Good afternoon, Megan Gorrey here. I’m taking over the blog from Broede Carmody to steer you through the rest of the day’s developments. If you are just joining us now, here’s what you might have missed:
- NSW has reported 1480 new local coronavirus cases and nine deaths, as suburbs in inner Sydney are encouraged to come forward for vaccination amid rising case numbers. Health authorities are concerned about case numbers in the areas of Glebe, Waterloo, Redfern and Marrickville. Vaccination rates in central Sydney, reported by the federal government on Monday, were the lowest in metropolitan Sydney. Three-quarters of the state have now received a first dose of vaccine and 42 per cent are fully vaccinated. Nine COVID-19 deaths have been recorded since Tuesday’s update, including a Dubbo resident and a man in his 20s.
- Victoria recorded 221 new, locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and zero in hotel quarantine. That figure is down from yesterday’s tally of 246 local cases. The Department of Health says that of today’s 221 new cases, 98 are linked to known outbreaks. That means there are, at this stage, 123 mystery cases. Regional Victoria will take slow steps out of lockdown from tomorrow night, with Premier Daniel Andrews confirming the five reasons to leave home would be lifted. Shepparton will not join the rest of the regions, though, as a COVID-19 cluster continues to smoulder. Greater Melbourne will also remain under strict lockdown.
- The ACT has recorded 20 new, locally acquired cases of COVID-19. That is up from yesterday’s 19 local cases. Of today’s 20 new cases, nine are linked to known outbreaks. This means there are, at this stage, 11 mystery cases. The ACT is in lockdown for at least another week.
- Queensland has again recorded no new COVID cases in the community or hotel quarantine, with just 17 active cases across the state. Queensland Health also delivered a record number of vaccinations yesterday, with 23,012 jabs in arms. The Beenleigh cluster, sparked after a Logan truck driver passed the virus to a 4-year-old girl and her mother, remains at three people. As a result, restrictions on visitors to hospitals, aged care and disability facilities in the Logan area have been lifted.
A war of words has broken out between Peter Dutton and Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath about whether she tried to contact him about the return of Aussie Diggers into hotel quarantine. Queensland authorities rubbished claims Diggers sent to rescue refugees in Afghanistan had been stranded overseas due to delays approving hotel quarantine, saying their return was never in doubt. Ms D’Ath said she had tried to call Defence Minister Peter Dutton about the issue on Wednesday morning and sent him a text, but had not heard back. In response, Mr Dutton tweeted: “Yvette D’Ath’s comment this morning that she called and or texted me is untrue. I have not had any contact from her.”
- New Zealand has recorded 15 new cases of coronavirus in the community, a fall from yesterday’s tally. All the new cases were detected in Auckland. There are now 855 cases associated with the outbreak. The flattening in the number of new infections, and the relative success in linking them back to existing cases, prompted the country to relax its lockdown restrictions for much of the country starting today.
- Australians will begin using an international vaccine passport within weeks to prove their immunisation status overseas and on their return as the Prime Minister flags home quarantine will be key to reopening borders. Scott Morrison is also asking state and territory leaders how they plan to integrate vaccination certificates into existing check-in apps and for their timelines on introducing home quarantine.
Victorian health authorities have identified several new COVID-19 exposure sites across the state.
Among them are several new tier-1 or close contact sites, including a neighbourhood learning centre and an auto body repair shop, both in Melbourne’s north. The new tier-1 sites are:
- Australian Future Cabinets, Thomastown – Wednesday, September 1 between 8am and 4.30pm, Thursday, September 2 between 8am and 10.30am, and Friday, September 3 between 10am and 1.30pm
- Malvern Health & Fitness, Malvern – Sunday, September 5 between 9am and 6pm
- Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, Carlton North – Thursday, September 2 between 8.24am and 4pm
- Bell Collisions, Preston – Friday, September 3 between 6am and 4.30pm
The remainder of the new sites are tier-2 or casual contact sites. They are:
- Australia Post, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, Tarneit – Thursday, September 2 between 2.35pm and 3.45pm
- Maternal Child Health Centre, Truganina – Tuesday, August 31 between 8.30am and 4.40pm
- Office complex at 8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne – Wednesday, September 1 and Friday, September 3 between 6.20am and 3pm, and Thursday, September 2 between 6am and 3.30pm (the Health Department will contact some tier-1 contacts)
- Australian Commercial Maintenance, Campbellfield – from Wednesday, September 1 to Friday, September 3 between 8am and 2.15pm (the Health Department will contact some tier-1 contacts)
A full list of Victorian exposure sites can be found here.
Kiwis stuck in NSW will have an opportunity to get back to New Zealand, if they meet the criteria.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment announced on Wednesday a second “red” flight would depart Sydney for Auckland next Wednesday for people who fit the emergency requirements.
People will have until 3pm AEST on Saturday, September 11, to apply for the flight via the government’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine website.
The ministry said everyone who was eligible was encouraged to take up this opportunity to return to New Zealand.
Travellers must not have been at a location of interest in the previous 14 days and must present proof of a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test at check-in taken within 72 hours of departure. They would be required to enter into managed isolation for 14 days on arrival at their own cost.
The first managed flight organised by the government arrived on September 5 with 93 people on board. This additional flight would allow more people in urgent situations to come home, the ministry said.
“With emergency allocations suspended for people in Australia since July, this brings Australia back in line with the rest of the world, where people have continued to have access to emergency allocations,” Brigadier Rose King, who is the Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said in a statement.
The emergency criteria applied to New Zealanders who needed access to time-critical medical treatment, who were in a location where there was a serious risk to their safety or where they were unable to legally remain, or those travelling to visit a close relative who was terminally ill or who had died.
The ministry said the flight wasn’t open to the general public, and people were advised not to contact airlines directly.
An announcement on the future of quarantine-free travel with Australia is expected later this month.
About 200 police officers will be deployed to regional Victoria from midnight on Thursday to ensure people in metropolitan Melbourne aren’t travelling to those areas as they come out of lockdown.
The lockdown in regional Victoria, except for in Greater Shepparton, will lift at 11.59pm on Thursday, with restaurants and cafés able to throw their doors open and up to 25 per cent of people allowed to return to workplaces among the new freedoms.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said on Wednesday: “With the easing of restrictions, some people in greater Melbourne may be tempted to interact with regional areas for all sorts of reasons, whether that’s visiting a café … a pub or restaurant, or some other reason.“
He said 200 police would be deployed to take part in “Operation Guardian”, patrolling major arterial roads into regional Victoria as well as backroads.The operation would include booze busses, random checkpoints, roving patrols, and the use of automatic number plate recognition technology.
Mr Nugent warned if people from metropolitan did try to visit the regions, they would be hit with a $5452 fine for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions.
“It has been really difficult during … multiple lockdowns, [and] the community has been outstanding and its support and abiding by the directions,” Mr Nugent said.
“Having said that, we still come across people that choose to ignore those rules, and I’m just imploring people, please abide by the rules, stay in metropolitan Melbourne. Don’t spread the [virus] with the regional areas.”
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has denied his push for all Sydney suburbs to be opened up together puts him at odds with Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Mr Perrottet said he didn’t want to see a “tale of two cities” as restrictions begin to lift when the state reaches 70 per cent vaccination rates. His remarks have gained support from mayors of some council areas “of concern”.
“We should all as a city right across Sydney come out together … we should be treating everyone equally,” he told radio station 2GB earlier today.
“I know there’s been discussion around trials and alike as we lead up to that date, but people in Western Sydney have made enormous sacrifices as we all have across our state.”
The NSW Treasurer said he didn’t think he’d said anything contrary to what the Premier had said.
The mayor of the City of Canterbury Bankstown, Khal Asfour, said lifting restrictions equally across all local government areas would put “an end to the great divide” created by differing rules in parts of Sydney.
He said Ms Berejiklian was “headed for a showdown if she doesn’t open up the city to all”.
Cumberland City Council mayor Steve Christou also welcomed Mr Perrottet’s remarks. He issued a statement saying: “Finally, someone in the state government has started speaking sense!
“I wholeheartedly agree with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s position that western and southwest Sydney should reopen at the same time as the rest of the city to avoid a ‘two-speed recovery’.”
We reported earlier on a war of words that erupted between Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath about whether she tried to contact him to discuss the return of Aussie Diggers to hotel quarantine.
Queensland’s authorities rubbished claims soldiers sent to rescue refugees in Afghanistan were stranded in Dubai because the Palaszczuk government had not approved a special hotel quarantine exemption for them.
Ms D’Ath said Diggers returning to the state would be permitted to quarantine in their own bubble.
On Wednesday morning, she accused the federal government of playing “cheap politics” over the issue and said she attempted to call Mr Dutton and sent him a text, but had not heard back.
In a swift response, Mr Dutton tweeted: “Yvette D’Ath’s comment this morning that she called and or texted me is untrue. I have not had any contact from her.”
Ms D’Ath returned fire, showing journalists her phone history and saying: “Called Peter Dutton at 8.19 … sent Peter Dutton a text at 8.21 – can he please call me – I’ve had no response.”
However, minutes later, it was revealed the phone number Ms D’Ath had for Mr Dutton was incorrect.
The two ministers have now spoken, using the correct phone numbers.
You can catch up on the full story here.
A talented soccer player who was injured in a one-punch attack on the weekend is fighting for his life in a Perth hospital while his distraught parents are stranded in the United Kingdom due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
British expat Danny Hodgson was on his way home on Saturday night after celebrations for an end-of-season game when he was struck to the back of his head, knocking him to the ground and leaving him unconscious.
The 25-year-old, originally from Cumbria in England’s north-west, was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital with severe head injuries and had emergency surgery for bleeding to the brain and a brain fracture.
His mother Nicola Hodgson said her son took a turn for the worse due to more severe brain hemorrhaging and was rushed to theatre again on Sunday for more intrusive brain surgery that lasted for four hours.
He is now in an induced coma, which Mrs Hodgson was told he could remain in for days or even weeks.
Mrs Hodgson and her husband Peter are desperate to be by their son’s bedside but have struggled to find a flight out of the UK to Perth due to Australia’s closed borders and limited number of passenger arrivals allowed in.
Mrs Hodgson took to social media in an effort to get public support and help in finding a way to be with her beloved eldest son who has a “heart of gold”.
Read the full story here.
Several patients are isolating after a person with coronavirus was treated in the emergency department of Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital yesterday.
A spokesman for the hospital, in the inner city suburb of Fitzroy, said the patient tested positive for coronavirus upon arrival and was treated as a suspected COVID-19 patient as soon as they entered the hospital.
“All appropriate COVID-safe controls were in place, including staff in full personal protective equipment, and as a result no staff members required furloughing as a result,” he said.
The spokesman said in line with Victorian Department of Health protocols, the patient was transferred to Royal Melbourne Hospital last night for ongoing care.
The Age and the Herald have been told five patients were potentially exposed to the virus due to being in the emergency department at the same time as the positive case. All are in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.
“During the triage and assessment of patients in our busy emergency department, it is always possible that individuals may come in contact with others who are later diagnosed with COVID,” he said.
“We recognise this risk and as a matter of safety for staff and other patients we isolate all patients who may have had contact with a COVID case during their period of assessment in our emergency department.”
Patients and staff at The Alfred hospital’s emergency department have also been forced into isolation after it was deemed a Tier 1 exposure site.
Anyone who attended the emergency department’s waiting room on September 6 between 5.37pm and 11.55pm must get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.
Federal bureaucrats turned down an offer from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in mid-2020 for a detailed meeting with top executives and the Health Minister about the company’s progress on a coronavirus vaccine, as other countries were already on track to signing deals for millions of doses.
Documents from June and early July last year released under the Freedom of Information Act show the company was eager to meet “at the earliest opportunity”, but received a response from the Department of Health days later offering a meeting with a first assistant secretary instead.
Australia signed its first contract with Pfizer in November, for 10 million doses. Other countries, including the US and Canada, had signed deals with the pharmaceutical giant as early as July that year.
In a letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt dated June 30, a Pfizer Australia representative said the company was working in collaboration with BioNTech to develop, test and manufacture an mRNA-base vaccine that could potentially “be deployed at unprecedented speed” to prevent COVID-19 infections.
“We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021,” the letter said.
Read the full story here.
The Queensland government has reached an agreement with the NRL to host the grand final at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, October 3.
Making the announcement from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the “historic deal” would also include regional games.
Depending on COVID restrictions at the time, Ms Palaszczuk said the game would be played to a packed stadium of more than 50,000 people.
As we noted earlier, NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said today the Berejiklian government had informed the NRL the state was unable to host the 2021 NRL grand final due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Ayres said he looked forward to welcoming the event back to Sydney in 2022.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has blasted those who attended a gathering that breached lockdown rules in Melbourne’s southeast on Tuesday, resulting so far in six fines.
A total of 20 to 30 people are believed to have gathered at a synagogue in Ripponlea as part of the Jewish New Year.
“Firstly, I want to thank the Jewish community leadership who have called this out yet again, I thank them,” Mr Andrews said.
“Their partnership with our government is one of safety, it’s one of trying to keep people out of hospital and limit the spread of this virus and I’m genuinely grateful to those faith and community leaders from the Jewish community who have stood up and called this out.“
But he said it was “very bad behaviour” from the people who gathered.
“I don’t buy this line that people are not technologically savvy [and don’t know about restrictions]. This has been going for 20 months, everyone knows about this, this is not new.“It’s just not fair.“
Mr Andrews said he hoped the gathering would not result in new cases or that people would not end up in hospital “as a result of those choices that have been made”.
“But again, I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to faith and cultural leadership across the Jewish community for being very clear about this and calling this out. I’m very, very grateful to them.”