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What we know today, Monday September 27

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NSW has reported 787 new local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths as the state government reveals its restrictions roadmap for 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

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NSW reports 787 new cases, 12 deaths

NSW has reported 787 new local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths as the state government reveals its roadmap for 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

Of the 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, four people were in their 60s, two in their 70s, four in their 80s and two in their 90s.

It takes the toll for the current outbreak to 309.

There are 1155 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 214 in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday also revealed the state’s roadmap to ease restrictions beyond 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

This includes the resumption of travel to regional NSW, pushed back from 70 per cent coverage, and the ability to stand and drink at the pub.

It will also enable an increase in gathering caps to 10 visitors in homes, 20 people outdoors, up to 200 people for COVID-safe events and up to 500 people at ticketed and seated events.

Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity, libraries and museums can reopen and community sport will resume. Nightclubs will remain closed.

Caps for personal services such as hairdressers and nail and beauty services will lift, while caps on weddings, funerals and religious services will also lift.

The plan will also include the “consideration” of international travel, however, this is a federal government prerogative.

The unvaccinated will be left out of these freedoms and will be required to work from home.

Employers will be told to continue to allow fully vaccinated employees to work from home if practicable.

Masks will remain mandatory indoors.

However, unvaccinated people will from December 1 be able to reintegrate with society when the “four square metre” social distancing rule reverts two square metres.

Restrictions will also significantly ease from that date, including no limit on gatherings indoors or outdoors, and all caps removed in numerous settings.

More than 85 per cent of eligible people over 16 years have had at least one vaccine dose, while around 60 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

Life expectancy ‘cut by most since WWII’

The COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy in 2020 by the largest amount since World War Two, according to a study published by Oxford University.

Life expectancy fell by more than six months compared with 2019 in 22 of the 29 countries analysed in the study, which spanned Europe, the United States and Chile.

There were reductions in life expectancy in 27 of the 29 countries overall.

The university said most life expectancy reductions across different countries could be linked to official COVID-19 deaths. There have been nearly five million reported deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

“The fact that our results highlight such a large impact that is directly attributable to COVID-19 shows how devastating a shock it has been for many countries,” said Dr Ridhi Kashyap, co-lead author of the paper, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

There were greater drops in life expectancy for men than women in most countries, with the largest decline in American men, who saw life expectancy drop by 2.2 years relative to 2019.

Overall, men had more than a year shaved off in 15 countries, compared to women in 11 countries. The figures wiped out progress on mortality that had been made in the previous 5.6 years.

In the United States, the rise in mortality was mainly among those of working age and those under 60, while in Europe, deaths among people aged over 60 contributed more significantly to the increase in mortality.

Dr Kashyap appealed to more countries, including low- and middle-income nations, to make mortality data available for further studies.

“We urgently call for the publication and availability of more disaggregated data to better understand the impacts of the pandemic globally,” she said.

Vic records 705 new cases, one death

Victoria has recorded 705 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and one death.

The new infections bring the number of active cases in the state to 8538.

The state’s health department said more information would be provided on the death later on Monday. It brings the toll from the current outbreak to 25.

There were 51,252 coronavirus tests processed and 51,252 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Sunday.

It comes as restrictions will ease slightly across the state on Wednesday, with Victoria expected to pass 80 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage on Tuesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said while the changes were “modest”, the state inches closer to the end of lockdown.

Residents of locked-down areas will be able to travel 15km from home, up from 10km, while patron caps in regional venues will increase from 20 to 30.

Golf, tennis and cricket, as well as group personal training for up to five fully vaccinated adults, can also resume.

There was also good news for the city of Geelong, which was released from lockdown overnight, despite the diagnosis of six new cases on Saturday. All cases were linked.

Former ICAC set to face parliament

Former Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander will today front a parliamentary committee after MPs passed a law to rein in ICAC’s powers – reforms he said would “protect corrupt politicians and corrupt police officers”.

As reported by InDaily last week, Lander will today appear before the parliamentary Select Committee on Damage, Harm or Adverse Outcomes Resulting from ICAC Investigations, where he will give evidence from a prepared 100-page statement.

The appearance comes after both houses of state parliament last week swiftly passed a bill to limit ICAC’s powers, with the office now only given jurisdiction to investigate matters of serious and systemic corruption.

Under the reforms – which passed both houses in less than 24 hours – misconduct and maladministration will be restricted to the State Ombudsman, with the Office of Public Integrity moved out of the ICAC’s jurisdiction.

The laws also establish an independent Office of the Inspector to replace the current ICAC Reviewer – with “enhanced powers of review and oversight of ICAC”.

Lander, who was South Australia’s first ICAC from 2012 to 2020, told InDaily on Friday that the reforms “will protect corrupt politicians and corrupt police officers” and “I think there’s nothing for ICAC left to do”.

The former federal court judge is likely to discuss changes that will effectively remove ICAC’s jurisdiction to investigate allegations against SA Police – an issue over which he has previously butted heads with the police ombudsman and SAPOL.

‘Undermines our credibility’: Ex-diplomats sound alarm on climate action

The Australian Government’s “inertia” on climate action is damaging its standing on the world stage, former diplomats have argued in an open letter, as the Prime Minister returns home from Washington and tries to reach a deal with the Nationals on a net-zero emissions target.

The letter is signed by 70 former diplomats – from ambassadors and high commissioners to humanitarian aid co-ordinators and middle-level Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials – and expresses the group’s concern for the country’s future environment and economy.

“We are concerned that the climate is changing rapidly and without urgent action … the future of life on this planet looks bleak for our children and grandchildren,” former consul-general for eastern Indonesia and deputy ambassador to Greece Richard Mathews said.

The group says key allies across the globe including the US are increasingly voicing concerns that Australia is not “pulling its weight” on climate action.

“Australia’s inertia on commitments undermines our credibility as a regional partner; it undermines our reliability in the minds of our strategic allies; and it will cost us dearly as trading partners,” the letter reads.

“As former diplomats, we see what is happening around the globe, and it concerns us that Australia is not at the leading edge of international action on climate change.”

The country needs to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, they say, and set more ambitious goals to be reached by 2030 too, both before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spent the past week in the US meeting with President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who are both locked into the 2050 target, as well as fellow members of the so-called Quad that includes India and Japan.

In an interview with the Seven Network from Washington, Morrison said he was patiently working with his coalition partners, the Nationals, on a deal to reach net zero emissions.

“I’m keen to ensure I bring people together on this so Australians can have confidence we are dealing with climate change, that we care deeply about their concerns about what the change means for them,” he said.

Asked if he was close to a deal with the junior coalition partners, Morrison said: “I don’t get ahead of these things, I’m a patient person when it comes to getting things right.”

Local vaccine manufacturing still the goal: Hunt

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia still intends to manufacture mRNA COVID-19 vaccines locally, notwithstanding the progress of the nation’s jab rollout.

At the moment, mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna have to be imported from overseas, with the AstraZeneca jab the only one manufactured in Australia by biotech giant CSL in Melbourne.

The Morrison Government put out an approach to market for local mRNA vaccine manufacturing on May 21 this year.

Submissions for the federal grant monies closed on July 16, with an expert advisory panel assessing the applications.

Biologics contract development and manufacturing firm BioCina, who own a 4600m2 facility in Thebarton, was the only company to apply to manufacture vaccines in South Australia.

“mRNA vaccine production in Australia is our goal and intention and that is exactly what we’re doing at the moment,” Hunt told reporters on Sunday.

“We are working on a number of fronts but we’re making progress and I am confident that we will be in a position to say more in the coming months about this if not earlier.”

Australia has 60 million doses of Pfizer ordered for 2022 and 50 million doses of Moderna.

Still, the country is making progress in its vaccination rollout with doses it now has to hand.

The health minister said 75.8 per cent of people aged 16 and over have now had their first dose of a vaccine and 51.5 per cent are fully covered with two jabs.

In South Australia, 65.9 per cent of over-16s have had one dose while 47.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Younger Australians have also been quick to roll up their sleeves, with more than 27 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds – 340,000 – having come forward to be vaccinated.

German election neck-and-neck: exit polls

Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats are locked in a very close race with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc in the country’s parliamentary election, exit polls show.

The vote on Sunday will determine who succeeds the long-time leader after 16 years in power, with officials from both parties saying they hoped to lead the next government.

An exit poll for ARD public television put voters’ support at 25 per cent each for the Social Democrats – for whom outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz is running for chancellor – and Merkel’s centre-right bloc under would-be successor state governor Armin Laschet.

Another exit poll for ZDF public television put the Social Democrats ahead by 26 per cent to 24 per cent.

Both polls put the environmentalist Greens in third place with about 15 per cent support.

The electoral system typically produces coalition governments but post-Second World War Germany has never previously seen a winning party take less than 31 per cent of the vote – or the Union bloc score less than that.

Given the exit poll predictions, putting together the next coalition government for Europe’s biggest economy could be a lengthy and complicated process. Merkel will remain as a caretaker leader until a new government is in place.

The exit polls also put support for the business-friendly Free Democrats at 11 per cent to 12 per cent and the Left Party at 5 per cent.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party – which no other party wants to work with – was seen winning up to 11 per cent of the vote.

The general secretary of Laschet’s Christian Democratic Union, Paul Ziemiak, acknowledged that his party had suffered “bitter losses” compared with the last election four years ago, in which it scored 32.9 per cent of the vote.

But he said it would be a “long election evening” and pointed to the possibility of a coalition with the Greens and the Free Democrats.

His Social Democrat counterpart, Lars Klingbeil, declared that his party “is back” after languishing for years in the polls.

He said “with this, we have the mission to form a coalition”.

Head makes 163 in high-scoring Shield match

Travis Head celebrates his century during day 3 of the Round 1 Marsh Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and Western Australia at Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide on Sunday (AAP Image/Matt Turner).

Travis Head continues to impress as he pushes for a Test cricket recall, scoring 163 for South Australia against Western Australia in a high-scoring Sheffield Shield match in Adelaide.

Head’s impressive 215-ball knock, which included 18 fours and three sixes, helped South Australia to a 27-run first innings lead at Karen Rolton Oval on Sunday.

A last-wicket stand of 74 either side of tea between Nathan McAndrew (65 not out) and Lloyd Pope (12) – highest first-class scores for both men – lifted SA to 492 in response to WA’s 9/465d.

By stumps on day three, WA were 1-76, a lead of 49, with little likelihood of an outright result given only 20 wickets have fallen on a flat pitch.

SA skipper Head has scored 601 Shield runs from seven innings at an average of 85 since being dropped from the Australia team following the 2020 Boxing Day Test against India.

Australian men’s team chief selector George Bailey was at the ground to see the attacking left-hander’s classy century.

While former captain Steve Smith and youngster Cameron Green, who scored a hundred for WA on Friday, are well placed to retain middle order Test places, Head could push for the No.5 spot he lost, where Matthew Wade scored 62 runs from four innings.

Head added 231 for the third wicket with fellow left hander and former WA player Jake Carder (118 off 237), whose maiden first-class century included 15 fours.

Cameron Bancroft (27) was caught behind off spinner Pope, but Sam Whiteman (35) and WA captain Shaun Marsh (13) batted out the remainder of the day.

SA were 3-372 following a brisk fourth wicket stand of 73 off 13 overs between Head and Alex Carey (37 off 45), but lost 6-46 with a short pitched barrage from Errol Morris (3-91) triggering the collapse.

It took Pope 32 balls to get off the mark, but last pair stayed together for 17 overs with McAndrew hitting seven fours and two sixes in a record 10 wicket partnership for SA against WA.

Morris and fellow quick Joel Paris (3-73 ) were the main wicket-takers for WA.

-With AAP and Reuters

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