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What we know today, Monday September 6

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Western Australia plans to keep its border shut to eastern states until next year, with Premier Mark McGowan setting a vaccination target of up to 90 per cent before deciding when to reopen.

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Sky News among more than 5000 banned YouTube videos

Pandemic misinformation broadcast by Sky News Australia is amongst thousands of Australian videos removed from YouTube for code violations.

More than 5000 “dangerous and misleading” videos traced to an Australian IP address were removed from YouTube between February 2020 and March 2021, Google Australia spokeswoman Lucinda Longcroft told a federal parliamentary inquiry on Monday.

Longcroft confirmed the removed material included 23 YouTube videos posted by Sky News Australia.

She said most of the Sky News items were removed due to violations of a COVID-19 misinformation code and two as violations of political integrity.

“They have been permanently deleted,” she said.

Over the course of the past 18 months, Google has worked with health authorities around the world to combat false and harmful claims about the pandemic, health treatments and public health measures as well as misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Spam, hate and misinformation guidelines are applied equally regardless of who creates the item.

Globally, more than 90 per cent of pandemic misinformation material removed had 100 views or less.

Sky News will give evidence to the inquiry later on Monday.

WA to stay closed until 2022

Western Australia does not plan to reopen its borders to coronavirus virus-hit eastern states until 2022.

Premier Mark McGowan wants to see vaccination rates of between 80 and 90 per cent before setting a date to allow NSW, Victoria and the ACT back in.

“We have opened at various points of time along this road and I expect we will open again once we get to very high levels of vaccination. I expect that will be some time next year,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.

“Imagine if it was the other way around and Western Australia was the infected case with thousands of cases and NSW had none, or Victoria has none – would they really want to open to us?

“I think the answer would be no.”

WA and Queensland have both spoken out strongly about the prospect of starting to ease restrictions once key national vaccination thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent are met.

Both states lag behind other jurisdictions on vaccinations.

In WA, 34.2 per cent of people aged 16 and older are double dosed.

The rate in Queensland is 34.5 per cent, while the leading jurisdiction is the ACT on 45.9 per cent.

McGowan maintains he’s doing what he can to keep his residents safe.

“In the meantime, we’ve got to get into some of those communities that have low levels of vaccination, Aboriginal communities, multicultural communities, poorer parts of the state and make sure we vaccinate as many of those as well,” he said.

NSW records 1281 new cases, five deaths

NSW has reported 1281 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and five deaths as the government confirms an intensive care surge capacity of 1550 beds.

The five deaths recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday include a man in his 90s, two women in their 80s, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s.

The death toll for the current outbreak now stands at 131.

There are currently 1071 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 177 in intensive care and 67 ventilated.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday said government modelling showed COVID-19 case numbers would peak in about a week’s time, with hospitalisations peaking in October.

She also said the NSW hospital system has a surge capacity of 1550 ICU beds, lower than the previously-announced surge capacity of 2000 beds.

“That is what the best modelling tells us at this stage but I do want to qualify that a number of variables are associated with that modelling,” Berejiklian said, listing lockdown compliance as one such variable.

Vic records 246 new cases

Victoria has recorded 246 new locally acquired coronavirus cases, as a vaccination blitz for senior school students begins.

The health department on Monday confirmed 121 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 125 infections under investigation.

There are now a total of 1619 active COVID-19 cases in the state, which will remain under tough lockdown restrictions until at least 70 per cent of eligible Victorians receive their first vaccine dose.

The state achieved 60 per cent first dose coverage on Sunday, and is expected to reach the 70 per cent target by about September 18, sooner than the government initially anticipated.

In the 24 hours to Monday morning, 42,258 tests were processed and 26,955 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.

Meanwhile, priority vaccination bookings opened for Year 12 students, teachers, exam supervisors and assessors on Monday, as part of a 10-day blitz.

The state government wants all Year 12 students vaccinated with at least one dose before their final exams.

More in quarantine after truckie COVID scare

More than 500 South Australians are now in directed quarantine after visiting one of more than two dozen COVID-19 exposure sites across the state, with authorities hopeful South Australia has “dodged a bullet” with community transmission yet to be detected.

Five COVID-positive truck drivers have entered South Australia over the past two weeks, with more than 25 exposures sites listed across Adelaide, Port Augusta, Pinaroo, Ceduna and Tailem Bend.

SA Health said that as of late yesterday, 538 South Australians are in quarantine after attending an exposure site at a designated time.

No one in directed quarantine has tested positive for COVID-19 so far.

“It looks like South Australia has again dodged a bullet,” Premier Steven Marshall told reporters yesterday.

“But my strong message is that we can’t remain complacent.

“We can see the situation in Victoria, NSW and the ACT – this delta variant is very very transmissible, it’s very dangerous.

“If it gets in, you need to put very hard restrictions in place.”

It comes as SA Health last night added a new tier-one exposure site – the On the Run service station at Pinnaroo on the Mallee Highway.

Anyone who at the site on Tuesday, August 31 from 10:15pm to 11:15 pm is required to immediately quarantine for 14 days and get tested on day one, five and 13.

SA Health also last night updated the exposure times at the Cross Keys Hotel in Cavan on Port Wakefield Road.

The pub is now only listed as an exposure site from 6:45pm to 8:15pm on Monday, August 30.

It was previously listed as an exposure all the way through to 2am on Tuesday, August 31.

UK Pfizer doses land in Australia

Nearly half a million Pfizer vaccines from the UK arrived in Sydney last night in the first instalment of a deal that will see four million doses sent to Australia this month.

More than 450,000 doses arrived in two flights to Sydney last night – higher than the 190,000 originally expected to arrive in the first batch.

The rest of the four million doses agreed in the deal, announced by the prime minister on Friday, will arrive in the next three weeks.

It comes as 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine secured by the Federal Government from Singapore are now being dispatched around the country after getting the nod of approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The additional supplies will support the national COVID-19 response plan to get to 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets to enable restrictions to be eased.

More than 35 per cent of Australia’s population aged over 16 is fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Federal Government.

Just over 37 per cent of South Australians over 16 are fully vaccinated.

However, there remains a dispute regarding the vaccine targets set in the national plan.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has long argued that he won’t be rushing to open his borders, saying on Sunday it would have to be a vaccination rate of 80 to 90 per cent before he sets a date to end restrictions.

“There seems to be some kind of other illness out there other than COVID which seems to infect Liberal politicians in NSW, whereby they think everyone else wants COVID,” McGowan said.

“I cannot think for the life of me, why they think we want to import it here, before such time, we can have, as many people as humanly possible, vaccinated.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has expressed similar reluctance to automatically open her borders once vaccination reaches 80 per cent.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said he has an ambition to get to 90 per cent, but said he will follow the national plan goals of 70 and 80 per cent.

“But in terms of opening at 80 per cent – and this is absolutely one thing that I want to be absolutely clear with Tasmanians about – we’re not going to be opening our borders at a time that’s going to put our health at risk,” he said.

NSW reported 1485 new virus and three deaths on Sunday, bringing the toll in this outbreak to 126.

Victoria recorded a further 183 new virus cases on Sunday, 101 of which are linked to known cases and outbreaks.

Paralympic team push to avoid double SA quarantine

South Australians returning from the Paralympics might avoid the double-quarantine that greeted some of their Olympic counterparts, following negotiations between Paralympics Australia and the State Government.

Olympians who returned to SA via Sydney quarantine had to endure another two weeks of isolation at home because of the NSW outbreak.

But the Australian Paralympic team – who are now on their way home after last night’s closing ceremony – will not stay at the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin with its fresh air access, like many Olympians, because it lacks enough wheelchair facilities.

Team chef de mission Kate McLoughlin said they had negotiated with state governments to streamline their return as much as possible.

“We got on the front foot with that and we’ve been negotiating with WA, SA, the Northern Territory and Queensland, to understand what the potential could be,” she told AAP.

“We’ve prioritised all WA and SA athletes in particular onto the Melbourne charter flight.

“As things stand, they can go straight from Melbourne into their home states with no problem.

“We’re really grateful for the changes, which just increase the chance those athletes won’t have to face double quarantine … that’s a win.”

McLoughlin noted the team members were the “safest bet”, given they are fully vaccinated, they’ve been tested daily and will return on Qantas flights with vaccinated crews.

She added they had managed to compensate for not being able to use Howard Springs.

“It would have been ideal, but unfortunately there just aren’t enough wheelchair rooms,” she said.

“It was ruled out early on, so we’ve been negotiating quite hard with the NSW and Victorian governments.

“We now have confirmed allocation, above the cap, for every single member of our team in either Melbourne or Sydney.”

Abandon SA electric vehicle tax: car manufacturers

A coalition of environmental groups and companies, including Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, have taken aim at the State Government’s plan to introduce a tax on electric vehicles by 2027.

In an open letter, the two global car manufacturers, along with the Smart Energy Council, Solar Citizens, Conservation SA, Doctors for the Environment Australia and The Australia Institute, said South Australia was “lagging behind” the rest of the world on electric vehicles.

“If this tax goes ahead without adequate support for new car buyers, it will only make things worse,” the letter reads.

Treasurer Rob Lucas two weeks ago announced he would soon table revised legislation in Parliament, delaying plans to introduce the 2.5 cents per kilometre tax on plug in hybrid vehicles from 2021 till 2027.

Attached to the legislation is also a one-off $3000 individual subsidy to support the purchase of 6000 EVs in South Australia.

Lucas, who conceded the legislation is “unlikely” to pass Parliament, said the tax was “necessary” so electric vehicle users “contribute to the upkeep of our roads into the future”.

“Currently, drivers of zero and low emission vehicles pay little or no fuel excise,” he said at the time.

“But ultimately as the State transitions towards a higher concentration of zero and low emission vehicles, there will be a corresponding reduction in the number of motorists paying fuel excise which contributes to vital road funding to help maintain and improve the state’s road network.”

But the coalition of groups in the open letter said introducing the tax would “delay the state’s transition to clean transport”.

“While the Government has shown some willingness to support EVs and reduce the cost of living pressures on South Australians by delaying their tax to 2027 and introducing small, temporary purchase incentives, it’s clear that much more needs to be done,” the letter reads.

“The Marshall Government should now commit to properly supporting the EV sector by also permanently abolishing stamp duty, to bring down the cost of electric vehicles.”

Opposition environment spokesperson Susan Close seized on the open letter and reiterated Labor’s opposition to the new EV legislation.

“It is clear, through this open letter, it’s more than environmental groups that believe this tax will disincentivise South Australians from getting EVs,” she said this morning.

“Car manufacturers and groups see there is a future in this industry, and they want the Marshall Liberal Government to back them in – not enforce more taxes.”

Vic to have ‘vaccinated economy’: Andrews

Premier Daniel Andrews says a separate economy for the vaccinated is on the way as locked-down Victoria eyes a slight easing of restrictions.

As the state reached 60 per cent first dose coverage on Sunday, the premier emphasised the jab would not only afford Victorians greater protection against COVID-19 but also extra freedoms.

“There’s going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated,” Andrews told reporters.

The premier last week flagged a vaccine passport pilot program would soon be trialled in venues such as pubs and restaurants in regional Victoria, which could be partly released from lockdown as early as this week.

The Moonee Valley Racing Club is also pushing to host thousands of fully vaccinated spectators as part of a “no jab, no entry” policy for next month’s Cox Plate.

“I am certain that there will be a whole range of events once we get to 70 and 80 per cent double dose thresholds … that will be open for vaccinated people only,” Andrews said.

With only one of the 89 Victorian COVID patients in hospital fully vaccinated, Andrews described the current outbreak as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

It is also impacting a younger demographic than last year’s second wave, with 91 per cent of the 183 new cases reported on Sunday under the age of 50.

Multiple primary schools and Frankston Hospital emergency department were on Sunday added as tier one exposure sites, as the list grew beyond 1000.

A weekend record 29,915 doses were administered at Victorian-run hubs on Saturday, taking the state closer to its goal of one million jabs in five weeks.

Once Victoria reaches 70 per cent first dose coverage, it will trigger minor rule easing including the expansion of the 5km travel radius to 10km and more exercise time.

The state was initially forecast to hit the mark on September 23, but is five days ahead of schedule.

US hurricane death toll grows

Hurricane Ida’s death toll continues to rise in the northeastern and southern United States, while in Louisiana nearly 600,000 people still lack power a week after the storm made landfall.

Ida slammed into Louisiana on August 29 as a category four hurricane with sustained winds of 240km/h, and the latest death toll there rose to at least 13 people on Sunday.

The storm weakened as it moved north but still unleashed flash flooding on the east coast that killed at least 50 more people, according to updated numbers on Sunday.

Ida’s record-breaking rainfall of almost eight centimetres an hour on Wednesday, recorded in New York City’s Central Park, sent walls of water cascading through businesses, public transportation systems and 1200 homes, causing more than $US50 million in damages, Governor Kathy Hochul said.

“The human toll was tremendous,” Hochul said.

“One woman wept in my arms, an 89-year-old woman. She had nothing left after living in that home for over 40 years.”

New York’s governor had previously secured an emergency disaster declaration from President Joe Biden and on Sunday signed paperwork to request related federal money to cover housing.

New York had 17 confirmed deaths, four in Westchester County and the remainder in New York City, where nearly all the victims were trapped in illegal basement apartments that are among the last remaining affordable options for low-income residents in the area.

In New Jersey, there were 27 confirmed storm deaths and four people still missing.

Other storm deaths were reported in Connecticut with at least one dead, Pennsylvania with at least four dead and Maryland with at least one dead.

Louisiana’s governor on Saturday increased the number of storm deaths in his Gulf Coast state to 13.

Amid stifling heat and humidity, more than 591,000 homes and businesses lacked electricity as of Sunday, according to PowerOutage.com. About 1.2 million had originally lost power.

Ida also paralysed US Gulf of Mexico oil production, with more than 80 per cent of crude oil and natural gas output suspended on Sunday.

-With AAP and Reuters

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