction will be able to enter other jurisdictions without having to quarantine for a further 14 days.

And in a bid to encourage broader vaccination, the federal government will provide a no fault indemnity scheme for GPs who administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The scheme would enable, for example, a person under-60 who is happy to get the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is currently only recommended for over-60s – to do so if their doctor considers it is the best option.

Morrison said it was hoped with the changes, as well as a boost to vaccine supplies, Australia could “move through the balance of the program over the course of this year”.

National cabinet will meet again on Friday.

Perth joins Sydney, Darwin in lockdown

Three Australian capital cities are in COVID-19 lockdown with Perth joining Sydney and Darwin overnight after another confirmed virus case in the west.

A four-day stay-at-home order for Perth and the neighbouring Peel region started at midnight, just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new measures in the coronavirus battle.

A man in his 30s is the latest case in Perth. He worked and dined at the Indian Ocean Brewery on the same night as another positive case – a woman who travelled from Sydney. She also came into contact with a 32-year-old woman who has tested positive.

With Sydney in lockdown, NSW recorded 18 new coronavirus cases with all but one confirmed as linked to existing cases.

Queensland is on the verge of another lockdown in the state’s southeast after two new local cases, with more than 160 returned mine workers being tested.

In the Northern Territory, an outbreak linked to a central Australian mine has grown to seven cases, sparking an extension of a snap lockdown until at least Friday.

Morrison, who is quarantining in Canberra after an overseas trip, said he understood the frustration of Australians at the disruption.

“We’ve got to hang in there – we don’t have a choice.”

Australia has not had a COVID-related death this year.

Asked whether the country should learn to live with the virus in the community even if there are deaths, the prime minister said: “It would be unwise to surrender up that advantage at this point and preferably at no point, but that is a decision that will have to be made in the next year”.

Young Greeks offered vaccination cash

Greece will offer young people a $230 cash reward for receiving their first shot against COVID-19 as part of a government drive to boost vaccination rates ahead of the summer holiday season.

The southern European nation weathered the first wave of the pandemic fairly well but was forced to impose a second lockdown in November to deal with a resurgence in cases that overwhelmed its public health system.

With coronavirus cases easing, the country ended the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors last week.

But with about 33 per cent of the 11 million population fully inoculated so far, and concerns rising about the more contagious delta coronavirus variant, the government has been examining more incentives to boost vaccination rates.

“With the first jab of the vaccine (they) will get a prepaid card of 150 euros ($A236),” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a ministerial meeting, presenting the new incentive.

“It’s a debt to the youth, a gift out of gratitude,” he said.

Some 940,000 Greeks aged 18-25 years who have received at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID-19, or will do so by the end of the year, will be eligible to receive the cash bonus – a so-called ‘freedom pass’ – the government said.

The group will be allowed to spend the cash for their summer vacation and cultural events from July 15. On top of that, they will get one month of free internet data on their mobile phones in August.

Greece has reported a total of 420,905 cases and 12,664 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year.

Ewan crashes out of Tour de France

Cycling star Caleb Ewan – Australia’s big hope to win up to six stages at the Tour de France – has been forced to abandon the race with a fractured collarbone after a high-speed crash on stage three.

The sprinter considered to be the fastest in the peloton was in contention to win the third stage on Monday when he appeared to clip Tim Merlier’s bike and his front wheel slipped from under him on the final turn of the sprint finish in Pontivy.

After lying stricken in the road – he also brought down another top rider Peter Sagan with him.

Ewan, known as “Pocket Rocket” for his prodigious turns of speed, was treated in an ambulance.

His Belgian team Lotto Soudal reported soon after the race: “We have an unfortunate update… following the crash, Caleb is forced to leave the race due to a right collarbone fracture.”

It is the end of the 26-year-old’s dream of winning a stage in all three grand tours this year after he had begun his campaign with two brilliant wins at the Giro d’Italia.

Belgian Merlier went on to win the stage ahead of his Alpecin-Fenix teammate Jasper Philipsen and Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni.

Mathieu van der Poel rode safely at the front throughout the day and escaped unscathed to keep the yellow jersey he earned on Sunday.

The narrow roads in the stage finale took a toll on many competitors who crashed as the peloton rode at full speed.

Last year’s runner-up, Primoz Roglic, went down about nine kilometres from the end.

Roglic immediately got back on his bike but lost ground to his main rivals as his Jumbo-Visma teammates tried to pace him back to the peloton.

Earlier, former Tour champion Geraint Thomas hit the tarmac but managed to keep on racing and was paced back to the peloton.

Simmons pulls out of Boomers squad for Tokyo

Aussie basketball star Ben Simmons has pulled out of the Boomers squad for next month’s Tokyo Olympics, ending days of speculation about his immediate playing future.

Basketball Australia announced at 5am that the 24-year-old had advised Head Coach Brian Goorjian of his decision to withdraw from the Australian Olympic Squad to focus on individual skill development.

Simmons, who plays in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers, has been under fire in recent weeks after a poor shooting performance in the recent playoffs, which has clouded his future with the club.

Goorjian said Simmons was going through a tough time at the moment.

“I have spoken with Ben and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future,” he said.

“The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him.”

Thirteen of the 16-man Boomers Olympic squad members are presently in Los Angeles as part of a drop-in training centre with the remaining squad members scheduled to arrive over the coming days ahead of the final preparation and games in Las Vegas.

The final team of 12, named in early July, will participate in exhibition matches against the United States, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas, as a final hit-out before departing for Tokyo.

– with AAP and Reuters

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