- NSW reports 1480 new cases, nine deaths
- ACT records 20 new cases, reaches vax milestone
- Australian vaccine passports on the way
- Vic records 221 new cases
- Another Adelaide service station exposure site
- All Adelaide suburban shops allowed to trade on Labour Day holiday
- Victoria blasts extra vaccines being sent to NSW
- COVID measures likely to stay into 2022 despite reopening
- Taliban announces government for Afghanistan
- Nation becomes first to adopt bitcoin as legal currency
NSW reports 1480 new cases, nine deaths
NSW has reported 1480 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, including a western Sydney man in his 20s.
The nine deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday include the man in his 20s, a man in his 40s, two people in their 60s, two men in their 70s, two men in their 80s and a man in his 90s.
It takes the toll for the current COVID-19 outbreak to 148.
There are 1136 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 194 people in intensive care and 78 on ventilators.
“Pleasingly, NSW has satisfied another important hurdle – 75 per cent of our state have at least the first dose of vaccine,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Berejiklian added that a decision on the extension of COVID-19 lockdown in regional NSW would be made later this week. Some parts of regional NSW are heavily COVID-affected while others are currently COVID-free.
NSW crisis cabinet will on Wednesday discuss the lockdown for regional NSW, due to expire on Friday.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday also said all of Greater Sydney should emerge from lockdown at the same time – including the 12 local government areas that are COVID hotspots.
He told 2GB radio that Sydney must avoid a “tale of two cities” when vaccination targets are met and freedoms are reinstated.
Berejiklian has declined to say if freedoms will be granted for all Sydneysiders at the same time.
Modelling from the Burnet Institute shows the lockdowns and tough restrictions imposed in Greater Sydney 11 weeks ago have potentially saved 5808 lives and prevented 580,000 infections.
Burnet Institute CEO Professor Brendan Crabb says the modelling assumes the restrictions that are in place now stay in place for some time, and also that vaccination rates continue at their current pace.
The state is projected to reach the long-awaited goal of 70 per cent double-dose vaccine coverage in mid-October, triggering a reopening for the fully jabbed.
ACT records 20 new cases, reaches vax milestone
Canberra has recorded 20 new coronavirus infections, after becoming Australia’s first jurisdiction to crack the 80 per cent full vaccination rate in an age group.
Of Wednesday’s locally acquired cases, nine are linked and at least seven had been in the community for at least some of the time while infectious.
Federal figures show 80.2 per cent of over-70s in Canberra are double-dosed, and the over-50s cohort is on 71 per cent.
ACT chief minister Andrew Barr expects full vaccination rates for those cohorts, as well as people in their 40s, to hit 95 per cent in the coming months.
Nearly 250,000 people have received at least one vaccine dose.
But Barr warns the months ahead will be difficult.
“Until we exceed those vaccination targets that provide the community with the protection we need, we can only gradually ease restrictions,” he told reporters.
Canberra’s lockdown runs until midnight on September 17.
Australian vaccine passports on the way
Australia will begin issuing COVID-19 vaccine passports from next month as preparations to restart international jetsetting continue.
Travel is not expected to start until vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and over reaches 80 per cent, which is likely months away.
The first international immunisation certificates are set to be rolled out in October with the federal government also working with other countries to determine which vaccines will be recognised.
A spokesman for Stuart Robert, the cabinet minister in charge of digital and data policy, said further details would be released soon.
“The Morrison government continues to work towards vaccine assurance standards that will be one element of enabling vaccinated Australians to move and travel more freely,” he said on Wednesday.
In the US, people with proof they have had World Health Organisation-approved vaccines – including Australian-made AstraZeneca jabs – can self-monitor and get tested after entering the country.
People without approved vaccines must quarantine for a week.
All travellers arriving in Australia must complete two weeks’ quarantine regardless of vaccination status.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said home quarantine would be key for restarting international travel with premiers asked to provide timetables about introducing the measure.
“Home quarantine is where we go next,” he said.
State governments are also forging ahead with plans to link vaccination status to check-in apps which would allow people to be allowed into venues
Vic records 221 new cases
Victoria has recorded 221 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases.
The health department on Wednesday confirmed 98 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 123 infections under investigation,
It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 1920.
In the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, 42,429 tests were processed and 36,716 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.
Police have fined six adults $5452 each, totalling $32,712, for attending a gathering of up to 30 people to mark the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, in breach of lockdown restrictions.
Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said there will be more fines issued “today or in coming days”, as he urged those who attended the gathering to come forward.
“My advice is really clear to the people who were there last night – come forward, identify yourselves and allow us to process you through our systems and apply the law as it is today,” he said.
Another Adelaide service station exposure site
A Wingfield petrol station has been added to SA Health’s list of exposure sites, after it was visited by a COVID-positive truck driver from interstate – the sixth since August 27.
The BP Truck Stop at the corner of Grand Junction and Dunstan roads was added as a Tier 2 site last night.
SA Health says that anyone who visited the site between 11pm and 11.59pm on Thursday September 2, or from 5.30am to 6.45am on Friday September 3 must immediately quarantine for 14 days, get COVID tested immediately and again on days five and 13.
Anyone who visited the site but not at the specified time and dates should be alert for symptoms and get tested if necessary.
A full list of SA exposure sites including other service stations and sites including the Cavan Hotel and Cross Keys Tavern can be found on the SA Health website, along with an explanation of Tier ranking system requirements for contacts.
Yesterday, chief public health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier said that six COVID-positive drivers have now entered South Australia since August 27, with more than 20 exposure sites listed on the SA Health website.
Nearly 1000 close contacts linked to the infectious drivers are currently in 14-day home quarantine. Over 90 per cent of those have so far returned negative test results.
The latest case has prompted SA Health to consider mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for truck drivers who enter the state.
It is also considering opening pop-up vaccination clinics at popular truckie stops to make it easier for truck drivers to comply with the proposed requirement.
All Adelaide suburban shops allowed to trade on Labour Day holiday
Retailers across the Adelaide metropolitan area will be allowed to trade on the Labour Day public holiday for the first time, after the State Government granted an exemption to the Shop Trading Hours Act.
Treasurer Rob Lucas said that all metropolitan retailers regardless of size or location will be able to open from 11am to 5pm on Monday October 4 if they chose to, when the right was previously only given to CBD and regional shops.
Lucas said that retail trade data from June showed online sales hit a record high and the government was doing “everything we can to take the handbrake off for local bricks and mortar businesses”.
He said that no employee can be forced to work on the public holiday under the exemption.
Victoria blasts extra vaccines being sent to NSW
Scott Morrison has defended sending extra Pfizer doses to NSW after state premiers savaged secrecy surrounding vaccine distribution.
The prime minister’s home state received 45 per cent of the Pfizer doses distributed last month despite having 32 per cent of Australia’s population.
But Morrison said the increase in NSW’s supplies was mainly drawn out of doses from Poland in a bid to deal with a spiralling outbreak.
He said the federal government rebuffed calls for the state to receive an increased allocation in June and July.
“I’ll tell you who said no to that, it was me. It wasn’t the states and territories,” Morrison told Sky News.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews demanded a reckoning to balance the ledger and blasted “secret arrangements” around vaccines.
“Some don’t like to see this as a race, but a race it surely is. What I did not know was that (NSW) Premier Berejiklian is in a sprint while the rest of us are supposed to do some egg and spoon thing,” he said.
“No, we want our fair share. These allocations which are totally unfair and were under the table and need to stop.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria and Queensland received extra doses during outbreaks and insisted the NSW boost was about saving lives.
“Others may be looking for conflict. Sometimes these things can be a little stage-managed,” he said.
WA Premier Mark McGowan also called for states that gave up doses for NSW to be repaid.
“We can’t have a situation where some states are punished for doing the right thing for NSW,” he told reporters in Perth.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the doses would be repaid to states over the next four to six weeks, but criticised the federal government for attacking states with lower vaccination rates.
Australia has fully vaccinated 39 per cent of its population aged 16 and over while almost 64 per cent have received one dose.
NSW reported another 1220 local infections and eight deaths as authorities brace for a peak in numbers next week.
Victoria recorded 246 cases for a second consecutive day, equalling the highest increase of the outbreak, while there were 19 new cases in Canberra.
COVID measures likely to stay into 2022 despite reopening
The patchwork of COVID-19 vaccine uptake will keep health measures in place well into 2022 but if hospitalisations are kept in check Australia can look forward to a “measured, staged opening”, a leading epidemiologist has predicted.
Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University has said while the nation moves into “suppression mode” as vaccination rates increase, contact tracers will no longer need to find every COVID-19 case.
“The virus is in the community, the COVID-19 response transition has begun, and we are on track to live with the virus, but control the disease, from the first quarter of 2022,” Professor Bennett wrote in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal published on Wednesday.
The Australian government’s national plan is to transition the country’s COVID-19 response from the current phase A (‘vaccinate, prepare and pilot’) to phase B (70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated) and C (80 per cent vaccination).
Professor Bennett said some political leaders have “retreated into a protectionist position of zero tolerance” despite the Delta variant prompting a need for discussions about how many deaths Australia will tolerate as zero cases becomes out of the question.
“In the outbreak jurisdictions at least, we are now drawn into the more compelling global experiment to find a workable, ethical and economically sustainable approach to controlling disease incidence and hospitalisations,” she wrote.
Professor Bennett said restrictions of some kind will be required wherever community transmission persists until vaccine targets are met.
“Masks indoors will be the last precaution to go and large gatherings the last banned activity to return, although large events will no doubt happen sooner if we go the way of adopting vaccine passports as have other countries.”
Taliban announces government for Afghanistan
The Taliban has announced a new caretaker government for Afghanistan, naming Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund as the acting prime minister.
“The Islamic Emirate decided to appoint and announce a caretaker cabinet to carry out the necessary government works,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.
Mujahid named 33 members of “the new Islamic government” and said the remaining posts will be announced gradually, after careful deliberation.
All members appointed were from within the Taliban ranks and had a religious background.
The Taliban’s new head of ministers, Hassan Akhund, was one of the co-founders of the militant group and served in key positions during the Taliban regime in the 1990s.
Akhund is from the southern Kandahar province and is considered to be a moderate figure.
He is also said to be very close to the group’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The group named Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, both senior members of the group’s political office in Qatar, as Akhund’s first and second deputies.
Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, the son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar, was appointed as the acting defence minister while Mullah Sarajuddin Haqqani, the head of the notorious Haqqani network, was appointed as the country’s acting interior minister.
All other key posts were distributed among senior members of the group, mainly from the country’s Pashtun tribe.
Reactions to the Taliban’s cabinet being made up almost exclusively of members from one ethnic group were quick to pour in.
Afghan university lecturer Haroun Rahimi wrote on Twitter that, by a rough count, 99 per cent of the newly appointed officials are from one ethnic group, including four ministers from a single family.
Rahimi said that all other identities – such as the youth, the educated or the political opposition – have been excluded to avoid the Taliban’s internal fracturing.
Nation becomes first to adopt bitcoin as legal currency
El Salvador has became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, although it suffered teething problems when the government had to unplug a digital wallet to cope with demand.
President Nayib Bukele said using bitcoin will help Salvadorans save $US400 million ($A541 million) a year on commissions for remittances while giving access to financial services to those with no bank account.
However, the poorest may struggle to access the technology needed to make bitcoin work in El Salvador, where nearly half the population has no internet and many more only have sporadic access.
The change means businesses should accept payment in bitcoin alongside the US dollar, which has been El Salvador’s official currency since 2001 and will remain legal tender.
In the run-up to the launch, the government installed ATMs that allow bitcoin to be converted into US dollars and withdrawn without commission from the digital wallet, called Chivo.
But Salvadorans trying to download the wallet yesterday found it was unavailable on popular app stores.
Bukele tweeted that the government had temporarily unplugged it in order to connect more servers to deal with demand and blamed Apple Inc, Google and Huawei’s app download platforms for the delay. The wallet was later available from Huawei.
Polls indicate Salvadorans are wary of the volatility of the cryptocurrency, which can shed hundreds of US dollars in value in a day.
Ahead of the launch, El Salvador bought 400 bitcoins worth about $US20 million, Bukele said, helping drive the price of the currency above $US52,000 for the first time since May.
Hours later, however, bitcoin had weakened and last traded down 8.84 per cent at $US47,327.32.
Ethereum, another crypto currency, fell 10.52 per cent to $US3,537.62, while crypto exchange Coinbase Global slid 3.96 per cent after reporting delays in some transactions on its platform.
-with AAP and Reuters
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