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What we know today, Tuesday January 11

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The State Government’s replacement event for the scrapped Tour Down Under has had to be relocated away from Victoria Park to avoid a conflict with SA Health’s main COVID-19 testing site.

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Cycling festival relocated after testing site conflict

The State Government’s replacement event for the scrapped Tour Down Under has had to be relocated away from Victoria Park to avoid a conflict with SA Health’s main COVID-19 testing site.

Organisers of the Santos Festival of Cycling today said the festival hub for the January 26 event will now be located in Victoria Square following discussions with SA Health.

Event organisers said the talks resulted in an “understanding [that] the peak of the Omicron breakout in South Australia is likely to come at the back end of January”.

Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed said the agency was “comfortable” during its planning of the Festival that it could be held in Victoria Park.

“We understand the importance of the Victoria Park testing site, and support SA Health as their need for the precinct has evolved with the Omicron COVID-19 variant,” Rasheed said.

“The safety and service to South Australians will take priority, and therefore, we agreed to change our program accordingly.”

The Victoria Park drive through clinic is SA Health’s main metropolitan site for COVID testing and has seen wait times of up to 10 hours during South Australia’s current Omicron outbreak.

Rasheed said relocating the event would support SA Health.

“The new location – well known to Santos Tour Down Under cycling fans – was chosen for its central access, and abundance of open space so visitors can disperse around the track and also enjoy the activity in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga,” she said.

“At this stage there are no further changes to the program, however as always, we will remain agile, working closely with SA Health, SAPOL and event partners, to ensure the delivery of a successful and safe event.”

The Santos Festival of Cycling was announced in September after the Tour Down Under was scrapped for a second year running.

Organisers have vowed the international cycling event will return in 2023.

ABC reveals Ali Clarke’s replacements

ABC Radio Adelaide has replaced its high-flying breakfast presenter Ali Clarke with two journalists recruited from within its own ranks.

The broadcaster announced this morning that its state political reporter Stacey Lee and rural broadcaster Nikolai Beilharz would jointly host the key breakfast shift, which has been dominated by Ali Clarke since she joined the ABC in 2016.

Clarke shocked the station by quitting late last year after yet again leading the ratings. She is expected to join FM station Mix, but an official announcement is yet to be made.

Today’s announcement is a return to a past successful formula for the local ABC station. Before Clarke, the duo of Matthew Abraham and David Bevan – both journalists – were a ratings success for many years, with their hard-hitting interview style a hallmark.

Lee has reported and presented for the ABC, Sky News and Channel 7, while Beilharz has a 15-year career in regional journalism and broadcasting with the ABC, including presenting the SA edition of The Country Hour.

The new breakfast team will start on-air on Friday, January 21.

Read the full story here.

Vic posts 37,994 COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths

Victoria has recorded 37,994 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths today, as the virus continues to impact public services including ambulances.

The state’s new infections include 18,503 from rapid antigen tests and 19,491 from PCR tests, the health department said on Tuesday.

There are 861 patients in hospital, 43 more than the previous day, including 117 in ICU and 27 on ventilation.

The state is managing 171,369 active cases.

The latest figures come as paramedics warn there will be delays in ambulances reaching people for the second time in a week.

Ambulance Victoria said it was experiencing “extremely high demand for ambulances” in metropolitan Melbourne.

“It is likely there will be a delay in an ambulance reaching you,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Our priority is to provide care to Victorians who require life-saving assistance.”

Workforce ‘issues’ in administering COVID jabs

The State Government insists there will be enough supply of paediatric COVID vaccines for South Australian children aged five to 11 to receive their first dose before school returns – but says there are workforce “issues” in being able to administer the jabs.

Premier Steven Marshall yesterday told reporters “we’ve got no problems whatsoever” with supply for the first dose.

Children aged five to 11 are now eligible to receive the vaccine, but some GPs have complained about delays in receiving their orders and some families have reported having appointments cancelled or being unable to find an appointment.

SA Health deputy chief executive Don Frater yesterday told a parliamentary committee there were about 144,000 SA children in that age cohort, but that SA Health was only expecting to receive about 70,000 doses by the end of the month, when school is due to return.

However, he said further doses would be received by and administered in the private sector, by GPs and pharmacists.

“We have more demand than what we have supply,” Frater told the committee.

“My advice is that some practitioners have had difficulty with the delivery of their doses that they have been allocated and that they would like more allocation than what they currently have.”

Marshall later told reporters that any “issues” around vaccinating children would be more about workforce than supply, and he said the Government was “ramping up” opportunities.

“SA Health does around about 50 per cent of all the vaccinations in South Australia,” he said.

“We have 144,000 five to 11-year-olds – not all of them are going to want to have that vaccination, but we certainly have our 50 per cent ready to go with the first dose.”

Marshall said the private sector – GPs and pharmacies – “will be getting their distribution separately”.

“So we’ve got no problems whatsoever with the first dose and of course there are new doses coming in all the time so there will be no problems,” he said.

“The issue at the moment is just workforce to get those jabs into the arms but as you can see we are ramping up those opportunities all the time.

“We’re looking at all and every opportunity to get those into the arms of young South Australians so I think it’s moving in the right direction at the moment.”

Senior SA senator and Federal Government senate leader Simon Birmingham yesterday tweeted that with public and private supply, SA would receive “more than 140,000 doses to cover every 5-11 year old in SA whose parents want a first dose”.

“Scheduled childhood vaccination deliveries into SA sites are: 54,700 doses last week , 40,000 doses this week, 45,500 doses next week,” he said.

Reduced hours at SA testing clinics today

SA COVID testing sites will have reduced hours today due to the hot weather.

SA Health has announced on Twitter and Facebook significantly reduced operating hours.

In a post on Facebook, SA Health said: “People who have made a booking for a COVID-19 test will receive a text message with further instructions.”

“Bookings will be prioritised at the Victoria Park, Ridgehaven or Bedford Park testing sites,” the post said.

“Other outdoor drive-through and walk-in testing sites may close at short notice today due to hot weather.

“We’ll provide the latest updates on site closures here and on SA Health Twitter.”

To check the opening hours, find alternative testing locations or to book, people can visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidtesting.

Djokovic back on court after court win

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s uncle Goran (L), mother Diana (2-L), father Srdjan (2-R), and brother Djordje (R) pose for photographers during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, 10 January 2022. Photo: EPA/ANDREJ CUKIC

Within hours of being released from immigration detention, Novak Djokovic headed for Rod Laver Arena to have a practice session in preparation for his planned Australian Open title defence.

While he was savouring his freedom his mother, at a press conference in Belgrade, said the world No.1 “was subjected to torture” while in detention and father said he was “denied his human rights”.

Tweeting a photograph of himself and his team on the complex’s main court Djokovic wrote on the social media site: ‘I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation.

Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.

“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”

https://twitter.com/DjokerNole/status/1480529173789696001

The post was followed by several prayer emojis.

The Serb was granted late-night access to the court to loosen his limbs and reacquaint himself with his tennis rackets after spending nearly a week under guard at the Park Hotel, and the day at his lawyers’ chambers listening to the court case.

After several hours of legal argument he heard Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly quash the decision to block his entry into Australia.

The judge said Djokovic was given insufficient time to speak to Tennis Australia officials and to lawyers to respond to being told of the intent to cancel his visa.

However, he is still not certain of competing. A spokesman for Alex Hawke, the Immigration Minister, said he was considering using his broad discretionary powers he is given by Australia’s Migration Act to again revoke Djokovic’s visa.

Soon after Djokovic finished training at Melbourne Park his family gave a press conference in Serbia during which his mother, according to the BBC translator, said her son, “was subjected to torture, to harassment. We will hear even more about what he has gone through”.

Dijana Djokovic also said: “This is his biggest win in his career, it is bigger than any grand slams.”

Father Srdan added: ‘They took away all his rights his rights, as a human being.”

Brother Djordje Djokovic said: “He went to Australia to play tennis, to try and win the Open and win the record he has been chasing for so many years.”

He added: “We love Australia, Novak loves Australia, he’s won it so many times, we will keep on coming back”.

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli told the BBC she thought Djokovic would be physically ready to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, but he may be mentally drained after the events of the past few days.

Government flags easing isolation rules for hospital workers

Hospital workers who are identified as close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases could be allowed out of isolation to work if staffing shortages worsen, Premier Steven Marshall says.

It follows a decision by the New South Wales Government to last month relax isolation requirements for asymptomatic essential healthcare workers, with the Queensland Government considering similar moves amid a spike in COVID-19 hospitalisations.

Marshall told reporters yesterday afternoon that South Australia could follow suit, with the government open to relaxing quarantine requirements for hospital staff if SA Health experiences “critical shortages”.

“I don’t think we will be returning COVID-positive people back to work in our hospital settings, but certainly some of the close contacts,” Marshall said.

“I think we’re a long way off that in South Australia, but of course we just need to see where this is going to go in this particular pandemic.”

Marshall said most healthcare workers who are currently COVID-positive or furloughed had been deployed to SA Health’s community response care team, which is tasked with monitoring people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantining at home.

“It’s not like that workforce is completely lost to us,” he said.

It comes as South Australia signs up to new national rules that allow vaccinated workers in critical supply chain, food processing and distribution industries to leave quarantine to work if they are identified as close contacts.

SA Health has already granted some chicken and red meat production workers exemptions to work after they were identified as close contacts.

Exemptions have also been granted to disability workers in SA.

“South Australia has fully signed up to the national protocol with regards to returning staff who are asymptomatic in a very controlled way,” Marshall said.

“By signing up to this national protocol, putting these procedures in place, we’re making sure that in South Australia we’re keeping food on the table for South Australian families.”

The number of COVID-positive patients in hospital in South Australia grew to 188 yesterday, with 21 in intensive care and four on ventilators.

There were 4024 new cases of COVID-19 from 21,845 tests, including 155 rapid antigen tests.

Authorities announced two further deaths yesterday – a man in his 90s and a woman in her 80s.

– Stephanie Richards

Unions want meeting with PM on Omicron

Unions are calling for an urgent meeting with the Federal Government to discuss the impact of the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on exhausted essential workers.

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison overnight with a list of demands warning an “unofficial lockdown” was hurting affected workers.

“The prime minister has not heard from working people and we are on the front lines,” McManus said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Australian workers are not ok at the moment.

“We have never had so many working people sick at once.

“Healthcare workers are exhausted, people are anxious and uncertain.”

The demands include the restoration of pandemic leave for workers who are close contacts of infected colleagues, rather than just household contacts.

Unions also want free rapid antigen tests for all and for the tests to be prioritised for frontline workers until supply issues are resolved, and requirements for masks at work to be at N95 or P2 standard.

“Many are losing pay while sick as they have no sick leave,” McManus said.

“Others are losing hours and their jobs as businesses close or cut back in what is turning into an unofficial lockdown.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty remains on how students will be able to return safely to schools as COVID-19 cases soar.

The country’s leading medical advisory panel met on Monday to discuss the start of the 2022 school year, ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Open door may have fuelled deadly NYC fire

An open door may be the reason an apartment fire in NYC got so out of hand and killed so many people, officials say.

New York authorities say the city is investigating a possible “maintenance issue” with a door that failed to close when a devastating fire erupted in a Bronx apartment building, killing 17 people, including eight children.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, just over a week into the job, said at a briefing that the city’s medical examiner determined the fire had claimed two fewer victims than the 19 announced on Sunday.

The blaze broke out on Sunday morning in the 19-floor Twin Parks North West building, which provided affordable housing units for low-income New Yorkers. Many of the residents were from the large Gambian community that lived in the neighbourhood.

“This is a global tragedy as The Bronx and New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe,” Adams said during a briefing in front of the building on Monday.

“This is an evolving crisis. An unspeakable tragedy.”

Adams said he spoke with US President Joe Biden, who pledged that the White House will provide “whatever” New York City needs to address the aftermath of the fire.

It was the second major fire in a residential complex in the United States this week after 12 people, including eight children, were killed early on Wednesday when flames swept through a public housing apartment building in Philadelphia.

Earlier in the day on “Good Morning America,” Adams said smoke from the fire was able to spread due to a door being open.

Doors in apartment houses are required to close automatically to prevent fires from spreading through the building.

“There may have been a maintenance issue with this door and that is going to be part of the ongoing investigation,” Adams said.

“This is all going to come out during the investigation.”

Stars edge narrow win against Strikers

Joe Clarke’s fourth consecutive half-century and some quality spin bowling helped the Melbourne Stars claim a vital BBL victory over the Adelaide Strikers at the MCG last night.

The Stars won the toss and bowled and held the Strikers to a middling 9-139 before tracking it down with five balls to spare.

Wickets fell regularly throughout the chase but Clarke stuck strong and made 83, whacking four huge sixes in the pivotal knock, including a huge late bomb just when the Strikers looked back in the game.

Fill-in Stars’ captain Adam Zampa said Clarke’s knock was “unbelievable”.

“Obviously you’ve seen the class now – he struggled early in the tournament, but we knew he had it in him,” he told Channel Seven.

“We’ve seen it in the nets and his record is unbelievable. I think he strikes at 160 in T20 cricket opening the batting, so he’s class.”

The Stars copped early setbacks with Clint Hinchcliffe and Nick Larkin dismissed cheaply and were 2-25, but Clarke got things rolling by pulling Harry Conway for six and four in the one over.

Superstar Adelaide spinner Rashid Khan produced some of his regular brilliance by going for just three runs off his first two overs and also claiming the huge wicket of Joe Burns for nine to put the Stars in a degree of trouble at 3-44 off eight overs.

Clarke, though, took charge by hitting Ahmed back over his head for six twice in the 10th over to leave the side 3-69 at halfway.

Hilton Cartwright top-edged Siddle soon after though and went for 17 but Clarke just pushed on, bringing up his 50 off 36 balls.

The Stars went 28 deliveries without a boundary and they needed 31 off the last three overs, but a huge Clarke six over square-leg swung the momentum.

Barty out of Sydney, focusing on the Open

Ash Barty has declared her triumphant title double at the Adelaide International the perfect Australian Open preparation.

Australia’s all-conquering world No.1 on Monday withdrew from the Sydney Tennis Classic to head straight to Melbourne to fine-tune for the Open.

Barty completed a flawless start to her 2022 season with a rare title double in Adelaide on Sunday, adding the doubles trophy with Storm Sanders to a second singles crown in the South Australian capital in three years.

Australia’s big Open hope says seven matches lasting nine hours and three minutes in total – having not played since the 2021 US Open in September – was ample court time heading into the year’s first major starting next Monday.

“It’s been an extraordinary week. We’ve been able to play lots of matches in singles and doubles. We’ve had plenty of court time, which is great,” Barty said.

“Unfortunately, I am withdrawing from the Sydney Tennis Classic to have some time to recover before the Australian Open.

“I’m sorry I won’t get the chance to play in front of the Sydney fans this year. I hope to see you all again soon. I wish the players and the tournament team all the best for the week ahead.”

Barty was super impressive in collecting her 14th career title in Adelaide, improving her record over top-20 rivals to 17-1 since the start of last year with successive wins over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina.

But as well as a fighting three-set win over Coco Gauff in her tournament opener, Barty wants a rest.

“At the end of the tournament, having played a few singles matches, I certainly don’t feel fresh now,” the Wimbledon champion said after her final defeat of Rybakina.

“(But) the (pre-season) work that I do with my team behind the scenes puts me in the best possible position to play good tennis time and time again each and every time we’re asked.”

-With AAP and Reuters

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