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What we know today, Tuesday August 10

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NSW has reported a record 356 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and another four deaths.

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NSW records 356 new cases, four deaths

NSW has reported a record 356 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, with at least 97 of those people in the community during their infectious period.

Four people have also died – a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 80s, as well as a returned traveller in his 80s unlinked to the current outbreak. All were unvaccinated.

Of the new cases, 40 were in isolation for only part of their infectious period, while 57 were infectious in the community. The isolation status of a further 157 cases is under investigation.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August 28, as health authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain.

The NSW Hunter, Byron Bay, Armidale and Tamworth areas are also currently enduring snap lockdowns.

“We know NSW is going through challenging times but we also know vaccination is a key tool in reducing the spread and preventing hospitalisation,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“It’s so sad when you hear about deaths especially of elderly people who unfortunately for whatever reason weren’t vaccinated.”

The death toll from the current outbreak now sits at 32. There are 60 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with 28 ventilated.

It comes after the state recorded 283 new local cases on Tuesday, at least 103 of which were out in the community while infectious.

More than 80 per cent of the NSW population, about 6,571,800 residents, is currently in lockdown as the state struggles to curb the spread of the Delta COVID-19 strain.

A total of 5805 cases and 32 deaths have been linked to the current NSW outbreak since June 16.

Crows can’t guarantee Walker’s AFL future

Adelaide have refused to guarantee Taylor Walker will remain with the Crows next season despite the embattled AFL veteran being contracted.

An “emotionally-drained” Walker has taken leave from the club after he was suspended for six matches for making a racist comment about North Adelaide player Robbie Young at a SANFL game last month.

The Crows’ all-time leading goal-kicker earned a contract for 2022 after a hot start to this season, but his playing future is now unclear.

“We haven’t distanced ourselves from Taylor, we’ve distanced ourselves from the comments – racism has no part in our club, the AFL industry and the community,” Crows chief executive Tim Silvers told SEN SA.

“(Walker’s) contracted for next year but we need to understand how that looks and how he can reintegrate back into the group for next year.

“It’s too early to guarantee that (he will play for the Crows again) but he is contracted and we’ve got to work through it with a number of different people.”

Qld records three new COVID cases

Queensland has recorded three new virus cases linked to the cluster in Brisbane’s west in positive news for residents locked down in the far north.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said each of the new cases had been in quarantine for their entire infectious period.

It’s encouraging news for Cairns with no confirmed spread from a taxi driver linked to an earlier Delta variant case involving a local marine pilot.

More than 4200 tests were recorded in the city in the past 24 hours.

“It’s very encouraging to see Cairns residents coming out and getting tested,” Palasczuk said on Tuesday.

The taxi driver wasn’t identified as a close contact until well after he drove the marine pilot to the Cairns airport.

The unvaccinated cabbie was infectious in the community for a total of 10 days, seven of them spent driving passengers around Cairns.

Since the driver tested positive on the weekend, contact tracers have been working overtime to ensure all his contacts are isolating.

Residents of Cairns and the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah are currently subject to a three-day lockdown, which is due to end at 4pm on Wednesday if there’s no sign of further infections.

Crows part ways with Tom Lynch

Adelaide will part ways with Tom Lynch at the end of the AFL season after not offering the experienced forward a new contract.

The 30-year-old has been an important part of the Crows’ forward line since arriving from St Kilda for the 2012 season.

Lynch enjoyed his best seasons when Adelaide were in deep finals contention between 2015 and 2017 but has kicked just six goals in eight games this year.

He booted 42 goals in 2016 and finished with a career-high 10-goal haul during a game against GWS in 2013.

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks hailed the contribution Lynch has made as a member of the Crows’ leadership group during the past five years.

“Tom has been described as ‘The Connector’ and it is a good description of the influence that he has had on and off the field, which has been significant,” Nicks said.

Lynch said he was hoping to add to his 161 career games before the end of the season and would soon decide if he is to try and play on a different club next year or retire.

Vic records 20 new COVID cases

Victoria has recorded 20 new locally acquired coronavirus cases, as lockdown ends for those in the regions.

The health department confirmed all the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, while five were in quarantine during their infectious periods.

Some 34,892 tests were processed in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, while 22,670 Victorians were vaccinated at a state-run hub.

It comes as regional Victoria came out of lockdown at 11:59pm on Monday, given no exposure sites or COVID-19 cases have been detected outside of Melbourne.

A number of restrictions remain in place for the regions, including a ban on home visits and compulsory mask-wearing both indoors and outdoors.

City dwellers trying to flee Melbourne and head to regional areas will face fines upwards of $5000, as about 200 police are deployed to main and back roads across the state.

IPCC report puts climate change heat on Australia

Australia is facing intensified pressure to drastically boost its climate commitments as the world moves towards 1.5C of warming by early next decade, following a damning report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Released yesterday, the most comprehensive climate report card to date puts global warming on track to hit 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the early 2030s.

The report says that rapid, deep and sustained greenhouse gas emission cuts are needed now if warming is to be limited to 1.5C or even 2C.

Under the worst-case scenario modelled, global warming would reach 1.6C by 2040 and likely 4.4C by the end of the century.

The UN’s Environment Program executive director Inger Andersen says the world has failed to heed decades of warnings.

“The world listened, but didn’t hear. The world listened, but it did not act strongly enough,” she told the global launch of the IPCC’s sixth assessment on Monday night.

“And as a result, climate change is a problem that is here, now. Nobody’s safe and it’s getting worse faster.”

The Australian government was urged by the Greens to double or triple existing 2030 climate targets.

Greens leader Adam Bandt labelled the failure to be more ambitious as criminal negligence.

Labor’s climate change spokesman Chris Bowen accused the government of shrugging its shoulders and failing to agree on the most minimal action.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor reiterated the government’s desire to reach net zero emissions as quickly as possible, preferably by 2050.

He said overcoming the challenges of climate change was a shared responsibility.

The minister pointed to investments in low-emissions technologies and the uptake of business and household solar power.

He also emphasised earlier figures showing Australia’s climate position had improved by 639 million tonnes since 2018 and flagged updated forecasts ahead of the climate talks scheduled for November in Glasgow.

“When it comes to emissions reduction, our record is one of delivery and achievement that Australians can be proud of,” Taylor said.

The IPCC’s latest temperature check galvanised calls by rights groups, charities and unions for greater action.

Global emissions reduction pledges, should they come to pass, equated to about 2.1C of warming.

This wasn’t enough to avoid food production loss, worsening heat extremes and fires, continued sea level rise, and potential refugee crises.

KI timber port rejected

Shares in Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber have been placed in a trading halt after the State Government yesterday rejected the company’s longstanding bid to build a port on the island’s north coast.

Planning Minister Vickie Chapman said the potential for long-term environmental damage, impact on local businesses and the island’s character had been factors in the decision to refuse the application for the $40 million Smith Bay port.

She said her decision came after a State Planning Commission’s Assessment Report found the application to be “finely balanced”.

“This was a difficult decision and one I have not made lightly,” Chapman said.

“The assessment report was line-ball, however, I have come to the conclusion that the possible long-term and irreparable damage the wharf could cause to the Island is a risk I am not willing to take.”

The publicly-listed timber company’s port proposal at Smith Bay was first declared a development of major environmental, social and economic importance in February 2017.

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber was placed in a trading halt ahead of the state governments announcement yesterday afternoon after its share price lost almost 10 per cent in 40 minutes.

Opening the day at $1.14, the share price fell from about $1.12 at 1.25 pm to $1.03 40 minutes later before ending at $1.05 when trading was paused at 2.18pm and halted at 2.49pm.

The company said it would not make a statement until its market announcement, which it says is not expected until Wednesday.

KIPT has about 14,200 hectares of plantations, about 80 per cent hardwood (blue gum) and 20 per cent softwood pine, which is used to produce structural timber. This represents close to 10 per cent of the state’s plantations.

But about 95 per cent of it was damaged in the Kangaroo Island fires that began on December 20, 2019 and burnt 210,000ha – almost half of the island – across a 612 km perimeter before being declared contained on January 21, 2020.

The company has received more than $60 million in insurance payout following the fires and has since been in a race against time to salvage the timber and ship it off the island before it rots.

In total, KIPT estimates it has 4.5 million tonnes of bushfire-affected timber that could still be salvaged and sold.

It has been touted as a possible solution to the state’s timber shortage that threatens to delay the building boom.

The proposed Smith Bay port was to be built alongside Yumbah Aquaculture’s abalone farm and was expected to move about 12 shipments of plantation timber off the island each year.

It was also to be made available to other industries and generate about $42 million in annual economic activity.

In October 2019 the company varied the proposal following public consultation, and in December 2020, following a request for further detail, submitted more information in relation to its environmental impact statement.

While in the federal budget this year, the Commonwealth announced $32 million of road funding for Kangaroo Island which the company described as “the final piece of the puzzle” to clear the way for approval of the port facility.

Chapman said she was aware her decision would have an impact on the local timber industry.

“However, I am not satisfied that the impacts identified can be monitored, managed or mitigated to a degree that would warrant development approval,” she said.

The minister said she would continue to search for a sustainable solution for the industry on Kangaroo Island and to also find a way to get timber burnt in the major bushfires in early 2020 off the island.

She said the government was exploring all possible options to boost timber supply and meet the current house-building demand.

Walker issues video plea for forgiveness

Crows forward Taylor Walker has appeared in a video alongside Robbie Young to issue an apology for his racist comment about the North Adelaide player at a SANFL game.

Former Adelaide captain Walker was suspended for six AFL matches and given a $20,000 fine for the comment, which was first reported by a Crows official who overheard it at a quarter-time huddle.

In a short video released by the Crows last night, Walker sat with Young and choked up several times while delivering the apology.

Young showed support for the 31-year-old by patting him on the shoulder.

“I’m so thankful that you’re here, mate, sitting next to me,” Walker said.

“Thank you for accepting my apology, you’ve shown huge courage and support for me.

“I want to apologise to you and your family, to the Adelaide official and his family (and) to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their communities for the pain, hurt and disappointment that I’ve caused.

“What I said was racism and it’s totally unacceptable.

“I’ve lost trust and respect from everyone and I know that, and I’ve got work to do.”

Adelaide granted Walker time off when details of an AFL investigation into the racist comment became public last week.

He was left out of the team to face Port Adelaide in round 21 before his penalty was announced last Friday.

Walker said he will take more time away from the club now “to let people heal”.

“I’m now going to educate myself, which is going to take some time, because I want to be better for it and I want to influence people around me because there’s no place for racism in society,” Walker said.

“I’m going to lean on you, Robbie, I’m going to lean on the AFL and others around me to support me.”

Walker and Young shook hands at the end of the video.

The Crows’ all-time leading goal-kicker is contracted for 2022, but his playing future remains unclear.

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks fronted a press conference last Friday and could not guarantee Walker will stay with the club beyond this year.

AFL Players’ Association president Patrick Dangerfield told reporters on Monday his former Crows teammate Walker’s racist comment was “bitterly disappointing”.

“There is no excuse, particularly for an AFL player,” Geelong star Dangerfield said.

“There’s no one that gets more education around racial vilification and the impact it has on Indigenous Australians.”

Port Adelaide defender Alir Aliir became the latest player targeted by a racist troll on social media following his starring role in the Power’s win over Adelaide last Saturday night.

“It’s something we need to eradicate, something we need to stamp out, and something that we need to continue to call out – whether it’s Taylor Walker or whether it’s a faceless name like we saw with Aliir over the weekend where it’s easy to abuse someone over social media,” Dangerfield said.

“What we can’t do is be silenced by this.

“We have to make sure that everyone is calling it out – whether it’s your brother, your sister, your friends, your work colleagues – everyone has a role to play in this.

“We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Moderna vaccine approved for use in Australia

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has moved a step closer to going into Australians’ arms with the medicines regulator giving provisional approval.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced Moderna has been granted Therapeutic Goods Administration provisional approval, joining Pfizer and AstraZeneca in Australia’s vaccine armoury.

The government has secured 25 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, including the supply of 10 million doses in 2021 and 15 million doses of its updated variant booster vaccine in 2022.

Moderna, like Pfizer, is a messenger RNA vaccine that teaches cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response.

It requires two doses 28 days apart.

There have been more than 140 million doses of Moderna used in the United States.

Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt said the vaccine was 93 per cent effective against COVID-19 infection, 98 per cent against severe disease and 100 per cent against death.

“It’s very exciting to see such sustained activity of that vaccine six months after,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It also seems to be quite efficacious against variants although the company is doing some further work on development.”

The first one million doses are due to arrive next month and will be allocated to pharmacies.

Three million doses are expected to arrive in each of the final three months of the year.

“This is another important tool that we have in our battle against COVID,” Morrison said.

“We’ll have it in our hands and we will have the jabs in our arms starting next month.”

Moderna is seeking to make its vaccine available to Australians as young as 12, but could also use Australia as a trial country for vaccinating children as young as six months.

NSW lockdown increases amid Byron Bay scare

More than 80 per cent of the NSW population is now in lockdown as the state struggles to curb the spread of the Delta COVID-19 strain beyond Greater Sydney and into the regions.

About 6,571,800 residents have now been placed into lockdown.

Byron Bay and surrounding local government areas in northern NSW entered a snap seven-day lockdown from 6pm on Monday after a man from Sydney travelled there about a week ago and subsequently tested positive to COVID-19.

Byron Shire mayor Michael Lyon said locals feared an outbreak and there was no record of venues the man had visited.

“What we do know is he hadn’t been checking in anywhere, hasn’t used QR codes, hasn’t been self-isolating when he got sick, he didn’t get tested until he was really sick,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

The lockdown came as the regional city of Tamworth also joined the Hunter region and Armidale in a seven-day lockdown after an infected young woman visited the area from Newcastle.

Meanwhile, Sydney’s Bondi Beach Public School and Shortland Public School in Newcastle are closed for cleaning on Tuesday after COVID cases there, while Kingswood Public School in Sydney’s west and Armidale Secondary College in the New England region have reopened after cases of the virus there.

In the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday NSW recorded 283 local COVID-19 cases, 106 of which were in the community while infectious.

An unvaccinated northern Sydney woman in her 90s has also died, taking the death toll from the current outbreak to at least 29.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has set a goal of six million COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of August in order to consider easing lockdown settings. About 4.5 million jabs have been administered so far.

Despite saying last week that “COVID zero” remains the goal in NSW, the premier on Monday admitted lockdown restrictions could ease from August 29 depending on infections in the community and hitting the six million jab target.

However, pre-pandemic freedoms could not be countenanced until vaccination rates of 70 and 80 per cent are reached.

Bean counters cross fingers for bungle-free census

Australia’s bean counters and cyber detectives hope to avoid the embarrassment of another bungled census when the national survey gives 10 million households and 25 million people a chance to shape their future tonight.

After trusting tech giant IBM with crucial infrastructure last time, which spectacularly crashed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has rebuilt the census system with consultancy firm PwC Australia and Amazon Web Services.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the census is vital for government decisions.

“I am encouraging all Australians to take the time to complete your census tonight and help ensure that this important statistical exercise is a success.” Sukkar said.

Checked and rechecked by federal experts in the lead up, it is hoped any cyber attacks will fail.

Australian Statistician David Gruen says stress on the census system has been eased by more than 2.5 million Australians completing the survey early.

Sukkar said the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Defence and the Digital Transformation Agency have ensured “state of the art” cyber security protections are in place in an era where cyber security and digital integrity are paramount.

“All information collected in the census will be securely hosted in Australia and encrypted end-to-end,” he said.

Amazon Web Services has been certified by federal cyber experts for storing and processing highly sensitive data rated at the “protected” security classification level.

The data is expected to give an unusual snapshot compared to other years because of COVID-19 lockdowns and border restrictions.

Dr Gruen is predicting the survey will show a mixture of pandemic-specific information and longer-term trends.

He believes the trend of people moving out of capital cities, perhaps accelerated during the pandemic, will be documented in this year’s census.

That would give policymakers a clearer idea of future needs for transport, health, education and other services.

Failure to fill out the compulsory form will attract a polite reminder and then a fine.

– with AAP and Reuters

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