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What we know today, Friday November 19


Victoria’s daily COVID-19 numbers have jumped by more than 200 infections on the state’s first day of eased restrictions for the fully-vaccinated.

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Vic records 1273 cases, eight deaths

Victoria’s daily COVID-19 numbers have jumped by more than 200 infections on the state’s first day of eased restrictions for the fully-vaccinated.

Victoria reported eight deaths and 1273 new virus infections overnight, up from 1007 the previous day.

The health department confirmed on Friday there are now 13,813 active cases across Victoria.

There are 330 virus patients in hospital, with 57 actively infected with COVID-19 in ICU, while 58 have been cleared, and 30 are on ventilators.

Health officials say virus testers processed 73,020 results on Thursday and 5842 people were vaccinated at state-run hubs.

Victoria is now 88 per cent double-vaccinated in those aged over 12.

Almost all remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted just before midnight on Friday, as the state inches closer to 90 per cent full vaccination in those aged over 12.

Double-dosed Victorians are now able to dance in clubs, and home visitor limits as well as cafe, bar and restaurant density caps have been dumped.

Freedom day comes as the state government is battling to get its pandemic legislation through the upper house after days of protests on parliament’s front steps.

Right-wing extremists have joined protesters, who brought gallows and nooses out and chanted that they wanted to “hang” and “kill” Premier Daniel Andrews earlier this week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that while he had no tolerance for violent protesters, it was time for state governments to step back and for “Australians to take their lives back”.

Andrews took aim at the prime minister in television interviews on Friday, saying he was sending mixed messages to protesters.

“It’s taken too long for people just to be straight. They’re sending mixed messages and that is dangerous,” he told the Nine Network.

“I don’t want anyone, whether it’s people who are weak leaders or extremists, to take away from what Victorians have built and sacrificed.”

Asked about his relationship with Morrison, the premier said: “It will be a lot better when he stops double speaking to extremists.”

But the prime minister doubled down on his comments on Friday, saying he sympathised with Australians “who have had a gutful of governments telling them what to do over the last two years”.

Meanwhile, issues around Victoria’s new restrictions are beginning to emerge, as health officials concede parents cannot add their children’s vaccination certificates to the Services Victoria app.

Non-essential retail, hospitality and events have restarted for all people aged over 12 years and two months who are fully vaccinated, unless they have a valid exemption.

However, only people aged over 14 are allowed to set up a Medicare account, meaning children between 12 and 14 are relying on their parents to prove their vaccine status.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said initial focus in creating the Services Victoria app was on functionality, and that parents will be able to add their dependents to the app “in a couple of weeks”.

“In the meantime, people can print a digital certificate or immunisation history from their GP,” he told 3AW.

“It’s not as if people can’t move around.”

Additionally, retailers caught on the hop in the lead-up to a busy sales period are calling for leniency in enforcing vaccine checks for customers.

Coalition opposes excluding unvaccinated from society

The federal government doesn’t want people who refuse a COVID-19 jab segregated from society amid accusations it’s undermining the vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for calling for the scrapping of Queensland’s vaccine mandate when the state reaches 80 per cent jab coverage.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton stresses the proportion of people declining to get the jab is small and they need to be allowed to participate in society.

“You cannot segregate a part of the community even if you disagree with the decision they’ve made,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

“At some stage … you’ve got to allow people to come back into society.

“You want them to be vaccinated, but there’s a small portion who will make a decision not to be.”

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles accused the coalition of picking a fight with Labor states.

“This undermines the vaccine rollout that is going on in WA and Queensland,” he said.

Marles pointed out NSW also had restrictions on what unvaccinated people could do.

“The prime minister wasn’t saying this in respect of NSW,” he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews lashed Morrison for “double speaking to extremists”, while Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the prime minister was trying to claw together “a coalition of anti-vaxxers”.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said Labor premiers were co-ordinating to pick “phoney fights” with the government.

“We’ve got to be really careful in terms of the approach that’s taken to maintain maximum confidence in Australians to actually get vaccinated,” he told Sky News.

“And that’s not by exacerbating political fights, it’s not by exacerbating partisan differences.”

Chapman faces crossbench call to quit as Govt attempts to close Parliament

The Marshall Government has been prevented from shutting down parliament entirely ahead of the March state election after a historic vote of no confidence left Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman under intense pressure to resign.

Crossbench members were last night calling for the Attorney-General to stand aside after she lost the confidence of the lower house – the chamber in which government is formed – in a vote following the tabling of a report that found she had repeatedly misled parliament and breached the ministerial code of conduct.

The report found Chapman had real and perceived conflicts of interest when she vetoed a $40 million timber port on her native Kangaroo Island in August.

Ex-Liberal crossbenchers Sam Duluk and Troy Bell joined independents Geoff Brock and Frances Bedford to back Labor’s no confidence motion, with Liberal exile Fraser Ellis abstaining from the vote.

Lower House MPs dividing during yesterday’s No Confidence vote. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The result could pre-empt a constitutional standoff, with the motion directing ex-Liberal-turned-independent Speaker Dan Cregan to petition fledgling Governor Frances Adamson for Chapman’s removal – and the Deputy Premier resolutely refusing to quit last night.

She did not make any public statements after the vote, but her office said it would be business as usual for the Attorney today.

Bell, the MP for Mount Gambier, told InDaily outside parliament he hoped a constitutional crisis could be avoided.

“It’s going to put a very new Governor under a lot of pressure… there are mechanisms for that – but there’s also conventions,” he said, referring to the Westminster convention that a minister who loses the confidence of the lower house should resign.

However, he said, “it’s not for me to decide who does what from here – the House has made a decision”.

Asked if Chapman should quit, he said: “That’s a matter for the Deputy Premier – and it’s also a matter for the Premier… but the House has voted no confidence [and] the convention is that she’d step down, so following that convention – yes.”

Cregan told InDaily last night that “as a statutory officer of the House, I’m bound to follow the House’s direction, and will seek an audience with Her Excellency in due course”.

“If it were the case that the Deputy Premier resigned, it follows that it would not be necessary,” he added.

Read the full story here.

-Tom Richardson

Zoos, Convention Centre and other venues follow Adelaide Oval vax mandate

Zoos SA, the Adelaide Convention Centre, Entertainment Centre and Coopers Stadium have followed Adelaide Oval in mandating that everyone who enters their sites be double-vaccinated.

Zoos SA said yesterday afternoon that from December 1, all visitors aged over 16 years to its Adelaide and Monarto zoos “will be required to show evidence” of double vaccination, or an exemption approved by the chief public health officer. Tickets must also be booked prior to arrival.

But Adelaide Venue Management, which runs the convention and entertainment centres as well as the Hindmarsh stadium, announced yesterday that a mandatory double-vaccination rule would apply across all sites from Tuesday, when state borders reopen.

“To gain entry, patrons will need to show their COVID-19 Digital Certificate on their smart device OR provide personal photo identification and printed immunisation certificate,” an AVM statement said.

“Any person with an official medical exemption will need to provide proof of a negative COVID test result for the 72 hour period prior to seeking entry and full exemption details. Venue bans apply for non-compliance”.

Adelaide Convention Centre. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Adelaide Oval operator the Stadium Management Authority said yesterday that from Tuesday, all spectators aged over 12 years – including for next month’s Ashes Test – would have to be double-vaccinated to gain entry.

SA Health has capped the Test due to begin on December 16 at 35,000 spectators.

The first Adelaide Strikers BBL match is scheduled to begin a week earlier on December 9.

Spectators will be required to display their COVID-19 Digital Certificate via their phone or a printed immunisation statement accompanied with identification, with those claiming medical exemption required to undertake a COVID-19 test 72 hours after the event.

Anyone found to have entered Adelaide Oval without providing proof of vaccination will be ejected and banned for three years.

The order applies to all Adelaide Oval events, tours, Roofclimb and all venue suppliers and contractors.

SMA CEO Andrew Daniels said the penalties were high because “we want to make sure there’s absolutely no ambiguity about what our requirements are”.

“We will be enforcing this requirement because it is a very important safety and welfare issue,” he said.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen once the border open, so we must be ahead of the game.”

Adelaide woman dies in South-East crash

A woman from Hawthorndene has died after her car hit a Stobie pole at Millicent.

Police and emergency services were called to the Princes Highway site at 3.50pm but the 70-year-old driver died at the scene.

The highway was closed as Major Crash officers investigated, but reopened shortly before midnight.

The death takes the state’s road toll to 88, compared with 77 at the same time last year.

Victoria lifts more restrictions but unvaccinated miss out

Victorians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can pack into pubs and hit the dancefloor again, after more freedoms were returned ahead of summer.

Almost all of Victoria’s remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted just before midnight on Friday, as the state inches closer to 90 per cent full vaccination in those aged over 12.

The changes mean double-dosed Victorians are now able to dance in clubs and home visitor limits, as well as cafe, bar and restaurant density caps, have been dumped.

Non-essential retail has joined the state’s vaccinated economy, banning unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people from visiting those shops unless they are aged under 12 years and two months or have a valid exemption.

The Australian Retailers Association said retailers had been caught on the hop in the lead up to a busy sales period and called for leniency in enforcing vaccine checks for customers.

“Retailers are having to scramble today to ensure they’re ready to comply with the new restrictions for tomorrow’s trade – well ahead of the original November 24 deadline,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said.

While masks will no longer be required for customers visiting hospitality venues, workers must continue wearing them.

Masks will not be needed in workplaces such as offices, but will be required in primary schools, health, aged care or justice settings.

They must also be worn on public transport, ride-shares or taxis, and will remain for a few more weeks in retail.

Indoor events will be allowed to host up to 30,000 punters, but one-off approval is needed to exceed that capacity.

Events held outdoors can exceed 30,000 if they publish their COVID-Safe plans, paving the way for the MCG to welcome a full capacity crowd for the Boxing Day Test.

There are also major changes to isolation rules, including reducing the number of days positive cases must quarantine from 14 to 10.

More Australians fear they will get COVID-19

More Australians now fear they will become infected with COVID-19 than at any other time since the pandemic began.

New research from the Australian National University has revealed 40 per cent think they are likely to contract the virus in the next six months.

That’s compared to the previous high of 39.5 per cent recorded during the early weeks of the first COVID lockdown in 2020 and 10.7 per cent in April this year.

The findings were based on a survey of almost 3500 Australian adults by the university.

The study’s co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said the rise in fear of infection coincided with the easing of lockdown restrictions and increased movement across the country.

“This is a huge jump and shows that even though the vast majority of adult Australians are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, many of us think it is inevitable we will get the disease at some point in time,” Biddle said.

The survey also found that while most people thought the worst of the pandemic in Australia was behind them, more than 45 per cent surveyed thought the worst was yet to come.

Australians were more optimistic about the pandemic compared to Americans, which a survey showed 54 per cent saying the worst of COVID hadn’t happened yet.

Professor Biddle said there was an alarming trend of an increase in people experiencing severe psychological distress due to the pandemic.

“In October, 12.5 per cent of Australians said they are experiencing severe mental stress, that is compared to a previous high of 10.6 per cent in April 2020,” he said.

“This is the highest level of severe psychological distress we’ve seen yet.”

However, fewer people surveyed said they were facing major financial stress from COVID.

It comes as the fully vaccinated rate climbed to 84.2 per cent, while 91.1 per cent have had their first dose.

More than 128,000 vaccines were administered nationally on Wednesday.

Blood red moon tonight during partial eclipse

A blood red moon will grace Australia’s skies on Friday evening when the country experiences a partial lunar eclipse, the first since a full eclipse in May.

The almost-perfect 99.1 per cent coverage of the moon’s area by earth’s umbra will see it blaze in a dark reddish hue, as the light from the earth’s atmosphere is refracted onto it.

Onlookers around Australia will witness the lunar eclipse – when the earth sits between the moon and sun – for an unusually long duration, a total of six hours and two minutes.

A super blood moon above Canberra in May. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

The eclipse will reach its maximum point at 8.02pm (AEDT), or 7.02pm (AEST) as the sun-cast symmetry aligns for the final time in 2021.

It will be visible around the country, as well as from North America, South America and parts of Europe and Asia.

An eclipse also never comes alone, with a solar eclipse always occurring about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse.

The next solar eclipse is expected on December 4.

-With AAP and Reuters

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