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What we know today, Monday August 16


Darwin and other parts of the Northern Territory have been placed under a snap three-day lockdown, while Melbourne has imposed a curfew, the ACT extended its lockdown and NSW tallied a new record high of 478 new locally acquired cases and eight deaths.

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NT enters 72-hour lockdown

Parts of the Northern Territory will go into a 72-hour lockdown from midday today after a COVID-19 infected traveller spent four days in the community.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the man in his 30s travelled to Darwin on Thursday after quarantining for 14 days in a Sydney hotel.

He then spent three days in Darwin before travelling to Katherine for work on Sunday.

The lockdown of Greater Darwin and Katherine is set to start from 12 noon Monday.

The man returned a positive COVID-19 result on Sunday after mandatory testing.

He earlier returned a negative test on day 14 of his stay in Sydney before flying to the NT via Canberra.

He is currently in isolation in Katherine.

South Australian authorities flagged at a press conference this morning that the state’s border arrangements will “very likely” change with the NT later today.

A meeting of South Australia’s directions committee is scheduled for this afternoon.

Melbourne lockdown extended, curfew imposed

Melbourne’s lockdown has been extended by two weeks and a night curfew will be reimposed, in an effort to stamp out the state’s latest outbreak of the Delta variant.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced the extension, as well as a raft of tougher restrictions, after the state recorded 22 new local COVID-19 cases, including five mystery cases.

A 9pm to 5am curfew, which was in place during the state’s second wave last year, will be introduced from 11.59pm on Monday, while permits for work will be reintroduced and playgrounds will close.

Andrews said the state had no choice given the number of mystery cases, illegal gatherings at the weekend and the number of children spreading the virus.

“We’ve seen lots of different people flouting these rules, not doing as they should, making really poor choices,” he told reporters.

“That is not good for anybody.”

Andrews said in particular, an engagement party of 69 people was particularly egregious.

“There has been transmission at that event,” he said.

“But what makes me really angry about that event is that each of those 69 people will have to be interviewed. Their close contacts also have to be spoken to, tested.

“Our contact tracers who are working their guts out for all of us will have to spend literally thousands of hours dealing with hundreds and thousands of people connected to that engagement party.

“That is the work that they must do, but it is all entirely preventable. That is what makes me angry and disappointed.”

Seventeen of Monday’s new cases are linked to known outbreaks, while 14 cases were in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period.

ACT extends lockdown

Canberra’s lockdown will be extended for another two weeks as the ACT records another 19 coronavirus cases.

The new cases take the ACT’s outbreak to 28 and include a worker at a Tuggeranong aged care centre as well as a student at Lyneham High School.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says the lockdown will be extended for another two weeks until September 2. It was meant to end on Thursday.

“As today’s figures demonstrate, the virus is active in our community,” Barr said.

“This is a serious situation. We do not want to see the numbers continue to grow and we do not want to see exponential growth.”

The Greenway Views village is in lockdown after a worker did three shifts while infectious.

It’s the ACT’s first confirmed case in a retirement village.

NSW reports eight deaths, 478 cases

NSW has reported eight deaths and another record daily high with 478 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

The state also reported eight deaths, including 15-year-old Osama Suduh, who is the youngest person in Australia to die with the virus.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the transmission numbers were “disturbingly high”.

“We know the vaccines are working. It is important for us all to protect our loved ones and ourselves by getting vaccinated,” she said on Monday.

Escalating cases were recorded in Greenacre, Bankstown, Marylands, Guildford, Granville, Blacktown, Mount Druitt, and Yagoona, the premier said.

“These are the suburbs where the growth is continuing and we need people in those communities to just stay home,” she said.

The teenager from southwest Sydney died in hospital after contracting pneumococcal meningitis, and while he contracted COVID-19 it was not the reason for his admission nor cause of death.

“The patient was unvaccinated for COVID but was up-to-date with his routine childhood vaccinations,” Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick said in a statement on Monday.

The isolation status of 290 cases reported in the 24 hours to 8pm last night remains under investigation.

The death toll is now at 56 for this outbreak which began mid-June.

Haiti quake death toll soars to 1297

The death toll from a devastating earthquake in Haiti has soared to 1297 as neighbouring countries rush to send aid and rescuers scramble to find survivors buried beneath the rubble before a tropical storm hits.

The 7.2 magnitude quake on Saturday destroyed thousands of homes and buildings in a Caribbean nation which is still clawing its way back from another major tremor 11 years ago and is reeling from the assassination of its president last month.

Southwestern Haiti bore the brunt of the blow, especially in the region in and around the town of Les Cayes. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said the toll from the disaster had climbed from 724 to 1297 and the hospitals that were still functioning were struggling to cope with some 5700 injured people registered so far.

The challenge facing Haiti has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn aggravated by fierce gang violence, and a political crisis that has engulfed the troubled nation after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.

Churches, hotels, hospitals and schools were badly damaged or destroyed, while the walls of a prison were rent open by the violent shudders that convulsed Haiti.

In Les Cayes, a seafront town of about 90,000 people, rescuers in red hard hats and blue overalls pulled bodies from the tangled wreckage of one building, as a yellow mechanical excavator nearby helped to shift the rubble.

“We must work together to provide rapid and effective responses to this extremely serious situation,” said Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who had flown to Les Cayes.

Nearby countries, including the Dominican Republic and Mexico, rushed to send desperately needed food and medicines by air and across Haiti’s land border.

The United States has dispatched vital supplies and deployed a 65-person search-and-rescue team with specialised equipment.

Extra Pfizer doses arriving as bookings open up for younger South Australians

From today, all South Australians aged 16 and over can book for COVID-19 vaccinations, with the state getting 50,000 extra doses of a new shipment of Pfizer vaccines.

The State Government says the eligibility expansion has seen 115,792 additional appointments booked at state-run clinics up until 4pm this afternoon, compared to the previous record of 29,534.

“This demonstrates to me that the people of South Australia want to roll out their sleeves and have that vaccination,” Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Monday.

The Federal Government says an additional one million Pfizer vaccine doses have started arriving in Australia after the Morrison government secured a deal with Poland.

Half of the doses will targeted at those aged 20 to 39 in 12 NSW local district authorities, savaged by the coronavirus outbreak.

The rest of the doses, made in Pfizer’s Belgian plant, will be shared around the country, including 50,000 for South Australians, according to Premier Steven Marshall.

“Within days of landing in Australia, these extra Pfizer doses will be available to go into the arms of young Australians in our hardest-hit COVID hot-spots,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

“These young Australians are often the backbone of our essential workforce and these doses will not only protect them, but their loved ones, their state and our nation.”

South Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. The state has two active cases. One person – a man in his 20s – remains in intensive care in a stable condition.

The vaccination booking system opens up to all over 16s from 9am this morning, with Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines available to those aged under 60.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said she hoped the vaccination booking system would cope with a rush of applications, but she was looking on the bright side.

“If the site crashes, it’s a sign of how many people want to get vaccinated in this state,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

SA Health was concerned by the worsening situation in locked-down eastern states.

“It is a really, really serious situation for Australia, which is why one of the things we were keen to do was to open up our vaccination a little bit more, to make it eligible to all adult South Australians,” Spurrier said.

“We’ve got a really limited time now… every South Australian really needs to get on and access the vaccine.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the additional vaccines, but Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people shouldn’t put off getting vaccinated waiting for the additional Pfizer jabs.

He reiterated the best COVID-19 vaccine is “the one you can get today”, noting AstraZeneca doses are in abundance.

Victoria will get 175,500 of the extra Pfizer vaccines from Poland.

An additional 17,550 doses of Pfizer are expected to arrive in Tasmania in the coming week.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr welcomed the extra 14,000 Pfizer jabs the territory will receive, but pointed out this is equivalent to one week’s worth of doses being undertaken by ACT government clinics.

Five charged in SA for alleged COVID breaches

Five people will face court today after allegedly breaching South Australia’s COVID-19 rules.

SA Police said the five accused include a 49-year-old Northern Territory man who failed to comply with emergency management directions after arriving at Adelaide Airport from Melbourne on Friday. They allege he also gave false information to airport staff, begin being later arrested at a CBD hotel.

On Saturday, a man and a woman in their 20s were arrested and charged after police were called to a minor crash at Pasadena. Police found the driver and passenger of the truck had come from Victoria without completing a cross border travel application.

Also on Saturday, a man who arrived in Adelaide on a flight from Queensland also allegedly failed to comply with emergency management directions.

The 35-year-old man from Queensland was also charged with hinder police and disorderly behaviour.

All four people were refused police bail and will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court later today.

The fifth case involves a man who allegedly drove through the Wentworth checkpoint yesterday afternoon before committing a number of alleged offences, including evading police.

‘Unprecedented’ COVID operation by NSW Police

Thousands of NSW police will enforce tough new COVID-19 regulations for the locked-down state, which yesterday recorded 415 new cases and four deaths.

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Mick Willing said from Monday, 1400 Highway Patrol officers would be on patrol.

“The unprecedented operation will see thousands of police officers from police districts and police area commands across the state working alongside our colleagues from the Australian Defence Force, enforcing the strength public health orders,” he said.

The death toll for NSW stands at 48 for this outbreak, and 104 for the entire pandemic in the state. There are 62 people in intensive care in hospital, 24 of them requiring ventilation.

The three women and one man who are the latest casualties were all from Sydney’s southwest, only one of them was fully vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

People in Greater Sydney will need a permit to travel to regional NSW and single people will need to register their “singles buddies”.

In newly-locked down regional areas, people must only leave their residence for an essential reason.

Everyone must carry masks at all times, no visitors are allowed in the home unless for carers’ responsibilities or for compassionate reasons, and those in a relationship.

A test and isolate payment of $320 will also start this week for workers 17 and over who have symptoms of COVID-19 and live in government areas of concern.

With all of NSW now under lockdown rules, all schoolchildren will be learning from home from Monday.

More than half of the new 415 locally-acquired cases to 8pm on Saturday were from Sydney’s west and southwest, with the suburbs of Blacktown, Mount Druitt, Marayong, Merrylands, Auburn and Guildford causing the most concern.

In the state’s west 21 new cases were identified. Health officials are worried, especially in relation to vulnerable Indigenous communities.

Afghanistan president flees as Taliban set to take power

Afghanistan’s president has fled the country, joining thousands of his fellow citizens and foreigners fleeing the advancing Taliban and signalling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking the country.

The Taliban fanned out across the capital, and an official with the militant group said it would soon announce the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul.

That was the name of the country under Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by US-led forces after the 9/11 attacks.

The Al-Jazeera news network later aired footage showing a group of Taliban fighters inside the presidential palace.

The city was gripped by panic, with helicopters racing overhead throughout the day to evacuate personnel from the US embassy.

Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.

Afghans fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country. The desperately poor – who had left homes in the countryside for the presumed safety of the capital – remained in parks and open spaces throughout the city.

Though the Taliban had promised a peaceful transition, commercial flights were suspended after sporadic gunfire erupted at the airport.

Evacuations continued on military flights.

As the insurgents closed in Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani also flew out of the country.

“The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council. “God should hold him accountable.”

Ghani later posted on Facebook that he had chosen to leave the country to avert bloodshed in the capital, without saying where he had gone.

As night fell, Taliban fighters deployed across Kabul, taking over abandoned police posts and pledging to maintain law and order during the transition.

Residents reported looting in parts of the city, including in the upscale diplomatic district, and messages circulating on social media advised people to stay inside and lock their gates.

The Taliban have seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.

The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war, which began after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks masterminded by al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden, then harboured by the Taliban government.

Afghanistan’s acting defence minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, didn’t hold back his criticism of the fleeing president.

“They tied our hands from behind and sold the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “Curse Ghani and his gang.”

The Taliban earlier insisted their fighters wouldn’t enter people’s homes or interfere with businesses and said they’d offer an “amnesty” to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

But there have been reports of revenge killings and other brutal tactics in areas of the country the Taliban have seized in recent days – and the reports of gunfire at the airport raised the spectre of more violence.

One female journalist, weeping, sent voice messages to colleagues after armed men entered her apartment building and banged on her door.

“What should I do? Should I call the police or Taliban?” Getee Azami cried. It wasn’t clear what happened to her after that.

TV veteran Ernie Sigley dies

Veteran Australian entertainment star Ernie Sigley has died, his family has announced.

He had been in residential care and living with Alzheimer’s disease during his final years, and passed away peacefully on Sunday at 82.

A TV host, radio presenter, and singer, Sigley’s diminutive stature, working class roots and larrikin laugh often saw him referred to as the “little Aussie battler”.

His entertainment career began in 1952 as a turntable operator at radio station 3DB Melbourne.

Five years later, at 19, he made his television debut hosting Teenage Mailbag on HSV7 Melbourne. He then spent two years working overseas including a short stint at the BBC.

Returning to Australia, Sigley interviewed The Beatles on the Adelaide leg of the band’s 1964 Australian tour, using his detailed knowledge of music to elicit an enthusiastic response from John Lennon.

He went on to host the top-rating, prime-time Adelaide variety show, Adelaide Tonight, on NWS9 into the early 1970s.

From 1974–1976, he hosted The Ernie Sigley Show, beginning a long-term working partnership with fellow performer Denise Drysdale. It was to be the Nine Network’s highest-ever rating tonight show on Australian television.

Sigley was the original host of the Australian version of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune, from 1981 to 1984.

He hosted the top-rating afternoon radio program on Melbourne’s 3AW from 1996 until his retirement in 2008.

During that time, and in the years following, he performed in his one-man show -and with Drysdale – in clubs and concert halls around Australia.

Sigley received 21 Logie Awards for most popular performer and producer. In 1975, he won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality, presented to him by movie star John Wayne.

As a singer, Sigley had a string of number one hits. In 1957, his first single ‘Love Is A Golden Ring’ became a gold record.

In 1974, he recorded one of Australia’s most popular duets, ‘Hey Paula’, with Drysdale. The song was a number one best-selling hit in Australia.

Sigley is survived by his wife of 47 years, Glenys, and their children Matthew, Guy, David and Emma.

Demons defeat Crows to earn shot at minor premiership

Melbourne are one win away from securing their first minor premiership in 57 years after accounting for Adelaide by 41 points at the MCG.

The Demons’ first loss of the AFL season came when the rebuilding Crows caused a major upset in round 10, but the flag fancies made no mistake this time as they triumphed 16.8 (104) to 9.9 (63) on Sunday.

Melbourne will enter the final round of the season on top of the ladder, meaning if they can defeat fellow powerhouse Geelong next weekend they will be minor premiers for the first time since 1964 – the year they won the last of their 12 flags.

But their 16th win of the season was more hard-fought than anyone could have imagined, with the Crows (6-15) clawing their way back into the contest multiple times when it appeared Melbourne would power away.

The margin blew out to 28 points during the second quarter but the Crows piled through the first three goals of the third term to get back within three points.

However, Melbourne’s leaders were able to wrestle back momentum as Bayley Fritsch starred with a career-high seven goals, four which came during a hot streak in the final quarter when the result was beyond doubt.

Fellow Demons forward Ben Brown started strongly with two first-quarter goals but was barely sighted after that.

Melbourne did it without star defender Steve May (soreness), who was a late withdrawal but he will be right to face the Cats.

Demons coach Simon Goodwin said suspended midfielder Jack Viney and forward Tom McDonald will join May back in the team for the blockbuster match at GMHBA Stadium.

“I thought we got away sluggishly, the Crows certainly brought a lot of energy and had they kicked straight the game would have been a little bit different,” Goodwin said.

“But our boys’ ability to understand what was wrong, then fix it and be mature in how they went about it was outstanding.”

Despite the result, there was plenty for Crows coach Matthew Nicks to like as Paul Seedsman and Ben Keays were among the better midfielders on the ground.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge against a side playing for top spot, so we knew they’d have their time,” Nicks said.

“Unfortunately they punished us more than we were able to do when we had our opportunities.”

Adelaide went down a tall early when Elliott Himmelberg (hamstring) was subbed out in the first term, leaving the ruck duties to second-gamer Kieran Strachan

Adelaide will complete their season with a cellar-dweller battle against North Melbourne next weekend.

-With AAP and Reuters

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