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What we know today, Friday September 3

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NSW has reported a record 1431 new COVID-19 infections and 12 deaths, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian warns that the next two weeks are “likely to be our worst in terms of the number of cases”.

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NSW records 1431 new cases, 12 deaths

NSW has reported a record 1431 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths.

The 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday include a woman in her 30s in southwest Sydney as well as one in their 60s, seven in their 70s, two in their 80s and one in their 90s.

The death toll for the current NSW outbreak is now 119.

There are 979 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 160 in intensive care and 63 ventilated.

“We anticipate a peak in cases in the next fortnight. The next fortnight is likely to be our worst in terms of the number of cases,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“But as I have said it is not the number of cases we need to be focusing on but how many of those cases and up in our intensive care wards and hospitals and how many people we have vaccinated.”

More than seven million jabs have been administered in NSW to date, constituting 70 per cent first-dose vaccination coverage for those aged 16 or over.

Residents of Sydney’s coronavirus hotspots are now allowed to exercise as much as they like outside of curfew hours, after a one-hour limit was lifted.

Berejiklian said eased restrictions would come into effect immediately upon hitting the 70 and 80 per cent double-dose jab goals.

However, there would be no additional easing of restrictions for Father’s Day on Sunday.

Berejiklian also said her government would next week release its detailed plans for the health system as COVID-19 cases accumulate in the coming months, peaking in October.

While the NSW health system can surge to 2000 ICU beds and an equivalent number of ventilators, unions and frontline healthcare staff have expressed concerns that staffing levels are not sufficient to manage this scenario.

Meanwhile, seven men have been fined more than $30,000 for breaching public health orders by leaving Sydney and canvassing for work in the Lake Macquarie area.

Multiple public health order breaches at a Waverley construction site – including failing to wear masks – have also prompted $13,500 in fines.

A social housing unit block in Camperdown in Sydney’s inner west and another building in Wollongong have been locked down after some of the residents tested positive.

More sterile flies to be dropped over Adelaide

Up to 20 million sterile flies will be released in the skies above Adelaide every week for the rest of the year as efforts continue to contain a spate of fruit fly outbreaks threatening the state’s horticulture sector.

The flies will be released from a low-flying plane as part of the ongoing eradication program across 12 separate outbreaks.

“Sterile male fruit flies seek out female fruit flies in outbreak areas, mating with them so they can’t reproduce and therefore breaking the life cycle,” Primary Industries Minister David Basham said.

“As well as from a plane, our biosecurity officers are releasing up to six million sterile fruit flies in Adelaide each week on the ground.

“We expect fruit flies in the outbreak areas across South Australia to become active again as the weather warms up and the government has been working closely with industry to prepare for our biggest fight against fruit fly.”

Restrictions on the movement of fruit are in place across the 18 outbreaks and are expected to remain in force until at least December.

ACT records 18 new COVID cases

Canberra has recorded 18 new COVID-19 cases, with the majority of them not in isolation while infectious.

Of the cases, 13 are linked to other cases and 15 had been in the community for at least some of the time with the virus.

There are 10 people in hospital, with three in intensive care including one patient on a ventilator.

As Canberra enters its fifth week of lockdown, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr maintains COVID-zero isn’t out of reach for the territory.

The lockdown, extended until midnight on September 17, began after the more infectious Delta strain of the virus made its way from NSW.

Vic records 208 new cases, one death

Victoria has recorded 208 new locally acquired coronavirus cases, the first time cases have tipped above 200 in more than a year, and another death.

The spike in case numbers reported on Friday comes after 3000 people were swabbed as part of day 13 testing in Shepparton on Thursday.

The health department said “sadly, one person with COVID-19 has died” but released no further information. The toll from the current outbreak is now three fatalities.

Only 96 of the 208 cases have been linked to known outbreaks, leaving 112 potential mystery cases, after 48,572 people were tested for the virus.

One new case was reported in hotel quarantine, and 33,511 vaccine doses were administered at state-run hubs.

Man survives horror ute crash

(Picture supplied: SA Police)

Police say a man is “lucky to be alive” after his ute crashed into a tree in the Adelaide Hills overnight.

Emergency services were called to Penna Road in Macclesfield around 12:40am on Friday after residents reported a Ford Ranger ute had crashed.

A 42-year-old Mount Barker man, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was freed from the wreckage after the impact of the crash tore the roof and doors off the car.

He was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a critical condition but his injuries are not life threatening, according to police.

SAPOL said the man is lucky to be alive and they are continuing investigations into the crash.

More South Australians in quarantine

More than 450 people in South Australia are now in quarantine after being identified as contacts of five infectious truck drivers who entered the state over the past week.

As of Thursday night, SA Health said 462 contacts have been identified and put into quarantine.

Of those, 86 per cent have so far returned a negative test.

There are more than a dozen exposure sites dotted across South Australia, linked to five COVID-positive truckies who entered from the eastern states.

Health authorities last night revised the exposure time at the Wingfield BP on the corner of Grand Junction Road and Dunstan Road following a further risk assessment.

The at-risk period for the site is now Wednesday, September 1 from 11:45am to 2pm, after it was previously listed at 12:45pm to 1:30pm on the same day.

SA Health says anyone who was at the site at the newly listed time must immediately quarantine with your household contacts for 14 days.

SA Health is yet to detect community transmission, with a positive wastewater test detected in the Salisbury local government area and Christies Beach on Wednesday later deemed negative after further testing.

South Australia recorded four new COVID-19 cases on Thursday – two of which were announced on Wednesday as well as a woman in her 30s and a woman in her 40s, who acquired their infections overseas and are quarantining in a medi-hotel.

There are five active cases in the state, including a woman in her 40s who was transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital from Broken Hill and remains in a stable condition.

It comes as Premier Steven Marshall prepares to raise the issue of vaccinating truck drivers at a meeting of national cabinet today.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said authorities are considering opening up pop-up vaccination clinics at popular truck stops to make it easier for drivers to get vaccinated.

Firefighters contain Fleurieu Peninsula blaze

Fire crews have now contained a grass fire near Parawa in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula after it burned through more than 220 hectares on Thursday.

Around 120 firefighters battled the blaze which ignited early on Thursday morning in the Waitpinga Conservation Park, forcing the closures of nearby Tunkallila, Illawong and Rymill Road.

The fire grew burnt through a pine plantation as well as roadside vegetation, grass and scrub.

Crews from the CFS, Department of Environment and Water and SA Forestry battled “erratic” northerly wind gusts of up to 70km/h on Thursday, with temperatures rising above 30 degrees.

The CFS reported on Thursday evening that the fire had been contained after winds eased.

Authorities say residents of Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor and Middleton may continue to see smoke from the fire, and road may remain closed in the area until all roadside vegetation is checked and deemed safe.

The fire came after the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for 12 South Australian weather districts on Thursday.

It is the warmest start to spring since 2013, according to the Bureau, with maximum temperatures 8-16 degrees above the September average.

National cabinet to examine hospital capacity

Australia’s hospitals will come under scrutiny at a meeting of national cabinet today, amid concern the health system will struggle to cope with rising COVID-19 cases.

Health Department boss Brendan Murphy has asked intensive care experts from around Australia to provide advice about the pressures higher caseloads could present.

That will be examined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison along with his state and territory counterparts at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said emergency departments were full and elective surgery waiting times too long before the pandemic.

“While national cabinet is considering the cost of expanding intensive care capacity for an expected COVID surge, a funding top-up alone won’t cut it,” he said.

“The Commonwealth will need to address the longer-term public hospital funding crisis.”

There are 184 coronavirus patients in intensive care nationally, with 160 in NSW, where there was another 1288 new cases on Thursday.

Khorshid urged Australia to prepare the health system based on the ability of hospitals to cope with more coronavirus cases before opening up.

National cabinet will also consider if healthcare workers who were close contacts should still be sidelined when high vaccination coverage is achieved.

Morrison has indicated vaccinated staff may not have to be furloughed in the future, while Khorshid believes the practice is unsustainable.

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said national cabinet needed to urgently lock in a plan to bolster hospitals.

“NSW hospitals are at breaking point with much worse yet to come but Scott Morrison still has no plan to guarantee our hospitals stay strong and stay safe,” he said.

A reopening agreement between the federal government and the states to gradually ease restrictions once 70 and 80 per cent of over-16s are vaccinated continues to fracture.

Wrangling over when borders in WA and Queensland will open to states with the virus continues, but the issue is not addressed in Doherty Institute modelling behind the national plan.

Dozens dead as Hurricane Ida lashes US east coast

The Major Deegan Expressway in Bronx borough of New York as high water left behind by Hurricane Ida still stands on the highway hours later. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle).

At least 25 people in the northeastern United States have died from torrential rains, flash floods and strong winds associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which earlier this week caused widespread devastation in the country’s southeast.

Thirteen of the deaths were reported in New Jersey, including four people in the same flooded apartment complex in the city of Elizabeth.

Nine other people  – including a two-year-old boy – died in New York City, mostly in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, while three others perished in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to the latest figures from authorities and media reports.

Eight of the nine deaths in New York City occurred in flooded residential homes in basements, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Thursday, adding that one other person was found dead in the back seat of a car after a vehicle accident on the Grand Central Parkway.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the life-saving efforts of the city’s first responders but also said the federal government needs to act quickly to increase preparedness for future extreme-weather events.

“Last night’s storm was horrifying and unlike anything our city has ever faced. We lost nine people to this storm,” he said on Twitter.

Many of the victims in New Jersey became trapped in their cars on flooded roads, while in Montgomery County in southeastern Pennsylvania authorities said on Thursday that three people died, including a woman whose home was struck by a felled tree.

After making landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane, causing widespread devastation in that state and being blamed for six deaths in the southeastern US, Ida walloped the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in what De Blasio called a “historic weather event.”

In Central Park, 8 cms of rain fell in just one hour between 8.51 pm and 9.51 pm on Wednesday night, the largest amount since records began to be kept there in 1870.

The massive downpour triggered the city’s first-ever flash-flood emergency.

Service on most of New York City’s subway lines was halted after torrents of water cascaded down station stairs and into subway tunnels.

Sydney restrictions ease slightly after vax milestone

Residents of Sydney’s coronavirus hotspots are now allowed to exercise as much as they like within their curfew, after a one-hour limit was lifted on Thursday.

People living in the NSW local government areas of concern must still be at home by 9pm and cannot start going for jogs or walks before 5am.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the slight easing of restrictions on Thursday, the same day the state reached 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage of people aged 16 and over.

More than seven million jabs have been administered in NSW.

The milestone all but guarantees NSW will soon enough reach double-dose vaccination for 70 per cent of the population, triggering a wider easing of restrictions.

Some 38.68 per cent of NSW residents are already fully vaccinated.

The state reported 1288 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a new record.

Seven more people died, including two who acquired their infections while in hospital. The death toll from the current outbreak is now 107.

Berejiklian told reporters opening up would mean more people would die, but that Australia had to “sensibly transition to what living with COVID is like”.

“We have to get really real about what we are facing, and I know sometimes it is difficult to hear, and I remember specifically the day I said we would never get to COVID zero, but that is the reality,” she said on Thursday.

“What we need to do is live with COVID normal, and getting to 80 per cent double-dose adult population gets us on our way.”

ABBA reunite for first album in 40 years

ABBA have announced their first album in nearly 40 years and unveiled a “revolutionary” digital concert show. Photo date: Thursday September 2, 2021. (Credit: Industrial Light and /PA Wire)

Swedish supergroup ABBA have announced their first new album in four decades and said they would stage a series of virtual concerts using digital avatars of themselves in London next year.

The album “Voyage” will come out on November 5, the band said during the streamed launch. They released two of its 10 songs – “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” – on Thursday.

“First it was just two songs,” songwriter Benny Andersson said in a pre-recorded video message.

“Then we said ‘maybe we should do, I don’t know, a few others. What do you say girls?’ And they said ‘yeah’ and then I asked ‘why don’t we do a full album?'”

The recording went smoothly, co-songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus said.

“It all came rushing back in a matter of seconds,” he said.

“I knew when Benny played the melody [of “I Still Have In You”], it just had to be about us.”

The new album will also include a Christmas song “Little Things”.

The concerts will be held at a purpose-built ABBA Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May, and feature digital versions of its four stars Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

The “abbatars” were created using motion capture technology – similar to that used to create Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” movies series – and will show members of the band as they looked in 1979.

“The only big problem was that we had to shave our beards,” Andersson said.

The concerts will feature 22 songs, including the two new numbers and a “sort of a greatest hits” compilation, including “Dancing Queen”, he added.

ABBA was founded in the early 70s by then couples Agnetha and Bjorn, together with Benny and Anni-Frid. Their initials gave the band its name.

They sold more than 385 million albums and topped charts from Australia to America with a string of hits including “Waterloo”, “The Winner Takes It All” and “Take A Chance On Me”.

Their last album with fresh material, 1981’s “The Visitors”, included songs tinged with the sadness of their divorces. The band split a year later.

Rumours swirled for years that ABBA would get back together, but the members turned down many offers, including one reported $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) package to tour again.

-With AAP and Reuters

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