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What we know today, Tuesday October 5

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Victoria has reported 1763 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest daily tally of any Australian state or territory since the pandemic began.

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Vic records national record 1763 cases

Victoria has reported 1763 new local cases of COVID-19 – the highest daily tally of any Australian state or territory since the pandemic began.

The previous national record of 1603 daily cases was set by NSW just over four weeks ago when its outbreak peaked.

It is the sixth consecutive day 1000-plus cases have been reported in Victoria, pushing up the number of active infections in the state to 14,368.

A further four deaths were also reported, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 57.

They are two men in their 80s and 60s from Whittlesea and Whitehorse, as well as two women in their 70s and 80s from Hume and Banyule.

There are 517 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, up 19 from Monday, with 101 people in ICU and 66 requiring a ventilator.

Of those in hospital, 66 per cent were unvaccinated, 28 per cent had one dose and six per cent were fully vaccinated.

It comes as Premier Daniel Andrews announced the City of Latrobe, which encompasses the Gippsland towns of Traralgon, Morwell and Moe, would come out of lockdown from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

The region was plunged into a seven-day lockdown last week after an AFL grand final weekend party led to widespread transmission.

Health department deputy secretary Kate Matson said most cases had been linked and the region’s vaccination coverage had soared by six per cent over the past week.

“Those increased vaccination rates, as well as increased doses being able to be delivered to our sites in Latrobe and Gippsland more broadly, again are one of the reasons we are filled with confidence to lift lockdown,” she told reporters.

With more than 35,000 vaccinations administered at state-run sites on Monday, 83.2 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and up have now got their first jab and 53 per cent are doubled-dosed.

The Victorian government has also announced it will publish the vaccination rates for suburbs across the state as part of a postcode-driven push.

NSW records 608 new cases, seven deaths

NSW has recorded 608 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and another seven deaths, as schooling and elective surgery resumes in some areas.

The daily case numbers are the lowest since August and it is the fourth day in a row with fewer than 700 cases.

But NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said there had also been “slight decline” in testing numbers.

“We really encourage people to come forward for testing as we get closer to more people getting vaccinated in the community,” McAnulty said in an update on Tuesday.

“It is really important we all maintain our vigilance for symptoms and come forward for testing so we don’t miss cases.”

There were 85,642 COVID-19 tests reported to 8pm on Monday.

Six men and one woman with COVID-19 have died, bringing the toll for the current outbreak to 385 deaths.

Five of the people who died were not vaccinated while two had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are 978 people in hospital with COVID-19 in NSW, with 190 in intensive care, and 94 on ventilators.

Across the state, 88.5 per cent of people aged 16 and over had received their first vaccine, and 67.5 per cent were fully vaccinated as of midnight on Sunday.

Overseas tourists unlikely until 2022: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says international tourists will have to wait until at least 2022 to be able to come to Australia, with fully vaccinated Australians being prioritised for international travel.

As the government prepares to resume overseas flights, Mr Morrison said Australians stranded overseas will be first to come back, followed by skilled workers and students.

“If you are an Australian resident or citizen you will be able to travel under those arrangements,’ Morrison told Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

“The next priority is our skilled migrants that are very important for the country and who are double vaccinated, as well as students who are coming and returning to Australia.

“We’ll get to international visitors I believe next year.”

International travel will only resume in states or territories whose vaccinations rates have reached 80 per cent double dose.

Those returning to Australia who have been fully vaccinated will be able to spend seven days in home quarantine, with the unvaccinated having to do two weeks in hotel quarantine.

“Once an at-home quarantine model is up and running at scale, this will enable that to happen,” Morrison said.

“We need to get those home quarantine facilities or procedures in place.”

The prime minister said the government was also examining whether immediate family overseas would be included as part of the priority group able to travel to Australia.

“We will look at that next year, and then we will be able to look at the broader group,” Morrison said.

“I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

New restrictions in SA’s South East after positive case

Tough new restrictions have been introduced for the Mt Gambier, Grant and Wattle Range council areas in the state’s South East after a woman tested positive to COVID-19 over the weekend.

The restrictions, which came into place from 4pm yesterday, are expected to be in force for at least seven days.

They include a return to one person per four-square-metre density rules, a home gathering cap of two visitors, a maximum of 10 people at weddings and funerals, and bans on private functions and sport.

The State Government has also tightened the cross border travel bubble from 70km to 30km.

Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens enforced the restrictions after a mother of four, who is from Mount Gambier, tested positive to coronavirus over the weekend.

She travelled to Casterton in Victoria, which was within the 70km cross border travel bubble, and returned home to Mt Gambier on October 1.

The woman, who is in her 40s, was tested at a drive-through clinic and taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital after experiencing serious respiratory symptoms.

She has since been discharged and is currently quarantining at Tom’s Court medi-hotel.

Her four teenage children have so far tested negative and are in quarantine, as have eight other primary close contacts.

A further 21 secondary close contacts have also been identified, with five so far returning negative test results.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that there have been no new cases detected in the South East overnight.

She said over 500 people were tested in the region yesterday and urged anyone with coronavirus symptoms to get tested as soon as possible.

SA Health plans to expand vaccination and testing clinics in Mount Gambier in the coming days.

“We’re definitely looking at the resources down there – our team was working on that over the weekend, so we’ll have more to say during the week,” Spurrier said.

There are no public exposure sites in the South East, but Stevens yesterday urged people holidaying in Mt Gambier to come home as soon as possible.

Authorities are still investigating where the woman and her family travelled, after a memo reportedly surfaced from Casterton Memorial Hospital suggesting she could have picked up the virus after visiting Melbourne.

Stevens said that police didn’t have enough information to be “absolutely clear” about the family’s movements while in Victoria.

He said police and SA Health would “absolutely” investigate whether the woman had travelled to Melbourne.

“We don’t have enough information to have confidence that we’re on top of this person’s movements,” he said.

“Until we do have that (information) we are exercising a high level of caution and taking these steps to ensure that if there is community spread then we can get on top of it as quickly as possible.”

Spurrier said there were a number of reasons why people don’t disclose where they have visited.

“One of those is that they might be frightened or they might be anxious, and so we just need to be very, very cognisant that not everybody is in the same situation as we might ourselves find ourselves in,” she said yesterday afternoon.

“I want to absolutely confirm to the South Australian public that when you provide information to our contact tracers that is kept very confidential, it’s never used as part of a criminal investigation and it’s very important that we keep that as very privileged public health clinical information.”

South Australia reported one new COVID-19 case yesterday – a partially-vaccinated male truck driver in his 30s who tested positive in SA but has since returned to Victoria.

SA Health yesterday evening added to its list of exposure sites:

Anyone who visited the sites at the exposure times must quarantine for 14 days and get tested on days one, five and 13.

Meanwhile, authorities are planning to enforce a mandatory vaccination requirement for South Australians wanting to travel into Victoria or New South Wales under the cross-border bubble arrangements.

The new ruling is expected to be in force from next Monday.

City council to seek state and federal funding for new Aquatic Centre

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Adelaide City Council plans to ask the state and federal governments to contribute $55 million towards the cost of building a new aquatic centre in the park lands in the hope that taxpayers can foot the bulk of the bill.

A $90,000 feasibility study to be discussed at tonight’s council meeting has recommended that a new Aquatic Centre be built in the southeast corner of Denise Norton Park/Pardipardinyilla in North Adelaide.

The report recommends that the new centre include an outdoor 50-metre pool, as well as leisure, hydrotherapy and learn-to-swim pools, a gym, spa, saunas, creche, café and 400-space car park.

All up, the new facility would cover 24,121 square-metres (2.4ha) of park lands and cost over $65 million to build.

Councillors will tonight consider asking the state and federal governments to pay $55 million, with the council proposing to chip in $15-20 million.

“Given the significant upfront capital cost and ongoing subsidy required, it will be critical in order to attract significant funding support for this project that Council develops a comprehensive shared funding model,” a report to councillors states.

“There are a wide-ranging social, economic, and environmental benefits of the project together with the strong strategic alignment with State and Federal Government policies and plans relating to health and wellbeing.”

Building a new aquatic centre with an indoor 50-metre pool would increase the cost by about $12 million and require about 400 square-metres of more park lands space.

The preferred outdoor pool option is expected to rake in $550,000 in profit each year, or 60 cents per visit.

Read the full story here

Vaccinations on track to 80 per cent mark

Australia is on track to achieve 80 per cent vaccination of people over 16 by mid-November, as the Federal Government secures supplies of promising new treatments.

The latest national vaccine data points to the 80 per cent first-dose threshold being broken either today or tomorrow, with the current full-dose rate of 56.9 per cent tracking towards 80 per cent within five weeks.

“It’s a critical milestone,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Just under 70 per cent of South Australians have received one vaccine dose, while 51.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

As the vaccine program rolls on, the Morrison Government is looking at the treatment side of the equation, closing a deal for 300,000 courses of an antiviral pill showing promising signs of slashing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations.

Molnupiravir is still being trialled in the US and is yet to gain regulatory authorisation.

But a deal has been reached with pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme to supply 300,000 courses should the pill be given by green light by Australia’s medicines regulator.

It could be made available as early as the first quarter of 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the drug would join other COVID-19 treatments including sotrovimab and remdesivir already available in Australia.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration in August gave the Molnupiravir pill “provisional determination”, the first step to apply to register the pill for use in Australia.

A final application is expected to be submitted shortly.

It follows trials announced by Merck showing molnupiravir reduced hospitalisations and deaths by around 50 per cent.

Australia has also received 15,000 additional doses of sotrovimab, an antibody treatment used to stop the virus replicating.

The national stockpile of the drug, administered by intravenous infusion within five days of patients developing symptoms, is expected to exceed 30,000 doses this year.

It has been shown to reduce hospitalisation or death in patients with mild or moderate infections and who are at high risk of severe illness.

Victoria recorded new 1377 local cases and four deaths as Melbourne became the world’s most locked down city following 246 cumulative days of stay-at-home orders.

NSW recorded 623 new cases and six people died ahead of the planned end of lockdown for fully vaccinated residents in a week.

The ACT recorded 28 new cases and two more deaths, taking Canberra’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to eight.

Outage hits Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have gone offline for users across the globe this morning, as the social media giant works on restoring its services.

Facebook has acknowledged users are having trouble accessing its apps but has not provided any specifics about the nature of the problem or how many were affected by the outage.

“We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience,” Facebook said in a statement this morning.

Facebook’s internal systems used by employees also went down.

Security experts tracking the situation said the outage could have been triggered by a configuration error, which could be the result of an internal mistake.

An outside hack was viewed as less likely.

Shares of Facebook, which has nearly two billion daily active users, fell 5.5 per cent in Monday afternoon trading in the US, inching towards its worst day in nearly a year.

Meanwhile, the social-media giant’s instant messaging platform WhatsApp was also down for more than 35,000 users while Messenger was down for nearly 9800 users.

Facebook has experienced similar widespread outages with its suite of apps this year in March and July.

The outage, which hit the social media giant’s platforms minutes before 3am AEDT, comes a day after a Facebook whistleblower accused the firm of repeatedly prioritising profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation, and said her lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Massive drop in SA water, energy disconnections

Complaints about energy and water disconnections in South Australia fell by just under 70 per cent over the past financial year, as regulators and suppliers stepped in to offer more support to consumers over the COVID-19 pandemic.

New data released by South Australia’s Energy and Water Ombudsman shows disconnection cases related to credit management issues, including as a result of non-payment of a bill, dropped by 69 per cent in 2020-21.

All up, the Ombudsman received 18 per cent fewer complaints since the previous financial year, with the office crediting regulators and suppliers for taking “positive steps to protect vulnerable consumers” over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have significantly reduced numbers of credit management complaints since March of 2020, indicating a low occurrence of cases related to financial hardship and disconnections,” Ombudsman Sandy Canale said.

Of the cases handled by the Ombudsman over the 2020-21 financial year, four in five were related to electricity supply, followed by gas and water.

UK commits to all-renewable electricity by 2035

All of the United Kingdom’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2035, the governing Conservatives have announced, saying the move will help end the country’s reliance on imported fuel.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said “the only way to strengthen Britain’s energy security is zero carbon power that is generated in this country”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he believed the UK could get to “complete clean energy production” – including renewable sources and nuclear power – by the middle of the next decade.

The UK gets a big chunk of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and sun, and has largely ended the use of coal power, but remains heavily reliant on natural gas.

Surging gas prices worldwide are driving up energy bills for millions of people in the UK.

“The advantage of that is that it will mean that, for the first time, the UK is not dependent on hydrocarbons coming from overseas with all the vagaries in hydrocarbon prices and the risk that poses for people’s pockets and for the consumer,” Johnson said in Manchester, where the Conservatives are holding their annual conference.

Johnson is eager to burnish the UK’s green credentials before a major climate summit that is due to open in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of October.

Johnson, as host, is trying to get other world leaders to increase their emissions-cutting pledges so the world can keep global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, welcomed what he called the UK government’s realisation “that gas needs to be taken out of the electricity system” but said he was disappointed by the continuing commitment to nuclear energy.

-With AAP and Reuters

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