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What we know today, Friday August 27

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NSW has reported 882 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths, while Victoria has recorded another 79 infections.

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NSW reports 882 new cases, two deaths

NSW has reported 882 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and two deaths as the government unveils its back-to-school plan for term four.

The entire state is currently locked down and police are cracking down on compliance as authorities battle to contain the spread of the virulent Delta strain.

The two people who died were a previously-reported man in his 60s in western Sydney and a man in his 90s at Concord Hospital. Both had received one vaccine dose.

It takes the death toll for the current outbreak to 81.

There are currently 767 COVID-19 cases in NSW in hospital, with 117 in intensive care beds and 47 on ventilators, NSW Health said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday also revealed that HSC exams for NSW Year 12 students in 2021 would be pushed back to November 9, and all people working on school campuses must be vaccinated by November 8.

“We assume that will be done in September, so that is also a pleasing development to give everybody that extra degree of comfort, and we are really looking forward to transitioning children back to face-to-face learning,” Berejiklian told reporters.

NSW recorded more than 1000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time on Thursday, of which the isolation status of almost 850 remains under investigation.

Vic records 79 new cases

Victoria has recorded 79 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, 60 of which could have been infectious in the community.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Friday confirmed 19 of the cases were self-isolating throughout their entire infectious period.

“With interviews still going on with quite a range of others, we would expect that number to grow over the course of the day,” he told reporters.

Fifty-three of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 26 under investigation.

It brings the total number of active cases in Victoria to 660, with about one in 10 infections based in the regional town of Shepparton.

About 16,000 residents in the region, which has a population of 65,000, are believed to be self-isolating, forcing the closure of food distributors, supermarkets and pharmacies due to staff shortages.

Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp said some local tier-one exposure sites, particularly those involving schools, could be downgraded early.

“In the next 24 to 48 hours, I’m hopeful we might be able to see some of those exposure sites have their tier rating reclassified,” he told reporters in Shepparton on Thursday.

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the government was working with supermarkets to backfill staff from nearby regional stores, while 400 food relief packs had been delivered to those in isolation.

ATAGI recommends Pfizer for 12 to 15 year olds

Bookings to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15 for COVID-19 will open on September 13, following official advice from ATAGI.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday, ahead of a national cabinet meeting, formal advice had been received from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation regarding child vaccinations.

“Principally I would see that happening, especially through the GP network and that provides the opportunity for family vaccinations – for the family to get together across those age groups,” Mr Morrison said.

The federal government’s decision will be briefed to state and territory leaders at the national cabinet meeting.

The leaders will also discuss the ability of the public health system to deal with pandemic pressures, including how to deal with health personnel having to isolate.

The prime minister has become increasingly adamant vaccine coverage targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent must trigger new phases of eased restrictions regardless of case numbers.

Dozens killed in Kabul airport suicide bombings

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombing attacks at Kabul airport that have killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and 12 US service members, effectively halting the chaotic Western airlift of Afghans desperate to flee the country.

Suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of the airport with at least two explosions, causing a bloodbath among civilians and United States troops.

Afghan officials say at least 60 of their civilians were killed and 143 injured in the attacks that took place late on Thursday afternoon.

A wounded man is attended to after the airport bombings. Photo: AP

At last count, 12 US service members were thought to have been killed in the blasts – 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two US officials.

Video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in packed crowds outside the airport.

A watery ditch by the airport fence was filled with blood-soaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

Several Western countries said the airlift of civilians was now effectively over, with the US having sealed the gates of the airport leaving no way out for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the West through two decades of war.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said no Australian troops or officials have been killed in the blast.

He confirmed Australian forces departed Kabul after the decision to complete a final airlift on Thursday.

“It’s a horrible, horrible day,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

“I just grieve, like every decent person would, at the loss of life and in particular for us, the loss of the American lives.”

Smoke rises from the airport after two bombings. Photo: AP /Wali Sabawoon

It comes as the 20 year war in Afghanistan and the evacuation from the country will be subject to an Australian federal parliamentary inquiry.

The Senate unanimously backed independent Jacqui Lambie’s call for an inquiry into Australia’s role in Afghanistan, including any exit plans and how to best support troops and interpreters in the aftermath.

“We’ll now get to look not just at our messy and chaotic exit, but what got us there, what kept us there, and where we go from here,” the former soldier said.

“We got things wrong. It’s time to ask why.”

Australia has evacuated 4000 people in just eight days but there are fears many others will be left behind.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday had warned citizens and visa holders trying to leave via the airport, there was a threat of a terrorist attack.

“Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. If you’re in the area of the airport, move to a safe location and await further advice,” the department said.

“The situation in Afghanistan remains highly volatile and dangerous.”

So far, 639 evacuees have arrived in Australia through Dubai, as the Australian Defence Force works with the United States military and New Zealand Defence Force on the airlift.

Evacuation operations were due to end on Tuesday.

Two dead after Bordertown crash

Two people have been killed after their car crashed into a tree near Bordertown in the state’s south east on Thursday.

Emergency services were called to the crash scene on Naracoorte Road in Bordertown South around 2:10pm on Thursday, following reports a car had crashed into a tree.

Police say both the car’s driver, a 90-year-old man, and passenger, an 85-year-old woman, died at the scene. Both were Bordertown residents.

Major Crash investigators are investigating the scene. Naracoorte Road was closed to traffic in both directions on Thursday night.

It brings the state’s road toll this year to 67, compared to 58 at the same point last year.

Shopping hours referendum knocked back

Parliament has knocked back another State Government push for a referendum on shop trading hours deregulation, as the Treasurer vows to take the issue to the next election.

The government has been pushing to fulfill a 2018 election pledge to allow retailers to open on all public holidays except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day morning, as well as permitting extended opening hours for shops on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

Treasurer Rob Lucas tabled a Bill on Thursday afternoon to put the deregulation proposal to a public vote – citing “overwhelming” support for the government’s position.

The Bill was defeated 12-7 in the Upper House.

Lucas, who has been granting ministerial exemptions for shops to trade on public holidays, said the State Government would still take the issue to next year’s election.

“We know there’s much more work to be done, which is why we will be campaigning on this popular issue right up until the next State election in March,” he said.

The push comes after Business SA on Thursday withdrew its support for full deregulation of shop trading hours.

The state’s peak business lobby is recommending Saturday evening trade only be extended from 5pm to 6pm, with Sunday morning trade only brought forward from 11am to 9am.

The chamber of commerce said their change of position recognised the need for a “balance” to ensure local independent retailers can remain viable against national and multi-national companies.

Lucas said the government “respectfully disagrees” with Business SA’s position and it would not dissuade the government from pursuing reform.

“With great respect, our policy isn’t designed for Business SA – it’s designed for the overwhelming majority of South Australians who want greater freedom of choice,” he said.

Another State Government Bill delaying a tax on Electric Vehicles until 2027 and offering $3000 subsidies for 6000 EV purchases also faces an uphill battle in the Upper House.

Labor have stated their opposition to the proposal, with opposition environment spokesperson Susan Close saying the party “aren’t going to fall for Lucas’ trick of tying an incentive payment to a tax”.

SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said the new EV bill appeared to be an improvement on the last one, but the party still held reservations.

“I hope the Treasurer can dig a little deeper into his deep pockets to make the incentives more attractive than what he currently has on the table,” Pangallo said.

“That said, the devil is in the detail and we are yet to see the proposed legislation in its entirety.”

National cabinet meets amid clash over reopening plan

Australia’s leaders will thrash out details of the national reopening plan at a meeting of national cabinet today after a week of federal-state disagreements over vaccine coverage and surging infections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will chair the meeting with premiers and chief ministers as divisions emerge over the path out of the pandemic.

The prime minister has become increasingly adamant vaccine coverage targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent must trigger new phases of restrictions regardless of case numbers.

The inclusion of children in the thresholds has opened up a fresh front in the battle between leaders.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is already including everyone over 12 in vaccination targets.

WA Premier Mark McGowan raised the issue at last week’s national cabinet meeting and expects it to come up again.

“The prime minister was not supportive of that but I think it’s something that requires some serious further discussion,” he said.

“There’s a headlong rush in Sydney to just open everything up and let it rip. That is not my view.”

Morrison said the Doherty Institute, which completed the modelling underpinning the reopening plan, had made it clear it was not necessary to include 12- to 15-year-olds in overall targets.

“But it does not mean that they shouldn’t be vaccinated. Of course they should be vaccinated,” he told parliament.

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said if the prime minister did not include them, he needed to give commitments about vaccination rates for high school students.

“What we want to see out of the national cabinet is a commitment to protect Australia’s teenagers,” he said.

Expert immunisation panel ATAGI is expected to give the final sign off on expanding the vaccine rollout to over-12s on Friday.

Australia smashed its daily record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday with the dire outbreak in NSW pushing the nation past 1100 for the first time.

Delta’s rampant spread through the state continued with 1029 new infections, while there was 80 in Victoria and 14 in the ACT.

While senior Doherty Institute professors insist hundreds of cases will not affect the reopening plan, WA and Queensland want to see updated advice.

Leaders in Victoria and NSW have expressed support for the plan as lockdowns continue in those states.

Power coach unfazed by slow starts ahead of qualifying final

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley isn’t overly fazed by his club’s reputation as slow starters ahead of tonight’s blockbuster AFL finals opener against Geelong at the Adelaide Oval.

The Power haven’t won a first quarter for eight matches, but Hinkley has a rapid retort: “We have won 17 games for the year so we have been pretty good. The starts are what they are.”

Of the last eight games when trailing at quarter-time, Port have won seven.

And in six of those matches, they’ve won the last quarter.

“We stick to the process,” Hinkley said.

“If the scoreboard is the only place you’re going to get some nourishment from, you’re going to lose your way.

“For us, it’s to understand the game style that we play, the results are not always just on the scoreboard.”

Hinkley has replaced injured forward Mitch Georgiades (hamstring) with Orazio Fantasia for the finals opener at Adelaide Oval before a 15,000 strong crowd.

The Power are the sole club enjoying a home ground advantage in week one of the finals – they finished the home-and-away season in second spot with the Cats third.

“We have earnt the opportunity to be at home, we deserve the opportunity to be at home,” Hinkley said.

The Cats have been bolstered by the return of key midfielder Mitch Duncan for his first game after 10 weeks out because of a knee injury.

“I’m confident that I’ve done enough work,” Duncan said.

“Training has been fine and it’s obviously going to hard at times, I’m going to be blowing and it’s going to be on from the start.

“Any final is going to be a little bit different to the normal mainstream home-and-away season (match).”

Geelong dropped Max Holmes and Shaun Higgins from the starting 21, with one likely to be the medical substitute.

-With AAP and Reuters

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