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What we know today, Friday August 13

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NSW has reported two deaths and a record 390 new COVID-19 cases, with at least 101 of those people in the community during their infectious period.

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NSW reports 390 cases, two deaths

NSW has reported two deaths and a record 390 new COVID-19 cases, with at least 101 of those people in the community during their infectious period.

Two people have also died, including an unvaccinated southwest Sydney woman in her 40s and a vaccinated Hunter man in his 90s in palliative care. The toll for the current outbreak in NSW is now at least 38.

“Behind every single statistic is a loved one, a family and many carers,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

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

Berejiklian said Blacktown and Mount Druitt in western Sydney had become areas of particular concern for health authorities, with a rise in cases.

There are currently 63 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, 30 of which are ventilated.

“On current projections, conservatively, NSW will get to 70 per cent double doses by the end of October and by mid-November, we hope to get 80 per cent double doses,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“And of course I’m looking forward to those six million jabs occurring by the end of August.”

Meanwhile, almost 20 people linked to a special needs school in Sydney’s north have caught COVID-19, including students with severe autism.

NSW Health has uncovered 18 cases associated with the Giant Steps special education school in Gladesville including three staff, seven students and eight family members.

“NSW Health takes proactive steps to contact all close contacts of the case, to give advice on testing, isolation, symptoms to be aware of, and their level of risk,” a NSW Health spokesperson said in a statement.

Six dead after England mass shooting

Six people, including a child, have been killed in a mass shooting in the city of Plymouth in southwest England, in an incident described by the British Home Secretary as “shocking”.

Two females and three males, including the suspect, died from gunshot wounds at the scene of the incident on Thursday evening, the Devon and Cornwall Police said.

Another female died a short time later in hospital, the police added.

One of the people killed was a child under 10 years old, according to Labour Party MP Luke Pollard tweeted.

Police had earlier described the shooting as a “serious firearms incident” and said the situation was contained.

The police said the incident was not related to terrorism.

The United Kingdom has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world, and mass shootings are rare.

This was the first mass shooting in the country for 11 years.

Qld records seven local virus cases

Queensland has recorded seven new virus cases linked to the west Brisbane cluster as authorities reinforce warnings about travelling south of the border.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said each of the new cases was detected in home quarantine and spent no time in the community, as she called for “a clear plan for containment” from NSW.

“From Queensland’s point of view we are very concerned…about how the clusters are continuing to expand,” Palaszczuk said on Monday.

“The last thing we want to see is this virus spread north.

“It is absolutely imperative that NSW contain this virus.”

Palaszczuk is expecting an update on the situation in NSW at National Cabinet later today.

Vic records 15 new cases

Victoria has recorded 15 new locally acquired coronavirus cases, including four mystery cases.

The health department on Friday confirmed 11 of the new cases were linked to known outbreaks, while eight were in quarantine during their infectious periods.

Some 40,737 tests were processed in the 24 hours to Friday morning, while 27,427 Victorians were vaccinated at state-run hubs.

It’s the third consecutive day the state has recorded mystery infections, with authorities working to find the source of four cases recorded on Thursday.

Three of the cases are across two separate households in Glenroy, including a child who attends Glenroy West Primary School.

Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said the families don’t know each other and their children don’t attend the same school or sports club.

COVID-19 has been detected in wastewater in the Glenroy area since August 5.

The other mystery case, a man who lives in Brunswick East, has some social connections to known exposure sites and authorities are confident a definitive link will be found in coming days.

There are now more than 400 exposure sites across Melbourne and its urban fringe, including inner-city tram routes, an Australian Taxation Office building in Moonee Ponds and a VicRoads site in Hoppers Crossing.

Seven shops in the South Melbourne Market were listed as tier-one sites overnight after an infected person attended on Saturday from 1.30pm. The market will reopen on Friday morning following a deep clean.

It comes less than a month after the market was forced to close due to another COVID-19 outbreak.

City police station closed after COVID scare

The police station in Hindley Street was closed and cleaned yesterday afternoon after a man entered and reported that he had been in New South Wales in the past 14 days.

Police say a 21-year-old man came to the station on Thursday afternoon and stated he had recently been in NSW. South Australia’s border is currently closed to all travellers from NSW except Broken Hill.

Police said the station was closed to the public “as a precautionary measure” while it underwent a “thorough clean”.

The man was then escorted to a nearby medi-hotel.

Police said investigations are continuing to establish how the man entered SA and whether any breaches of the state’s border rules have occurred.

“If there was any concern he would have been tested and the turnaround time would have been very quick because we would have put it on a gene expert,” chief public health officer Spurrier told ABC Radio this morning.

“I haven’t had any bad news this morning so I’m presuming that he’s negative.

“If you have somebody and they’re negative, of course, there’s that 14 days of quarantine – but if he tests negative then there’s no other concerns for anybody that was involved with that.”

Spurrier said she was not aware of the circumstances surrounding how the man entered South Australia from NSW.

SA reaches vaccine milestone but hesitancy persists

South Australia has reached a new COVID-19 vaccination milestone with more than one million jabs administered since the rollout began, but new polling shows vaccine hesitancy still poses a problem for authorities.

A total of 1,007,035 coronavirus vaccines have been administered in South Australia since February 22, according to the latest data from the Federal Government, including 15,399 on Thursday.

It means just over 24 per cent of South Australia’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, with 45.1 per cent having received at least one dose.

The one million jab millstone came as the State Government announced on Thursday that Pfizer vaccines would be available to everyone over the age of 16 from next month, with bookings at SA Health-run clinics opening on Monday.

But South Australia has also reclaimed the title of the most vaccine-hesitant state in the nation, according to the latest Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker report from the Melbourne Institute.

According to the fortnightly report, the percentage of the South Australian population that is vaccine hesitant has risen from 23.9 per cent in July to 26.8 per cent in August.

South Australia’s proportion is marginally higher than Queensland (26.2 per cent) and Victoria (23.5 per cent).

Of those that are hesitant in SA, 12.8 per cent said they would not get a vaccine while 13.4 per cent said they don’t know yet.

Meanwhile, chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier says a new directive for mandatory vaccinations of staff at the Royal Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s Hospital is a “very sensible policy to have”.

“What hospitals are in a fairly unique position is that they could have anybody at any time in the community turn up with COVID,” Spurrier told ABC Radio.

“And so what they’re putting in place is a policy to protect this staff for when that happens.

“When we look at it from a public health point of view, we need to be sure that we’ve got enough evidence that making it mandatory for people to be vaccinated balances the human rights versus the public health benefits.”

Walker’s AFL return ‘complicated’: Sloane

Crows captain Rory Sloane has for the first time spoken about his conflicting emotions following the Taylor Walker racism scandal, saying while he would love to see the veteran return to the club, “it’s not as simple as that”.

Walker has been suspended for six games, handed a $20,000 fine and has given a public apology for a racist comment he made about North Adelaide Indigenous player Robbie Young at a Crows SANFL game in July.

Sloane said, on the one hand, he and Walker are best mates and their families are close, but his comments have caused a lot of distress.

“Our whole footy club is hurting, because this has been pretty tough to deal with,” Sloane told reporters on Thursday.

“We have a lot of people to look after and that’s my role, that’s Nicksy’s role, that’s everyone’s role in the football club, to make sure everyone’s okay.

“Tex is a part of our footy club, so we have to make sure he’s okay too.

“Of course I’m good friends with Tex and I care about him, but I have a lot of good friends in our footy club as well that I also care about and that’s the balance at the moment, to make sure our Indigenous players are well looked after.”

Sloane said he had spoken to Walker after the incident.

“If you’re asking me personally, in an ideal situation, of course I’d love him here (at the club),” he said.

“But it’s not as simple as that and there’s a lot to play out. It’s a complicated issue, personally for him.

“Tex is incredibly remorseful and what he said, he’s owned it.”

Sloane said he is also having plenty of conversations with the club’s Indigenous players.

“They’ve been very honest … that’s all I can ask for,” he said.

“It’s very tough, for someone like myself to try to put myself in their position, to try to understand this at a deeper level.”

COVID fears for vulnerable NSW communities

Health officials are “very concerned” about the potential spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable communities in NSW, with the majority of new cases in Dubbo and Walgett diagnosed in Aboriginal people.

Five cases have been recorded in Dubbo in the past three days, along with another case in western NSW. They include an Aboriginal man from Walgett.

The cases led the NSW Government to call a one-week snap lockdown for the Walgett, Dubbo, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine and Warren areas on Wednesday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday confirmed an additional 7680 Pfizer vaccine doses will be provided for the affected areas, including Walgett.

The shots are expected to arrive on Thursday, with 4800 for use by GPs and commonwealth vaccination clinics, and 2880 for Aboriginal community-controlled health services.

Hunt said extra AstraZeneca vaccines would also be made available in what is a “whole-of government” effort to support and protect those communities.

Western Local Health District Chief Executive Scott McLachlan confirmed that the “vast majority” of those cases were in Aboriginal people, including children.

“We’re very concerned about the Aboriginal population in the region,” he told ABC Radio National.

“The last thing we want to see is this Delta strain spreading across the Aboriginal community, so we’ll do everything possible to make sure we keep people safe.”

The number of cases in the region is expected to grow significantly in the coming days, McLachlan said.

Fuelling concern is a combination of significant Indigenous populations, low vaccination rates and relatively poor health services.

NSW recorded two deaths and 345 new local cases across the state in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, with at least 91 in the community while infectious.

US, UK to send troops to Afghanistan for evacuation effort

The United States and United Kingdom will deploy troops in Afghanistan to help their citizens get out of the country as the security situation there worsens due to a resurgent Taliban.

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday hundreds of military personnel will help British citizens and local translators leave.

The UK embassy in Kabul will be moved to a more secure location and will remain manned by only a core staff.

The deployment of protection forces and logistical support has been triggered by rising violence as Taliban fighters capture cities across Afghanistan after US and allied troops withdrew.

“I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us,” Wallace said in a statement.

“It is a long planned process and it was important with the current situation on the ground in Afghanistan to make the decision to move to that phase,” he told a separate briefing.

Last week the UK advised all its citizens in Afghanistan to leave.

The first troops are expected to arrive by the end of the week and the number could eventually rise to 600.

The several thousand being helped out of the country include Afghan interpreters and other local personnel eligible for relocation to the UK as well as others who hold British passports.

The United States also ordered a partial evacuation of diplomatic staff from Afghanistan on Thursday.

ECB confident Ashes will go ahead despite quarantine concerns

The England and Wales Cricket Board is “very confident” this year’s Ashes series will go ahead as planned despite ongoing negotiations over Australia’s COVID travel restrictions, according to ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.

England players are concerned about the possibility of families being unable to join them on the trip given Australia’s tight border controls, as well as the prospect of lengthy quarantines and restrictive bubble environments.

Talks involving the Professional Cricketers’ Association have been ongoing for some time and, while Harrison admitted there were plenty of complications before a final green light could be given, he suggested the necessary exemptions would be attained.

“We are working very closely with Cricket Australia and I had my latest conversation with my counterpart at CA yesterday, we are speaking every few days on this matter,” he said.

“All the right conversations are happening at government level in Australia, and we will be using our own diplomatic channels in the UK to ensure that the view of the players and the ECB (is heard).

“This is not players asking for anything unreasonable, these are very reasonable requests that we are asking the Australian government to give some leniency, frankly.

“It’s going to be important for us to ensure that we can give comfort to players that their families are going to be able to be in Australia and that those conditions in which they are quarantined will be reasonable, enabling the players to be at their best in that Test series.

“It’s a conversation that’s going to take place over the next few weeks but I am very confident we will get to a place where we can fulfil our obligations to tour.”

There have been reports some England players would be prepared to sit out the prestigious tour if loved ones were not permitted to travel, while others have advocated postponing the entire series by a year to allow away fans to be present.

-With AAP and Reuters

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