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What we know today, Monday August 2

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Queensland has extended its three-day lockdown until next Sunday after recording 13 new local COVID-19 cases, while NSW reported another 207 cases today.

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Qld records 13 new cases, lockdown extended

Queensland has recorded 13 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and extended its lockdown until Sunday.

A total of 31 cases have been linked to the cluster so far, with chief health officer Jeannette Young expecting many more in coming days.

Many cases are linked to two schools, with four others considered high-risk exposure sites.

More than 10,000 people are in isolation and that number is expected to climb.

Young has warned the length of the lockdown will depend on how seriously residents of the southeast corner take her stay-at-home order.

“We need to lock down really, really hard – the hardest we have ever locked down,” she told Queenslanders on Monday.

“If you don’t need to leave your house, don’t.”

The cluster began on Thursday with a single positive case involving a 17-year-old student from Indooroopilly State High School. By Saturday, there were six more cases. On Sunday, nine more were added.

Of the 13 new cases reported on Monday, seven are students from Ironside State School, five are household or family contacts of those students, and one is linked to a confirmed case associated with a karate school that trains at that school.

One of the new cases was active in the community for six days while infectious, demonstrating the level of risk.

Young also revealed 10 of the 13 cases involve children aged nine and under, noting that younger people with the Delta variant are far more likely to transmit it to other people.

“So I am very worried about those schools.”

Acting Premier Steven Miles said Queensland had never before seen an outbreak involving significant spread amongst students, teachers, parents, extracurricular activities and public transport.

“It will likely see thousands of people subject to home quarantine directions,” he warned.

NSW records 207 new cases

NSW has recorded 207 new local COVID-19 cases as vaccinations remain a focus for authorities trying to forge a path out of lockdown.

At least 72 cases were in the community during part or all of their infectious period, with the infection status of another 46 cases currently unknown.

“It is really in our hands as to how we deal with the cases coming down as a community but also our rate of vaccinations,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Monday.

“One learning we have had in the last five weeks is that the vaccinations, both vaccines, are working extremely effectively.

“We still don’t know of anybody in intensive care who has received both doses of the vaccine.”

There are 232 COVID-19 cases in NSW hospitals, with 54 people in intensive care, 25 of whom require ventilation.

A man aged in his 90s, who had one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, died in Liverpool hospital.

He is the 15th death since the outbreak began in mid-June.

Shane Warne tests positive for COVID

Shane Warne has missed London Spirit’s clash with Southern Brave in the new English cricket limited-overs competition The Hundred after he was one of two members of the team’s coaching staff to test positive for COVID-19.

The former Australia spinner is the head coach of the men’s team for the Lord’s-based franchise but he was forced to sit out Sunday’s match after feeling unwell.

A club statement read: “London Spirit men’s head coach Shane Warne will be absent from today’s match against Southern Brave at Lord’s.

“After feeling unwell this morning, Shane returned a positive lateral flow test and will isolate from the squad and support staff whilst he awaits PCR results.

“A second member of the team management is self-isolating after also returning a positive test. No players have been impacted.”

Victoria records two new cases, both linked

Victoria has recorded two new local cases of COVID-19 as health authorities declare the end of the state’s Delta outbreak is drawing near.

Both cases are linked to Victoria’s current outbreaks and were in isolation for their entire infectious period.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton expects daily numbers to keep dropping in coming days.

“In the next week or so, we will run out of individuals who are close contacts who could test positive and we will have those days of proper zero again,” he said on Sunday.

There are 134 active cases in Victoria, down 27 from Sunday.

More than 21,000 test results were received in the 24 hours to Monday morning, while about 15,000 vaccine doses were administered at state-run sites during the same period.

Australia’s Afterpay to merge with Square

Australian buy-now-pay-later group Afterpay will merge with US digital payments giant Square in a deal worth $39 billion.

The pair have entered into a scheme implementation deed under which Square will acquire all of the issued shares in Afterpay.

The transaction – which has been unanimously recommended by the Afterpay board barring no other superior offer emerging – is valued at $39 billion ($US29 billion) and will be paid in Square stock.

“Square and Afterpay have a shared purpose,” Square CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey said in a statement on Monday.

“Together we can better connect our Cash App and Seller ecosystems to deliver even more compelling products and services for merchants and consumers, putting the power back in their hands.”

Square said Afterpay would be integrated into its existing Seller and Cash App units, allowing merchants to offer BNPL options to customers at checkout.

Afterpay customers will be able to manage their instalment payments directly in Square’s Cash App and Cash App customers will be able to look up merchants and BNPL options within the app.

Under the deal, Afterpay shareholders will get 0.375 Square shares for each Afterpay share held.

Based on Square’s US closing price of $US247.26 per share on July 30, Afterpay shares have an implied value of $126.21 each – a premium of about 30 per cent to Friday’s close.

The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of calendar 2022, pending court approval of a scheme of arrangement.

Afterpay’s co-founders and co-CEOs – Anthony Eisen and Mick Molnar – will join Square once that’s done.

Modbury cluster almost contained

SA Health reported three new overseas acquired cases of COVID-19 yesterday in returned travellers in a medi-hotel but no new cases from the Modbury cluster have been recorded since Thursday, fuelling hopes the outbreak has been contained.

The three new cases are a man and woman in their 30s and a child, all of who have been in a medi-hotel since their arrival from overseas to South Australia.

There were no cases over the weekend linked to the Modbury cluster, which stands at 21.

The most recent cases linked to the outbreak were reported on Thursday – a woman in her 80s and a man in his 40s, whose infections were linked to previously confirmed cases in the Modbury cluster.

Both cases were in quarantine during their infectious period.

There are a total of 28 active cases in South Australia, four of which are in hospital. A total of 862 COVID-19 cases and four deaths have been recorded in the state since the pandemic began in early 2020.

While some restrictions have eased, people who have visited an exposure site or have been directed by SA Health to quarantine will still need to stay in quarantine for the required period.

All exposure locations and associated advice on quarantine and testing requirements relating to the Modbury cluster can be found at: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVIDcontacttracing.

Queensland outbreak spreads as lockdown continues

A contractor working on the Rookwood Weir west of Rockhampton has tested positive for COVID-19 as Queensland’s current outbreak continues to spread.

The case means the Queensland outbreak has spread well beyond the state’s southeast, where a three-day lockdown is underway.

The woman is believed to have been infectious when she took a Qantas flight from Brisbane to Rockhampton on July 28 and a return flight on July 30.

Queensland reported nine new local COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest number in almost a year.

Health authorities are urgently testing workers at the weir work camp, who are in their rooms for 14 days’ quarantine.

Other workers who have been at the site have been contacted and told to isolate.

The woman was an external contractor at the site and tested positive on July 31.

There are more than 80 exposure sites linked to the outbreak, with about 20 new sites of concern listed on Sunday.

The local government areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim entered the lockdown on Saturday afternoon, which has harshest virus restrictions the Sunshine State has seen.

Residents in affected areas can only leave home for essential work, study or child care, to exercise, buy food and supplies, and receive health care, including being tested for COVID-19 or vaccinated.

Non-essential travel must be within 10 kilometres of residences and everyone must wear a mask when outside their home.

All schools in the lockdown zone will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, while all staff and students of Indooroopilly High School and Ironside State School are in quarantine for two weeks.

Lockdowns threaten to derail business investment

Restrictions and lockdowns dotted around the country risk derailing the recovery in business investment, the latest Deloitte Access Economics report warns.

The states that are experiencing the largest number of COVID-19 infections – led by New South Wales – are expected to see the largest slowdowns in economic activity.

Investment in South Australia increased by 991 million or 1.8 per cent in the June quarter compared with the three months to the end of March.

South Australian engineering activity continued to slow in the latest data. The value of work done fell across all industries except mining, while the value of work commenced fell amid notable declines in the transport and telecommunications industries.

In terms of projects, plans for the North-South corridor have been revised to include wider tunnels. This has seen the cost of the proposed road project increase from $8.9 billion to $9.9 billion.

Planning also continues at the $662 million Riverbank Arena, with the new 15,000 seat area to open in 2027-28.

Activity in South Australia’s commercial construction industry remained relatively flat over the past year. The value of work done grew in the retail, education, aged care and health industries, but these gains were offset by declines elsewhere.

“But when it comes to new investment there is never a guarantee,” Deloitte Access Economics partner Stephen Smith said releasing his latest quarterly Investment Monitor.

“Ongoing lockdowns or the threat of restrictions are kryptonite for investment. Businesses will want to see a clear path out of COVID-19 before committing to significant new investments.”

Nationally, Smith said some areas of the investment landscape have become more challenging as a result of COVID, with many offices, shopping centres, airports and hotels suffering significantly lower usage.

Even so, Deloitte Access Economics is forecasting investment to grow in 2021, before accelerating in 2022.

“The outlook will depend on maintaining a high level of business confidence over the next year, as well as the speed at which COVID restrictions are eased,” Smith said.

“The longer we appear to the world as a closed and risk-averse society, the more likely investment dollars will head to other countries instead.”

Across Australia, the value of investment projects rose by $25.1 billion in the June quarter to $783.4 billion, a 3.3 per cent increase from three months earlier.

This was largely due to additional infrastructure investment in recent government budgets and private investment in the mining and utilities industries.

Vaccination blitz to combat NSW virus surge

Half a million NSW residents can be vaccinated against COVID-19 per week based on current rates, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says.

To secure the state’s “ticket to freedom”, the premier believes August will have to be a record month.

More than 82,000 people in NSW received the jab in the 24 hours to Saturday evening and with lockdown proving “damn hard”, vaccination was the way forward, Berejiklian said.

“One dose itself reduces your chance of spreading the virus but it also keeps you out of hospital,” she said on Sunday.

“We know that vaccination is working against this terrible Delta strain.”

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August 28.

NSW reported 449 locally acquired cases over the weekend, 239 of them on Sunday, as infections continue to spread across households, around workplaces and into aged care facilities.

Of the latest, 115 are linked to a known case or cluster while 92 are household contacts and 23 are close contacts. The source of infection for 124 cases is under investigation.

Late on Sunday, there were reports that a dozen residents at a nursing home in Sydney’s inner west had tested positive for COVID and been taken to hospital as a precaution.

A staff member at the Hardi aged care home in Summer Hill had tested positive for the virus last week, according to media reports.

There are currently 222 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital in NSW. Of these, 54 people are in intensive care, 25 of whom require ventilation.

Australian Defence Force troops will join NSW police patrolling streets in Sydney’s west and southwest from today to ensure COVID-19 health orders are being observed in those areas where the virus is surging.

The 300 ADF troops will reinforce the efforts of police on Monday patrolling and doorknocking to ensure people are complying with self-isolation and stay-at-home orders in the hotspots in eight Sydney local government areas.

Thais demand PM resign over handling of pandemic

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have taken to the streets in cars and motorcycles, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha over his handling of the spread of COVID-19 as the country struggles with its biggest outbreak to date.

In Bangkok on Sunday, drivers honked horns and motorcyclists raised three-finger salutes – a gesture of resistance inspired by The Hunger Games movie – as they headed along a 20-kilometre route stretching from the Democracy Monument in the centre of the capital out to Don Muang International Airport.

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

There were also similar protests in other provinces.

The Southeast Asian country aims to inoculate 50 million people by the end of 2021, but so far, only six per cent of its more than 66 million population are fully vaccinated, while about 20 per cent have received at least one dose.

On Sunday, Thailand reported 18,027 new infections and 133 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing total accumulated cases to 615,314 and 4990 fatalities.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Berlin despite a ban on several demonstrations, including those from the Querdenken (Lateral Thinking) movement which is sceptical of the German government’s anti-coronavirus measures.

Up to 5,000 people protested throughout the city, including in the Charlottenburg, Schoeneberg, Mitte and Kreuzberg districts.

Around 600 people were arrested or temporarily detained in order to take personal details, according to a police spokesperson.

Power boost top-four chances with win over GWS

Charlie Dixon booted four goals as Port Adelaide gave their top-four hopes a massive boost by outlasting GWS to snare an impressive 27-point win at Marvel Stadium last night.

Both sides had a disrupted build-up to Sunday night’s hastily rescheduled contest, with the Giants making a mad dash to Melbourne on Saturday from their temporary base in Queensland after the snap lockdown was announced.

The Power surged out to a 27-point lead in the second term before riding out a wave of GWS momentum and pulling clear again to prevail, 15.10 (100) to 11.7 (73).

“It was a really strong performance by the boys, I liked the way we were challenged again and GWS are a really good side with plenty to play for,” Power coach Ken Hinkley said.

Power midfielder Ollie Wines was a thorn in the Giants’ side, tallying 28 disposals and four clearances in another strong display alongside on-ball partner Travis Boak (24 and seven).

Tall forwards Dixon, Peter Ladhams (three goals) and Mitch Georgiades (two) all posed problems for the Giants’ defence.

Port Adelaide dominated early and while GWS hit the front during the third term, goals to Dixon and Orazio Fantasia gave the Power breathing space early in the final quarter.

Lloyd kicked three goals for GWS and Toby Greene booted 2.4 on return after two games out of the side in isolation, while Josh Kelly (32 disposals) and Hopper (28) battled hard in the midfield.

– with AAP and Reuters

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