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What we know today, Tuesday October 12

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A Victorian man has been arrested at a medi-hotel in Adelaide’s CBD after he allegedly failed to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act.

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Victorian man arrested at Adelaide medi-hotel

A Victorian man has been arrested at a medi-hotel in Adelaide’s CBD after he allegedly breached a direction under the Emergency Management Act.

In a statement this afternoon, SA Police said officers arrested a 42-year-old man from Victoria at a medi-hotel in the CBD at about 1pm this afternoon.

He has been charged with failing comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act.

The man’s young daughter, who was with him at the hotel, was taken by SA Ambulance officers and is in the care of SA Health.

He has been refused bail and will likely appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court tomorrow.

SA Police did not name the medi-hotel or specify which direction the man allegedly breached.

Australia stocks up on vaccines for 5 to 12-year-olds

Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia has secured enough Pfizer doses to vaccinate five to 12-year-olds if the pharmaceutical giant wins approval for its vaccine to be used in younger children here.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration gives safety and efficacy approval, while the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation make recommendations about use.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had secured enough doses to vaccinate five to 12-year-olds if approval was granted.

“Our approach has always been that we see this as a double green light,” he said on Tuesday.

But Hunt refused to speculate about the potential of clashing TGA and ATAGI advice after similar agencies in the US split on booster shots for certain groups of adults.

“I’m very confident they have aligned their advice right throughout the pandemic and I would expect that would continue,” he said.

ATAGI is expected to release recommendations about booster shots for the wider population in coming weeks after backing third jabs for immunocompromised people.

Australia’s vaccination rollout continues to motor ahead after a sluggish start, with more than two million doses administered in the past week.

Despite fears jab rates may taper off, the program is maintaining pace with almost 83 per cent of over-16s having received one dose.

About 1.3 million doses are needed to lift second-jab coverage from 63.4 to 70 per cent.

Confusion over SA Christmas border, quarantine arrangements

Premier Steven Marshall is being called on to clarify South Australia’s border rules and quarantine arrangements for Christmas, after chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said it was “too early to say” how the state planned to reopen and SA Health’s CEO said it was expected that even double vaccinated people would need to quarantine upon entry.

Marshall last week said he hoped fully vaccinated interstate visitors would be able to enter SA for Christmas without needing to quarantine.

“I’m hopeful that all of those people coming back from interstate who are double-vaccinated and that haven’t been to exposure sites will be able to come back and enjoy a relatively normal Christmas in SA,” he said, adding that people who had visited exposure sites or had not been fully vaccinated would likely still face mandatory quarantine.

But SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan told a parliamentary committee yesterday that he wasn’t aware of any health advice regarding any no-quarantine period by December 25.

“That’s not our expectation that there will be no quarantine requirements even for double vaccinated people at this stage,” he said.

“I’m not aware of any advice to that effect; any advice to the effect that there would be no quarantine required by Christmas.”

Spurrier yesterday afternoon also cast doubts on any timeframe.

“What I’m saying is it’s a little bit too early to tell what the disease rates will be looking like at different parts of NSW and Victoria,” she said.

“I’m very clear that we will be gradually opening the border and then we will have arrangements for people who are double vaccinated to come into our state but some of those people may need to be tested; some of those people may need to be doing symptom checks; some of those people may indeed need to be doing quarantine.

“But in terms of actually determining that, we need to see what the rates of the disease are like otherwise we won’t be following the science. We need to be making the best decisions for us as a state as we allow the disease to come in.”

Spurrier warned that whatever happened it was clear that “we are going to be opening the border in such a way that we will be getting some people with the disease here”.

“But what would be difficult to deal with is if we had a couple of hundred people with COVID all at the same time and then we would need to then do our contact tracing and quarantine and we’d need to be putting out all of those spot fires and it would be a lot of work,” she said.

“So we need to be doing it in a way that we gradually open those borders and fortunately we have been able to have the Doherty Institute help us with some modelling.

“That hasn’t been completed yet. Once we have that done and once we see what is happening in NSW and Victoria we will be able to make more definitive comments.”

Speaking after McGowan’s evidence yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Wade said: “SA Health’s position and the Marshall Liberal Government’s position on this is exactly the same”.

“Once we reach 80 per cent of the double vaccinated population we will no longer rely on statewide lockdowns and statewide lockouts of other states and territories,” he said.

“The Premier and Professor Spurrier have repeatedly indicated that there still may need to be quarantining for people at exposure sites and LGAs of high transmission. The position of the government and SA Health is exactly the same.”

Asked if Marshall had spoken too soon in making his comments last week, Wade said: “I believe the Premier is being misquoted”.

“My understanding is he referenced exposure sites,” he said.

“The best plans that people can make for Christmas is to get vaccinated and to make sure their loved ones interstate are fully vaccinated.”

Labor’s health spokesman Chris Picton said the government needed to explain the situation.

“Many South Australians made plans and booked flights last week when Steven Marshall told them they would be able to see their interstate loved ones this Christmas,” he said.

“Now Steven Marshall’s comments have been publicly contradicted by the head of the state’s Health Department. So what is actually happening? South Australians deserve certainty. What is the plan?”

More exposure sites as mine worker tests positive

Adelaide Airport and a city apartment building have been declared exposure sites after a mine worker flew into Adelaide on Sunday before testing positive.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said yesterday afternoon that the woman in her 30s, an essential mine worker, arrived on Jetstar Flight JQ778 at 5.50pm Sunday.

Spurrier said the woman was wearing a mask and moved quickly through the airport before getting into a taxi and going to the Quest King William South apartments for her 14-day quarantine period.

Adelaide Airport. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Following her positive COVID test yesterday she was moved to Tom’s Court medi-hotel.

“This person is clearly very infectious,” Spurrier said of the woman’s test results.

SA Health has identified two “Tier One” exposure sites, meaning anyone there at the affected time will need to quarantine and be tested.

They are:

Adelaide Airport is a “tier 4” exposure site: anyone who was there from 5.30pm to 6.20pm on Sunday should monitor for symptoms and get tested if any develop.

“Unfortunately we have got a taxi driver who we’ve contacted this morning who will be required to quarantine,” Spurrier said.

“And then there’s also the front of house person at the Quest Hotel that is going to need to quarantine.

“We will be looking at CCTV footage and making a determination about any other close contacts.

“Despite the fact that she is really quite infectious she’s only been in our state for a short period of time so we have got time to get on top of this but unfortunately it does mean a quarantine period for a number of South Australians.”

Spurrier said that people coming in from Victoria would have already needed to quarantine anyway “but we will be looking very closely at the quarantine arrangements of anybody that was on that flight”.

It comes after a truck driver in his 20s, and his co-driver in his 40s, also tested positive on the weekend.

Industrial action threat over public hospitals pay dispute

SA public hospital doctors will have a stop-work meeting tomorrow to demand action over a pay deal they want settled before an expected COVID “surge” when state borders reopen.

The SA Salaried Medical Officers Association said the State Government had rejected union-endorsed offers for a three year deal with a pay increase of two to 2.4 per cent a year, with action to address excessive workloads, fatigue and bullying and improving conditions for trainee doctors.

SASMOA says the government will only commit to a short agreement expiring in December 2022 with a 1.5 per cent pay increase, meaning negotiations for a new deal would need to begin next June.

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

The union said it will ask members at the stop work meeting to consider starting an “escalating” industrial, political and community campaign in the lead-up to the March state election.

Premier Steven Marshall today urged doctors not to take part in the stopwork action.

“I think our doctors, like all of our health professionals in South Australia do an absolutely fantastic job,” he said.

“We are clearly in the middle of an enterprise bargaining negotiation at the moment. We are encouraging doctors to remain at work, not support this industrial action. There are other ways we can resolve this situation.”

“Ultra low” fare airline announced for Australia

Australia will get a new domestic airline from early next year when Bonza expects to take to the skies, taking advantage of an expected boom in air travel in a post-pandemic world.

Bonza, which is backed by a US investment firm and headed by ex-Virgin Blue executive Tim Jordan, is promising “ultra low prices” to travel around the country in 2022.

“Bonza’s mission is to encourage more travel by providing more choices and ultra-low fares, particularly into leisure destinations where travel is now often limited to connections via major cities,” CEO and founder Mr Jordan said.

Bonza’s ambition is broad but it appears there will be a focus on regional communities, with new routes in the wings.

Jordan has more than 25 years of experience in the aviation industry and recently was managing director of FlyArystan, the first low-cost carrier in Central Asia.

US investment firm 777 Partners is backing Bonza, which subject to regulatory approval expects to launch services in early 2022 with Boeing 737-8 aircraft.

“We see huge potential in the Australian market to deliver the benefits and options that an independent low fare airline brings,” 777 Partners managing partner Josh Wander said in a statement.

Bonza will sport white and purple livery on its aircraft and plans to base its headquarters in regional Australia, with the exact location yet to be revealed.

Coal’s rapid exit from national energy market

Coal is leaving Australia’s national energy market much faster than initially thought and is expected to be offline by the mid-2030s, according to outgoing Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott.

“Coal is inextricably leaving the system and will leave faster than initially thought,” she told a climate and energy summit hosted by the Australian Financial Review on Monday.

“It really is struggling to make money.”

Schott described coal as being “what coaches were to the motor car”.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor put the finishing touches on an emissions reduction plan.

The Nationals want a guarantee the plan will not adversely impact jobs and industries in regional and rural areas or drive up power prices.

The government wants to be able to announce a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, instead of a preference, and a stronger 2030 target in time for the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

In a signal to the junior coalition partner holding out on an agreement, Taylor emphasised reaching net zero emissions by 2050 was not the same as having no emissions.

He labelled a business-led proposal to tighten obligations on polluters through the government’s existing climate safeguard mechanism a carbon tax by stealth.

France to ban plastic packaging for fruit, vegetables

France will ban plastic packaging for nearly all fruit and vegetables from January 2022 in a bid to reduce plastic waste.

Implementing a February 2020 law, the government published a list of about 30 fruits and vegetables that will have to be sold without plastic packaging from January 1.

The list includes leeks, aubergines and round tomatoes as well as apples, bananas and oranges.

“We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives. The circular economy law aims at cutting back the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

It estimated that 37 per cent of fruit and vegetables are sold with packaging and expects that the measure will prevent the use of more than one billion plastic packaging items per year.

French fruit sellers federation president Francois Roch said switching to cardboard will be difficult in such a short time.

“Also, selling loose produce is complicated as many customers touch the fruit and people do not want their fruit to be touched by other customers,” she said.

The packaging ban is part of a multi-year government programme to phase out plastic.

From 2021, France banned plastic straws, cups and cutlery as well as styrofoam takeaway boxes.

Cut fruits and a limited number of delicate fruits and vegetables can still be sold with plastic packaging for now but that will be phased out by the end of June 2026.

Plastic packaging will be banned by the end of June 2023 for cherry tomatoes, green beans and peaches and by the end of 2024 for endives, asparagus, mushrooms, some salads and herbs as well as cherries.

By July 2026, raspberries, strawberries and other delicate berries must be sold without plastic.

-With AAP and Reuters

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