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What we know today, Tuesday November 23

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Victoria has recorded another 19 COVID deaths overnight as South Australia officially opens its borders to fully-vaccinated eastern states arrivals.

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Victoria records 19 COVID deaths as SA border reopens

Victoria has recorded another 19 deaths from COVID-19 and 827 new cases, while the state still hasn’t officially hit its 90 per cent full vaccination milestone.

There are 9420 active coronavirus cases in the state and 303 patients in hospital, lowering the seven-day average to 318.

Fourty-four people in intensive care are actively infected and 53 have been cleared, with 23 of those on a ventilator.

The latest deaths take the state’s toll from the pandemic to 1299.

Health officials say virus testers processed 48,427 results on Monday, while 5464 vaccine doses were administered at state-run hubs.

More than 89 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated.

The Victorian government eased a raft of restrictions on Friday, having expected to reach the 90 per cent vaccination target at the weekend.

Transition committee keeps SA COVID restrictions in place

South Australia’s transition committee has made no changes to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, as it begins “very early discussions” on how the state will operate when 90 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens told reporters this morning that “no changes were discussed at all” by the transition committee.

“We’re still maintaining the transition committee meeting to make sure that we’re on top of any opportunities to relax restrictions,” he said.

“We are looking at potentially what happens when we hit 90 per cent [vaccination].

“But that’s very early discussions at this point, and we’ll wait and see what the modelling shows us based on any COVID-19 activity as a result of the borders being relaxed today.”

SA borders reopen to eastern states

South Australia’s borders have opened to both New South Wales and Victoria for the first time in five months, as the state prepares for an influx of tens of thousands of travellers from the eastern states.

From today, fully vaccinated travellers from Victoria, NSW and the ACT are allowed to enter SA along with those from WA, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, although some restrictions remain in place.

Police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said around 150 cars were queued at the SA-Vic border checkpoint at Bordertown overnight, with all successfully crossing into South Australia.

“It’s gone quite smoothly,” he told ABC Radio this morning.

“There were no delays, no congestion, and no one was turned around as a result of not having completed the necessary entry requirements.

“I have been told it was relatively quiet [at the checkpoint], but we do anticipate that now that people are starting to move around … that we should see quite a bit of traffic coming across during the course of the rest of the day.”

The reopening comes despite South Australia not reaching the 80 per cent double-dose vaccination target, with federal government figures showing only 77.4 per cent of over-16s in the state are fully vaccinated as of Sunday.

It also comes amid ongoing concern about the complexity of the state’s system for processing border arrivals, with two new apps – HealthCheck SA and VaxCheck – launching today to process the vaccination and health status of interstate travellers.

As of 3pm on Monday, more than 28,000 successful border travel applications have been submitted through the State Government’s third app platform, EntryCheck SA, which launched on Friday.

The platform crashed for around 45 minutes on Monday morning.

“Since launching, the platform has seen significant demand, and has been scaled up to meet it,” a State Government spokesperson said.

“Support teams are constantly monitoring the platform to ensure returning South Australians and travellers coming to our state are able to process their application smoothly.”

State Government figures show that as of 3pm yesterday, 579 (2 per cent) of EntryCheck SA applications have been rejected.

Unvaccinated travellers from the eastern states are still required to seek special exemptions to enter South Australia.

Just over 4400 applications (15 per cent) have been from cross border community members, according to the figures.

Premier Steven Marshall on Monday said it was time to allow families to be reunited and for others to pursue business and travel opportunities

“There will be some pretty happy faces down at the airport and at our borders as people start to come back into South Australia,” he said.

“They’ve got to be fully vaccinated but we certainly will be welcoming them with open arms.”

SA’s new digital vaccination check-in system

A new system introduced from today promises to allow users to prove their vaccination status via the same QR code system they use to check in to venues in South Australia.

The VaxCheck system allows users to link their vaccination certificate to their mySA Gov app, as part of ramped up COVID-19 safeguards introduced with the border reopening.

“Once integrated, vaccination status will display each time individuals use the COVID-SAfe Check-In function, providing a seamless solution for individuals and businesses,” a spokesperson for the Department of Premier and Cabinet said.

“When someone visits a venue, they’ll be able to VaxCheck – show their check-in and vaccination status simultaneously, saving staff and customers time.”

As the vaccine data sits in the Federal Australian Immunisation Register, users will need to integrate the COVID-19 digital certificate into the mySA Gov app.

They will have to ensure Medicare is linked to their myGov account, then download the Express Plus Medicare app and sign in with their myGov details.

They will then have the option to select “proof of vaccinations” and then “view history”.

Finally, they can select “Share with check in app” and then “mySA Gov”.

Read the full story here

-Max Opray

Acting A-G to be sworn in while Chapman remains in cabinet

Cabinet newcomer Josh Teague will be sworn in as the Planning and Local Government Minister today, but will only be acting in the role of Attorney-General, with Vickie Chapman waiting in the wings – and remaining in cabinet.

The Government has clarified the complex arrangements behind Chapman’s move yesterday to “stand down” as Deputy Premier – with the role to be filled at a party-room ballot in comings days – while only “standing aside” from the ministry, pending an Ombudsman’s inquiry into allegations of conflict of interest and breaching the ministerial code.

A Government spokesperson said: “Ms Chapman will not be retaining any ministerial entitlements during this period. That includes staff, salary, driver and office resources.”

However, they subsequently confirmed she would still be paid a ministerial salary for the Attorney-General’s role, from which she is effectively on leave, and which Teague – a first-term MP and former Speaker – will be performing in an ‘acting’ capacity.

Premier Steven Marshall’s office confirmed Chapman would “still be a member of cabinet” but would not attend meetings while Ombudsman Wayne Lines conducts his investigation.

However, they said, Teague will be officially sworn in as Minister for Local Government and Planning – the portfolio in which Chapman vetoed a $40 million timber port on her native Kangaroo Island, sparking this week’s events.

The Premier’s office confirmed Chapman had resigned from those two ministries.

They said she did not intend to retain her ministerial salary for the Attorney-General’s portfolio, but was “working through ways” of relinquishing it, with the Government seeking advice on whether it has to be paid by law, whether it can be simply returned to Treasury or donated to charities, following the example – ridiculed by Government figures at the time – of ex-Liberal Speaker Dan Cregan.

But the Government was adamant Chapman would not pocket more than a basic backbench salary (a little over $200,000 a year including allowances) pending the Ombudsman’s inquiry.

-Tom Richardson

Northern suburbs vax rates still lagging

At least nine South Australian local government areas are yet to reach 70 per cent double-dose vaccination as of Sunday, with the populous northern suburb of Playford at just 65.4 per cent fully vaccinated.

The latest federal government figures published on Monday also shows the Mid Murray region is South Australia’s least vaccinated LGA with a double-dose rate of 63.5 per cent for over-16s – nearly 14 points behind the statewide average of 77.4 per cent.

The Adelaide Plains are not far ahead at 64.3 per cent. The northern Adelaide area has an over-15s population of more than 7400 people, according to 2019 data.

The adjacent northern suburbs of Playford and Salisbury are at 65.4 and 72 per cent fully vaccinated respectively.

The two LGAs, which have been a consistent source of concern for health authorities and epidemiologists, have a combined over-15s population of nearly 190,000 people.

At least a further six LGAs – Light (64.4 per cent), Karoonda East Murray (65), Peterborough (66), Murray Bridge (66.4), Goyder (66.9) and Mount Remarkable (69.7) – are yet to reach 70 per cent fully vaccinated.

Breakdown of vaccination rates across 53 South Australian LGAs as of Sunday (Graph: Ben Moretti).

The data is based on federal health department LGA statistics, which do not include Kangaroo Island or many Eyre Peninsula communities.

At least another 23 LGAs remain below 80 per cent fully vaccinated ahead of today’s border reopening.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said it’s “tricky” to predict when the lagging LGAs will reach 80 per cent double vaccination, as many walk-in appointments are available in those regions.

“It’s certainly those areas where we’ve been putting a huge effort not only with having the vaccine available with our vax vans, but also having the opportunity to talk to people” she told ABC Radio this morning.

“We’re trying as much as we can people in the health department to get out to be talking about vaccination.

“That’s really where our focus is.”

Spurrier also said she wasn’t concerned about the state being “just shy” of the 80 per cent statewide vaccination rate today, given the state’s first dose rate is 87.2 per cent.

“We know that people have had their first doses that they will be coming through … and we’ll have that double dose up to 80 per cent very shortly.”

Mandatory vax order for airport passenger transport

South Australian airport passenger transport workers, including taxi and rideshare drivers, are the latest sector to be hit with a mandatory vaccination order.

Under the terms of a new emergency management direction introduced last night, all passenger transport drivers working at Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Parafield or Port Lincoln Airport must receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 12.

The vaccination order extends to all airport passenger transport workers – which includes conductors, compliance officers, security guards, booking and ticketing officers – who are required to have had at least one dose by December 20.

Meanwhile, all “point to point” drivers who work from the four airports, meaning taxi, rideshare and chauffeur drivers, need to have had their first jab by Thursday, November 25.

Exceptions to the order apply to those who have a medical exemption.

Police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said the order was made “on the basis that we do have international arrivals who will be coming into South Australia who are required to quarantine at home”.

“We’ve been working with the different industry representatives to make sure their workforce are aware and that the effect of the mandatory vaccinations can be implemented without adversely affecting the availability of those services,” he told ABC Radio this morning.

“This is a relatively short turnaround time of 48 hours for those drivers to be vaccinated, we have been working with the industry so this is no surprise to them.

The transport workers are the latest to be covered by a mandatory vaccination order, after earlier directions were introduced for the healthcare sector, police and teachers.

Stevens said there are other sectors that are being considered for mandatory vaccination orders but “we need to see the evidence that it’s a necessary step to take before we make those decisions”.

Meanwhile, Business SA has announced that from today it is making double vaccination a mandatory condition for entry to its Greenhill Road offices.

The order also affects all Business SA suppliers, service providers and commercial tenants.

The chamber of commerce has long been calling for the State Government to broaden its vaccination mandate to sectors like hospitality to give greater certainty for employers.

Double vaccination is also from today a condition of entry to the Adelaide Oval, Coopers Stadium, Adelaide Convention Centre and Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

‘Vaccinated, recovered or died’: Germany’s stark COVID warning

Germany’s health minister says the rapid rise in coronavirus cases means it is likely that everyone in the country who is not vaccinated will have caught COVID-19 by the end of the winter, and some of those will die.

Official figures showed more than 30,000 newly confirmed cases in Germany over the past 24 hours, an increase of about 50 per cent compared to a week ago.

Hospitals have warned that ICU capacities are nearly exhausted, with some patients having to be transferred to clinics some distance away.

Health minister Jens Spahn urged Germans to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if their first round of inoculation occurred more than six months ago, to reduce the risk of serious illness.

“By the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany … will have been vaccinated, recovered or died,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

He acknowledged that some had described this view as cynical.

“But it’s true,” he said. “With the highly contagious Delta variant this is very, very likely and that’s why we are recommending vaccination so urgently.”

Spahn said some 50 million doses of the Moderna and BioNtech/Pfizer vaccines would be made available for the rest of the year to allow people to get first, second or third jabs, as necessary.

To achieve this, Germany was holding back tens of millions of doses originally intended for poor countries. These missing doses would be provided at a later date, he said.

Some politicians in Germany have suggested the country may need to consider compulsory vaccinations, like its neighbour Austria.

About 68 per cent of Germany’s population of 83 million has been fully vaccinated. The German government has said it wants to push that rate above 75 per cent to effectively curb the spread of the virus, but a sizeable minority in the population has resisted calls to take the vaccine.

-With AAP and Reuters

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