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What we know today, Thursday July 15


New South Wales has recorded 65 new local COVID cases, 35 of which were infectious in the community, while Victoria has reported two additional cases linked to the MCG.

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NSW records 65 new cases, Vic reports two more cases linked to MCG

New South Wales has recorded 65 new local COVID cases, 35 of which were infectious in the community, while Victoria has reported two additional cases linked to the MCG.

Due to the number of cases infectious in the community, Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Thursday that the number of daily infections was likely to again rise in the coming days.

“Whilst the case numbers are bouncing around, we are seeing a stabilisation … they are not growing exponentially,” Berejiklian told reporters.

“That tells us that the settings that we have in place are having an impact. My strongest message to everybody is keep doing what you are doing.”

There are 19 people in intensive care in NSW, with five ventilated.

Five million NSW residents will endure at least another fortnight of lockdown after a run of high daily coronavirus numbers forced the state government on Wednesday to extend stay-at-home measures to at least July 30.

In Victoria, there are now 16 local COVID-19 cases after authorities reported a further two cases linked to the MCG members reserve at a Carlton vs Geelong AFL match on Saturday.

The state’s coronavirus response commander Jeroen Weimar said 6500 people are now isolating in Victoria.

There are also now more than 75 exposure sites in the state.

Weimar said authorities believe the two new cases at the MCG were not known to the COVID-positive man from the Ariele Apartments block who attended the game, indicating possible “stranger-to-stranger transmission”. 

“I think both these cases put us in a serious situation,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“Our initial information is that the two new cases we have today are not known to the gentleman from the Ariele. That gives us significant cause for concern.”

Qld records three new local COVID-19 cases

Queensland has recorded three new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and will extend a face mask mandate for another week.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the three cases include a 12-year-old boy who flew into the state from Sydney on July 9, and his father.

A fully vaccinated airport worker has also tested positive, which is a major concern for authorities.

Palaszczuk says COVID-19 restrictions in line to be eased in 11 local government areas in the state’s southeast on Friday will remain in place for another week.

“We won’t be able to ease our restrictions in the Greater Brisbane area and I know people will be disappointed by that, I am disappointed by that … but what we are seeing is that these outbreaks are happening across the country,” she said.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the boy had travelled to the US and arrived back in Australia via Sydney Airport on June 21 with his mother.

He then flew with his mother to Brisbane on Qantas flight 544 on Friday and is believed to have given his father the virus after arriving home.

The mother has tested negative so far but is now in hospital with her son, who tested positive on Wednesday.

Young said the airport worker is a woman who had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer jab and lives in Tarragindi in Brisbane’s south.

The worker had worked at the airport for three days while infectious.

“So, because we have now got these three new community cases and I suspect I’ll get confirmation later today … they are unrelated to all of our other cases, these are new outbreaks,” Dr Young said.

Third Tailem Bend exposure site revealed after restrictions warning

SA Health has identified a third COVID exposure site in Tailem Bend after Police Commissioner Grant Stevens warned of a “potential outbreak” in the town an hour south-east of Adelaide and said authorities were “actively considering” new restrictions for South Australia.

On Wednesday evening, SA Health named the OTR Tailem Bend Motorsport Park service station on the Dukes Highway as an exposure site following “new information and CCTV footage”.

The venue was visited by a crew of three Sydney removalists on their way into South Australia on Friday morning as they were relocating a New South Wales family to McLaren Vale.

Two of the crew members tested COVID-positive after returning to NSW on Saturday.

Anyone who was at the motorsport park service station on Friday, July 9 from 7:20am to 8:15am must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days along with members of their household.

It is the third Tailem Bend exposure site identified by authorities after a Shell service station and adjacent café were visited by the removalist crew on Friday evening as they travelled back to NSW.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said 25 QR code check-ins were recorded at the motorsport park service station during the at-risk period.

“Unfortunately, only 25 People have QR code checked in at that time, and we do know this was a busy time for that particular service station and is a very popular stop,” she told ABC Radio this morning.

She said seven staff members had so far undergone rapid COVID tests and returned negative results this morning, with all employees now in 14-days home quarantine.

Kirkpatrick said that “at this stage, we’re not aware of any other locations and we’re not actively searching for any other locations”.

The new service station exposure site was revealed two hours after Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens issued a “harsh” warning to South Australians that authorities were on the brink of introducing new restrictions.

“We are dealing with a potential outbreak now in Tailem Bend,” he told reporters.

“I need people to understand just how serious this is and how close we are to imposing further restrictions on the community of South Australia.”

Stevens said authorities have so far identified 118 close contacts at the Shell service station and Coolabah Tree Café in Tailem Bend.

All of the close contacts at the Shell service station – and their household contacts – have tested negative and are in 14-days home quarantine.

Stevens said authorities were particularly concerned about QR code compliance.

He said there were 25 QR code check-ins at the Shell service station and neighbouring café during the at-risk period between 5.20 and 7pm on Friday, but the sites recorded 76 credit card transactions during the same time.

“This is a major factor in our considerations in relation to next steps for South Australian restrictions,” Stevens said.

“We need to be confident that the South Australian community are doing the right thing and using those QR check-ins so we can actively contact trace anyone who may have been exposed.”

He added that authorities will be meeting on Thursday to discuss introducing new restrictions.

Women’s safety summit postponed due to COVID

A national summit on women’s safety has been delayed due to coronavirus outbreaks across the country.

The meeting was due to take place later this month but has been postponed until September.

More than 300 people have been invited to the two-day conference.

The summit will include sessions on financial security, policing and justice responses, and sexual violence.

Speakers will include Australian of the Year Grace Tame, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar and eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman will also address the conference.

Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston said attendees would have diverse backgrounds and broad experience.

If the face-to-face summit cannot take place on the new dates in September it will be held online.

AFL sends five clubs to Queensland

The AFL has opted to relocate Sydney, GWS, North Melbourne and Essendon to Queensland along with sending the Western Bulldogs up north earlier than scheduled as concern grows about the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

The two Sydney clubs have been based in Victoria since June 22 due to NSW’s coronavirus crisis but were told late on Wednesday night about their next impending move.

They were meant to play their derby in Ballarat on Saturday but that is now likely to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane.

“About nine o’clock, 9.15 (Wednesday night) there was a conversation with the AFL that this is a possibility because we’re playing the Giants and they’re in the same situation,” Swans chief executive Tom Harley told SEN.

“About five minutes later (players were told). The competition is pretty well-drilled at this now and when you talk about the prospects of Victoria and the COVID situation there, it just provides some flexibility in getting to Queensland.”

GWS and the Swans, as well as the Western Bulldogs who are due to play Gold Coast on Saturday, will fly out of Melbourne on Thursday.

North Melbourne’s clash with Essendon has also been moved from Marvel Stadium to Brisbane, with the two clubs boarding a chartered plane out of Melbourne this morning.

The Western Bulldogs, who are due to play Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, are also departing earlier than planned on Thursday.

It is still unclear whether Port Adelaide’s match with St Kilda will go ahead as planned at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

New Vic cases and restrictions as SA tightens border

The number of new COVID infections in Melbourne continues to grow and has prompted local authorities to reintroduce compulsory mask-wearing indoors, as South Australia moves to tighten border requirements for travellers from the Greater Melbourne area.

Eleven new cases of COVID-19 emerged in Melbourne’s north and west on Wednesday from two separate outbreaks, both of which stem from NSW.

A teacher from Bacchus Marsh primary school is among the new cases, having reportedly attended an AFL match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG on Saturday with an infected friend who lives at the locked-down Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong.

The friend, aged in his 60s, is one of four residents of the apartment to test positive on Wednesday, after it was visited by the NSW removalist crew who did a pick up at the complex on Thursday, July 8 while infectious, forcing 200 residents into 14 days of lockdown.

The 60-year-old man also infected his parents, aged 89 and 90, who live in Craigieburn.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar has confirmed the infected teacher attended a staff day on Monday but had no contact with students on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Barwon Heads Primary School near Geelong has also been closed until further notice after a case of coronavirus was reported.

From Thursday, anyone aged over 12 in Victoria will be required to wear a mask in all indoor settings, including schools and workplaces, unless an exception applies.

The new flare up has prompted South Australian authorities to introduce level one restrictions on incoming travellers from Greater Melbourne.

Arrivals from the area must submit to a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arrival in SA, and are not permitted to enter a high-risk setting like aged care until they receive a negative result.

There is, however, no requirement to quarantine while awaiting a test result.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the new testing requirements were a “first step” and authorities are “very concerned” about the MCG exposure site with SAPOL and SA Health monitoring the situation “on an hourly basis”.

“I would encourage any South Australian resident or person in South Australia now who was at the MCG at that football game to isolate and get a test and contact SA Health for further instructions,” Stevens said.

Anyone in South Australia who visited exposure sites in Victoria must immediately self-isolate and seek urgent testing.

The list of the exposure sites is available on the Victorian Health Department’s website.

SA braces for wild winter weather

A wintry blast is set to hit South Australia with the Bureau of Meteorology warning that wind gusts of more than 90km/h are possible and the Adelaide Hills could get up to 100mm of rain before the end of the week.

A series of low-pressure troughs are moving across the state ahead of a vigorous cold front, with the worst of the weather to hit the settled areas from Thursday afternoon before peaking on Friday and extending into Saturday, the BoM says.

Senior meteorologist Philip Perkins said a severe weather warning will be issued as damaging winds extend from the west to central, southern and eastern districts.

Heavy rain across the Mt Lofty Ranges could result in flooding and there is a potential for thunderstorms over parts of the state.

“Looking ahead to Friday when the peak of the hazardous weather will occur, we can expect winds to reach 40-60km/h over southern SA, with gusts stronger than 90km/h possible, particularly with showers and thunderstorms,” Perkins said.

“These winds can cause minor structural and vegetation damage.

“Windy conditions could whip up dust, particularly in driest areas of northern SA. We are urging motorists to drive to the conditions.”

The weather systems will also bring waves of six to nine metres to the western and southern coasts with boaties and beachgoers urged to check the conditions before heading out.

The wild weather has also prompted a “Code Blue” to be called across the state’s homeless service providers, with extra accommodation hours and overnight places available for the state’s rough sleepers in both Adelaide and the regional districts.

Federal speaker to retire at next election

Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith will retire at the next federal election after more than six years as the chamber’s presiding officer.

Smith, who represents the Victorian seat of Casey, was first elected to parliament 20 years ago this November.

“I love our parliament and serving the Australian people,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“However, I believe now is a good time to give the Liberal Party and the people of Casey the opportunity for renewal.”

He said he was retiring to give the Liberal Party time to choose a new candidate for his outer-suburban Melbourne seat, which is held by a margin of less than five per cent.

Smith was elected to the speakership in August 2015 following the resignation of Bronwyn Bishop due to an expenses controversy.

Smith promised to allow “robust” debate in parliament, but warned MPs to be better behaved.

“Parliament is a robust place … it is the arena for the battle of ideas and ideals,” he said.

“But it needn’t be rude and it needn’t be loud – that is something I’d like to see improved.”

He was re-elected to the speakership unopposed in 2016 and 2019.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Smith had been an outstanding Speaker.

“Tony Smith’s intellect, temperament, dry wit, staying above the fray and respect for the parliament as an institution, has earned him respect, far and wide,” Morrison said.

“Many Speakers can get caught in the crossfire of parliamentary debate. Instead, his actions have elevated debate and demonstrated the great strength of parliamentary democracy.”

Violist appointment heralds a new era for ASQ

The Adelaide-based Australian String Quartet has appointed Melbourne Symphony Orchestra associate principal viola Christopher Cartlidge as its new violist to replace long-time member Stephen King.

As reported in February, King has moved to a new off-stage role as director of engagement and learning with the ASQ after nine years performing with the group.

Cartlidge spent eight weeks with the quartet earlier this year, playing at events including the Adelaide Festival’s Chamber Landscapes series and Rafael Bonachela’s Impermanence with Sydney Dance Company.

“I am thrilled to be joining the ASQ as its new violist,” Cartlidge says. “For me, this is a new frontier to be explored: to express myself in new ways, to be a better musician, violist, and communicator. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Read the full story on InReview.

EU eyes petrol car ban, 100 per cent emissions cut

The European Union has proposed an effective ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, aiming to speed up the switch to zero-emission electric vehicles as part of a broad package of measures to combat climate change.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, proposed a 55 per cent cut in CO2 emissions from cars by 2030 versus 2021 levels, much higher than the existing target of a 37.5 per cent reduction by then.

It also proposed a 100 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2035, which would make it impossible to sell new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the 27-country bloc.

To boost sales EV sales, officials in Brussels proposed legislation that would require countries to install public charging points no more than 60 kilometres apart on major roads by 2025.

Officials foresee 3.5 million public charging stations for cars and vans by 2030, rising to 16.3 million by 2050.

European car industry association ACEA, however, said banning a specific technology was not a rational way forward, adding that internal combustion engines, hybrids, battery electric and hydrogen vehicles needed to play a role in the transition.

Even when buyers have been able to afford the price premium for a part- or all-electric vehicle, many have been deterred by “range anxiety” because of a lack of public charging stations.

Car makers had signalled they would only accept tougher emissions targets in return for massive public investment in chargers.

The Commission estimates 80-120 billion euros ($A127-190 billion) will need to be spent on public and private chargers across the EU by 2040.

The Commission’s proposals will need to be negotiated and approved by EU member states and the European Parliament, which could take around two years.

-With AAP and Reuters

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