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What we know today, Thursday July 1


NSW has recorded 24 new local COVID-19 cases – 12 of which were out in the community while infectious – as Premier Gladys Berejiklian admits the virus is “continuing to circulate” despite a 14-day lockdown.

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NSW records 24 new cases despite lockdown

NSW has recorded 24 new local COVID-19 cases – 12 of which were out in the community while infectious – as Premier Gladys Berejiklian admits the virus is “continuing to circulate” despite a 14-day lockdown.

The 24 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday came from almost 60,000 tests and included a student nurse – revealed on Wednesday – who worked at Fairfield and Royal North Shore hospitals in Sydney.

Another nurse at RNS – a close friend of the student nurse – has also been diagnosed with the virus, affecting several wards.

Berejiklian said 12 of the 24 reported cases were out in the community while infectious, which was concerning.

“People going about their business, shopping and interacting with others is causing the virus to continue to circulate,” she said.

“In too many examples, we are seeing workers who are leaving the house with symptoms or going to work and then inadvertently as they are going about shopping or other activity, they are passing it onto others.”

Chief health officer Kerry Chant on Wednesday revealed an unvaccinated 24-year-old student nurse who worked at RNS and Fairfield hospitals had the virus, sending more than 100 patients and staff into isolation.

She worked for five days while potentially infectious, while one of her household contacts had also tested virus-positive.

Chant on Thursday confirmed a second nurse had caught the virus and had been working in several wards at RNS, raising concerns that COVID-19 transmission may have occurred in the hospital.

Two new cases in Qld amid lockdown

Queensland has recorded two new local cases of COVID-19 with a lockdown still set to end on Friday night.

Millions of people in southeast Queensland, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Palm Island are in lockdown on Thursday amid four separate virus outbreaks, including three involving the more contagious Delta strain.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the one of the new cases is linked to Portuguese club cluster, while the other is a Qatar Airways check-in desk worker at Brisbane Airport.

She said it was encouraging news for Queenslanders hoping lockdown will end at 6pm on Friday.

“We’ve still got another 24 hours to go to see what happens over the next 24 hours, and we’ll update you tomorrow in relation to whether or not we can leave that lockdown,” Palaszczuk said.

“But like I said, it is very very encouraging us, at this stage.”

Victoria delays restrictions easing

Victoria has reported no new COVID-19 cases as the state pauses its plan to further ease restrictions due to national outbreaks.

The Department of Health reported zero locally acquired cases on Thursday, following just over 29,000 tests, and also none in hotel quarantine.

Active cases in the state fell by three to 31, while more than 19,000 vaccine doses were administered at Victorian-run sites over the past 24-hour period.

It comes as Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed the state would not go ahead with planned capacity limit increases to stadiums and theatres from 11.59pm on Thursday.

He said the national situation was “extremely delicately poised”, with parts of NSW, NT, Queensland and WA all plunged into lockdown due to community transmission of COVID-19.

No new COVID cases in SA overnight after lockdown averted

SA Health has not recorded any new positive COVID tests overnight after a group of nearly 30 miners recently returned to Adelaide from a Northern Territory virus hotspot, as South Australian authorities face a critical 24 hours after deciding not to put Adelaide into lockdown on Wednesday.

SA recorded five new local cases yesterday linked to a miner who returned on Friday to Adelaide from a gold mine around 540km northwest of Alice Springs.

His wife and three of their children, all aged under 10, also tested positive.

The mine has already been linked with ten cases of the highly contagious Delta strain across the country and SA Health is urgently retesting 28 miners who also returned to Adelaide from the site.

Premier Steven Marshall this morning said he was not advised of any positive tests overnight but there are still more results to come back.

“We haven’t had any advice anybody’s returned a positive sample from yesterday but of course there’s still more testing to go on today,” he told ABC Radio.

The new case arrived in Adelaide at 5pm on Friday on Virgin Flight VA1742, with 121 passengers asked to quarantine for 14 days.

SA Health has also asked all travellers and visitors at the Adelaide Airport terminal between 5:40pm and 6:30pm on Friday, June 25 to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier estimated that “at least 300” people at Adelaide Airport have been asked to quarantine.

The COVID positive couple also stopped at a KFC on their way home from the airport, with Spurrier this morning saying 14 staff members have been tested and seven have tested negative so far.

“We really feel that we’ve got a good handle on this now,” she told ABC Radio. 

Premier Steven Marshall said the family went into self-isolation on Saturday, despite not being formally ordered to do so by SA Health until Sunday, and the family has been transferred to the state’s dedicated COVID-positive medi-hotel, the Tom’s Court Hotel.

In response to South Australia’s first case of community transmission since November, authorities introduced a range of new restrictions but avoided putting Adelaide into lockdown.

Private home gatherings in Greater Metropolitan Adelaide are now limited to 10 people, masks are “highly recommended” at indoor public areas and public transport while people are recommended to work from home if possible.

Meanwhile, Alice Springs is waking to its first full day of lockdown after Northern Territory authorities opted to send the city into a three-day lockdown after the Adelaide man spent seven hours at Alice Springs airport.

Darwin and its surrounding areas have been in lockdown since Sunday due to cases linked with the mine.

Crows push for game at Adelaide Oval

The Crows are holding out hope they can still host their AFL game against Brisbane at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday, despite they and Port Adelaide relocating to Victoria.

The South Australian clubs arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday night where every AFL club is now located after lockdowns forced their exits from Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

The AFL opted to move the Crows and Power out of Adelaide on Wednesday despite the State Government not calling a lockdown after recording five new local COVID-19 cases.

Port’s clash with Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium on Saturday will go ahead as planned, but a new venue may need to be found for the Crows’ clash with the Lions scheduled for the Adelaide Oval.

Crows CEO Tim Silvers said community health and wellbeing “remains at the forefront” of the club’s decision-making, noting that South Australia has shown it can host games during the pandemic.

“I would like to assure fans that we may still play our home game against Brisbane at Adelaide Oval as planned,” Silvers said.

“During the pandemic, South Australia has shown it can safely stage AFL games and this is a credit to the government and health authorities, as well as Adelaide Oval management.

“We will always fight hard for what is in the best interests of our members and fans.”

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the round 16 match could still be played in Adelaide on Saturday although the number of spectators allowed to attend is up in the air.

“I don’t think there’s a problem with the game being played, it’s just whether we have spectators and in which way have spectators,” Spurrier said on Wednesday.

The COVID management plan between the Adelaide Oval and SA Health allows the stadium to be at full capacity, but ticket sales for the match were suspended on Wednesday morning.

If the game is only allowed to be held behind closed doors, the AFL would likely re-schedule the match in Victoria instead considering both the Crows and Lions are already in the state.

State leaders split from PM over AstraZeneca advice

The Morrison government is under fresh pressure over its vaccine rollout after state leaders warned against younger people taking the AstraZeneca shot.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted a path for any adult to receive the jab after talking to their GP about the risks of extremely rare blood clots.

But state premiers and chief health officers are warning against ignoring advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

It is not recommended for people under 60 to receive AstraZeneca, with Pfizer the preferred vaccine for that age group.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the federal-state spilt caused confusion.

“Unfortunately the prime minister’s thrown a little bit of a hand grenade into our vaccine program,” he told Sky News.

The federal government has provided doctors with legal protection to vaccinate adults of all ages, sparking a rush of younger people keen to have AstraZeneca.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she did not want people under 40 to receive the jab.

“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID probably wouldn’t die,” Young said.

Victorian Health Minster Martin Foley said the health department had received confirmation of a change in Commonwealth policy to expand the vaccine rollout.

“The last thing we need is confusion around vaccines. What we need is certainty and consistency and confidence in the vaccination program,” he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan also wants people in his state to follow ATAGI’s medical advice.

“That is the advice we have and that is the national advice from the immunisation experts,” he said.

“Clearly, the Commonwealth has taken a different approach.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there was no disagreement on the medical advice despite states discouraging under-40s from taking AstraZeneca.

The dispute over vaccines comes as more than 12 million Australians across four different states are in lockdown due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

NSW recorded 22 new local cases on Wednesday with Sydney and major regional centres remaining in lockdown.

There were three new cases in Queensland where the southeast of the state, Townsville and two nearby islands are also locked down.

WA recorded one new infection on the first day of Perth and the Peel region’s four-day lockdown.

Former US defence chief Donald Rumsfeld dies aged 88

Former US defence secretary, presidential candidate and architect of the Iraq War Donald Rumsfeld has died at the age of 88.

Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career under four presidents and nearly a quarter-century in corporate America.

The two-time US defence secretary and one-time presidential candidate reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern military was tarnished by the long and costly Iraq war.

In 2001 he began his second tour as Pentagon chief under President George W Bush, but his plan to “transform” the armed forces was overshadowed by the September 11 attacks.

He oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, where he was blamed for setbacks including the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and for being slow to recognise a violent insurgency.

His family said he died surrounded by family in Taos, New Mexico.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather,” the family said.

“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service but for those who knew him best and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country.”

Bill Cosby freed after sex assault conviction overturned

Bill Cosby has been released from prison after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction after finding an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case.

Cosby has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia.

He had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.

The 83-year-old Cosby, who was once beloved as “America’s Dad”, was convicted of drugging and molesting the Temple University employee at his suburban estate.

He was charged in late 2015 when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence – Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit – arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

The trial judge had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby’s first trial, when the jury deadlocked.

However, he then allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that testimony tainted the trial, even though a lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a signature pattern of drugging and molesting women.

Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the MeToo era, so the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases.

The law on prior bad act testimony varies by US state, though, and the ruling only holds sway in Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors did not immediately say if they would appeal or seek to try Cosby for a third time.

US building collapse death toll grows to 16

Another four bodies have been found in the shattered ruins of a collapsed Miami-area condominium tower, the mayor of Miami-Dade County says, bringing the confirmed death toll to 16 with 147 still unaccounted for nearly a week after the building fell.

Nobody has been pulled alive from the mounds of pulverised concrete, splintered lumber and twisted metal since the early hours of the disaster.

County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference on Wednesday there were 147 people still unaccounted for.

Officials have said they still harbour hope of finding survivors.

Two teams of dogs are helping to scour the pile: one trained to sniff out survivors, the other trained to detect bodies.

Investigators have not concluded what caused nearly half of the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South condo to crumple as residents slept in the early hours of last Thursday.

But a 2018 engineer’s report on the 12-floor, 136-unit complex, prepared ahead of a building safety recertification process, found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries.

As recently as April, the condo association’s president warned residents in a letter that severe concrete damage identified by the engineer around the base of the building had since grown “significantly worse”.

US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden plan to pay a visit on Thursday to the scene of the tragedy in the oceanfront town of Surfside, adjacent to Miami Beach.

-With AAP and Reuters

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