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What we know today, Monday January 24

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Another 41 deaths and 26,000 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Victoria and New South Wales.

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Another 41 deaths, 26,000 cases in Vic, NSW

NSW has recorded another 24 COVID-19 deaths and 15,091 cases, with 2816 people in hospital with the virus, including 196 in intensive care.

Since the pandemic began some 1112 people have died with COVID-19 in NSW, including 227 in the past week.

Meanwhile, an extra two million rapid antigen tests will be delivered to NSW schools before lessons resume for 2022.

Victoria recorded 11,695 new COVID-19 cases and 17 deaths, as the state government vows schools will only return to remote learning as a last resort.

Monday’s overall daily case figure is the lowest recorded in Victoria since January 3, when 8577 infections were added.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 186,073, which includes 998 people in hospital, down four from Sunday’s figures.

The number of Victorians in intensive care sits at 119 and there are 47 people on a ventilator.

Big wet lashes SA, more thunderstorms to come

South Australia is set for more wild weather and potential flash flooding after thunderstorms and record rainfall lashed the state over the weekend.

In an update issued this morning, the Bureau of Meteorology said “severe” thunderstorms are likely to hit the Eyre Peninsula and North West Pastoral Districts today, with Moomba, Innamincka, Arkaroola and the Strzelecki Track likely to be affected.

It comes after the Yorke Peninsula town of Kadina yesterday had its wettest day on record, reporting 83mm of rain in the in the four hours from 9am to 1pm on Sunday.

Cultana on the Eyre Peninsula also 25mm of rain in just 30 minutes yesterday afternoon.

The State Emergency Service will today assess the damage to regional roads in light of numerous reports of flash flooding.

The agency issued a warning to Yorke Peninsula residents on Sunday that flash flooding may pose a threat to their safety.

“Flooding has impacting multiple roads and towns across the warning area and roads may be damaged or covered in debris,” the SES said in a statement.

“Impacted roads may not be signposted. Drive to the conditions and be prepared to use an alternative route.

“While widespread intense rainfall is not expected across the warning area, heavy rain occurring with isolated thunderstorms is still likely.”

The BoM says the extreme weather can be attributed to an upper low-pressure system and surface trough that is movingly slowly eastward over the state.

Govt announces April reopening for Gawler train line

The State Government says the Gawler Rail Line Electrification Project will now be completed in April, with a full shutdown of the state’s train network also required for two days next month.

Ahead of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport appearing before a parliamentary committee today, Transport Minister Corey Wingard this morning said the Gawler Line will reopen in April following the completion of commissioning activities of the signalling system.

The train line, which services the northern suburbs around Playford and Salisbury, has been closed for electrification works since December 2020.

The project was first announced in 2008 by the Rann Government.

The Marshall Government has attributed the latest delays to border restrictions making it difficult to access skilled workers interstate.

Wingard, who last year stated the project would be completed in late 2021 or early 2022, apologised for the “further short delay” but said the State Government was doing “all that we can” to get the line running again.

The transport minister also announced that the final stage of works will necessitate “impacts” to “the entire Adelaide Metro Network during the period 18-21 February, with all lines closed on 19 and 20 February”. 

“There is no denying this has been a difficult project to deliver but I’m extremely proud to be part of a government that doesn’t run away from the hard stuff and gets on with the job of building what matters,” Wingard said in a statement.

“We apologise for the further short delay but we are committed to completing the project safely, including allowing for sufficient time for testing and driver training.”

Labor this morning highlighted a tweet from Wingard last month written in response to the Opposition’s claims that the project wouldn’t be finished until April 9.

Wingard wrote: “Oh Please. You have pulled a date out of your backside.

“My priority is getting the project finished as soon as possible in a safe manner and I have no intention of working towards a Labor timeline,” he said on December 1.

Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis labelled the latest delay “sheer incompetence”.

“Long suffering residents of the northern suburbs have been without a train line for more than a year and still don’t know the exact date of when services will resume,” he said.

Tasmania tops CommSec index, SA second

The Australian economy remains in a solid shape in the face of the pandemic but Tasmania is the stand out state for the eighth quarter in a row, Commonwealth Securities says, with the South Australian economy ranking second.

In its quarterly State of States report, CommSec says Tasmania has again held on to top slot and is likely to remain so in the short-term, but it warns much can change over 2022.

The other state and territories followed closely together, with South Australia ranked second, Victoria third, Western Australia fourth, Queensland fifth, NSW sixth, the ACT seventh and the Northern Territory eighth.

“The Western Australian and South Australian economies have moved up the rankings, performing strongly during the pandemic,” CommSec chief economist Craig James says.

WA has benefited from a surge in iron ore exports and prices, while SA has enjoyed strong government and business investment, James said.

Tasmania leads on four of the eight indicators – equipment, unemployment, retail spending and dwelling starts – and ranks second on another two – economic growth and construction work done.

James said all Australia’s state and territory economies are in solid shape, supported by strong fiscal and monetary stimulus with unemployment rates historically-low across much of the nation.

“Labour is in short supply across many industries, a reflection of current COVID-related self-isolation requirements and border restrictions,” he said.

It comes after ABS jobs data last Thursday revealed South Australia’s unemployment rate had fallen below four per cent for the first time since records began in 1978, despite a decrease in the total number of people in work.

The data was taken before the onset of the current Omicron outbreak which has prompted density restrictions on retail and hospitality venues and a work from home policy that has disproportionality hit CBD businesses.

Treasurer Rob Lucas this morning touted the CommSec report as evidence of the state’s “economic rebound”.

“It’s important that we keep the momentum going to ensure SA’s strong economic recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic continues,” he said in a statement this morning.

“We know we must continue to protect jobs and support SA businesses to get through these challenging times so they can help drive our economic recovery – which is exactly what our recently announced business support package does.”

Strikers advance after thrilling BBL final

The Adelaide Strikers are one win away from a Big Bash League Grand Final after defeating the Sydney Thunder by six runs in a pulsating knockout final at the MCG last night.

After posting an imposing 6-184, the Strikers made it six straight wins and set up a date with the Sydney Sixers in “the Challenger” on Wednesday night after the Thunder could only reply with 6-178.

With nine runs required off three deliveries, Alex Ross succumbed when Henry Thornton somehow held a stunning outfield catch despite colliding with Alex Carey.

Harry Conway (2-33) had Ben Cutting caught on the boundary the next ball to seal the victory before narrowly missing a hat-trick when Jon Wells spilled a tough outfield chance.

Jason Sangha (61) and Ross (56) turned the tide the Thunder’s way with an enterprising 90-run stand after captain Usman Khawaja was controversially sent packing in the seventh over.

Khawaja stood his ground after slicing Matt Short to short third man where Fawad Ahmed lunged forward and claimed a catch.

Umpire Donovan Koch’s soft signal was out, which television umpire Ben Treloar agreed with, despite replays appearing to show the ball brushing the turf as it went into Fawad’s right hand.

“No, I didn’t (think it was out),” Khawaja told the Seven Network.

“I thought at the end of the day the soft signal cost me.

“It looked like a blade of glass 100 per cent touched the ball.

“I don’t agree with it, but I have to accept it.”

Strikers captain Peter Siddle claimed two wickets in the 17th over, including Sangha, as the Thunder took the power surge, before Conway held his nerve at the death.

“When they were in that position (Thunder 2-146 in the 17th), it was going to be hard work,” Siddle said.

“We were going to have to execute and get the job done with the ball.

“It was nice to get a couple in that over and Harry Conway from the other end, what a superb finish from him.”

Earlier, Strikers import Ian Cockbain (65) continued his rich run of form since arriving in Australia 11 days ago, while Short (39) and Carey (23) got the Strikers off to a strong start.

Ash Barty into Australian Open quarter final

Ash Barty celebrates moving on to the Australian Open quarter finals last night (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Ash Barty has passed her sternest test yet to move safely into the Australian Open quarter-finals for the fourth straight year, defeating US prodigy Amanda Anisimova in straight sets last night.

The world No.1 dropped serve for the first time all tournament before seeing off Anisimova 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 14 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.

The 25-year-old Wimbledon champion is the first Australian hope to reach at least the last eight of the Open for four consecutive years since Wendy Turnbull in 1984.

But having come this far before – and beyond – and failing to walk away with the trophy she most covets, Barty modestly played down Rod Laver’s gushing praise for his in-form compatriot.

Enjoying a front-row view of Barty in the arena named in his honour, Laver declared the top seed “unbeatable” while playing as imperiously as she has this summer.

“He was unbeatable. I’m certainly not,” Barty said.

“I’m just out here doing what I can, enjoying it. Try and make my opponent’s life as uncomfortable as possible. That’s my job, ultimately.

“Obviously (Laver) is an exceptional human being. He’s an amazing champion of our sport. He’s iconic. It’s just amazing to be in his presence.”

Anisimova shaped as a huge threat to the top seed – unbeaten in nine matches and having taken out defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round.

In the pair’s only previous meeting, Barty had to pull out all stops in an epic comeback from a set and 3-0 down in the 2019 French Open semi-finals.

Even after dropping the opening set against Barty on Sunday, the big-hitting 20-year-old continued to take the fight to title favourite.

She broke the top seed in the second game of the second set, snapping Barty’s incredible streak of 63 consecutive service games held.

Barty, though, kept her cool, breaking straight back, then twice more to clinch a ninth successive win of her still-undefeated 2022 season.

Barty will play another American, 21st seed Jessica Pegula, on Tuesday for a place in the last four.

-With AAP and Reuters

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