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What we know today, Tuesday July 27


NSW has reported a new daily high 172 locally acquired cases of COVID-19, with at least 79 of those people out in community for all or part of their infectious period.

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NSW records 172 new cases, 79 in the community

NSW has reported 172 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 – another new daily high – with at least 79 of those people circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

Two women in their 80s who died of the virus, as reported on Monday, were household contacts of people who were unvaccinated.

It comes after 145 new cases were reported on Monday and 142 on Sunday.

Berejiklian said the virus was now becoming more prevalent in western Sydney, than in south-western Sydney.

“Time and time again cases are popping up in workplaces … but also in households,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

A multi-storey apartment block in western Sydney has been locked down with a police guard to enforce two weeks of quarantine after six cases of COVID-19 were detected amongst the residents.

Around 100 people living in the five-storey building are being urgently tested after the first case was diagnosed in a resident in the Devitt St building in Blacktown on Monday.

Western Sydney Local Health District says all residents are considered close contacts.

The six cases were identified in three associated households of the apartment block of 50 units, which is owned by Evolve Housing, one of the country’s largest community housing providers.

Authorities are working with residents and building management to and other agencies “to implement measures to address infection control and the health and welfare of residents”.

“Food and other services, including daily welfare checks, will be provided to residents safely during their 14-day quarantine period,” the Western Sydney Local Health District said.

“Tailored support services will be provided to all isolated residents as needed.”

NSW Police were called by NSW Health on Monday night to guard the building.

Concert promoter has charges dismissed

Concert promoter and former reality TV star Phil Rankine has had $5 million theft charges against him dismissed.

Rankine, who twice appeared on The Block home renovation show, faced Adelaide Magistrates Court on Tuesday where Chief Magistrate Mary-Louise Hribal ruled prosecutors had taken too long to advance their case.

Her decision came after the court was told investigators would need another six months to make inquiries in Sydney and overseas in relation to the allegations against the 52-year-old.

Given that request for more time, Judge Hribal said she was prepared to dismiss the charges.

“Should more material come to light over the course of the next six months and the prosecution then decide they’ve got sufficient material to re-lay and take it to the director, that’s a matter for them,” she said.

“But it’s been before the court now for 11 months, a forensic accountant’s report was completed back in April.

“I think that sufficient time.”

Rankine had faced 20 counts of taking property without consent with four of those counts aggravated.

The charges related to money he received from investors, both in Australia and overseas, in 2018 and 2019.

The court heard previously that Rankine had falsely claimed he would bring international stars Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Rob Thomas to Adelaide despite allegedly lacking the licence to promote them.

As a promoter, Rankine had previously brought major acts to SA including Lionel Richie, Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi.

On Tuesday, prosecutors told the court that investigators needed more time to go back to Sydney concert promoters to find out the framework around any agreements and contracts entered into with Rankine.

They said with some of the victims residing interstate and overseas it would also be necessary to speak with them again in relation to contracts and agreements that were signed.

They said while they were asking for another lengthy delay the matter was both complex and serious.

Vic lockdown lifts but outbreak ‘not over’

Victoria’s statewide lockdown will end after 12 days, with stay-home rules scrapped, students to return to school and businesses to reopen.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the lockdown – the state’s fifth in 17 months – will lift at 11.59pm on Tuesday, ending stay-home orders and the five-kilometre travel limit.

“It’s not over. We’ve got to be vigilant against this virus, the Delta strain, in the days and weeks and months ahead until we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Under the eased restrictions, schools can welcome back students for all year levels, hospitality venues can reopen for seated service and outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 10 people.

Live music venues, dance classes and gyms can also throw open their doors with a strict density limit of one person per four square metres.

But many onerous restrictions will linger, with health authorities wary of the highly infectious Delta variant that sparked the shutdown.

Victorians won’t be able to have visitors to their home and masks remain compulsory indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

In addition, no crowds will be allowed at sports events or theatres.

The restrictions will remain in place for two weeks.

Qld confirms COVID-19 quarantine breach

Queensland has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 after genomic sequencing revealed another breach of the state’s hotel quarantine system.

No new cases emerged after authorities conducted 13,081 virus tests overnight, authorities said on Tuesday.

A Gold Coast man who tested positive on the weekend has been linked to an outbreak of Delta in quarantine at the Amore Hotel Brisbane.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says the man stayed in a room opposite a returned traveller who has the same genomic strain of the virus.

“He has exactly the same sequence, it’s identical with no snips different,” she told reporters.

Young said another five people are linked to the cluster at the Amora Hotel.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said five people on the same flight as the initial traveller also caught the Delta variant.

“It shows how infectious the new Delta strain is, which we are now seeing as the dominant strain across the globe,” she said.

Miami condo collapse final death toll 98

Remains of the last person still listed as missing in the collapse of a Florida condominium tower on June 24 have been recovered and identified, bringing the final confirmed death toll to 98.

The Miami-Dade fire department’s round-the-clock search for additional victims at the beachfront site of the Champlain Towers South condo, in the Miami suburb of Surfside, was demobilised on Friday.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the combined search-and-rescue operation and efforts to find and identify victims of the Surfside disaster “the largest non-hurricane emergency response in the history of our state”.

“Today I can report, because of the sustained heroic efforts, the last remaining missing person has now been accounted for and identified and the family notified,” the mayor said on Monday.

“Through these tireless efforts we were able to at least bring closure to all those who reported missing loved ones.”

The confirmed death toll consists of the 97 victims killed outright when the building crumbled in the early hours of June 24 as residents slept, and one victim who died while hospitalised.

No one had been pulled alive from the mounds of pulverised concrete, splintered lumber and twisted metal since the early hours after the collapse 33 days ago, and authorities formally gave up hope of finding any more survivors on July 7.

Ten new COVID cases in Vic, all linked

Victoria has reported 10 new local COVID-19 cases as the authorities prepare to cautiously lift the state’s lockdown while wary of another outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

For a third straight day, all the new locally acquired cases on Tuesday have been linked to Victoria’s current outbreaks and were in isolation for their entire infectious period.

There are now 190 infections linked to the outbreak, which originated from NSW.

More than 24,000 test results were received in the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday, while 15,677 vaccine doses were administered at state-run sites during the same period.

Premier Daniel Andrews, senior government ministers and the state’s public health team met on Monday night to make a final decision on the new restrictions.

An announcement is expected to be made before midday on Tuesday, with students set to return to school and hospitality and retail businesses to reopen.

Finishing touches to be put on lockdown end

Authorities are finalising plans to bring South Australia out of its week-long COVID-19 lockdown tomorrow amid growing confidence the Modbury cluster of virus cases has been contained.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told ABC Radio this morning that the lockdown was still on track to lift at midnight tonight.

He said the latest updates to new rules from tomorrow included the resumption of training for sporting teams, but matches could not begin again for another seven days.

Stevens said this was because players within a club were part of the same social group but playing against other teams was a step too far at this stage.

“We think it’s the right step at this point in time,” he said.

Stevens said international repatriation flight schedules will also resume at previous levels.

Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday he was “absolutely delighted” with how South Australians had complied with the restrictions.

“We said we wanted to go hard, we wanted to go early and we wanted to knock this off,” he said.

When the lockdown lifts, SA will keep a range of heightened restrictions including a general density requirement of one person to every four square metres.

Masks will be required in high-risk settings, such as aged care centres, in medical services and on public transport.

The wider use of masks is strongly encouraged.

All food and drink consumption must be while seated and dancing and singing remain banned.

Family gatherings will be limited to 10 people although weddings and funerals can have up to 50.

Schools will also reopen tomorrow.

The new restrictions will remain in place for at least a week.

SA reported just one new case in the Modbury cluster on Monday, an 87-year-old man who visited Tenafeate Creek winery near One Tree Hill last week, which is now linked to 11 infections.

However, Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said more cases could still crop up, most likely in close contacts of those already found to have the virus.

She said it was hoped any new cases would already be in quarantine.

The cluster currently stands at 19 infections.

Wild weather set to return

The State Emergency Service (SES) is urging South Australians to be prepared for more severe weather ahead of strong winds and rain again forecast to lash the state over the next few days.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting another windy period across the State during Tuesday and Wednesday, with damaging winds possible again. Gusty showers, isolated thunderstorms and small hail are also expected for more southern parts of SA.

Winds are expected to reach 55km/h in Adelaide from late morning today with up to 8mm of rain expected. The strong winds and rain is expected to continue into Wednesday before clearing up on Thursday and Friday.

SES Chief of Staff Graeme Wynwood is urging South Australians to prepare their properties be aware of the danger of falling trees today ahead of the forecast conditions.

“After the severe weather over the weekend, take the opportunity today to clean up around your house and fix any damage to your property to keep yourself and your property safe,” he said.

“Loose items around your property, such as trampolines and outdoor furniture, can become airborne in these windy conditions, so make sure to secure and put them away to prevent damage to your property or your neighbour’s property.”

Between Friday and noon yesterday, the SES responded to more than 850 requests for help, including 550 call outs for trees down.

“With the combination of the rain over the weekend and the windy conditions forecast, we can expect more trees down. Take steps to stay safe, such as parking cars undercover and well away from trees,” Wynwood said.

Two more virus deaths as NSW opens up vaccination

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in Sydney, as NSW overhauls its vaccination rollout to include supermarket workers and people aged over 40 wanting the AstraZeneca jab without a GP referral.

NSW Health confirmed a woman in her 80s had died at her home in Pendle Hill in Sydney’s west on Monday afternoon, while a man, also in his 80s, died at Campbelltown Hospital.

The deaths take the toll from the state’s latest outbreak to 10, and come a day after a Sydney-based Brazilian student in her 30s became the youngest woman to die of COVID-19 in Australia.

NSW recorded 145 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, with southwest Sydney remaining the main area of concern for authorities.

Western Sydney Local Health District on Monday announced pop-up clinics will be set up across the Merrylands and Guildford area for three weeks for AstraZeneca vaccinations.

All people aged over 40 will be able to receive the jab without a GP referral.

NSW Health is looking at options to lower the age limit.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant echoed updated expert immunisation advice that locked-down residents should “strongly consider” taking the AstraZeneca jab.

Dr Chant suggested NSW Health could administer more than 350,000 vaccines per week if its Pfizer supply was enhanced. This is separate from the federal government’s vaccine rollout.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government would this week settle on its post-July plans.

Some restrictions may be tightened while others could be eased where transmission risk is minimal.

The future of homeschooling is yet to be determined but construction activity, currently paused, will resume in some form from Saturday.

“We might need to go harder in some areas and release some settings in others,”  Berejiklian said.

SA businesses put hands up for help

The State Government says more than 14,300 businesses have registered for emergency cash grants it announced last week, but just 2500 have so far received them.

The $3000 and $1000 grants are designed to support eligible SMEs across the state – from gyms, hairdressers and nail salons to restaurants, cafes and hotels – affected by the seven-day lockdown.

Modelled on similar schemes in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, the $3000 SA grants apply to those businesses with a payroll of less than $10 million, with an annual turnover of $75,000 or more (in 2020-21 or 2019-20) and whose turnover is reduced by at least 30 per cent over the seven days from 20 July 2021 as a result of the lockdown.

A $1,000 cash grant is available for eligible small businesses that don’t employ staff such as non-employing sole traders.

More than 14,300 businesses have registered their interest in the grants via the Treasury website. Nearly 2,500 SMEs so far have received the $3,000 cash grant, while 88 have received the $1,000 grant.

Treasury says it will contact via email successful grant recipients from the 2020 Rounds 1 and 2 of the Small Business Grant to advise them of the new Business Support Grant.

The applications process for these businesses will be fast-tracked and payments expedited where business details have not changed, and eligibility requirements are satisfied.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the Government was working to ensure the “financial lifeline” was available to support as many businesses and local jobs as possible.

“Our focus is firmly on getting this money out the door and into the pockets of our hardworking small businesses as quickly as possible,” he said.

“These grants will provide an immediate cash injection to help them cover ongoing operating costs, such as rent, power bills, supplier and raw material costs and help them be able to re-open from tomorrow, when restrictions ease.

“In some cases, where small businesses have already received previous cash grants from the Government last year, and their details remain the same, Treasury has been able to fast-track their payments.”

Frydenberg banks on Australia dodging another recession

The federal Treasurer is banking on Australia rebounding quickly from the economic impact of lockdowns in NSW and Victoria to avoid another recession this year.

But Josh Frydenberg also says it’s too early to tell if that will go to plan, warning the path to recovery will be through high vaccination rates.

“Given the lockdowns across our two biggest state economies, NSW and Victoria, it won’t be surprising if the September quarter is negative,” he told The Australian in an interview on Tuesday.

“As for the December quarter, it’s too early to tell.

“We have seen the economy rebound strongly from prior lockdowns and have good reason to expect it will do so again. But COVID has taught us we never know what’s around the corner.”

Australia could be plunged into another technical recession if the economy contracts for two consecutive quarters.

Frydenberg noted the economy had bounced back strongly after last year’s coronavirus induced recession.

“This demonstrates that when we successfully suppress the virus, the economy bounces back,” he said,

“The only pathway to a sustained recovery is through vaccination.”

Meanwhile, business is calling for a smarter approach to tackling the coronavirus, rather than the current response which has seen half the population in lockdown with negative consequences for the national economy.

Research by consultants EY and commissioned by the Business Council of Australia shows lockdowns in SA, Victoria and NSW are costing the economy $2.8 billion per week and impacting 1.6 million workers.

The NSW lockdown alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of this cost.

EY estimates that 100 days of lockdown restrictions at current levels would force the economy into reverse, taking it back to the lowest point of last year’s recession.

– with AAP and Reuters

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