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What we know today, Wednesday September 29

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NSW has reported a record 15 deaths from COVID-19 and another 863 local cases, while Victoria has reported seven deaths and 950 new cases.

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NSW reports record day of COVID deaths

NSW has reported a record 15 deaths from COVID-19 and announced fully vaccinated people will be able to visit loved ones in aged care homes within weeks, ending months of separation.

Some 863 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed across the state in the 24-hours until 8pm on Tuesday.

Among the deaths reported were two people in their 40s, two in their 50s, four in their 60s, three in their 70s, one in their 80s and three in their 90s.

One woman in her 70s from Bateman’s Bay was fully vaccinated and had received the second dose shortly before her death.

She is the first death in the state’s southeast since the pandemic began.

More than 86 per cent of NSW residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 61.7 per cent fully vaccinated.

With vaccination rates due to reach 70 per cent double dose coverage within weeks, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced visits to aged care homes would be allowed from October 11.

“For those of you who haven’t been able to see a loved one for around three months, (from) Monday the 11th, so long as you are fully vaccinated, two at a time and two per day are able to visit a loved one in an aged care facility,” she said on Wednesday.

“I am looking forward to seeing my parents in that week.”

Vic CFMEU headquarters listed as exposure site

The Victorian headquarters of the construction union has been listed as a COVID-19 exposure site, a week after it was the scene of anti-vaccination protests.

CFMEU state secretary John Setka confirmed the building, on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD, is now a tier-one exposure site, forcing union staff and officials into isolation for two weeks.

Four positive cases have been linked to the office so far.

“This outbreak caused by the disgusting behaviour of selfish and reckless people with no regard to the wellbeing of the thousands of construction workers or their families will not deter our commitment to getting construction back open and all our members back to work,” Setka said in a statement on Wednesday.

It comes a week after protests were held outside the building over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and other restrictions for the construction industry.

About 500 protesters threw bottles at Mr Setka and smashed the office’s door down on September 21.

ACT records 22 COVID cases

Canberra has recorded 22 new COVID-19 cases, with just seven in quarantine for the whole of their infectious period.

A source could be found for 12 of Wednesday’s cases.

At least seven were in the community while infectious and another seven were in quarantine the whole time.

The isolation status of eight other cases remains under investigation.

There are 14 cases linked to the Calvary Haydon Retirement Community, with 10 residents testing positive.

Three staff members and one household contact have also contracted the virus.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he remains concerned about the number of people infectious in the community.

Two new cases in Qld

Queensland has one new local case of COVID-19, as well as a second case involving a truck driver who tested positive in NSW but has been on the Gold Coast.

The new Queensland case is a close contact of the aviation training facility worker who tested positive on Monday night.

The man in his 50s lives at Biggera Waters on the Gold Coast and has been in the community while infectious. He is fully vaccinated.

The other case is being counted in the NSW tally because the infection was detected there.

It involves a truck driver who lives at Gaven on the Gold Coast.

He was active on the Gold Coast for three days, from September 25 to 27.

Vic records 950 new cases, seven deaths

Victoria has recorded 950 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.

It is the state’s highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, surpassing the previous record of 867 cases on Tuesday.

The new infections bring the number of active cases in the state to 9890.

More information will be provided on the seven deaths later on Wednesday. It brings the toll from the current outbreak to 32.

There were 61,322 coronavirus tests processed and 34,028 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Tuesday.

November jab target as SA launches truckie testing scheme

The Federal Government is projecting Australia will reach 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage in mid-November when home COVID tests are in use, as the South Australian Government moves to offer unvaccinated truckies rapid antigen testing at border checkpoints.

Vaccine rollout co-ordinator John Frewen on Tuesday revealed the latest government projections for the vaccination of people aged 16 and over.

By the end of October, 70 per cent of that group should have received both doses with the 80 per cent target likely in mid-November.

Lieutenant General Frewen said reaching high levels of coverage would now depend on people coming forward but 90 per cent would be possible in late November or early December.

Almost 77 per cent of over-16s have now received at least a single shot, while 52.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

In South Australia, 66.7 of over-16s have received at least one dose with 48.4 per cent fully vaccinated.

SA Pathology on Tuesday announced it will offer rapid antigen tests for interstate truckies who are not fully vaccinated or do not have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours.

Rapid antigen tests can return a COVID-positive or negative result within 20 minutes.

In an update posted on Tuesday, SA Pathology said the tests are being introduced at South Australian border sites because “they are easy to perform and provide a rapid result”.

The rapid tests are in addition to regular PCR tests.

“Although Rapid Antigen Tests provide a rapid result, there is a risk of false positive and false negative results, and therefore cannot be used as the sole diagnosis of COVID-19 infection,” the SA Pathology update states.

“PCR testing is the gold standard and is still required to confirm a Rapid Antigen Test result.”

Seven COVID-positive truck drivers from interstate have entered South Australia in the last month, with the most recent case triggering ten exposure site alerts and putting 130 people into quarantine.

Lieutenant General Frewen also expects the rapid antigen tests to be used in homes from November 1.

While no company has a kit ready for the Australian market, Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt is confident hurdles will be cleared over the next month.

All tests granted approval for home use need to be effective for the Delta variant and instructions must be suitable for about a year-seven level of reading or people for whom English is a second language.

“We are still confident, because we’ve been holding hands with some of the most advanced companies for a few weeks, that by November 1 there will be products available,” Professor Skerritt told a Senate hearing.

Home rapid antigen tests have been used overseas for months but Australian authorities have been cautious in expanding use beyond selected workplaces because of concerns around accuracy compared to nose and throat swabs.

Crows camp organisers flag legal action

Collective Mind, the private training organisation involved in the now-infamous Adelaide Crows 2018 preseason camp, says it will seek “appropriate legal redress” in response to reporting of the scandal.

The leadership consultancy firm and the Adelaide Football Club were on Tuesday cleared by SafeWork SA of any breach of work health and safety laws from the camp that has been linked to a player exodus from the Crows and their subsequent spiral from finals contention.

An AFL Integrity Unit investigation also cleared the Crows and Collective Mind of wrongdoing, but noted the club should have shown greater care.

Collective Mind managing director Amon Woulfe said SafeWork SA’s ruling was “welcome, yet overdue, relief”.

“While we are glad this has finally been resolved, it should not be forgotten that these false and sustained allegations have had significant impacts on our business, our brand and our personal reputations,” Woulfe said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“We fully understand the important role the media plays in sport, however the media has an obligation to make sure its facts are correct.

“In our case, the reporting was incorrect, repeatedly inflated and deeply hurtful.

“We are still yet to receive any sort of retraction or public apology, and we will be seeking appropriate legal redress.”

In September last year, Woulfe said Collective Mind had chosen to proceed with defamation against Channel 9 and The Age.

The Melbourne newspaper in a report last year detailed several allegations from the camp, including claims players were greeted by men in army fatigues carrying fake guns, that they were intermittently blindfolded and that one player was initially denied medical aid after fainting during a team exercise.

SA space company signs $5 million Defence contract

Myriota co-founder David Hales. Picture: Rosina Possingham.

Adelaide space data firm Myriota has signed a $5.48 million contract to expand its nano-satellite communications network for use by the Defence Department.

Myriota’s technology involves tiny satellite transmitters that send low powered messages directly to a constellation of low-earth-orbit nanosatellites of its own.

Under its new contract with Defence, Myriota will be able to use its network of nano-satellites to collect data across hundreds of Defence platforms and sensors.

The Federal Government says the contract is in a bid to deliver a secure and scalable direct-to-orbit satellite connectivity network with increased operations efficiency.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said space capabilities are “critical” to Defence’s future.

“This innovation could enable the secure transfer of Defence data from almost anywhere on Earth,” Price said.

“The Morrison Government’s investment in innovative space technology through the Defence Innovation Hub complements our $7 billion commitment to significantly increase investment in Defence’s space capabilities.

“This investment will help build Australia’s sovereign space industry and skilled workforce.”

The contract comes after Myriota last week announced it was partnering with US-based Spire Global to fast track its satellite expansion program.

The partnership will see Spire’s existing satellite network used to support Myriota’s expansion, with the implementation of Spire’s low-earth orbit nanosatellites into the Myriota network.

Qld braces for more cases, NRL Grand Final under cloud

Queenslanders are bracing for more COVID-19 cases after four new cases emerged in Brisbane on Tuesday, casting doubt over the status of Sunday’s NRL Grand Final.

The state recorded its first mystery case in 50 days on Tuesday, when an Eatons Hill man in his 30s who works in the aviation industry tested positive.

He was infectious in the community for three days and his wife has also returned a positive test, but the man had only been inoculated a week prior, meaning he was not fully protected.

The third case is that of a woman who returned three negative tests during two weeks in hotel quarantine before testing positive five days after her release.

Queensland health’s primary concern is that of a truck driver who was infectious in the community for eight days and stayed at two hotels and a inner-city boarding house.

Exposure sites were listed on Tuesday for Eatons Hill, Rocklea, Albany Creek, Aspley and South Brisbane, with venues across these suburbs listed as close contacts or casual contacts.

These include two unnamed hotels at Spring Hill, and the Adalong Student Guesthouse at South Brisbane and McDonald’s Southbank.

The Queensland Government has also moved to mandate at least one jab for truck drivers entering Queensland after seven truck drivers have entered the state who have been infectious in the community since August 24.

Freight drivers must receive their first jab by October 15, and two jabs by November 15.

In light of the new clusters, Queensland Health has changed the directives for mask-wearing in the Moreton Bay and Brisbane local government areas, with the face coverings now mandatory indoors and in all public settings where social distancing isn’t possible.

The four cases reported on Tuesday have brought a cloud over the NRL grand final plans, just days before 50,000 people are expected to descend on Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there had been no discussions with the NRL over a potential plan to move the event.

“When my phone rings I’ll be updating people, but there is no concern at the moment,” she said on Tuesday.

No rush for French ambassador return after subs rift

French President Emmanuel Macron would be ready to speak with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison if the talks were “prepared in a serious manner,” an official says, but there is no word on when France will return its ambassador to Australia.

Macron said on Tuesday that European countries must boost their defence plans and make themselves “respected,” as his country opened talks with the United States following the submarine contract dispute that has led to a diplomatic crisis.

“Europeans must come out of their naivety,” Macron said during a news conference in Paris where he spoke publicly for the first time about the AUKUS defence deal between the UK, US and Australia that sank a multi-billion French contract.

“When we are under pressure … showing that we also have power and the capacity to defend ourselves … is simply making ourselves be respected.”

As part of the pact, Australia ill cancel a contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire US nuclear-powered vessels instead.

In an unprecedented move, France recalled its ambassador to the US in response.

Ambassador Philippe Etienne will go back to Washington DC on Wednesday with a “clear mandate,” Macron said.

Macron said he is to talk again with US President Biden in mid-October, before a scheduled in-person meeting at the end of next month in Europe.

A French presidential official said no date has been set yet for the return of the country’s ambassador to Australia, who also was recalled.

The official said Macron has not spoken with Morrison since the defence deal was announced but that the French leader was ready to hold discussions at some point.

“This conversation (between Macron and Morrison) needs to be prepared in a serious manner,” the official told reporters in a briefing.

“It’s not about whether there will be a conversation but in the current context we need a substantial conversation. We are preparing it.”

Indigenous heart disease rates twice as high: report

The rate of heart disease among Indigenous Australians is more than twice that of non-Indigenous people, a new report shows.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, released today to coincide with World Heart Day, looks at a range of data, including Australian Bureau of Statistics health surveys.

It estimates 42,700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults had heart, stroke and vascular disease in 2018/19, based on self-reported data from the ABS.

It equates to a rate of 11.4 per cent of Australia’s adult Indigenous population, more than twice that of non-Indigenous adults (5.4 per cent), the report concluded.

The rate of death from heart disease from 2017-19 among Indigenous Australians was 1.8 times greater than non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely to be exposed to several risk factors.

Indigenous Australians aged over 15 were more than three times more likely to smoke daily and were more likely to have high blood pressure in 2017/18 (37 to 29 per cent).

Overall, cardiovascular disease was the underlying cause for 42,300 fatalities in Australia in 2019, one-quarter of all deaths.

It is, however, a 22 per cent drop on 55,800 deaths in 1980.

-With AAP and Reuters

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