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What we know today, Monday August 30

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NSW has reported a record 1290 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.

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Record 1290 cases in NSW, four deaths

NSW has reported a record 1290 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and four deaths, including one in Dubbo.

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

The deaths recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday include a man in his 50s in Dubbo, two men in their 70s and a woman in her 60s.

The toll for the current NSW outbreak now sits at 93, with the national toll for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic surpassing 1000.

In NSW, there are 840 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 137 people in intensive care and 48 ventilated.

“While it is important for us to reduce case numbers, we know the greatest way to do that is getting vaccinated – vaccination is the key in terms of our freedom and reducing the spread of the virus,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

The NSW government on Sunday committed to restoring personal freedoms to fully vaccinated residents once the state hits 70 per cent double-dose coverage, regardless of COVID-19 case numbers.

This is expected in roughly mid-October.

As of Saturday, 66 per cent of eligible NSW residents had got at least one vaccine dose and 35.9 per cent were fully vaccinated.

SA Senator Alex Gallacher dies

SA Labor Senator and former Transport Workers Union state secretary Alex Gallacher has died, aged 67.

In a statement this afternoon, SA Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of Gallacher’s death yesterday, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2019.

Born in Scotland, Gallacher migrated with his family to Australia in 1966. He worked as a labourer, truck driver and ramp services operator for airline TAA before joining the TWU as an industrial relations officer in 1988.

He became secretary and treasurer of the union’s SA/NT branch in 1996, and also served as national vice-president in 2006, becoming president in 2007.

Gallacher was elected to the Senate in 2011 and re-elected in 2016 and 2019.

Malinauskas said “Alex never lost his passion to improve the lives of working people”.

“Transport workers could hardly have had a better friend, ally, and advocate in the Australia Parliament than Alex Gallacher,” he said.

“Alex came from the trade union ranks and his passion of advocating and improving workers’ rights, especially for transport workers, was a continuation of his significant contribution in the union movement.”

He is survived by wife Paola, children Caroline, Ian, Terry and Frank and grandchildren.

Virgin Australia joins mandatory jab push

Virgin Australia wants all frontline workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-November, joining Qantas in a push for mandatory inoculation.

Virgin has announced consultation will begin shortly with employees and unions about a proposal requiring all frontline workers to get vaccinated by November 15 and all office-based staff by March 31, 2022.

Those with medical issues “that can be substantiated” will be managed on a case-by-case basis, Virgin said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the vaccination policy was “vital” in keeping its workforce safe.

“The majority of our team at Virgin Australia are already vaccinated, and we will be listening to our team members to ensure we find the best fit policy for our organisation,” she said.

“We will now commence discussing the proposed vaccination requirement in detail with our team through our internal safety committees, unions and other appropriate forums.

“It is clear that vaccination is the only way back to normal freedom of movement and the richness in life that comes from spending meaningful, in person time with family, friends and colleagues.”

The airline said a final policy will be announced next month, after all feedback is considered.

Vic records 73 new COVID cases

Victoria has recorded 73 new coronavirus cases, with 52 linked to known outbreaks.

There are now 805 active virus cases in the state, according to the Department of Health.

More than 26,700 vaccine doses were administered at state run hubs and 41,395 test results were received on Sunday.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday confirmed the state’s sixth lockdown will not lift on Thursday as originally planned, but did not announce a new date.

Search for close contacts in SA’s west and north

SA Health is struggling to track down 17 people who did not check in to petrol stations in Port Augusta and Nundroo which were attended by two COVID-positive truck drivers.

The drivers, who came from New South Wales, travelled through Port Augusta and Ceduna on August 21, before doing a truck exchange at Nundroo in the state’s west.

The pair travelled back through South Australia on August 25, stopping off at Port Augusta and Ceduna, before one returned a positive COVID-19 test.

That man developed symptoms on August 24, meaning he was likely infectious while in South Australia on August 21, despite returning a negative test result that day.

SA Health has listed eight new tier one exposure sites, all petrol stations or roadhouses, across Port Augusta and Ceduna as well as one in Nundroo.

They have have identified 150 people who came in contact with the drivers, including 99 close contacts who have been ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

But an analysis of CCTV footage found 15 people who visited the Port Augusta OTR petrol station and two who visited the Nundroo petrol station during the at-risk times did not check-in using QR codes.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that health authorities were still trying to determine how many people visited the Ceduna exposure sites without checking-in.

She said she was concerned that at least 17 people were still out in the community while potentially infectious.

“What was obvious when we were looking at the CCTV footage was that there were more people in the On the Runs than was accounted for with the QR check-ins,” she said.

“That means that we have to use other mechanisms of finding people and one of those is going to bank records to see if we can find people that way, but that all takes time.

“With the QR check-ins we can get the information immediately and in this sort of situation time really is of the essence to get people tested and to quarantine.”

Of the 99 people who were identified as having visited exposure sites, about 20 have so far returned negative COVID-19 test results.

Health authorities are still waiting on results from the other close contacts.

SA Health ordered local sporting matches including football and other grand finals to be cancelled over the weekend, while tourist attractions are shut in Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Ceduna.

Testing hours have also been extended at the Port Augusta clinic.

Spurrier said yesterday’s testing figure of about 5000 was “encouraging”, but she urged anyone with respiratory symptoms to get tested immediately.

Three children die in US air strike in Kabul

Three children have been killed in a drone strike that US officials said struck a vehicle carrying Islamic State suicide bombers, an Afghan official claims.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

US officials said the vehicle was carrying explosives and that the initial strike on Sunday set off secondary explosions.

The US officials said the bombers planned to attack Kabul’s international airport, where a massive airlift is still underway ahead of a Tuesday deadline for the withdrawal of US forces.

The strike came as the US winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul’s international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago.

After the Isis-K affiliate’s suicide attack that killed more than 180 people, the Taliban increased security around the airfield as the UK ended evacuation flights on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a joint statement issued by Australia, Britain, the United States and other countries claims the Taliban will allow all foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorisation from another country to leave Afghanistan.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” they said in the statement on Sunday.

The statement said the countries would continue to issue travel documents to designated Afghans.

‘Freedom’ coming for NSW as Victoria extends lockdown

The New South Wales Government says it will restore freedoms to all fully vaccinated residents once the state hits 70 per cent double-dose coverage, as authorities in Victoria extend lockdown restrictions.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state could reach 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage within days and at double-dose coverage – roughly in mid-October – a number of freedoms will be restored to the fully vaccinated.

“We will stick to our word,” Berejiklian said on Sunday after announcing a record number of 1218 new cases.

“No matter what the case numbers are doing – of course we want to see them come down – double-dose 70 per cent in NSW means freedom for those who are (fully) vaccinated.

“It doesn’t matter where you live or what your circumstances are.”

As of Saturday, 66.04 per cent of eligible NSW residents have had at least one vaccine dose and 35.85 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Victoria recorded 92 new locally-acquired infections on Sunday, including more than 30 not yet linked to existing outbreaks.

The numbers prompted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to declare the state’s lockdown, which started on August 5, would be extended, but he was unsure for how long.

“We see far too many cases today for us to seriously consider opening up later on this week,” he said.

Meanwhile ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has warned COVID-19 shots won’t end once the territory reaches 80 per cent vaccination rate, saying people may need booster jabs for the rest of their lives.

“All the evidence from the northern hemisphere suggests that the vaccines provide very effective protection but they do need to be boosted,” he said

“I think we can anticipate, if COVID follows the path of other infectious diseases, that it’s with us for the rest of our lives and we will need to have a booster shot every year.”

Hurricane Ida blasts ashore in Louisiana

Hurricane Ida has blasted ashore along the Louisiana coast, with the eye of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US arriving near the barrier island of Grand Isle.

The powerful category 4 storm made landfall on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, about 64 kilometres west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.

Arriving with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars, Ida preliminarily goes down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States based on wind speed. Based on central pressure it is tied for 9th strongest US landfall.

Ida rapidly intensified overnight as it moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico, its top winds grew by 72 kph to 230 kph in five hours.

Hurricane force winds started to strike Grand Isle on Sunday morning.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid sweltering heat.

Port to host Adelaide Oval preliminary final

Port Adelaide will play its preliminary final against either the Brisbane Lions or Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval on September 11.

The AFL last night released its weeks two and three fixtures for the finals series, confirming a Port home night match.

It comes after Port beat the Geelong Cats by 43 points at Adelaide Oval on Friday night, in a match which saw forward Orazio Fantasia reinjure his knee.

Geelong take on GWS in a semi-final at Optus Stadium on Friday night, with the Lions and Bulldogs to meet on Saturday at a time to be confirmed.

Melbourne will play a preliminary final at Optus Stadium on September 10 against the winner of the Geelong versus GWS match.

Paralympic record and gold for Australia’s de Rozario

Madison de Rozario has won Australia’s first track and field gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games after dominating the final of the T53 800m on Sunday.

The four-time Paralympian had won three silver medals and was fifth two days ago in the T54 5000m.

This time, de Rozario executed a perfect race and clocked one minute 45.99 seconds, breaking the Paralympic record.

Also on Sunday night at the track, sprinter Isis Holt won her second Tokyo silver in the T35 200m, with Zhou Xia of China breaking her own world record for the gold.

Top seeds Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson will defend their quad doubles Paralympic title, beating Japan’s Mitsuteru Moroishi and and Koji Sugeno 6-2 6-4 in their semi-final.

At the pool, Jake Michel had a near-perfect Games debut when he was narrowly beaten in the final of the SB14 100m breaststroke.

Australia is eighth on the medal tally after day five with eight gold, 15 silver and 13 bronze.

– with AAP and Reuters

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