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What we know today, Friday September 10

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NSW has reported a record 1542 new COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, with more than 200 people in the state currently in intensive care battling the Delta strain.

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NSW reports 1542 cases, nine deaths

NSW has reported a record 1542 new cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, as the entire state remains locked down.

However, some regional areas of NSW, such as the north coast and the Riverina, will exit lockdown on Saturday.

The nine deaths reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday include a man in his 30s, a woman in her 40s, two people in their 50s, two in their 60s, two in their 70s and a woman in her 80s.

There are currently 1156 patients in NSW in hospital, with 207 in intensive care and 89 ventilated.

Meanwhile, Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday denied going against health advice by unveiling plans to reopen for the fully vaccinated at 70 per cent double-dose coverage, but acknowledged her need to “weigh up health advice with public policy”.

The unvaccinated in NSW have a little over a month to get double-jabbed if they want to visit friends, dine out, travel to the regions or go to the barber or gym.

Under a roadmap out of lockdown announced by Berejiklian on Thursday, a suite of restrictions will be eased when 70 per cent of the state’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

These freedoms will only be restored for the fully vaccinated.

Berejiklian denied reports that Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant wanted to wait until NSW reached 85 per cent coverage before reopening.

The premier insisted Chant signed off on the plan.

But she also admitted the government’s job was to consider a number of factors including mental health, freedom of movement and relationships.

Berejiklian reiterated, however, that current lockdown settings would remain in place until the 70 per cent milestone is reached, likely in mid-October.

As a sole exception, up to five fully vaccinated NSW residents outside the 12 western Sydney council areas of concern can from Monday convene for picnics.

Those inside the 12 council areas of concern can have picnics solely with other members of their household.

Woman arrested after alleged home quarantine breach

A woman who returned to South Australia from NSW has been arrested after she allegedly breached her home quarantine conditions by having visitors at her house.

SA Police say they attended the 58-year-old woman’s home on Harris Road in Salisbury East around 2pm on Thursday, September 9, after receiving information about a breach of her home quarantine conditions.

The woman – who police believe came into SA from NSW last weekend – was then arrested.

Police say she was previously issued an expiation notice and a caution for previous breaches.

The woman has been charged with breaching the Emergency Management Act and will appear via video link in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

ACT records 24 new cases

Canberra has recorded 24 new COVID-19 infections as the ACT becomes Australia’s first jurisdiction to vaccinate half of its over-16 population.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Friday confirmed just over half of that cohort had been double-dosed.

Of the ACT’s latest cases, 18 were linked and at least six had been in the community for some of the time.

The number of people in hospital has risen to 15. This includes four people in intensive care, with one on a ventilator.

Vic records 334 new cases, one death

Victoria has recorded 334 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and one death, as lockdown lifts for most of the state’s regions.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar on Friday confirmed 149 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 185 under investigation.

The fatality was a Coburg man in his 70s.

This takes the death toll from the state’s latest outbreak to four.

There are now 2426 active cases in the state, 127 of which are in hospital including 33 in intensive care, with 21 requiring a ventilator to breathe.

In the 24 hours to Thursday morning, 42,998 tests were processed and 39,027 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub, beating Wednesday’s record of 37,604 jabs.

Wingard cleared of bullying, misconduct

Sports Minister Corey Wingard and his chief of staff have been cleared of allegations of bullying and misconduct after an independent investigation, Premier Steven Marshall has told parliament – but the State Government won’t release the report in full.

The inquiry followed a complaint about the behaviour of Wingard and his senior staffer Larissa Mallinson during a meeting with Leah Cassidy, the head of the state’s peak grassroots sporting organisation SportSA, and the organisation’s president, former Labor Sports minister Michael Wright.

Correspondence from Cassidy to the Premier that was sent to Public Sector Commissioner Erma Ranieri for investigation details “instances of bullying and intimidation that I have recently experienced at the hands of your Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Hon. Corey Wingard”.

The meeting was called to air concerns – first flagged in InDaily – about a new State Government funding model for sports grants that stakeholders claim is “ripping the heart out of the sector”.

But the inquiry, which was contracted out by Ranieri to a private investigator Andrew Hill, found that there was no case for Wingard or Mallinson to answer.

According to an excerpt from Ranieri’s recommendations cited in parliament yesterday by Marshall: “Whilst it is clear there was a tense atmosphere in the meeting and that opposing views were aired, there is no evidence to suggest that anything which took place in that meeting amounted to behaviour that could properly be characterised as bullying or intimidatory behaviour, as has been alleged by Ms Cassidy.”

“Rather, there was some strong criticism or accusations put forward by Ms Cassidy and Mr Wright and some strong responses provided by the Minister and Ms Mallinson,” Marshall said.

“Ms Ranieri has also advised of this meeting, and I quote: ‘Based on the available evidence and having regard to the context of the meeting, my recommendation is that I do not consider there to be a reasonable or proper basis for allegations of misconduct to be put to Ms Mallinson in relation to her conduct in the meeting.’”

Cassidy had also alleged that she was told by Sport and Recreation CEO Kylie Taylor, who Wingard says was acting on instruction from Mallinson, not to attend a Zoom meeting with the minister and other stakeholders after she raised the bullying allegations.

But according to Marshall, Ranieri found that “I do not consider there to be a reasonable or proper basis for allegations of misconduct to be put … in relation to this issue”.

“Rather, it appears reasonably open to conclude that Ms Taylor and Ms Mallinson reasonably believed that they were acting in everyone’s best interests by requesting Ms Cassidy not attend the meeting given her complaints were yet to be investigated or resolved,” she reportedly said.

Read the full story here

-Tom Richardson

SA rocket site go for launch

Taiwanese company tiSPACE is on schedule to conduct a test flight of its Hapith l rocket today from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex on the Eyre Peninsula.

The 10 metre, two-stage, sub-orbital rocket will blast off during a 12-hour launch window between 6am and 6pm on Friday, weather permitting.

The company will use the launch to test its hybrid propulsion systems and as a prelude to commercial launches of satellites in the future.

Southern Launch, which operates the Whalers Way facility around 25km southwest of Port Lincoln, said the test was the culmination of thousands of hours of preparation and planning.

“A safe and reliable sovereign launch capability is absolutely key in enabling South Australia and the Eyre Peninsula to start capturing part of the $5.5 billion global space-launch market,” CEO Lloyd Damp said.

“It’s important to remember that this is a test launch and that, no matter what happens tomorrow, we will gain valuable data that will further propel us along our journey.”

South Australia’s State Commission Assessment Panel last month gave Southern Launch permission to launch three test rockets at the Eyre Peninsula complex so that it could collect noise and vibration data and determine the impact the launches would have on native fauna.

That approval followed opposition from conservationists, who argue the trials could threaten vulnerable birdlife and coastal wilderness.

The Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex is located within a conservation zone, but Southern Launch say the launch-pads have been built on already cleared land.

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Christian Porter said the approval of the launch permit for Friday’s test added to the growing momentum in Australia’s space sector.

“This is an important outcome in establishing Australia’s commercial launch capability and demonstrating what our country can offer to the international space sector,” Porter said.

“Space is a significant global growth market that will support Australia’s economic future through big investment, new technologies and jobs growth across multiple industries.”

Govt announces dates for latest round of tourism vouchers

Up to $200 in tourism vouchers will be on offer when the fifth round of the State Government’s “Great State Voucher” opens for applications on Monday.

The South Australian Tourism Commission this morning announced that the fifth and sixth rounds of the tourism scheme, flagged last month, will be open to applications at 9am on Monday, September 13 and September 20 respectively.

Applications for both rounds will be open for three days with the ballot drawn on the corresponding Thursday.

The fifth round will offer up to $200 off participating tours and experiences across South Australia.

The sixth round will offer up to $100 off accommodation bookings at participating city hotels and $50 off participating regional accommodation centres. The voucher scheme excludes stays on Saturday nights.

A total of 90,000 vouchers are available from now until December, according to the State Government.

Key dates for the fifth and sixth rounds of the “Great State Voucher” scheme (Source: State Government).

South Australian Tourism Commission CEO Rodney Harrex said the timeline for the latest round of vouchers has been fast-tracked.

“City hotels told us they wanted the vouchers in the hands of consumers as soon as possible, so we’ve expedited round six and will get people booking overnight stays in less than a fortnight – this is going to drive people and dollars back into the CBD,” Harrex said.

“Springtime in SA is a perfect time to plan a getaway – we have the Bloom collective, great events in our regions and city, wineries and cellar doors in full swing.”

Harrex told ABC Radio this morning that the last round of vouchers had a 65 per cent redemption rate.

“The first round was 45 (per cent), 50 for the second, 48 for the third but 65 for the last round,” he said.

“That level of redemption is very high.”

Power unchanged for prelim final

Port Adelaide will go in unchanged for their AFL preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night, while Dogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli will play after recovering from a knee complaint sustained last week.

Ken Hinkley on Thursday named an unchanged side from their qualifying final win over Geelong two weeks ago, with small forward Orazio Fantasia given the green light despite re-injuring his knee a fortnight ago.

Emerging forward Mitch Georgiades has been ruled out because of lingering concern over his hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have named star pair Marcus Bontempelli and Stefan Martin but will be without key defender Alex Keath due to injury.

Bontempelli was in doubt after hurting his right knee in the final few minutes of the thrilling semi-final win over Brisbane.

The Brownlow Medal fancy was cleared of structural damage and has been on light duties this week, but is set to play in a huge boost to the Dogs’ chances of reaching their first grand final since the famous 2016 premiership.

“We’re really hopeful that he’s going to be okay,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge told SEN on Thursday.

“If he isn’t then we’re just going to have to, as we have all year, spread the load and fill his role with someone else and believe we can get the job done.

“But he’s an amazing player and leader and he’d be a huge loss if he doesn’t come up.”

Martin has played just one game in more than four months because of achilles, shoulder, hip and groin injuries, with his most recent appearance way back in round 12.

His presence will allow Tim English to spend most of his time in attack, with Lewis Young omitted.

Keath is out with a hamstring issue while the Dogs have rolled the dice on ruckman Martin as he returns for an important battle with the Power’s Scott Lycett at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.

Zaine Cordy has been recalled to take Keath’s place in defence, while last week’s medi-sub Jason Johannisen comes into the 22 for livewire forward Cody Weightman (concussion).

Hundreds leave Kabul in breakthrough commercial flight

A Qatar Airways flight takes off as international flight operations resumed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 9, 2021. (Photo: EPA/STRINGER).

Some 200 foreigners have left Afghanistan on a commercial flight out of Kabul – the first such large-scale departure since US and other forces completed their frantic withdrawal over a week ago.

The Qatar Airways flight to Doha on Thursday marked a breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the US and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, provided the number of Westerners on the Qatar flight and said two senior Taliban officials helped facilitate the departure – the new foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

US citizens and green card holders, Germans, Hungarians and Canadians were aboard, the official said.

Qatari envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani said another 200 passengers will leave Afghanistan on Friday. A diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said more foreigners will depart in the next couple of days.

It was not immediately clear how many Americans were on board on Thursday and how many were still in Afghanistan.

Before the flight  White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US believed roughly 100 American citizens remained in the country.

Many thousands of Afghans remain desperate to flee the country for fear of what Taliban rule might hold, while the Taliban have repeatedly said foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents can leave the country.

But their assurances have been meet with scepticism, even with the departure of the Qatar flight.

US lawmakers, veterans groups and others are pressing the Biden administration to ensure that former Afghan military interpreters and others who could be in danger of Taliban reprisals for working with the Americans are allowed to leave.

Biden unveils comprehensive vaccine mandate plan

US President Joe Biden has announced sweeping new vaccine requirements for federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees – with the order affecting as many as 100 million Americans.

The move aims to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardising the US’s economic recovery.

The rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or tested for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans.

And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also signing an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government. That covers several million more workers.

Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the nation’s “independence” from the virus.

Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the US is seeing about 300 per cent more in  new COVID-19 infections a day, about two-and-a-half times more hospital admissions, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year.

After months of using promotions to drive the vaccination rate, Biden is taking a much firmer hand, as his aides blame people who have not yet received shots for the sharp rise in cases that is killing more than 1000 people per day and hitting a fragile economic rebound.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s “overarching objective here is to reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans,” noting about 80 million adults remain unvaccinated.

In addition to the vaccination requirements, Biden is moving to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights.

The president is also calling for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.

-With AAP and Reuters

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