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What we know today, Wednesday September 15

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NSW has reported 1259 new COVID-19 and 12 deaths, amid warnings it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend some venues and public events after the state reaches 70 per cent vaccination coverage.

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NSW reports 1259 new cases, 12 deaths

NSW has reported 1259 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths as it passes 80 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage.

Curfews from 9pm to 5am in western Sydney’s 12 local government areas of concern will also be lifted immediately.

Of the 12 people who died in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, there was one woman in her 30s, two people in their 50s, three people in their 60s, three people in their 70s, two people in their 80s and a man in his 90s.

It takes the toll for the current outbreak to 198.

There are 1241 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 234 in intensive care beds and 108 on ventilators.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday said NSW has now surpassed 80 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage.

Significant freedoms will be restored to the fully vaccinated at 70 per cent double-dose coverage, with further freedoms – including international travel – at 80 per cent double-dose coverage.

Berejiklian said it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend hospitality venues and certain public events once 70 per cent of the population is double-dosed.

“It will be a health order and the law that if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t attend venues on the [reopening] roadmap,” she said.

“At 70 per cent double dose, there is no question – unvaccinated people will not be able to utilise hospitality venues, they won’t be allowed into particular events, they won’t be allowed into particular setting, they are the rules.”

The 70 per cent milestone is expected in mid-October.

The premier said NSW will utilise a vaccine passport system to monitor compliance.

“The government will need to seek legal advice ourselves, this is uncharted territory but we’re providing as much certainty as possible,” she said.

ACT records 13 new COVID-19 cases

Canberra has recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases following a four-week extension of the ACT’s lockdown.

Of Wednesday’s cases, eight are household contacts of previous infections and five were in quarantine the whole time.

More than half of Canberrans aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr expects the ACT to be able to start to reopen gradually from between mid-October and early November.

“Soon, we will have administered first doses to everyone who wants one,” he told reporters.

“And then the balance of the vaccination program will shift to second doses, and it will significantly pick up pace.”

Minor tweaks to restrictions will start from 11.59pm on Friday, when the lockdown had been due to end following two prior extensions.

It will now run until October 15, with a review of the situation in two weeks’ time.

SA looks to recruit more nurses

South Australia is looking to recruit 370 nurses amid union concerns hospital staff are burnt out after battling the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues in the state’s health system.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the extra staff, to be deployed across Adelaide’s health networks, would provide a massive boost to the health workforce.

“Our hospitals and health services provide world-class health care to South Australians and our nurses and midwives are a critical part of ensuring we deliver that,” Wade said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that a strong healthcare system is essential and the government is committed to continuing to grow our workforce.

“Recruiting 370 positions within our nursing and midwifery workforce will provide an important boost to our current, hard-working staff.”

Wade said the new positions would target priority roles in emergency departments, intensive care units and in mental health, while also supporting t he COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout.

SA Chief Nurse Jenny Hurley said there were casual, full-time and part-time positions available across hospital and community-based services.

The recruitment drive follows the release of a survey earlier this week that showed many nurses felt burnt out as they worked unpaid overtime, including double shifts, with more than half planning to leave the industry within five years.

‘Shocking affront to transparency’: Turnbull lashes Porter’s blind trust

Malcolm Turnbull has lashed former attorney-general Christian Porter’s decision to allow a blind trust to cover some of his legal fees.

Porter revealed on Tuesday that legal bills in his defamation claim against the ABC were partly paid through a blind trust called the Legal Services Trust.

Turnbull, who promoted Mr Porter to attorney-general while prime minister, said politicians should not receive money from undisclosed sources.

“This flies in the face of every principle of accountability and transparency in public life,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“I am staggered that Porter thought he could get away with it and I will be even more staggered if the prime minister allows this to stand. It is a shocking affront to transparency.”

On his register of interests, Porter said he had no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust.

He sued the ABC in March over a story that revealed a now-deceased woman’s historical rape allegation against a cabinet minister.

The now-Minister for Industry, Science and Technology emphatically denied the allegation and the case was settled before trial.

The ABC paid $100,000 in costs and agreed to put editor’s note alongside the online story, stating regret that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Porter.

Turnbull said banks and political parties were banned from receiving cash from unknown sources and wants the same rules applied to MPs.

“It is so wrong. I’m astonished.”

He said disclosure regimes were crucial to stopping the potential for corruption and influence in politics.

“This flings open the door to such extraordinary abrogation of responsibility and accountability,” Turnbull, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2018, said.

“It honestly cannot stand. There should be absolute outrage about this.”

Vic records 423 new cases

Victoria has recorded 423 COVID-19 cases and two deaths, as total active cases in the state climb above 4000.

The two deaths bring the toll from the state’s current outbreak to eight.

The health department on Wednesday confirmed 149 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 274 under investigation.

In the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, 54,649 tests were processed and 41,856 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub, with the number of active cases in the state now 4038.

The department said more information on the cases and two deaths will be provided later on Wednesday.

WA premier casts doubt over SA border plan

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan says he is “likely” to close his state’s borders to South Australia if it reopens to eastern states at the 80 per cent vaccination mark.

Premier Steven Marshall declared over the weekend his intention to open South Australia’s borders to New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT once 80 per cent of South Australia’s population is fully vaccinated.

Marshall said he expected South Australia to reach the mark “well before Christmas”, with the state already halfway there at 41.2 per cent fully vaccinated.

His comments were backed by South Australian police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens yesterday, who said the state’s transition committee was working on a plan to manage local restrictions once borders reopen at the 80 per cent vaccination mark.

“We will be dealing with COVID-19 in South Australia, it’s about making sure our health system is ready to deal with that when it comes in,” Stevens said

But speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McGowan said SA “may regret that decision”.

Asked whether his state would shut its borders to an open SA, the WA premier said: “wait and see what happens.”

“I don’t know when [SA] will get to 80 per cent, what comprises that 80 per cent, and whether or not they do it,” he said.

“Obviously if South Australia then has community spread of the virus, they may regret that decision.

“If they do, obviously we’d take health advice but we’d most likely close to that jurisdiction.”

Tensions between the WA and SA premiers were evident last year when WA’s border remained closed to SA until Christmas Day, in response to the Parafield cluster last November.

South Australia’s transition committee on Tuesday opted to keep the state’s borders closed to NSW, the ACT and Victoria, following health advice that the risk posed by those three states had not changed.

NSW reported 1127 new cases yesterday, while Victoria recorded another 445.

The ACT’s lockdown was extended for another four weeks on Tuesday after the territory recorded another 22 cases.

South Australia recorded one overseas acquired COVID-19 on Tuesday.

SA Health said a child and mother with COVID-19 in Broken Hill were transferred to an Adelaide hospital yesterday to receive treatment for a non-COVID related illness.

North-south divide remains in SA vaccine uptake

South Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout remains unevenly distributed, with vaccination rates in parts of Adelaide’s northern suburbs more than 20 per cent behind the state’s inner-metropolitan and southern suburban areas.

The latest Federal Government vaccination data shows 59.9 per cent of South Australia’s population over the age of 16 has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 41.2 per cent fully vaccinated as of Monday.

But the Commonwealth’s latest geographical breakdown of vaccination rates, correct as of Sunday, shows local government areas in the northern suburbs continue to fall behind.

Playford, which covers suburbs such as Angle Vale, Davoren Park and Elizabeth, has only reached a first jabbed rate of 43.2 per cent.

Salisbury, which has a population of more than 110,000 people, has only reached 49.3 per cent on the same metric.

Meanwhile, eight South Australian local government areas have passed 70 per cent, with Burnside leading the way in Adelaide with 75.8 per cent, followed by Holdfast Bay (72.6 per cent), Mitcham (71.8 per cent) and the Adelaide Hills (71.5 per cent).

Overall, the Adelaide North region has a vaccination rate of 51.8 per cent, compared to 67 per cent in the Adelaide Central and Hills region and 64.3 per cent in Adelaide South.

The disparity comes after the State Government last week announced it would open a new pop-up vaccine clinic in Pooraka offering 1500 Pfizer appointments a week in a bid to boost the lagging rollout in the northern suburbs.

Health Minister Stephen Wade on Tuesday said that the second half of South Australia’s vaccine rollout would be more challenging.

“It’d be fair to say whilst we have 40 per cent of South Australians fully vaccinated, nearly 60 per cent with at least one dose, the heavy lifting is yet to come,” Wade told ABC Radio.

“Many of the people who’ve already been vaccinated were keen to be vaccinated – they were more accessible.

“We’ve dealt with the low hanging fruit, now we need to continue to increase our effort to those pockets of low vaccination.”

Region Percentage over-15: one dose Percentage over-15: fully vaccinated
Adelaide – Central and Hills 67 46.8
Adelaide – South 64.3 46
Barossa – Yorke – Mid North 61 42.1
SA – South East 58.9 38.6
Adelaide – West 55.7 35.7
SA – Outback 54.5 37.1
Adelaide – North 51.8 35.1

Latest Federal Government geographical breakdown of South Australia’s vaccination rates

SA home quarantine trial expands to overseas arrivals

Ninety Australian Defence Force personnel returning from overseas will take part in an expanded trial of South Australia’s home quarantine system in a bid to ease pressure on the state’s medi-hotels.

The State Government is currently trialling an app to monitor domestic arrivals from the eastern states who are undertaking 14-days of quarantine at home, rather than in a medi-hotel.

The app sends random location check-ins three times a day which require a live facial verification within 15 minutes of the alert being sent.

The State Government announced this morning that it is expanding the trial to monitor 90 pre-selected overseas arrivals, who will complete 14-days of home quarantine in South Australia.

The ninety overseas ADF personnel selected for the trial are coming home from “low-risk” countries and are required to be fully vaccinated.

They will also be escorted by SAPOL from their RAAF base to their home quarantine and will be required to undertake COVID tests on day three, five, seven, nine and 13 of their trial.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said following this trial, SA Health would review options to extend the program to other cohorts.

She said the app also provides support resources for trial participants.

“The app will include handy reminders of the users testing schedule and expected quarantine completion date, with users receiving an end of quarantine certificate via the app once they’ve received a negative day 14 test,” Kirkpatrick said.

“If the trial is successful, the app could add another solution to safely quarantine returning Australians.”

Premier Steven Marshall said 50 people are currently involved in the domestic home quarantine trial, with 18 of those having completed their time in isolation.

“What we learn from the domestic and international Home Quarantine SA trials could help the entire nation to safely repatriate more Australians coming home from overseas,” Marshall said.

“Allowing people to quarantine at home will not only reduce the burden on our Medi-Hotel system but it will improve conditions for returning Australians.”

Artists announced for 2022 Adelaide Biennial

The 25 Australian contemporary artists selected for the 2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art have been announced, with curator Sebastian Goldspink promising Free/State will be a biennial for the times, ‘reflective of a nation still in the throes of grappling with its past and defining its future’.

Free/State – to be presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia from March 4 to June 5 next year as part of the Adelaide Festival – will include artists from every state and territory and will feature work in media including photography, painting, sculpture, installation and moving image.

“Each of these artists is emblematic of the many divergent facets of contemporary Australian art,” Goldspink, an independent Sydney-based curator, says of the line-up. “Diversity is embraced and celebrated in Free/State and the exhibition is reflective of a nation still in the throes of grappling with its past and defining its future.”

Those exhibiting will include artists considered trailblazers, such South Australians Hossein and Angela Valamanesh and NSW-based Tracey Moffatt and Julie Rrap – whom Goldspink describes as “prescient and ahead of their time” – as well as emerging artists said to have come of age in a “fundamentally digital world”.

See the full artist line-up and story on InReview.

Prince Andrew challenges US court’s jurisdiction

Prince Andrew plans to challenge a US court’s jurisdiction over a civil lawsuit by a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting and battering her two decades ago, according to court papers.

In papers filed with the US District Court in Manhattan on Monday, a lawyer for Andrew said the prince also plans to contest that he was properly served with the lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, who has said she was also abused by the financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew, 61, is one of the most prominent people linked to Epstein, who US prosecutors charged in July 2019 with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women.

Epstein, a registered sex offender, died at age 66 in a Manhattan jail on August 10, 2019.

Giuffre has accused Andrew of forcing her in 2001, when she was 17, to have unwanted sexual intercourse at the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and Epstein’s longtime associate.

Giuffre also said Andrew abused her at Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and on a private island Epstein owned in the US Virgin Islands.

Andrew has denied Giuffre’s claims of sexual abuse.

-With AAP and Reuters

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