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What we know today, Thursday December 9

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SA Health has recorded seven new cases of COVID-19, two of which are close contacts linked to the Norwood cluster.

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Seven new COVID cases in SA

SA Health has recorded seven new cases of COVID-19, two of which are close contacts linked to the Norwood cluster.

In an update issued this afternoon, SA Health said today’s cases are two men in their 20s and 50s, three women including two in their 20s and one in their 30s, and a child.

Two of the cases are linked to the Norwood cluster, one case acquired their infection overseas and the four other cases were interstate travellers.

All but one of the cases are fully-vaccinated, with the remainder’s vaccination status listed as “unknown”.

It takes the tally of COVID-19 cases since South Australia reopened its borders to 61, with 51 of those classified as active.

Two people – a woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s – remain in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, SA Health has removed Istanbul Lounge in Kensington Park as an exposure site following further investigation.

In a statement, SA Health said it would contact identified contacts who visited the Turkish restaurant to notify them of the change.

COVID case closes SA school

A Catholic primary school has been closed after a member of the community tested positive to COVID-19.

Catholic Education SA said in a statement that “a member of the school community at Our Lady Queen of Peace School, Albert Park has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday 8 December 2021”.

“The school site – including Vacation Care – will be closed [on] Thursday December 9 to allow for a cleaning and contact tracing,” the statement said.

However, classes have already concluded for the school year.

The statement said SA Health was “working to determine who the close contacts of the case are, as well as who has been exposed as a casual contact”.

All students from one class who attended school on December 6 and 7 are required to get tested and quarantine awaiting further information from SA Health, while all year six students and parents who attended the Year 6 graduation at The Lakes Resort on Monday night are required to get tested and quarantine awaiting further information from authorities.

Barnaby Joyce tests positive for COVID-19

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States.

Joyce believes he contracted COVID-19 in London before flying to Washington DC.

He tested positive after arriving in the United States as part of a 10-day trip focused on the Morrison government’s push for tighter social media regulations.

“I was just getting a bit tired and then I started getting … a couple of pains in the legs so thought I better get tested,” he told Sky News from quarantine on Thursday morning, Australian time.

“You really have to quiz yourself as to whether you need to be tested at all, because … it doesn’t scream at you.”

Joyce is double-vaccinated. He thinks he contracted the virus in the United Kingdom because he tested negative twice before flying to Washington.

“You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic on in these areas of the UK. People are just shoulder-to-shoulder,” he said.

He doesn’t know what strain of the virus he has and those travelling with him have tested negative.

“I hope that in the future, rather than being isolated, this is like the flu. You get it, you go home and you manage it yourself,” Joyce said.

“I’m not dying here. I’m feeling like I have a slight-to-mild flu.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been in touch with Joyce, said it highlighted the importance of getting the jab.

“He (Mr Joyce) tells me he’s feeling alright, apart from the mild illness, and he has been vaccinated,” Morrison told reporters in Victoria.

“Vaccinations do have an impact on the seriousness of the disease and that’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated. It’s another important reminder and why the booster is also so important.”

Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud has spoken to Joyce following the positive diagnosis.

“He’s isolating in the US until it’s safe for him to come home and we wish him all the best for his recovery,” Littleproud tweeted.

Dozens of SA vax clinics to close over Christmas

Only eight of SA Health’s 51 COVID-19 vaccination clinics will remain open during the Christmas period but authorities say there will still be “plenty of opportunities” for people to get vaccinated.

Authorities are hoping to have 90 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of the year, with latest figures showing 82.7 per cent of South Australians aged 12 and over are now double dosed.

SA Health says that in the metropolitan area, the clinics that will stay open over the festive season, excluding public holidays, are Adelaide (Myer), Kilkenny, Elizabeth (Playford Civic Centre) and Noarlunga Centre.

In the regions, clinics in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Berri and Murray Bridge will remain open.

The Opposition yesterday criticised the State Government for shutting down the Wayville hub over Christmas and New Year while the race is on to fully vaccinate 90 per cent of the eligible population by the end of the year.

Late yesterday, SA Health confirmed the Wayville vaccination hub would close from December 22 and reopen on January 4, with dozens of other clinics to also shut down.

In a statement, a spokesperson for SA Health listed the four metropolitan and four regional clinics that would remain open and said that those – “along with hundreds of GPs and pharmacies” – would provide “plenty of opportunities for South Australians to get vaccinated or to receive their booster during this period”.

“With plenty of appointments available now, we encourage South Australians not to hesitate to book or walk-in for vaccinations so they can stay safe and protect their family this festive season,” the spokesperson said.

“Due to infrastructure and clinic reconfiguration works taking place at Adelaide Showgrounds, Wayville Vaccination Clinic will be closed from 22 December and will re-open on 4 January.

“SA Health vaccination clinics will close on public holidays and we will share information on clinic opening times ahead of the Christmas period so people can plan ahead.

“We thank our hard-working vaccination staff for their incredible effort in vaccinating the community this year.”

South Australia recorded three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with one infection linked to the Norwood cluster, one acquired overseas and one “historical” infection acquired interstate.

More than 1300 people are currently in quarantine across the state, according to SA Health.

-Jemma Chapman

Study to investigate $750 million Port Pirie hydrogen facility

The State Government and commodities multinational Trafigura have committed to a feasibility study to examine the potential for a $750 million hydrogen facility in Port Pirie.

Trafigura, majority owners of Nyrstar – operators of the Port Pirie lead smelter – announced this morning it had committed to a $5 million “front end engineering and design” study for the potential facility, with costs for the feasibility assessment jointy-funded with the State Government.

The final $750 million facility would hold a 440 megawatt electrolyser, which the government could supply the entire oxygen needs of the lead smelter and produce significant quantities of ammonia for export.

The initial stage of the project would see a 85 megawatt electrolyser built supplying roughly 20 per cent of the smelter’s oxygen requirements.

General manager of Trafigura in Australia Tim Rogers said the project would help the company expand its presence in the Upper Spencer Gulf and attract new industries to the region.

“We welcome this commitment from the South Australian Government to accelerate this project and look forward to working closely with the South Australian [and Federal] Governments to bring this project to reality,” said.

“By integrating green hydrogen production with the existing smelter and port, paired with South Australia’s world-class renewables, we think this project stands out from the pack globally.”

Premier Steven Marshall said the “world-class project” would help accelerate South Australia’s path to net zero emissions.

“This $750 million project is part of the ongoing transformation of South Australia into a producer of green hydrogen of global significance based on our outstanding renewable energy resources,” he said.

Asked on ABC Radio how confident he was the project would go ahead, Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said: “eight out of 10.”

Shadow mining and energy spokesperson Tom Koutsantonis said, if elected, Labor would honour a State Government commitment on the project if the study finds its feasible.

“If this study comes off well, whatever agreements the State Government makes, we will honour, obviously, but we have to wait for the study,” he told ABC Radio this morning.

“I’m glad the government are finally investing some money into green hydrogen, $5 million isn’t very much, we’ll be investing over $590 million.

“The difference between Dan’s plan and our plan [is] Dan’s plan is for this $5 million study hoping for some private investment, ours will be a government owned facility where the government will own it and run it in the interests of the people of South Australia.”

AFL gives Crows inaugural Friday night Showdown

The Adelaide Crows will host the first-ever Friday night Showdown against Port Adelaide in round 3 next season, the AFL has announced.

The AFL this morning released further details about its 2022 fixture, revealing the Crows and Power will face off at 7:50pm (ACDT) on Friday, April 1, in what could be a Friday night doubleheader in round 3.

The Adelaide Football Club earlier in the week made a formal submission to the AFL asking to host the marquee game on Friday night.

The Showdown has previously only been scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays, with both fixtures played on a Saturday night last season.

Crows CEO Tim Silvers said the AFL’s decision was “a win for our members as well our fans and the wider South Australian football community”.

“After joining the club it did not take me long to work out these games are as big and intense as any rivalry in the competition,” Silvers said.

“Getting a coveted Friday night time slot has been one of our priorities with this fixture.

“Hopefully Adelaide Oval’s capacity returns to what were normal levels prior to the pandemic and it’s a full house.”

SA Health is allowing a crowd of 35,000 to attend next week’s Ashes Test between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval, where proof of double vaccination is now a condition of entry.

Port Adelaide currently leads Adelaide 26-24 in the all-time Showdown ledger, having won four out of the last five matchups between the two clubs.

Vaccination trial exemption removed from SA jab mandates

Participating in a COVID-19 vaccination trial is no longer a valid exemption to South Australia’s various public sector jab mandates, following a change to the state’s emergency management directions.

The update impacts workers covered by vaccination mandates that are currently in plcae for residential, in home and community aged care workers; disability care workers; teachers and early childhood educators; healthcare workers and airport passenger transport/taxi drivers.

In an update issued late on Thursday, SA Police said: “Taking part in a COVID-19 vaccination trial is no longer a valid reason to be exempt from having a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the above mentioned Directions.”

“Other existing requirements remain.”

It means the only remaining exemption to the vaccination mandates is a medical certificate from a qualified medical practitioner certifying that the worker has a valid medical exemption to receiving a vaccine.

Too early to gauge vaccine effectiveness against Omicron: WHO

The World Health Organisation says it is too early to say how well existing shots will protect against the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, after early reports from Pfizer indicated that two doses of their vaccine are potentially less effective against the new strain.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday the variant’s global spread suggests it could have a major impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the time to contain it is now before more Omicron patients are hospitalised.

“We call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing,” he told a media briefing.

“Any complacency now will cost lives.”

The WHO noted early evidence from BioNTech and Pfizer of the effectiveness of their vaccine against Omicron.

The German and US companies said on Wednesday a three-shot course of their COVID-19 vaccine was able to neutralise the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test, while two doses resulted in lower neutralising antibodies by a factor of 25.

Warning against jumping to conclusions from the test, the WHO’s chief scientist said it was too soon to say whether the reduction in neutralising antibodies meant the shot was less effective.

“We do not know that,” Soumya Swaminathan told the briefing, adding that co-ordinated global research efforts were needed.

The WHO also said it would publish a review of its stance on booster doses within days but with vaccination rates worryingly low in much of the developing world, administering primary doses – rather than boosters – remained its priority.

“Wholesale boosters are not the solution,” Swaminathan said.

Downing Street embroiled in Xmas party scandal, PM’s aide resigns

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under intense pressure after a leaked video showed Downing Street officials joking about a Christmas Party held in December 2020 (Photo: Tejas Sandhu/SOPA)

An adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has quit after a video surfaced of her laughing and joking about a party in Downing Street during a Christmas COVID-19 lockdown last year when such festivities were banned.

Allegra Stratton, who was most recently Johnson’s COP26 spokeswoman, was his press secretary at the time the video was recorded in December 2020.

In the video aired by ITV, Stratton was shown at a rehearsal for a daily briefing laughing and joking about a reported gathering at a time when tens of millions of people across the UK were banned from meeting family and friends to celebrate Christmas, or even from bidding farewell to dying relatives.

“My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey. That was never my intention. I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days,” a tearful Stratton told reporters outside her home.

“I understand the anger and frustration that people feel. To all of you who lost loved ones, who endured intolerable loneliness and who struggled with your businesses – I am truly sorry and this afternoon I am offering my resignation to the prime minister.”

Johnson earlier on Wednesday apologised after the video of his staff surfaced.

The UK PM said he had been furious to see the clip and that, since allegations emerged in the media, he had been repeatedly assured that there had not been a party.

“I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives,” he told parliament, adding that there would be disciplinary action if it was found rules were broken.

Johnson and his ministers have repeatedly denied any rules were broken by the gatherings in late 2020 although The Mirror said Johnson spoke at a leaving party and that his team had a wine-fuelled gathering of about 40 to 50 people.

But in a video aired by ITV, Stratton was shown at a 2020 Downing Street rehearsal for a daily briefing laughing about the gathering.

In the video, a Johnson adviser asks Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night – do you recognise those reports?”

Stratton, standing before UK flags at an official Downing Street lectern, chuckles and says: “I went home.”

She then laughs and smiles.

“Hold on. Hold on. Um, er, arh,” she says, appearing lost for words and looking up.

Reaction to the video was sharp with many people on Twitter expressing disgust that Downing Street appeared to be laughing about breaking rules.

-With AAP and Reuters

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