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What we know today, Tuesday August 17

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NSW has reported 452 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and one death, with at least 54 people in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

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NSW records 452 cases, one death

NSW has reported 452 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and one death, with at least 54 people in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

An unvaccinated woman in her 70s from western Sydney died in Westmead Hospital after the state recorded eight deaths on Monday.

Southwest and western Sydney suburbs continue to be the main generators for most of the cases, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

The isolation status of 297 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday remains under investigation.

Some 75 per cent of cases in NSW were people under 40.

“And that’s why those extra jabs we receive from the Commonwealth will be put straight into the arms of 16-to-39-year-olds in the local government areas of concern,” Berejiklian told reporters.

The premier said life would be “much freer than what it is today” once the state reaches 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets.

The entire state is now locked down and a 21-day police blitz came into effect on Monday to enforce new regulations with almost 18,000 police officers supported by 800 members of the Australian Defence Force.

Haiti quake death toll rises to more than 1400

Doctors in Haiti have battled in makeshift tents to save the lives of hundreds of injured people, including young children and the elderly, outside hospitals overwhelmed by an earthquake that killed at least 1419 people.

While rescue teams toiled to dig out survivors of Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude quake, a storm dumped heavy rain on the southern coast of Haiti on Monday, bringing flooding near the worst-hit areas and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, residents said.

Deus Deronneth, a politician from the Jacmel region, posted a video on Twitter showing a torrent of water sweeping through a local town and confirmed the flooding to Reuters.

The earthquake brought down tens of thousands of buildings in the deeply impoverished country, which is still recovering from a major tremor years ago and the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, on July 7.

Dozens of churches, hotels, homes and schools were seriously damaged or ruined by the quake. Haitian authorities said on Monday afternoon that 1419 fatalities had been confirmed, with 6900 people injured and 37,312 houses destroyed.

Data circulating among aid groups indicated over 450 additional deaths had been logged in the hardest-hit department, and Haitian officials warned the toll was likely to rise.

Hundreds of NT COVID contacts identified

Hundreds of close and casual contacts have been identified in the Northern Territory after a COVID-19 infected US man travelled from Sydney to the Top End.

Contact tracers have identified 63 close and 237 casual contacts after the man in his 30s flew via Canberra to Darwin on Thursday for work.

No new cases were diagnosed overnight and more virus testing facilities are set to be opened in Katherine, where the man drove on Sunday.

“We’re treating this as if it’s the highly contagious Delta strain,” NT Minister Natasha Fyles told reporters on Tuesday.

“The virus is a threat and it’s in our community.”

Fyles said health authorities had contacted most of the close contacts and those people were now isolating.

The man’s test results were sent interstate for genomic testing, with the results expected back later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

About 150,000 people in Greater Darwin and Katherine were plunged into a 72-hour lockdown at midday on Monday amid fears of an outbreak after the infected man spent four days in the community.

He arrived at Darwin Airport on a Qantas flight just before midnight on Thursday and travelled to the Hilton Hotel by taxi.

Qld records one new COVID case

Queensland had recorded one new locally acquired case of COVID-19 as the state further boosts police defences along the border with NSW.

The local case is linked to Brisbane’s Indooroopilly cluster and poses no threat, having been in home quarantine for their infectious period.

There was also one other case detected in hotel quarantine.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was another great result, on the back of zero new cases on Sunday and Monday.

“We’re absolutely really happy with that,” she told reporters on Tuesday.

Vic has 24 new COVID cases

Victoria has recorded 24 new locally acquired coronavirus cases on the first day of stricter lockdown measures in Melbourne.

The health department on Tuesday confirmed 21 of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, while the remaining three are mystery infections.

Fourteen were in quarantine during their infectious period.

A case was also recorded in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of active infections in the case to 227.

Some 31,519 tests were processed in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, while 25,742 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.

It comes as the state government extended Melbourne’s lockdown by two weeks, reintroduced a curfew between 9pm and 5am and closed playgrounds in an effort to contain the city’s latest outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Exercise has also been limited to two people, large-scale construction restricted to 25 per cent of staff and people will not be allowed to remove their masks to drink alcohol in public.

From 11:59pm on Tuesday, authorised workers will be required to carry permits.

SA shuts border to Darwin, parts of NT

South Australia has shut its border to a large part of the Northern Territory, after Darwin and Katherine were plunged into lockdown following revelations a COVID-19 infected traveller spent four days in the community.

The border restriction came into effect from 6pm last night.

It means South Australia now has hard borders in place with New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The restriction bans anyone entering SA from the NT who has been in the local government areas north of the Central Desert and Barkly LGAs, excluding the East Arnhem LGA, on or after August 12.

Returning South Australians, people relocating, those fleeing domestic violence and essential travellers will be allowed to enter SA subject to Level 4 requirements including:

 Travellers from the NT who have been in the Local Government Areas south of, and including, the Central Desert and Barkly LGAs, including the East Arnhem LGA, on or after August 12 will be allowed to enter SA subject to Level 3 requirements including a COVID-19 test on days one, five and 13, quarantine until first negative test result and not attending any high-risk setting or COVID-19 management plan event where there are more than 1000 people.

People who flew into SA from the NT yesterday after 2pm and before the signing of the new travel direction have also been directed into Level 3 requirements.

The NT entered a three-day lockdown from midday yesterday after an infected US traveller, in his 30s, spent four days in the community, before testing positive on Sunday.

Authorities said the man had recently returned from overseas and had quarantined for 14 days in a Sydney hotel where he tested negative.

After finishing quarantine, he spent three days in Darwin before travelling to Katherine for work on Sunday, and then tested positive.

Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday there had been “a very significant deterioration in the last couple of days right around the country” and warned that SA was on “high alert”.

Melbourne yesterday extended its lockdown by two weeks and imposed a night curfew, in an effort to stamp out the state’s latest outbreak of the Delta variant.

Victorian 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.

Canberra also extended its lockdown for another two weeks after the ACT recorded another 19 cases.

NSW yesterday reported eight deaths and another record daily high with 478 new locally acquired cases.

Marshall said the worsening situation interstate highlighted how important it was for South Australians to get tested if they had any symptoms and to get vaccinated.

Yesterday, Pfizer vaccination bookings were opened up to all South Australians aged 16 and over.

Marshall said a “stampede” of 83,000 South Australians had booked in during the first two hours.

SA Health tweeted about 4pm that 115,792 appointments had been booked.

“This demonstrates to me that the people of South Australia want to roll up their sleeves and have that vaccination as quickly as possible,” Marshall said.

-Jemma Chapman

Australia battles virus on multiple fronts

Australia’s third coronavirus wave continues to play havoc across the nation with the majority of the population again living in lockdown.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described her state’s case numbers as disturbingly high with another 478 local infections setting yet another grim record.

Seven more people are dead, while 66 of the 391 people in hospital are in intensive care.

Melbourne and Canberra’s lockdowns have been extended two weeks and will now stretch until at least September 2.

In the Victorian capital, a curfew – a prominent feature of last year’s second-wave restrictions – has been reimposed and playgrounds closed.

The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has warned Melbourne is on the brink of losing control of its outbreak.

The ACT recorded an infection spike with 19 new cases taking the capital’s cluster to 28.

A fortnight of federal parliamentary sittings due to start on Monday appear unlikely to go ahead because of the Canberra outbreak.

Darwin and Katherine are in lockdown after the NT government reacted to a new case, while the Delta strain continues to spread in regional NSW with 35 new cases in Dubbo and Walgett where there is major concerns about the Indigenous population.

Just 15 per cent of Indigenous Australians over 16 are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, well behind rates for the wider population.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed WA Premier Mark McGowan’s pledge to strive for zero coronavirus cases even when vaccination rates reach 80 per cent.

“The idea that you can just let this thing rip is absurd, just as absurd as the idea you can get to COVID zero,” he told 2GB radio.

“They’re both extreme positions. They’re both absurd.”

Federal, state and territory governments have backed targets of 70 and 80 per cent to reduce the possibility of lockdowns and reopen the country.

But McGowan argues the agreement doesn’t completely rule out targeted lockdowns after the higher target is reached.

“We will keep that as one of our weapons,” he said.

Berejiklian has conceded NSW is unlikely to achieve zero cases.

Chaos as Afghans try to flee Taliban takeover

Scores of Afghans ran alongside a US military plane, some clinging to its side, as it taxied on a runway at Kabul’s airport in a desperate bid to flee the Taliban-controlled capital.

Vision posted to social media and shared by Afghanistan’s largest private broadcaster, Tolo news, highlighted the chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Thousands of Afghans have rushed on the airport in a bid to escape the country after Taliban fighters entered Kabul following the withdrawal of foreign forces and declared an end to the 20-year war.

US Embassy staff evacuated to the airport via helicopter.

Local news agency Asvaka reported that some people who had clung to the outside of the plane plunged to their deaths after it took off. Reuters could not verify the report or footage shared by the agency.

Afghans attempt to climb aboard a US Air Force plane as it leaves Kabul airport. Image AAP, vVerified UGC via AP

US troops fired warning shots to stop people getting on flights taking out diplomats and embassy employees and two gunmen were also shot at the airport, US officials told Reuters.

There are preliminary indications that one US service member has been wounded, they said.

Videos and photos posted on social media showed hundreds of civilians invading the airport’s runway, jostling to climb stairs onto overhead gangways and sitting on the top of passenger jets in the hope of getting a flight out.

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” said Rakhshanda Jilali, an Afghan human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

A US State Department spokesperson said all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to the airport to await evacuation.

One video showed a military helicopter flying low to pave a path for a plane trying to take off through crowds of people.

A witness said he had seen five bodies piled up in a vehicle. A video posted on social media showed three bodies on the ground near what appeared to be an airport side entrance. Reuters could not verify the footage.

US forces are working with Turkish and other international troops to clear Kabul airport to allow evacuation flights to resume, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.

He told a news briefing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had authorised the deployment of another battalion to Kabul that would bring the number of troops guarding the evacuation to about 6000.

The airport was temporarily closed on Monday, but US forces have control of air traffic control, Kirby said.

Several hundred people had been flown out of the airport so far and the pace of evacuation would depend on the security situation, he added.

“The US military’s focus at the moment is on safety and security at the airport and resuming air operations,” he said.

The Australian military is preparing to assist evacuations from Afghanistan but will not land for now at Kabul airport.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton told Nine News that last week he authorised the Australian Defence Force to make plans to predeploy equipment and troops to assist in evacuating Australians and others “but we won’t be landing into Kabul in these circumstances”.

He said the government had been criticised for previously removing its embassy staff from Kabul but that was the right decision to make.

Dutton said the government would assist Australians working with NGOs or who are contractors, or who might be dual nationals, who had decided to stay in Afghanistan “but that will take some time”.

Australian forces would work form a secure base in the United Arab Emirates with the Americans and others “to make a very difficult, a tragic situation as best as it can be,” he said.

Eddie Betts to play final game on Saturday

Former Crows champion Eddie Betts has confirmed he will retire after playing his 350th game when Carlton take on GWS this Saturday night.

Betts, 34, indicated earlier this month he was enjoying his football in his second stint with the Blues and felt capable of continuing into an 18th season.

But the mercurial goal sneak, who wowed fans around the country, will now end his playing days in front of empty stands at Marvel Stadium.

Betts announced the end of his dazzling career via Instagram on Monday night, coming after a draining period for the Indigenous champion where he has again laid bare the pain caused by his ongoing fight against racism.

“Thanks for sticking by me through the highs and lows,” Betts wrote, while including pictures of him playing for Carlton and Adelaide.

“I hope at some point in my career I was able to put a smile on your face. If I did, I’m happy and my work is done here.

“To all the people who played a part in my career, it could never be done on my own.

“My family, back home for teaching and raising me that it’s always important to look out for others and be selfless in the way we go about things.”

A three-time All-Australian, Betts has kicked 638 goals with Carlton and Adelaide, and will become the 19th player in AFL/VFL history to reach 350 games.

He returned to the Blues in 2020 after six seasons with the Crows, where he lit up Adelaide Oval and kicked a series of remarkable goals from a corner of the ground that became known as ‘Eddie’s Pocket’.

Photo: Michael Errey/InDaily

Betts has kicked 33 goals in 38 games in his second stint with Carlton, including 25 in 13 games this season, but was held goalless in Sunday’s horror 95-point defeat to Port Adelaide.

Betts signed a one-year contract for the 2021 season in a deal that included the veteran being downgraded to the rookie list.

He will turn 35 in November and Carlton have floated the possibility of Betts filling an off-field coaching or mentor role at the club.

Hinkley says AFL finals must have crowds

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley believes it would be “selfish” if clubs pushed to host AFL finals behind closed doors rather than in front of crowds.

The AFL is preparing to move the grand final away from the MCG for the second straight year due to Melbourne’s prolonged COVID-19 crisis.

Perth looms as the favoured option to host this year’s decider after the showpiece match was played under lights at the Gabba in 2020.

Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert indicated last week the club would want to host a qualifying final at their MCG fortress even if spectators were barred from attending.

But with Melbourne’s lockdown extended until at least September 2, there is now no chance of even limited crowds at Victorian venues for the start of the finals series.

The Power are in contention to host finals at the Adelaide Oval but thinks all clubs should play where crowds are possible.

There was a shift in thinking across the league after 51,692 fans created a pulsating atmosphere for the Fremantle-West Coast derby at Optus Stadium on Sunday.

“For the good of the game, the crowd is important, particularly for the finals,” Hinkley told AFL 360.

“If we have that opportunity we’d be foolish, somewhat selfish, if we didn’t go towards the crowds.”

It comes after the AFL on Monday officially scrapped the pre-finals bye.

The controversial bye was first implemented in 2016 with an eye towards preventing teams from resting players en masse in the build-up to the finals.

– with AAP and Reuters

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