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What we know today, Friday July 9

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NSW has tightened restrictions and could further extend its lockdown after recording another 44 local COVID-19 cases, with the number expected to rise amid the state’s “scariest time” since the pandemic began.

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NSW has 44 new ‘concerning’ infections

NSW has tightened restrictions and could further extend its lockdown after recording another 44 local COVID-19 cases, with the number expected to rise as the Premier warns of the state’s “scariest time” since the pandemic began.

Authorities today revealed 29 of the new cases were out in the community while infectious, as the number of close contacts in the state doubled to 14,000 people. “Do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“This is the scariest time of the pandemic”

Restrictions have been tightened on exercise and funerals for locked-down residents of Greater Sydney and its surrounds.

The 44 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday is the highest number of NSW daily infections since the pandemic’s first wave in early 2020, with Berejeklian telling reporters on Friday the number of cases in the community was a significant concern.

“That is the number really concerning us,” Berejiklian said.

“It tells us that in the next few days, those numbers are going to go up.

“This is the opposite of where we need or want the numbers to trend.”

As a result, locked-down residents from 5pm will be banned from exercising more than 10km from their home, and only in groups of two people.

Funerals in these areas will also be capped at 10 people.

“We are now not only looking at areas where the transmission has occurred but trying to prevent any super-seeding events,” Berejiklian said.

“New South Wales is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started and I don’t say it lightly.

“And unless there is a dramatic change, unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the numbers, I can’t see how we would be in a position to ease restrictions by next Friday.”

Ten COVID-19 patients in NSW are in intensive care, with four ventilated. A total of 43 people in NSW are in hospital, seven of which are under the age of 35.

NSW chief public health officer Dr Kerry Chant said: “Of the 10 people in ICU, one is in their 20s. One is in their 30s. One is in their 50s. And five are in their 60s. And two are in their 70s.”

“This trend has to be turned around, and the only way we can do so is by seeing a decline in numbers.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard issued a strong warning to the public about following public health orders.

“I can’t tell you how concerned I am now as health minister at the way this Delta virus is moving throughout our community,” Hazzard said.

“We were told some years ago by former Prime Minister [John] Howard I think it was to be ‘alert but not alarmed’ – right now here in Greater Sydney … I am both alert and alarmed.

“I have seen the figures of people who are out and about, I have seen what Health is concerned about and I share that concern.

“We must stress to each individual, we have a responsibility to stop the virus in its tracks. The only way that we can do that is not to leave our homes unless we absolutely have to, and don’t visit our family, don’t visit our friends.”

It comes after NSW Police said officers will patrol the streets of southwest Sydney to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health orders, with senior cops insisting the measure is not about discrimination or racism.

The crackdown from Friday comes after Ms Berejiklian hinted earlier this week the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool council areas could soon be subject to stricter COVID-19 restrictions.

But NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon on Friday denied the region – one of Sydney’s most diverse – was facing a harsher police response than that witnessed in places such as Bondi or Avalon.

The police response will include additional general duties officers as well as mounted police, the dog squad and PolAir surveillance.

Lanyon said previous outbreaks also prompted mounted police presence.

Some 21 of Friday’s reported cases were in southwest Sydney.

“The fact we’ve doubled up in southwest Sydney is a reflection of the serious nature of the spread of this virus at the moment … this is the time for the police and the community to come together,” he told the Nine Network.

“This is not about discrimination. This is not about racism.”

Police will be asking people outside their homes what their reasonable excuse is, and will crack down on activities like unnecessary shopping.

SA trial program to offer COVID vaccines to homeless

A trial program will seek to provide COVID-19 vaccines to South Australia’s homeless.

The vaccine will be provided by a mobile team, initially to those people accessing assistance from Baptist Care SA in Adelaide.

“The COVID-19 vaccination program is our doorway out of the pandemic, and the government is working hard to give every South Australian access,” Health Minister Stephen Wade said.

“We are committed to protecting all South Australians, especially our most vulnerable citizens, from the effects of COVID-19.”

Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) and SA Ambulance Service staff members will use a decommissioned ambulance to transport and administer the vaccines to those at the Baptist Care SA’s WestCare Centre.

The trial is part of a wider program being developed through a partnership between SA Health and groups supporting SA’s homeless community.

CALHN executive lead for COVID-19 Rachael Kay said the trial marked the first stage of the outreach program.

“People experiencing homelessness may not be able to attend a clinic to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, so we are looking at what we can do to help get the vaccine to them,” Kay said.

SA road toll approaching 10-year high

A jump in road deaths in South Australia, with the toll running at a near 10-year high, has prompted calls for motorists to take more care on the state’s roads.

In the first six months of 2021, 53 people have died, seven more than at the same time last year.

It’s the second-worst start to the year in the past decade and equal to the 53 people killed in the first half of 2013.

If the situation continues SA would record more than 100 deaths over the full year.

Royal Automobile Association Senior Safety Manager Charles Mountain said the mid-year report was a sombre reminder for people to take extra care on the roads.

“All road users can play their part by being safe and not contributing to the number of lives lost in road crashes,” he said.

“Whether you are on Adelaide’s streets, enjoying a driving holiday this school break or are a regular user of regional roads, it’s crucial not to be complacent or distracted when behind the wheel.

“Also be aware of other drivers’ behaviour, as their focus may not be where it should be.”

Police figures showed almost half the fatal crashes this year involved single vehicles running off the road.

The number of people losing their lives on regional roads was also running higher than the average, accounting for 66 per cent of deaths.

While 23 people killed so far this year were aged 50 to 69, compared to just nine in the same period last year.

Mountain urged motorists to drive to the conditions, especially during the winter months.

“These include heavy rain, fog, slippery roads and some areas may even experience black ice,” he said.

“These conditions can dramatically affect how your vehicle behaves, particularly if you don’t adjust your driving by slowing down, reducing cornering speed and allowing a greater stopping distance.

“Safely negotiating such conditions requires our full attention.”

Home quarantine set for trial in Australia

Australia is set to trial home quarantine for fully vaccinated overseas arrivals with NSW and South Australia likely to be the first states to participate in a pilot scheme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will discuss the idea with premiers and chief ministers at a national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said proposal would look at alternative options including home quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.

“One of the things the work done so far tells us is that a vaccinated person quarantining for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person quarantining for 14 days,” she told ABC radio.

NSW and SA have expressed interest in participating in a small-scale trial.

“We will start that in the coming period when the medical advice enables us to do so and the processes are put in place,” Senator Payne said.

The ACT has allowed diplomats, government officials and the prime minister to quarantine at residences during the pandemic.

But the territory government is reluctant to immediately expand the program to the general population.

National cabinet will also revisit international passenger caps, which will be halved in five days.

The foreign minister said the reduction would be in place until August 31 despite Mr Morrison stating it would be in place until at least the start of next year.

Senator Payne said work was underway to increase the amount of government-facilitated flights as demand soars from Australians stranded abroad.

“I’m very aware, particularly given the extraordinary amount of work my department has been doing with Australians endeavouring to return, this does create an additional layer of difficulty,” she said.

Australia’s Pfizer supplies brought forward

Australia will soon have access to up to one million doses of Pfizer vaccines per week, with supplies of the jab fast-tracked although the total number of doses contracted by the federal government has not changed.

The country currently has between 300,000 and 350,000 Pfizer vaccines doses a week to administer.

That will jump to one million a week in the second half of July.

In August, Australia will receive 4.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines, which is significantly more than first anticipated.

Pfizer has promised Australia 40 million doses of the vaccine.

The vaccine shipments are being fast-tracked by several months but the total order will not increase.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident the fast-tracked Pfizer supplies will give the troubled vaccine rollout a shot in the arm.

And with another 1300 GPs joining the rollout to deliver the Pfizer doses, he believes the rollout can be completed by Christmas.

“We really are hitting the marks we need to hit,” Morrison told ABC radio on Friday.

“We’ve done a lot of catch-up, particularly over the month of June, and that’s seen us now hitting the levels we need to get this job done and have everyone offered a dose by the end of the year.”

Pfizer is the recommended vaccine for people aged under 60 so the boost to supplies should improve vaccination rates.

Just 10 per cent of Australians aged over 16 are fully vaccinated with two doses.

Premier Steven Marshall said greater Pfizer supplies would help SA Health open up vaccine eligibility to younger cohorts.

“The vaccination rates are increasing, the Prime Minister’s announcing later this morning a massive increase in the weekly Pfizer doses that will be coming into Australia,” the premier told ABC Radio this morning.

“That’s really, really good news.

“We’re just always looking for ways that we can increase that supply, and as we do that then we can move to other cohorts, so for example those under 40.”

It comes after South Australia yesterday opened to travellers from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and parts of Queensland, with arrivals no longer having to quarantine for 14 days.

However, the state remains shut to Brisbane, NSW and the ACT.

South Australia recorded one new COVID-19 case on Thursday – a man in his 20s quarantining in a medi-hotel.

AstraZeneca advice, home quarantine on national cabinet agenda

The prime minister is calling for Australians under lockdown to receive a second dose of AstraZeneca within eight weeks of their first jab, as national cabinet meets today to mull health advice on alternative quarantine for vaccinated Australians and mandatory jabs for disability support workers.

Sydney is in the grip of an ongoing outbreak, with NSW reporting 38 new local COVID-19 cases on Thursday as the city and surrounds prepare for at least a third week of stay-at-home orders.

A 12-week gap between AstraZeneca jabs has been recommended as the most effective way to protect people.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants people in the worst-affected areas who have received a first jab to make second dose appointments closer to eight weeks.

He said his latest recommendation was consistent with the advice of the expert immunisation panel ATAGI.

In the three Sydney councils with the most infections, about half of those aged over 70 have received a first dose.

An extra 300,000 AstraZeneca – which is recommended for people over 60 – and Pfizer vaccines will be made available for NSW.

Nancy Baxter, the head of the University of Melbourne’s school of population and global health, said 12 weeks remained the recommended AstraZeneca interval.

“We don’t really know how effective it is at eight weeks,” she told the ABC.

“It’s not time for politicians to be making recommendations about vaccination.”

State and territory leaders will meet with the prime minister during a virtual meeting on Friday with the rollout remaining high on the agenda.

National cabinet will also discuss Australian Health Protection Principal Committee research on alternative quarantine arrangements for vaccinated Australians.

Agreement is expected on mandatory jabs for disability support workers following a recommendation from the AHPPC which followed a similar order imposed on aged care workers.

The prime minister will also talk about vaccinating fly-in, fly-out workers with premiers and chief ministers following a COVID-19 outbreak at a Northern Territory gold mine linked to 19 workers.

Barty progresses to Wimbledon final

Ash Barty has become Australia’s first women’s singles finalist at Wimbledon since 1980 after defeating former champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets in their semi-final on Thursday.

Living up to her world No.1 billing, the Queenslander said she’d never played such a fine match after prevailing 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in what she had called her “ultimate test” against the rejuvenated three-time grand slam winner on Centre Court.

She had to produce some supreme tennis to fight back from 5-2 down in the second set and prevailed after playing an immaculate tiebreak to move into her second grand slam final after one hour 27 minutes.

The 25-year-old Australian will tackle Karolina Pliskova in the final, after the tall, big-serving Czech blitzed 14 aces as she defeated Aryna Sabalenka 5-7 6-4 6-4 in the other semi-final.

Barty, the first Australian women’s finalist since her idol and mentor Evonne Goolagong won the title in 1971 and 1980.

She is also Australia’s first singles finalist – man or woman – at the All England Club since Mark Philippoussis lost to Roger Federer in 2003.

And if she produces this quality in the final, having crashed down eight aces and 38 winners, including 18 whipped from her glorious forehand, the 25-year-old is in good shape to become the nation’s third champion in the Open era after Margaret Court and Goolagong.

“I’m incredibly proud of myself and my team and now we get a chance on Saturday to live out a childhood dream,” she told the crowd after the match.

Olympic spectators banned as Tokyo enters state of emergency

Spectators will be barred from Olympic venues in Tokyo, with organisers insisting it was the “only choice” after a new state of emergency was declared in the Japanese capital.

The global health crisis continues to have a major impact on preparations for the Games, with rising infection rates in the Tokyo region prompting the Japanese government to reimpose emergency measures for a fourth time.

Last month organisers announced plans to allow 50 per cent capacity at Games venues, up to a maximum of 10,000 people, but the declaration of the state of emergency from Monday forced them into a re-think.

Olympic events taking place in regions of Japan where emergency measures have not been imposed may still admit spectators if the relevant local authorities opt to do so, a statement from the organisers said.

“This is a sorry message that we have to announce, but this was the only choice available to take,” Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee president Seiko Hashimoto said on Thursday.

“The anxiety is being expressed and a lot of people are opposed. Every person is entitled to have every different thought but overriding these differences, athletes will do their best.”

Attendance at regular professional sports events in areas of Japan under emergency measures is permitted if capacities are capped at 50 per cent or 5,000, whichever is lowest.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said International Olympic Committee members and executives from international sports federations and national Olympic committees would still be admitted to venues.

The Olympic Games officially begin on July 23, with the closing ceremony taking place on August 8.

A decision on spectators for the Paralympic Games – which run from August 24 to September 5 – will be made on July 16.

Australia owes Afghan workers visa: Howard

The prime minister who sent Australians to fight in Afghanistan is calling for the nation to help the locals they fought alongside with and who now face a resurgent Taliban.

John Howard has piled pressure on the federal government to grant protection visas for Afghan subcontractors who fear for their lives.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is being urged to fast-track applications from interpreters, contractors and security guards as Australia’s longest war draws to a close.

Howard, who was prime minister when Australian troops were first deployed to the war-torn country in 2001, said the nation has an ethical duty to provide safe haven for Afghans who aided their cause.

“It was a moral obligation that we shamefully disregarded many years ago when we pulled out of Vietnam,” the 81-year-old told SBS TV.

“I do not want to see a repetition of that failure in relation to Afghanistan.”

People employed as subcontractors have reportedly been denied access to visas for locally engaged workers.

Howard, who has no regrets over his decision to follow the US to war in Afghanistan, said the technicality should not be used to keep those potentially in peril from the sanctuary of Australia.

“I don’t think it’s something that should turn on some narrow legalism,” the nation’s second longest-serving prime minister said.

“If a group of people gave help to Australians such that their lives and that of those immediately around them are in danger we have a moral obligation to help them.”

Taliban fighters have been advancing across the country in recent weeks as Australia and the United States end two decades of involvement in Afghanistan.

Australia has granted more than 230 visas to Afghans including family members of local workers since April 15.

Melbourne down Port Adelaide to take top spot

Dynamic duo Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca have propelled Melbourne to a 31-point dismantling of Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, as the Power assess the damage of another loss to a premiership contender.

Oliver and Petracca had 64 disposals between them as the Demons reclaimed top spot with a 12.14 (86) to 8.7 (55) AFL win on Thursday night at Adelaide Oval.

Teammate Tom McDonald slotted three goals – the sixth time he’s booted three or more in 16 games this season.

His teammate Kysaiah Pickett also kicked three majors to rediscover touch while recalled forward Ben Brown (10 disposals, four marks) was lively in the first half.

Port’s former captain Travis Boak (25 disposals, eight clearances) and Ollie Wines (33 touches) continued their fine form.

Winger Karl Amon (28 possessions, eight inside 50s) was influential and emerging attacker Mitch Georgiades briefly sparked Port hopes with a two-goal cameo and soaring mark.

But the Power’s premiership credentials have taken another hit from a genuine contender.

Of Port’s five losses, four have been to flag fancies: the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Geelong and now Melbourne.

The Power slip from fourth to fifth and the gap may widen with Brisbane (third) and Geelong (fourth) favourites to create breathing space with wins over St Kilda and Carlton.

And compounding Port’s problems, comeback kid Zak Butters was substituted from the game with a right knee injury.

Port coach Ken Hinkley said the 20-year-old playmaker, missing since round four because of ankle surgery, may have suffered ligament damage.

“He has given his knee a bit of a sprain, it looks like maybe his medial (ligament) … we will wait and see,” Hinkley said.

-With AAP and Reuters

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