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What we know today, Tuesday December 7

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SA Health has recorded four new cases of COVID-19 and identified new exposure sites at a baseball club in Adelaide’s west. Two people have now been transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with the virus.

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Four new COVID-19 cases in SA, two patients in hospital

SA Health has recorded four new cases of COVID-19 and identified new exposure sites at a baseball club in Adelaide’s west. Two people have now been transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with the virus.

In an update issued this afternoon, SA Health said two of today’s new cases are linked to the Norwood cluster while the other two acquired their infections interstate.

The four new cases consist of two men in their 40s, one woman in her teens and one woman in her 20s.

Three of the new cases are fully vaccinated, while one patient’s vaccination status is unknown, SA Health said.

It takes the tally of COVID-19 cases since South Australia reopened its borders to 53, with 49 of those classified as active.

SA Health also said a woman in her 50s has been transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a stable condition.

She is the second COVID-positive case to enter hospital after a man in his 60s was transferred to the RAH on Friday. He remains in a stable condition.

A total of 1213 close contacts are now in quarantine, up from 967 on Saturday.

Of the 49 active cases, 42 are currently quarantining in a medi-hotel, five are quarantining at home and two are in hospital.

SA Health also issued a new close contact exposure location alert for the West Torrens Baseball Club in Lockleys.

Anyone fully vaccinated who was in the clubrooms or bar on Friday, December 3 from 6pm to 8:30pm is required to get tested immediately and quarantine for seven days.

Anyone unvaccinated who was present at the designated time is required to quarantine for 14 days.

Patrons who were outside the West Torrens Baseball Club last Friday from 5pm to 6:30pm are asked to quarantine until they receive a negative result.

Inquiry slams ‘inhumane’ Victorian border exemption process

An inquiry into Victoria’s border exemption process found a “bureaucratic nightmare” in which less than 10 per cent of those who applied to return home to farewell dying loved ones, start jobs or attend medical appointments were given approval.

The Victorian ombudsman looked into the Department of Health’s border exemption scheme, which offered residents a pathway back from COVID-stricken NSW this year.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the decision to shut the border to Sydney and others parts of NSW in July left thousands suddenly stranded and unable to get an exemption.

Of 33,252 exemption applications from July 9 to September 14, when the probe was launched, only eight per cent were granted.

In all, the watchdog received 315 complaints from people, including those paying double rent with no job, caravanning pensioners with no internet access who were asked for documents they did not have, and a farmer afraid of having to destroy her animals when she could not get home.

A woman also had her request denied to enter the state to put her intellectually disabled sister in a care home.

Glass did not criticise the border closure call, saying the department’s intention was to protect people in the face of a public health emergency, but criticised the narrow use of discretion, with most applications not even reaching a decision-maker.

“While we did not review all decisions and I do not suggest that all were unfair, the overwhelming majority of applications did not get to a decision-maker at all, and the guidance did not change even as case numbers in Victoria grew and the risks evolved,” she said.

“The consequences of that were vast, and unfair, for many thousands of people stuck across the border.”

She said it led to some of the “most questionable decisions” during her seven years in the top job.

Despite scaling up its exemption team from 20 staff in July to 285 by early September, those responsible for categorising and prioritising applications were expected to complete 50 per hour or one every 30 seconds.

People were also required to provide extensive evidence to support their application, including statutory declarations, proof of residence or ownership of animals, letters from doctors, and statements from dying loved ones.

“The effect of a complex and constrained bureaucracy meant some outcomes were downright unjust, even inhumane. People felt caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare,” Glass said.

“It appeared to me that the department put significant resources into keeping people out rather than helping them find safe ways to get home.”

Double-vax checks for SA public hospitals, visits restricted

All visitors to SA public hospitals and health care services will have to show proof of full vaccination from today, with the unvaccinated having to wear protective clothing under new rules issued by SA Health.

The guidelines, issued last night, also state that only one visitor will be able to see a patient for up to two hours at a time, with allowances made for paediatric patients and in certain circumstances when approved by the hospital or local health network.

All visitors to public hospitals must provide proof of TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccination status upon entry unless they have an approved medical exemption or are a child aged 12 or under.

Unvaccinated visitors will be admitted but will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment while in the hospital. SA Health said that this would usually be a mask and eyewear.

“However, some settings with vulnerable patients, unvaccinated visitors will also need to wear a gown and gloves. If required, PPE will be supplied as you enter the facility,” it said.

“Unvaccinated visitors who visit a hospital will be required to undertake a COVID-19 test (PCR) 48 hours after their visit and subsequently and routinely thereafter if visiting regularly.”

SA Health said hospitals will support all patients having a baby to have a partner or designated support person present during the birth and appropriate PPE will be supplied by the hospital when required.

While the new policy was a guideline, local health networks will be able to determine specific visitor requirements.

More information on the new visitor guidelines can be found here.

Queensland to reopen to Adelaide and other COVID-19 hotspots

Queensland will open its border to fully vaccinated people from virus hotspots including Greater Adelaide from December 13 after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk brought forward the opening by four days.

Those in hotspots like Adelaide, NSW, Victoria and the ACT who are double-dosed will be able to enter the state from 1am on Monday, providing they have tested negative to the virus and take a second test on the fifth day following their arrival.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says fully vaccinated travellers from COVID-19 hotspots can enter from Monday. Photo: AAP/Jono Searle

The announcement came as Queensland inches towards the 80 per cent double vaccinated threshold set for reopening.

International arrivals to Queensland must be fully vaccinated and return a negative test within 72 hours of departure, and will also require a test on arrival as well as 14 days in home or hotel quarantine.

More than 88 per cent of Australians are double dosed, according to the government’s latest figures.

State Govt urged to bid for fifth Ashes Test

Labor says the Marshall Government should make a play to host the fifth Ashes Test in January, after the match was stripped from Perth due to WA’s strict COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Cricket Australia said yesterday the match, due to be played from January 14-18, would no longer be held in Perth and an alternative site was yet to be decided.

Adelaide will host the second Ashes Test from December 16-20, and the SA Cricket Association yesterday dismissed a suggestion from WA that the states swap Test matches.

Adelaide Oval will host the second Ashes Test this month. Photo: Dave Hunt / AAP

State opposition leader Peter Malinauskas today said the State Government should bid for the January game.

“Steven Marshal should get on the phone to Cricket Australia and make Adelaide’s case,” he said.

“Another Test match at Adelaide Oval would deliver a much-needed boost for our tourism and hospitality businesses which have been hit so hard by COVID-19.”

Italy clamps down on unvaccinated

Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people as the Christmas holidays draw near.

The new rules mean they are excluded from indoor restaurants, theatres and museums in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus and encourage vaccine sceptics to get their shots.

Starting on Monday and running through to January 15, Italian police can check whether diners in restaurants or bars have a “super” green health pass certifying that they are either vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus.

Smartphone applications that check people’s health pass status will be updated and those who have merely tested negative in recent days for COVID-19 will no longer be allowed into concerts, movies or performances.

The number of new COVID-19 infections in Italy has been on a gradual rise for the past six weeks, even before concerns arose about the new Omicron variant.

Search continues for Java volcano victims

The death toll from an eruption of the highest volcano on the Indonesian island of Java has risen to at least 22 people, with 27 missing.

Mount Semeru in Lumajang district in East Java province spewed thick columns of ash as high as 12,000 metres in a sudden eruption on Saturday, blanketing villages and nearby towns in debris.

Searing gas raced down the sides of the 3676 metre high mountain, smothering entire villages and killing or seriously burning those caught in its path.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said 56 people had been hospitalised, mostly with burns. He said rescuers were still searching for 27 villagers reported missing. Nearly 3000 houses and 38 schools were damaged, Muhari said.

Thousands of displaced people escaped to makeshift emergency shelters after Saturday’s powerful eruption, but many others defied official warnings and chose to remain in their homes to tend their livestock and protect their property.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted many times in the past 200 years. But as many of the 129 volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people live on its fertile slopes. It last erupted in January, with no casualties.

-With AAP and Reuters

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