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What we know today, Tuesday October 19

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Victorian health officials have suggested businesses separate staff into groups to avoid entire workforces being knocked out as the state prepares to emerge from its latest Covid lockdown on Friday.

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Victoria advises businesses to organise staff in case of COVID surge ahead of lockdown lift

Victorian health officials have suggested businesses separate staff into groups to avoid entire workforces being knocked out as the state prepares to emerge from its latest Covid lockdown on Friday.

The state today recorded 1749 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths and now has 22,476 active cases

Victoria’s COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said that businesses should consider how ending lockdown might affect them.

With the state already managing more than 61,000 primary close contacts, Weimar said the changes would minimise the impact of reopening on businesses and customers.

“It’s not our intention to be in a world where … every person in a pub is (a close contact) because one positive case has walked in for 15 minutes,” he told reporters on Monday.

Weimar said said it was likely there would still be about 22,000 active cases in the state on Thursday when the city’s lockdown wraps up.

“There will be exposures in our shops, in our hospo and all of our other settings,” he said.

“It’ll be down to how effective those control systems are as to minimise the impacts on other people around them at that time.”

The Victorian government confirmed it would add shorter isolation to its list of rule tweaks when the state hits its 70 per cent double-dose vaccination target.

From 11.59pm on Thursday, isolation orders for fully vaccinated, non-household primary close contacts such as work colleagues and friends will be slashed from 14 days to seven.

Restrictions will ease further when 80 per cent of the eligible population has received both vaccine doses, forecast by some data analysts to be as early as October 31.

NZ posts record 94 new cases

New Zealand has recorded its highest daily COVID-19 case count of the pandemic, with 94 new cases reported.

Tuesday’s community case count has exceeded the previous high of 89 in April 2020 and is a marker of worse to come.

The rolling seven-day daily case average is 55, and the government predicts counts of about 140 by month’s end.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had two key messages for Kiwis, noting the spread of the virus was linked to non-compliance of the rules.

“Please do get vaccinated … and I will again reiterate the call to ask people to please follow the rules,” she said.

There are 38 Kiwis in hospital, up eight from Monday – a dozen of them aged under 39.

“If you are young, you are sadly not invincible,” Ms Ardern said, urging vaccine uptake among younger Kiwis.

Of Tuesday’s cases, 87 are in Auckland and seven in the Waikato. Most remain unlinked to the outbreak.

NZ’s biggest city will spend at least 11 weeks in lockdown, with the next review on November 1.

NSW records 273 cases, four deaths

COVID-19 cases continue to decline in NSW, with 273 new cases and four more deaths.

The number of people in NSW hospitals with COVID-19 has also dropped, with 589 in hospital with the virus, 128 of whom are in intensive care.

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm on Monday, 92.1 per cent of people 16 and older have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 80.8 per cent of people are fully vaccinated.

The state began the second stage of its roadmap out of lockdown on Monday after passing the 80 per cent full vaccination rate.

“As mobility increases across the state, case numbers will increase,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday.

“This is not over. There’s a long journey to go.”

COVID vax clinics to offer sausage sizzles on ‘super’ walk-in weekend

South Australians are being offered sausage sizzles and booking-free immunisations this Saturday and Sunday at what the State Government in touting as a “Super Walk-in Weekend” at 15 regional and metropolitan clinics.

This morning’s announcement comes as the government attempts to boost the state’s vaccination rates from about 58 per cent to those of around 70 per cent achieved in the eastern states.

The participating clinics will also offer other “fun” activities.

“It is so important for South Australians to take every opportunity to receive both their first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This weekend will make that task both easy and fun,” Wade said.

“As we approach two million doses of the vaccine having already been provided to South Australians, more than 58 per cent of eligible South Australians are now fully vaccinated.

“Vaccination is fundamental to our COVID-19 Transition Plan and we are determined to do everything we can to give every South Australian access to the lifesaving vaccine.”

Walk-in appointments are currently accepted at vaccination clinics at Noarlunga, Elizabeth, Wayville, Enfield and Pooraka as well as the pop-up vaccination clinic at the Myer Centre in Rundle Mall.

Wade told ABC Adelaide that bookings would still be available across the weekends and walk-ins could expect delays.

Children aged 12 to 15 years old must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver to receive their vaccine.

Cregan promises to pass speaker pay rise on to Hills community

New speaker Dan Cregan. Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

South Australia’s new parliamentary speaker Dan Cregan will forgo the perks of his job, including a big pay bump, with a pledge to donate the money to his Adelaide Hills community.

The former Liberal took over as speaker last week when Labor backed a controversial move by crossbench MPs to ensure the office was held by an independent.

In the days leading up to that vote in the House of Assembly, Cregan had announced a decision to quit the Liberal Party.

Soon after Premier Steven Marshall criticised his decision and said the spoils of the speaker’s office, including a pay increase and a chauffer-driven car, would do nothing to help the people in Cregan’s Adelaide Hills electorate.

Cregan announced yesterday afternoon he would both continue to drive his own Ford Falcon and would give the pay increase, worth about $150,000 a year, to local groups.

“I’ll be looking to donate my salary boost to good local causes like Lions Hearing Dogs in Verdun, Rotary and the CFS Foundation, in the hope they might be able to channel the donation to things like defibrillators at local sporting clubs, equipment for CFS crews or swags for those sleeping rough.”

“There has been almost no calls to the office on the issue of salary and I’m confident any South Australian can donate any part of their salary to a good cause.

“What we have received calls on are issues including under-resourced ambulance services in the Hills, the need for a new hospital in Mount Barker and the need for better public transport, ideally rail to the hills.”

Cregan said his move to leave the Liberal Party and become speaker was to ensure “there is a real spotlight on my community”.

“There is massive population growth in the hills and no plan from the government,” he said.

“We need a new hospital, a new ambulance station, new investment in education and a serious plan for public transport, ideally rail.”

Marshall said given the widespread criticism of his actions, donating the money was probably the only course of action Cregan could take.

International border reopening plan gains pace

Plans to reopen Australia’s internal and international borders are accelerating, with the country on the cusp of a 70 per cent full vaccination threshold.

The Queensland government has announced its borders will open in time for Christmas regardless of whether the state has double-dosed 80 per cent of residents aged 16 and older.

Fully vaccinated people will be able to enter Victoria from “red zones” from Wednesday without quarantining for two weeks as long as they return a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before arriving.

Quarantine-free travel is also slated to resume between NSW, Victoria and New Zealand’s South Island from Wednesday.

Passengers arriving in Australia must be fully vaccinated, unless they are younger than 12 or have a medical exemption, and return a negative test no more than 72 hours before departure.

The federal government has been in discussions with Singapore about a possible “green lane” travel bubble between the two nations.

Certificates with a QR code to prove vaccination status can now be downloaded digitally or printed ahead of the resumption of international travel.

From next month, fully vaccinated returning Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be able to come to NSW without quarantining.

Victoria has ruled out following Sydney’s move, but indicated the two-week quarantine requirement will be reduced.

It recorded 1903 infections and seven deaths on Monday, four days out from the end of Melbourne’s lockdown.

Nearly 67 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and older are double-dosed.

NSW, which has a full vaccination rate of more than 80 per cent, recorded 265 new cases and five additional deaths.

Canberra recorded 17 more infections. Its single-dose rate exceeds 95 per cent, while 80.7 people have been fully vaccinated.

Queensland plans to reopen to NSW and Victoria when it reaches 70 per cent full vaccination.

Quarantine requirements will be scrapped at 80 per cent, which is slated to occur a week out from Christmas.

But the state government has pledged this will happen in time for Christmas even if that threshold isn’t reached.

Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan maintains returning Australians will be at the front of the queue when borders reopen.

But he is optimistic about the possible return of tourists, international students, working holiday visa holders as well as workers from the Pacific region before Christmas.

Morrison to put climate hard sell on Nationals

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to put the hard sell on wary Nationals for a mid-century target of net zero emissions during a joint coalition partyroom meeting today.

Morrison plans to take a 2050 target to COP26 climate talks in Glasgow starting at the end of the month.

He is seeking the backing of Liberal and Nationals members, some of whom remain staunchly opposed to a target, but insists federal cabinet will make the final decision.

“In cabinet, that’s where it will be made and that’s where these decisions are made – all members of the government understand that,” Morrison told parliament on Monday.

He briefed Liberals about the plan on Monday, a day after a four-hour meeting of the Nationals partyroom that yielded no resolution.

Both parties will convene for a joint meeting today, ahead of cabinet talks on Wednesday.

The government does not intend to lift its 2030 emissions target from the current reduction of between 26 and 28 per cent on 2005 levels.

Australia is expected to exceed this, but Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has knocked on the head any suggestion of formalising a higher mid-term target.

Morrison insisted regional Australia would be the biggest beneficiaries from the government’s plan as he worked to assuage concerns about negative consequences.

“It’s about getting the balance right, the balance of affordability and reliability and getting emissions down,” he said.

Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud believed most of his colleagues were working towards a net zero solution provided it guaranteed protections for regional Australia.

He saw the lead-up to COP26 as the chance to bury the country’s long-running climate politics war.

“Zealots from both sides really just need to bugger off,” he told the ABC.

“Just let the adults now over the coming week or so resolve this, get a pathway and look everyone in the eye about how we’re going to do it.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese did not believe a net zero target could be taken seriously unless it was legislated, something the government ruled out.

Survey shows fractures in Federation

Almost two-thirds of Australians believe federal and state governments have failed to work well together during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison created national cabinet with premiers and chief ministers at the onset of the global disaster.

But a new Ipsos poll commissioned by the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership found 64 per cent of 1000 voters don’t think it is working.

More than three-quarters of people said the vaccination rollout was a co-ordination failure, while 73 per cent nominated border closures and 70 per cent quarantine.

Views of political leaders’ response to the pandemic also fell sharply during the year.

Over the past 12 months, 40 per cent of respondents believe leaders performed worse than expected compared with 17.5 per cent in February.

Just 15 per cent of people thought leaders performed better than expected, down from 45 per cent in February.

McKinnon Prize ambassador Amanda Vanstone said national cabinet heralded new collaboration between governments to support Australians during the pandemic.

“However, as the pandemic affected different states in different ways, and citizens and commentators began to apportion the blame on different leaders, our federation splintered along state and party lines, which presents a real challenge for elected leaders,” the former Liberal government minister said.

Former US secretary Colin Powell dies of COVID complications

Former US secretary Colin Powell has died. Picture: Marcy Nighswander.

Colin Powell, the first black US secretary of state and top military officer, has died at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19.

He was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement on Facebook.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said, offering thanks to the staff of the hospital near Washington DC who treated Powell but providing few details about his illness.

Powell was one of the most prominent black figures in the US for decades.

He served three Republican presidents in senior posts and reached the top of the US military as a four-star army general as it was regaining its vigour after the trauma of the Vietnam War.

In a brief statement, the Powell family said he had died on Monday morning from COVID-19, had been fully vaccinated against the disease and it thanked the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center.

Aussies win T20 warm-up against NZ

Australia has claimed a three-wicket win over New Zealand in their Twenty20 World Cup warm-up clash but David Warner’s woeful run has continued.

The opener was caught behind off the first ball of the innings in an ominous start to Australia’s run chase after New Zealand posted a competitive 7-158 at Abu Dhabi.

Australia looked in trouble after losing 3-1 – including the prized scalps of Steve Smith (35) and Marcus Stoinis (28) – to slump to 6-115 in the 16th over.

But after Ashton Agar (23) was dismissed with Australia needing eight runs to win off three balls, Josh Inglis coolly stepped up to thrash Kyle Jamieson for consecutive fours and ice a morale-boosting win with a delivery to spare.

There will still be concern for Warner ahead of Australia’s opening World Cup clash with South Africa on Saturday night.

He has had little time in the middle since being dumped as captain of Indian Premier League outfit Sunrisers Hyderabad and then left out of the team completely after two failures when the tournament resumed last month.

He lasted just one ball in this morning’s warm-up, sensationally caught in the slips by a diving Martin Guptill off Tim Southee.

Captain Aaron Finch hit 24 off 19 while Mitch Marsh thrashed 24 off 15 to lead a recovery before Smith and Stoinis shared a 48-run fourth wicket stand.

Earlier, leggie Adam Zampa (2-17) and quick Kane Richardson (3-24) did their best to restrict New Zealand after Australia won the toss.

Australia claimed the rare T20 victory without using Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins, Mitch Swepson and Josh Hazlewood.

The Aussies, who will play another warm-up against India on Wednesday, have fallen from top spot to seventh in the T20 rankings with just six wins from their past 21 games.

India defeated England by seven wickets in their Twenty20 World Cup warm-up clash in Dubai overnight.

– with AAP and Reuters

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