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What we know today, Tuesday November 9

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Queensland will lift COVID restrictions for businesses and venues before Christmas provided staff and patrons are fully vaccinated – but will bar the unvaccinated from visiting hospitals and aged care homes.

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Qld to remove all restrictions on fully vaccinated in December

Queensland will drop restrictions on fully vaccinated people and businesses, and restrict all hospital visits for unvaccinated people, once 80 per cent of eligible people are fully vaccinated in the state.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says when Queensland hits the target, or December 17 at the latest, businesses and hospitality venues will be able to operate without any COVID-19 restrictions provided all staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people will be barred from hospitals, aged care and disability care facilities, except in emergency or end of life situations, once 80 per cent of Queenslanders are vaccinated.

“This is both a reward for the fully vaccinated and a proportion for when the borders open and we will see more cases in our community and people deserve to know that they can go to these places and that they are safe,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday.

“So this is our next step in keeping Queenslanders safe.”

Meanwhile, Queenslanders won’t have to wear face masks at all once 80 per cent of residents have had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine later this week.

Commonwealth figures show at least 79.6 per cent of Queenslanders 16 years and over have had their first dose and 67.4 per cent are double-dosed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says masks won’t need to be worn or carried in 11 local government areas in the heavily-populated southeast when the single dose figure hits 80 per cent.

Industry lashes Morrison govt’s EV plan

The Morrison government’s plan to put up to 1.7 million electric and hybrid vehicles on Australia’s roads this decade has been labelled a dud by the industry.

The coalition’s $250 “future fuels” fund anticipates giving more than 80 per cent of Australians access to electric vehicle charging stations.

It would involve stations across 50,000 homes, 1000 public car parks and 400 businesses.

Australia’s grid would also be upgraded to ensure it could cope with up to 1.7 million electric vehicles expected on the roads by 2030.

But the national body representing Australia’s electric vehicle industry has criticised the absence of tax incentives or fuel efficiency standards in the plan.

“There’s an element of a good plan there. Unfortunately, that’s only about five per cent of what’s needed,” Electric Vehicles Council chief executive Behyad Jafari told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“We’ve been waiting two years for this policy. Every other country put their policies out over a decade ago now, so it’s just far too little too late.”

He thinks rebates to make electric vehicles more affordable as well as fuel efficiency standards should make up the bulk of any policy.

“They’re the two most important things that are needed in order to transition us away from high petrol prices towards electric vehicles,” Mr Jafari said.

The coalition, which trashed electric vehicles as “ending the weekend” at the 2019 election, has stressed its approach is about “choices not mandates”.

“Australians love their family sedan, farmers rely on their trusted ute and our economy counts on trucks and trains to deliver goods from coast to coast,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“We will not be forcing Australians out of the car they want to drive or penalising those who can least afford it through bans or taxes. ”

It is expected the private sector will match the $250 billion in federal funding and lead to the creation of more than 2600 jobs over three years from 2021/22.

Investment will also focus on electrifying commercial fleets, as well as heavy and long-distance technology in a bid to cut emissions by eight metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2035.

Battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars accounted for 8688 sales in the first half of the year, representing 1.57 per cent of overall light vehicle sales.

NSW records 222 new cases, four deaths

NSW has recorded 222 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths as the state closes in on a 90 per cent full vaccination rate.

Two cases were also recorded from overseas and interstate.

There are 254 people in hospital, with 42 in intensive care.

The state conducted 66,680 tests on Monday.

People who attended a large funeral and wake in Sydney’s west on the weekend are being urged to get tested for COVID-19 after several positive cases were linked to the events.

The funeral was held at the North Chapel of Pinegrove Memorial Park in Minchinbury on Saturday from 10am and the wake was held at a private residence in Llandilo on Saturday and Sunday.

“Anyone who attended either the funeral or the wake is a close contact and must immediately get tested, self-isolate and follow the close contact advice regardless of the result,” NSW Health said in a statement on Monday night.

On Monday, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said new NSW Health data showed hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths were all far lower among the fully vaccinated population during the peak of NSW’s Delta outbreak.

Of the 61,800 locally acquired COVID-19 cases with disease onset from June 16 to October 7 this year, the majority had received no vaccine, 9.2 per cent had received one dose, and just 6.1 per cent of cases had received two doses of vaccine.

There were 8660 people hospitalised with the virus, only 5.7 per cent of whom had received two doses of a vaccine, with just three per cent of those admitted to intensive care fully vaccinated.

The percentage of eligible people aged 16 and over with two vaccine doses is 89.9 per cent while 93.9 per cent have had at least one.

Vic records 1069 new cases, 10 deaths

Victoria has recorded 1069 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, as the state is nearing 100,000 total infections cases since the pandemic began.

The health department confirmed on Tuesday the state is managing 15,607 active cases.

It was the sixth day in a row that Victoria has recorded a number above 1000.

There are 579 Victorians in hospital, of whom 90 are in intensive care including 55 on ventilators. The seven-day hospitalisation average has fallen by 13 to 615.

Another 47,794 tests were processed on Monday and 11,269 vaccines administered at state-run hubs.

About 84 per cent of people over 12 are fully vaccinated.

The state has reached 99,199 total cases as of Tuesday.

Northern suburbs still set to miss statewide vax target by weeks

The number of people coming forward for their first COVID-19 vaccine in Adelaide’s northern suburbs has not increased despite efforts to boost lagging jab rates, with parts of the region not forecast to hit 80 per cent double dose vaccination until the end of the year.

The latest federal government figures, correct as of Sunday, show the northern suburbs of Playford and Salisbury are at 56 and 63.6 per cent fully vaccinated for over-16s.

That’s compared to a statewide double-dose vaccination average of 70.6 per cent, with 83.8 per cent of South Australians over the age of 16 having received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Salisbury is edging closer to the 80 per cent single dose milestone, with 79.5 per cent in the area having come forward for a jab.

Playford is around five points behind at 74.3 per cent single dosed.

Yet the percentage of over-16s in Playford to receive a first dose increased by only 3.8 points this week, marginally down on the 4.2 and 4.5 point increases the area recorded in the two weeks before.

Similarly, Salisbury only recorded a 3.1 point growth in first dose vaccinations – its lowest-ever recorded weekly increase and well down on its previous average first dose growth of 3.61 points per week.

More positively, the number of fully vaccinated residents in Playford and Salisbury grew by 4.7 percentage points, the largest increase recorded in both areas since the federal government began publishing local government area vaccination data on August 27.

According to updated projections from South Australian data scientist Ben Moretti, Playford is now on track to reach the 80 per cent double-dose milestone on January 2 – five days earlier than his model’s previous projections, but still more than five weeks after the state reopens its borders on November 23.

Read the full story here

– Thomas Kelsall

SA industry groups unite in call for mandatory vaccination

Six South Australian industry groups representing sectors including retail, hospitality and tourism have issued a joint plea urging the State Government to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all staff working in frontline sectors.

The joint statement by peak bodies Business SA, the Australian Hotels Association, Restaurant and Catering Association, SA Independent Retailers, Tourism Industry Council and SA Wine Industry Association calls on the Government to ensure the responsibility of enforcing vaccine mandates does “not fall on the shoulders of individual employers”.

Already the State Government has moved to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for health, aged care and SA Police workers, but the peak groups argue those directions should be extended to cover  industries whose staff come in direct contact with the public and where social distancing is not always possible.

“South Australia has navigated this global health pandemic with a strong sense of community and collective action,” the statement says.

“Before the borders open on 23 November 2021, the Government of South Australia needs to provide direction at this crucial time.”

SA Wine Industry Association chief executive Brian Smedley said mandating vaccination for the wine industry was necessary given the upcoming vintage, processing of grapes and the frequency with which workers come in contact with the public.

“In the cellar door, or at functions such as weddings or in winery work areas where social distancing cannot be reasonably achieved, it is really important that we seek to minimise business disruptions and to ensure we protect all staff and customers. But individual operators shouldn’t have to make this decision on their own,” he said.

SA Independent Retailers chief executive Colin Shearing added that employers had a duty of care to protect their workforce.

“It is not the role of every individual business owner to make this call,” he said.

Business SA has previously led calls for broader vaccine mandates, arguing it would otherwise be difficult for South Australia to reach the 90 per cent jab target.

It comes as state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens last night issued a new direction ordering healthcare workers who give person-to-person care in chiropractic therapy and osteopathy to be at least partially vaccinated by December 6.

People who visit residential aged care facilities after December 6 must also be fully-vaccinated.

Health Minister Stephen Wade told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier was considering whether to impose a vaccine mandate on teachers and childcare workers.

Digance claims secret recordings used in blackmail case

Greg and Annabel Digance. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Former Labor MP Annabel Digance will argue evidence used to accuse her of blackmailing Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas is incapable of supporting a conviction and relies on secretly taped private conversations.

Digance has applied to Adelaide Magistrates Court to have the case against her thrown out as an abuse of process.

She has also applied to cross-examine a number of witnesses including Malinauskas, the alleged victim of the blackmail charge.

In documents released by the court yesterday,the former MP for Elder argues there is no case to answer and the allegations against her are “totally unfounded”.

“The taint of abuse of process permeates throughout the entire investigation and prosecution process,” the application said.

It said the case against her relied on recordings of private conversations that sought to entrap Digance and her husband Greg, who is facing the same charge, in the commission of an offence.

That attempted entrapment should lead to a stay of the proceedings, the defence argued.

The Digances were arrested in April at their Strathalbyn home.

Police said previously it would be alleged the accused were involved in a common enterprise to obtain a personal gain by threatening to make allegations of misconduct by Malinauskas.

It was understood that benefit involved Digance being placed in a winnable spot on the Legislative Council ticket or being preselected for a safe Labor seat prior to the next state election in March.

In her application before the court,Digance said if any threats were made they fell within the so-called “political exception” to blackmail laws which protected “negotiations” to secure a political advantage.

She noted that almost a year passed between when the alleged offences occurred and when she and her husband were arrested, arguing the timing was designed to stymie a parliamentary inquiry into bullying and intimidation in the Labor Party.

She was also critical of police conduct during her arrest, including a direction for her to “duck” when she arrived at court in a police vehicle that was surrounded by TV cameras and journalists.

Digance said she instinctively did as she was instructed which “portrayed her in the public mind as a person guilty of a criminal offence”.

Her application to cross-examine Malinauskas and her no case to answer submissions will be considered later this month.

Prosecutors have indicated they will oppose both applications.

Fast tests could help keep schools open

Rapid COVID tests could be used as a way to keep schools open, even if an outbreak is identified on campus, under new modelling presented to the federal government.

The latest Doherty Institute modelling, presented to national cabinet last week, recommended schools use rapid antigen tests instead of 14-day quarantine measures should a student or staff member test positive to COVID-19.

Under the institute’s “test-to-stay approach”, should there be a positive outbreak, students would be given the antigen tests and would be allowed into school if they return a negative result.

Only those who are positive would have to stay home.

Doherty Institute director of epidemiology Professor Jodie McVernon said pilot programs were under way for test-to-stay.

“Clearly, you have to work out how to do something properly before you can recommend it,” she told the ABC.

“Depending on how they go, I think that will be probably something that’s perfected for 2022.”

The modelling found the method was as effective at reducing COVID-19 transmission at schools as 14 days of quarantine, while also reducing the amount of missed classes.

The institute’s report said the test-to-stay method would result in just one more infection in primary schools and six fewer cases in high schools compared with having an entire class quarantine for two weeks.

While regular rapid antigen testing has been touted as a path forward for schools to remain open, head of modelling at the Burnet Institute Dr Nick Scott, who worked on the final report, said the approach was not tested for offices.

“There are reasons to believe that tests-to-stay in the workplace could be different to tests-to-stay in the schools,” Dr Scott said.

“We don’t want to draw that conclusion until (modelling) has been explicitly done.”

South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said yesterday that SA Health did not believe there was a need for rapid antigen testing in a “low COVID-transmission environment”, but “certainly as we go into the New Year and the new school year and there’s more COVID in the community, rapid antigen testing may well play a part in our strategy”.

“It’s not just in relation to schools, we’re already using it in relation to freight drivers, so we certainly believe it has a value in a low community transmission sense in addition to PCR testing,” he said.

Djokovic flags future coaching career

World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic plans to become a coach once he calls time on his playing career as he has no intention of taking his knowledge “to the grave”.

Few leading players have become coaches after retiring but Djokovic has himself been coached by former grand slam champions Boris Becker and Andre Agassi, and currently has Goran Ivanesevic on his team.

Djokovic is level on 20 grand slams each with peers Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and stressed he was eager to nurture future talents when he hangs up his racket.

“I try to pass on to new generations everything that I’ve learned. Knowledge can be a curse if you don’t use it,” he said.

“What am I supposed to do when I retire – take it to my grave so that those who come after me are unable to benefit from my philosophy, work methods and approach?

“For me, it’s only logical that the next step should be to pass my knowledge on to others. I see myself in various roles in the future and I am glad that I can also develop as a coach.”

Djokovic is assured of finishing the season as No.1 for a record seventh time.

-With AAP and Reuters

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