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What we know today, Friday July 2


NSW has recorded 31 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, with 13 of those people active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

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NSW reports 31 new local COVID-19 cases

NSW has recorded 31 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 13 of those people were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

“This pretty much reflects the days just before, and the day when we went into lockdown,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

“We are anticipating there could be an increase in numbers over the next few days, then hopefully early next week we should see the impact of the lockdown really turning and having a positive impact.”

They are a healthcare worker at the RNS, Fairfield and Royal Ryde Rehabilitation hospitals and an aged care worker at SummitCare in Baulkham Hills.

Their diagnoses – flagged on Thurdsay – have sparked fears of an outbreak within the healthcare system, with hundreds of people sent into isolation and at least two hospital wards and a nursing home in lockdown.

The 24-year-old student nurse worked up to five days while infectious, but the other healthcare workers are not believed to have worked during the infectious period.

Almost all of the 149 residents at the Baulkham Hills facility are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the home is now in lockdown after being deep-cleaned.

The new case numbers take the tally to 226 since the current outbreak began on June 16.

No new local COVID-19 cases in Victoria

Victoria recorded its second straight day without a local COVID-19 case, as Premier Daniel Andrews prepared to flesh out his plan to avoid future lockdowns at national cabinet.

The Department of Health on Friday confirmed there were zero locally acquired cases and three in hotel quarantine following more than 24,700 tests.

The three overseas acquired infections pushed up the state’s active cases to 32.

Almost 19,500 vaccine doses were administered at Victorian-run sites in the 24-hours to midnight on Thursday.

The encouraging figures come as Mr Andrews announced Victoria’s four-point plan to keep Australia safe and avoiding future lockdowns, which he will advocate at Friday’s gathering of state and territory leaders.

The premier is recommending a 50 to 80 per cent reduction in Australia’s returned travellers cap for three to four months, refining the eligibility criteria for those travelling abroad, a nationally agreed vaccination target and short-term alternatives to hotel quarantine.

“We have a critical window to get our population vaccinated, defeat this pandemic and return to a sense of free and normal life,” he said in a statement ahead of the meeting.

Three new cases in Qld as Brisbane lockdown extended

Brisbane and Moreton Bay will remain in lockdown for another 24 hours after three new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the region.

Southeast Queensland and Townsville have been in lockdown for three-days to help authorities trace and contain six separate and unlinked clusters of the virus.

The current lockdown restrictions will be lifted at 6pm for the Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Townsville local government areas.

Residents of those areas will still have to carry face masks at all times and wear them for two weeks whenever they’re outside of their homes.

However, Brisbane and Moreton Bay will remain in lockdown for another 24 hours due to three new locally-acquired cases emerging in the region after 26,993 tests statewide.

Two of the new cases are a mother and daughter from Carindale who were infectious in the community in Brisbane.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says that means Brisbanites will have to wait until Saturday at least to be released from restrictions.

“Now we will come back early tomorrow morning, once your contact tracers get on top of this, and we’ll look at the case numbers overnight,” Palaszczuk said.

“So I want to thank everyone for doing the right thing, but as you can see we’ve just got a situation at the moment, that has just come in, and we really need to give the people, our contact tracers the time to do that.”

Adelaide Oval AFL match given go-ahead

SA Health has given the Crows the go-ahead to play their AFL match against Brisbane at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday but has reduced seating capacity at the stadium to 25,000 people.

The Crows flew out to Melbourne on Wednesday night amid fears South Australia could be on the verge of a snap lockdown, after the state recorded five new local cases of COVID-19 linked to a miner who returned to Adelaide from an Alice Springs virus hotspot.

But a rapid testing blitz from authorities over the last 24 hours has uncovered no new cases, with more than 400 people across SA now in 14-days quarantine after Adelaide Airport and the miner’s return flight were listed as exposure sites.

The improving situation means SA Health has given the Adelaide Oval approval to host the match at 4:05pm on Saturday as originally scheduled, with the Crows set to return to Adelaide this morning while the Lions will fly in and out of the state on Saturday.

Adelaide Oval’s maximum seating capacity has been cut from 50,000 to 25,000 and all food and beverage facilities in the ground have been reduced to one person per two square metre density in line with new restrictions across the state introduced on Tuesday.

The Stadium Management Authority says 22,500 seated patrons will be able to attend the match in addition to 2500 corporate tickets.

The Crows said club members will need to redeem tickets for the match with seats allocated on a first-in first-served basis.

The club said the redemption process will begin from 11am today.

“While we would obviously prefer the option of a full house, we must prioritise public health and safety and we acknowledge the efforts of government and health officials in managing what is an evolving situation,” Crows CEO Tim Silvers said.

“If recent events have taught us anything, going to the footy should never be taken for granted.”

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said on Thursday she had no problem with the game going ahead in Adelaide provided Brisbane players and staff are subjected to the relevant COVID protocols.

Stadium Management Authority COO Adam Vonthethoff said the organisation was “very pleased” to have a reduced capacity plan approved.

“There has been an enormous amount of work put in behind the scenes to enable this game to go ahead and we look forward to welcoming fans on Saturday afternoon,” he said.

Adelaide’s match against Brisbane will be the only AFL game played outside of Victoria this week.

SCAP knocks back Glenelg foreshore redevelopment

South Australia’s key planning body has rejected a controversial proposal to build a 13-storey apartment development along the Glenelg South Esplanade, citing concerns over “excessive massing” and lack of heritage conservation.

Adelaide developers Chasecrown in February lodged an application to redevelop the Glenelg foreshore with a $165 million, 93-unit residential development at 21-25 South Esplanade.

The proposal attracted opposition from the Holdfast Bay City Council, residents and the State Government Architect due to the building’s height and size, which required the destruction of seven buildings including a 139-year-old local heritage-listed former seafront mansion.

After a mammoth sitting on Wednesday night, the State Commission Assessment Panel ruled it was “not satisfied that the proposal sufficiently accords with the relevant Objectives and Principles of Development Control of the City of Holdfast Bay Development Plan”.

“The proposal presents excessive massing, is insufficiently modulated and does not adequately acknowledge and respect the existing context,” the SCAP ruled.

“It has not been adequately demonstrated that the Local Heritage Place cannot be conserved in accordance with General Section – Heritage Places Objective 1 and Objective 2.”

The 13-storey proposal was located in a five-storey zone, although the council’s development plan allows for additional height if the development is “immediately adjacent” to the 12-storey precinct located above, provided the proposed building achieves a “transition in scale” down to five-storeys.

But the SCAP found the proposal “[did] not achieve” the required transition in scale for development plan consent to be granted.

The rejection comes despite State Government Development Assessment Manager Jason Cattonar last week recommending the project be approved.

Save our Seawall Apartments campaigner Karen DeCean, who presented before the SCAP on Wednesday, said her group was “delighted” with the ruling.

“After four months of solid campaigning, it appears SCAP has listened to the people and taken recognition of their policy documents in heritage and planning policy,” she said.

“We couldn’t be happier … to have the heritage recognised as well – it’s just sensational.”

Chasecrown said it will “consider its options” after the SCAP ruling, describing the decision as “particularly disappointing” given the report from the State Government recommending the plan be granted development consent.

“Development approval of the project would have unlocked a significant investment by Chasecrown in the public realm around the building to benefit residents and the local community,” the Adelaide-based developer said in a statement.

International arrivals cut on national cabinet agenda

The cap on international travellers coming into Australia looks set to be slashed when national cabinet meets today, as the country deals with widespread outbreaks of the delta strain of COVID-19.

Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia have spent the week calling for a drastic cut to the weekly cap.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews wants to reduce the returned traveller cap by between 50 and 80 per cent for the next three to four months.

“It won’t be easy to lock some people out but locking some people out is much better than locking everybody down,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

The federal government has so far pushed back against the proposal.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham struck a markedly different tone ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Friday.

“We’ve shown a willingness to adjust based on changed risk profiles and we’ll always look at that,” he said.

Senator Birmingham cited the India travel ban and limits imposed at the start of the pandemic as examples of responsive restrictions.

Labor premiers also argue too many people are being granted exemptions to leave the country and come home again, putting the rest of the country at risk.

More than 51,000 outbound travel exemptions have been approved since the start of this year.

But Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram points out 52,000 applications have been refused.

A federal-state spat over hotel quarantine arrangements will also spill into the national cabinet meeting.

Hotel quarantine breaches have been responsible for most of the outbreaks across Australia, with 26  leaks since the start of the pandemic, including six in June.

The federal government has offered to fund dedicated quarantine facilities in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, although South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has ruled out taking up that option as it would require the state to increase its intake of repatriated Australians from overseas.

Turnbull slams vaccine rollout ‘failure’

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has lashed the Morrison government’s vaccine rollout as a phenomenal failure.

In a stinging rebuke, the ousted prime minister said Australia fully vaccinating just eight per cent of its population was inexcusable and the government’s failure to buy enough vaccines was to blame.

“This is just a failure to do the one single most important job the Commonwealth government had which was to get the country vaccinated. It is hugely disappointing,” Turnbull told the ABC.

“I can’t think of a bigger black-and-white failure of public administration than this.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison triggered a week of competing claims about vaccine advice after highlighting a path for younger people to receive AstraZeneca on Monday.

The expert immunisation panel on Thursday reiterated its advice that Pfizer is preferred for all people under 60 because of rare blood clots associated with AstraZeneca.

Turnbull said Morrison made a mistake and muddied the message around vaccines.

“I don’t know whether that was just a thought bubble, I don’t know if Scott had workshopped that before, I have no idea,” Turnbull said.

“But the fact that you’ve got so many other premiers and chief medical officers disagreeing with it, and very vocally, obviously undermines confidence in the vaccine.”

Turnbull said the government had put too many eggs in one basket by not buying more vaccine varieties.

“These lockdowns are a consequence of the failure to get the vaccination done and it is a massive fail,” he said.

He added there was no point going on and on about how bad the mistake was before describing it as a phenomenal failure in public administration.

Thursday was a record day for vaccinations with more than 160,000 people receiving jabs nationwide.

The vaccine rollout will be high on national cabinet’s agenda when state and territory leaders meet with Morrison on Friday.

International passenger caps could also be reduced after premiers called for cuts of up to 80 per cent of current levels.

Trump firm CFO pleads not guilty to fraud

Donald Trump’s namesake company and long-time financial chief has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a sweeping indictment from a probe by Manhattan’s district attorney into the former US president and his business practices.

The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg were charged with having schemed since 2005 to defraud federal, state and local tax authorities by awarding “off the books” benefits to company executives, enabling them to avoid paying taxes.

Weisselberg, who has worked for Trump for 48 years, was able to avoid paying taxes on more than $US1.7 million ($A2.3 million) of income, including housing expenses, tuition and car lease payments, according to the 15-count indictment.

The charges include tax fraud and falsifying business records.

They were announced one day after a grand jury indicted Trump’s company and Weisselberg.

“This was a 15-year long tax fraud scheme involving off the books payments,” prosecutor Carey Dunne said at the arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.

“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company, by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” he said.

The indictment could undermine the relationships of Trump’s company with banks and business partners.

It could also complicate Trump’s political future as he resumes holding rallies and mulls a 2024 White House run.

Cyrus Vance, the district attorney, began his still-ongoing investigation nearly three years ago and has been working in recent months with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Vance and James are Democrats and both attended Thursday’s arraignment.

Weisselberg, 73, wore handcuffs as he was led to the courtroom.

Biden visits apartment collapse site as search effort suspended

US President Joe Biden has pledged federal assistance and offered comfort to the families of those killed and missing in last week’s Florida condominium collapse as the search-and-rescue operation was temporarily suspended due to concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.

Biden travelled to Florida to reprise the role of “consoler-in-chief” a week after the 12-storey Champlain Towers South partially caved in as residents slept.

The confirmed death toll remained at 18 after the discovery of six more bodies in the ruins of the condo including two children, aged four and 10.

Another 145 people are missing and feared trapped in the rubble, with hopes of finding any survivors diminishing with each passing day.

After arriving in Miami, Biden attended a briefing with local officials, including Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024.

Biden, a Democrat, told them he would deliver “whatever you need” and said he expected the federal government would cover the full costs for the county and state.

Rescue workers at the site were instructed to stop just after 2am on Thursday when movement in the debris raised concerns that the part of the building still standing could collapse, officials said.

“The search-and-rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters.

Officials said they were unsure when that would happen, but have not given up on locating survivors.

Nobody has been pulled alive from the wreckage since the early hours of the disaster in the oceanfront town of Surfside, adjacent to Miami Beach.

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers did hear signs of life during their initial efforts last week.

“They were searching for a female voice, is what we heard for several hours,” he said.

“Eventually, we didn’t hear her voice anymore.”

Officials are also keeping a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Elsa, which formed over the Atlantic and could reach south Florida by Monday, potentially hampering search operations.

-With AAP and Reuters

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