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What we know today, Tuesday August 24

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NSW has recorded 753 new COVID-19 cases as it reaches six million vaccinations and promises to announce “at least” one freedom for fully vaccinated residents by week’s end.

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SA allows seated drinking at bars

The state’s transition committee has agreed to allow people to drink while seated at licensed venue bars, provided the bars are not used to serve food or beverages.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told reporters this afternoon that he would sign-off on the “relatively minor” change at about 5pm this evening.

“The only requirement is that (the bar) must be separate to an area that is used for service of food or beverages,” he said.

“You can serve the person who is at the bar, but you can’t do general service of people who are coming to the bar for a drink and then going back to their table.”

Stevens said the change was prompted by calls from the hospitality industry, with pubs in regional areas set to benefit.

“We thought that it was a step that we could take without increasing risk,” he said.

South Australian authorities are also considering making it mandatory for essential workers who are coming into South Australia from Victoria, the ACT and New South Wales to have at least one vaccination dose.

Premier Steven Marshall said the requirement would exclude workers in the transport sector, who are subject to a national testing agreement.

It comes as 50 per cent of South Australians 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a vaccine.

Marshall said the vaccination target remained at 80 per cent by the end of this year, with all states and territories hoping to end lockdowns by Christmas.

NSW reaches six million jabs, cases drop to 753

NSW has recorded 753 new COVID-19 cases as it reaches six million vaccinations and promises to announce “at least” one freedom for fully vaccinated residents by week’s end.

The new daily total is down on the past three days, which were all above 810 cases.

Most new cases were in western and southwestern Sydney (516) while inner Sydney also delivered 73 fresh infections.

Of the new cases, 80 per cent have an unknown isolation status and 82 per cent remain are yet to be linked to a known cluster.

However, vaccination figures show NSW administered its six-millionth shot on Monday – a key figure that the premier had sought to reach by August 28.

“It is (an) amazing milestone. I’m deeply grateful,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

The two million fully vaccinated NSW residents will have “at least one” freedom restored to them in late September, the premier says.

“I look forward to making that announcement on Thursday or Friday this week as to what fully vaccinated people will be able to do from the month of September,” she said.

“So thank you to everyone who stepped up and got the jab.”

There are 608 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 107 people in intensive care and 34 on a ventilator – all higher than Monday

NSW Health manages about 500 intensive care beds but has a surge capacity of about 2000, with a ventilator for each bed.

ACT records 30 new cases

The ACT has notched up a record 30 new daily coronavirus cases as its outbreak grows to 167 infections.

An unvaccinated woman aged in her 40s is in intensive, while three other patients remain in hospital.

One of the ACT’s latest cases is a support service worker from the University of Canberra Hospital.

An outbreak among the territory’s disability sector has grown to 17 with two more support workers diagnosed.

A second case has been linked to the Condamine Court public housing complex at Turner.

Of Tuesday’s 30 new infections, 21 are household contacts of existing cases.

Another four cases can be traced back to clusters, while five more are yet to be linked.

Eleven people had been in the community and 13 in isolation while infectious.

The quarantine status of six other cases remains unclear.

It’s too early for Chief Minister Andrew Barr to say whether Canberra’s three-week lockdown will extend beyond September 2.

“This case number today will cause concern. It is a record day of cases for the ACT,” he told reporters.

“We’re going to have days like this where, at (a) household level, initial infection will spread to other members.”

Around 700 healthcare workers remain in isolation or quarantine as Canberra’s list of exposure locations surpasses 400.

More than 12,400 people are close contacts, while there are 6100 casual contacts.

Qld records two new cases

Queensland has recorded two new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in truck drivers who travelled between NSW.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the cases were picked up after 8378 tests in the past 24 hours to 6.30am on Tuesday.

She says both drivers have stayed at their homes, in the Somerset region and the Sunshine Coast, while not working and only visited a few venues in transit in southern Queensland.

“We will get the exposure sites up but we aren’t overly concerned about these two,” the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the two truckers’ families have been put into home quarantine with more than 700 other people in the state.

She also said their drivers’ first tested positive in NSW, who then notified Queensland Health about the result.

Young said the driver’s second test came back negative.

“These two truck drivers did everything they should do but it is at a point that we could have a case turn up anywhere, so please, to all Queenslanders, please get vaccinated,” she said.

Vic records 50 new cases

Victoria has recorded 50 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases, as authorities work to bring the state’s worsening Delta outbreak under control.

The health department on Tuesday confirmed 40 cases were linked to known outbreaks, while the source of the remaining 10 infections are under investigation.

Thirty-nine cases were infectious in the community and not isolating.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 522.

70 per cent vaccination reopening rate “too dangerous”

New modelling has found at least 90 per cent of all Australians, including children, should be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the country can open up safely.

The third wave, driven by the more infectious Delta strain, is taking hold in younger and unvaccinated age groups.

Little is known about the impact of so-called “long COVID” on children, which sees the virus cause damage to the lungs, heart and brain for months after recovery.

Research released on Tuesday shows children will directly benefit from vaccination.

“If we could achieve 75 cent vaccination coverage among children and adolescents, we could prevent 12,000 hospitalisations in these age groups,” Quentin Grafton from the Australian National University said.

Some 6.9 million cases with symptoms, 154,000 hospitalisations, and 29,000 fatalities could be the result of lifting restrictions at 70 per cent adult vaccination coverage, even with a 95 per cent vaccination level for those aged 60 years and over, the research found.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia “has to move forward” and open up when 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

“We will live with this virus like we live with other infectious diseases,” he said on Monday.

Researchers Zoe Hyde from the University of Western Australia, Tom Kompas from the University of Melbourne and Grafton say the prime minister’s current national plan “puts too many lives at risk”.

“It’s simply too dangerous to treat COVID-19 like the flu,” Hyde said.

Grafton said under 80 per cent vaccination coverage for only those over 16, as per the national plan, there could be 25,000 fatalities and some 270,000 cases of long COVID.

State and territory governments are also pushing back against the plan that national cabinet signed off in July, before the Sydney outbreak seeped into other areas.

The national cabinet of Australian government leaders has asked the Doherty Institute to update its advice commissioned by the Morrison government, to reflect the current higher caseload.

But Western Australia is not budging from its zero-case goal, while Queensland warns it may not reopen its NSW border even at the higher jab threshold.

Coronavirus continues to surge in NSW with another 818 new local cases and three deaths reported on Monday.

In Victoria, there were 71 new infections, while the ACT recorded 16.

Australia has fully vaccinated 30 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 52.8 per cent have had one jab.

Morrison said heavy restrictions, which are affecting more than half of Australia’s population across Victoria, NSW and the ACT, could not continue indefinitely.

“Otherwise, we stay in the cave forever. That’s not a sustainable solution,” he said yesterday.

Updated Doherty Institute modelling will be presented to national cabinet on Friday.

“Even if the country achieves the four steps we are calling for, fully relaxing public health measures to eliminate community transmission could still, eventually, result in some 5000 fatalities and 40,000 cases of long COVID,” Hyde said.

Melbourne hospital staff isolate as outbreak worsens

Dozens of staff from a Melbourne hospital emergency department are isolating after being potentially exposed to COVID-19, as Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate.

Victoria recorded 71 local COVID-19 cases on Monday, 55 of which were not isolating when they should have been, with the source of infection in 22 cases a mystery.

The state’s COVID-19 Testing Commander Jeroen Weimar said health teams are working around the clock “to run after all these cases”.

But if Victorians continued to work together then “we can absolutely” put a ring around the outbreak and come out of lockdown on September 2, he added.

St Vincent’s Hospital confirmed 24 emergency department staff are now in quarantine after being “potentially exposed to COVID-19”, a spokesman said on Monday night.

The hospital’s emergency department has been listed as a tier two exposure site with anyone who visited on August 14 between 7.20am and 5.40pm urged to get tested and isolate until a negative result.

St Vincent’s continues to operate as normal with no impact on the hospital’s wider services, and its infection control team is providing support “as a matter of urgency”.

Royal Melbourne Hospital is dealing with its own outbreak after five staff and patients tested positive after surgery was performed on an infected Shepparton man on August 12.

Murray River search resumes for missing man

Police will today continue searching for a man who disappeared after falling into the Murray River on Saturday.

The 72-year-old Paringa man was seen to fall from a tinny at about 4pm, about five kilometres north of Renmark.

He did not resurface.

Local police, Water Operations and SES boats and volunteers will resume searching the water and along the riverbanks this morning.

Police search for the missing man north of Renmark. Photo: SA Police

SA Labor to ask Parliament to declare climate emergency

Deputy state Opposition Leader and Climate Change spokesperson Susan Close says she will call on Parliament to declare SA is “facing a climate emergency”, and to commit to transitioning to net-zero emissions.

Close said she would move the motion after more than 10,000 South Australians signed a petition demanding action to tackle climate change.

Close said that transport emissions were the state’s biggest source of emissions, contributing 28 per cent, but the Marshall Government was introducing a tax on electric vehicles rather than encouraging their use.

“As a state, we must do everything we can to support projects and policies which are climate-friendly and encourage growth in resilient, low-carbon businesses as we strive for net-zero emissions by 2050,” she said.

Cats wait for SA travel clearance for Port Adelaide game

Geelong are still waiting on confirmation of their travel schedule ahead of Friday night’s AFL qualifying final against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

The Cats will enter quarantine conditions on Tuesday to prepare for their trip, with the state government imposing tight restrictions on the travelling party amid Victoria’s COVID-19 outbreak.

A limited crowd of 15,000 predominantly Power fans awaits them at Adelaide Oval.

Geelong coach Chris Scott said the club’s clear preference is to travel on Thursday but they have not yet received the green light from the AFL and SA government.

The Cats had to fly to Adelaide on the morning of their round-13 night match against Port Adelaide and endured a long wait in quarantine conditions at the ground before their 21-point win.

“We’re really strong on our preference to travel on Thursday night,” Scott told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“We know that there will still be some restrictions when we get to South Australia.

“But we think it would be too oppressive to ask a team to endure, for a final, what we did last time we went to Adelaide.

“The AFL are working really hard to do that and we’ve got confidence that they would deliver that.

“I’m sure that they wouldn’t settle on the venue at the Adelaide Oval unless they’d worked with the SA health authorities to make sure that there was a reasonable lead-in to the game.”

Geelong expect they will stay outside Victoria for the remainder of the finals series and could head to direct to Perth after their stint in Adelaide, regardless of whether they beat the Power.

Perth’s Optus Stadium is the hot favourite to host the grand final and could also host finals in weeks two and three.

“We’re actually embracing that idea,” Scott said about the prospect of spending weeks away from home.

“We don’t feel like we will have much of a say on where we play, irrespective of our results, which we’re okay with as well.”

Sloane hopes Walker will attend club champion event

Adelaide captain Rory Sloane hopes banned forward Taylor Walker collects his leading goalkicker award at a club function this weekend.

Walker hasn’t officially returned to the Crows since being suspended for six games by the AFL for making a racist remark about North Adelaide SANFL player Robbie Young.

The ex-skipper has served three games of his ban and Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks admits uncertainty about Walker playing on next season.

Walker booted a club-best 48 goals this season to win an award given out at Adelaide’s club champion function this Saturday night.

Sloane expects Walker to attend.

“I think so,” Sloane told reporters on Monday.

“A bit unknown still at the moment, but that would be nice.”

Walker has met with teammates and staffers in recent weeks after his offence prompted a fresh round of anti-racism sentiment in the competition..

“The last week-and-a-half, he caught up with a lot of people, a lot of teammates,” Sloane said.

“That is all part of this whole process.

“It (attending the function) all comes down to if Taylor feels comfortable and if the whole footy club, there’s a lot more to play out than just Tex.

“That whole process has been going on the last couple of weeks where he has slowly been catching up with people and having some chats.

“We will see how that pans out across the week.”

Adelaide’s season ended on Sunday night, finishing 15th after a 44-point win against wooden-spooners North Melbourne.

– with AAP and Reuters

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