Australia news LIVE: Digital pass to allow vaccinated Australians to travel; hospitals under pressure as NSW, Victorian COVID-19 cases rise

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NSW Health records its busiest ever quarter

By Cassandra Morgan

NSW Health recorded its busiest ever quarter from April to June this year when it came to emergency department presentations, elective surgeries, ambulance responses, and births.

More than 806,700 people attended emergency departments at the state’s public hospitals through the quarter; a nearly 7 per cent increase on the same period in 2019.

NSW Health said the record quarter was not surprising.

NSW Health said the record quarter was not surprising. Credit:Kate Geraghty

Between April and June, more than 19,100 babies were born in NSW public hospitals; the highest number recorded since the Bureau of Health Information started reporting those numbers.

There was a 9 per cent increase in the number of elective surgeries completed compared with the April to June quarter in 2019. The nearly 52,270 elective surgeries performed in the 2021 quarter represented the most ever completed during that timeframe.

NSW Health said in a statement the figures were not unexpected – in fact, it only confirmed what it had been discussing publicly since last year, “the significant pressures associated with preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The department’s deputy secretary of patient experience, Wayne Jones, said the April to June period demonstrated the resilience of the health system, but the department emphasised the best way for people to reduce the pressure on it was to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“In this period, the system bounced back from the impacts of the first wave of COVID-19 and, in particular, the national halt of elective surgery in 2020,” Mr Jones said.

Union announces death of Victorian member with COVID-19

By Cassandra Morgan

A 46-year-old Victorian man has died with COVID-19, according to the Australian Services Union.

The union issued a statement on Tuesday saying Martin “Marty” Blight – a father, “friend to many”, keen fisherman, long-term employee of Serco Mill Park, and a committed member of the union – died in hospital on Monday.

The union said Mr Blight became unwell with coronavirus after his workplace was identified as a tier-1 site, and he was subsequently identified as a close contact.

“We know Marty’s death will be very hard for many of his family, friends, and colleagues to process,” the union said in the statement.

“The union has been speaking with Marty’s family directly and both the ASU and Marty’s family would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible so that no one else has to go through the trauma of losing someone to COVID-19.”

Authorities announced on Tuesday another two COVID-19 deaths: a man in his 20s, and a woman in her 80s.

Mayors of locked down Sydney councils finally get meeting with Premier

By Angus Thompson

A call to reopen swimming pools in Sydney’s 12 COVID-19 hotspot local government areas was a key point raised by mayors from those regions who finally secured meetings with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday morning.

The curfew, which multiple mayors deemed ineffective, over-policing, vaccination permits for essential workers, and the strained mental health of residents of western and south-western Sydney were common themes raised by community leaders dealing with heightened restrictions in recent months.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.Credit:Nick Moir

Fairfield Council mayor Frank Carbone said the meeting he was involved in was constructive and he appreciated the Premier taking her time to meet him and other mayors as they stressed their residents should be treated no differently to those in the eastern suburbs.

“If it’s OK to get fresh air in Bondi, it’s OK to get fresh air out here,” Cr Carbone said after the meeting. He said Ms Berejiklian had agreed to get health advice about reopening swimming pools in those council areas after scenes of crowds at eastern beaches over the weekend.

The Premier’s office has been contacted for comment regarding this.

But Cumberland mayor Steve Christou said that while he was pleased to get a meeting with the Premier, “I am most concerned that this was a PR stunt and just paying us lip service”.

“She continues to hide behind the health advice and could not offer any solutions or concessions to afford our residents the same opportunities as those in the east and other areas,” Cr Christou said.

“The Premier claims police assured her they are policing everybody fairly. That point is debatable.”

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Singapore Airlines cancellations leave Australians stranded, but Air Canada offers some a way home

By Chris Barrett and Craig Platt

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has foreshadowed reopening of borders when vaccination rates hit 80 per cent but the hopes of scores of Australians trying to get home before Christmas have been shattered by the cancellation of a slew of Singapore Airlines flights scheduled over the next three months.

The airline delivered the bad news to passengers on Monday night as international flights set for the final three months of the year were called off.

The Singapore Airlines flights had been extra services placed in the expectation that a travel bubble between Australia and Singapore would be established towards the end of the year.

The Singapore Airlines flights had been extra services placed in the expectation that a travel bubble between Australia and Singapore would be established towards the end of the year.Credit:Kate Geraghty

It has been a pattern throughout the coronavirus pandemic due to strict international arrival caps in Australia, but the latest cancellations from regional hub Singapore itself and other destinations delivered an additional blow just as the federal government had begun talking up reopening.

Read the full story here.

In other news, though, Air Canada announced it would restart its first Australian route with mandatory vaccination.

The airline will fly Sydney-Vancouver four times a week, with the first flight to Vancouver taking off on December 17.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Air Canada had regular non-stop flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Vancouver. Air Canada suspended its flights to Australia in April last year.

You can read more about that development here.

Roving vaccination teams to target lagging nursing homes

By Nick Bonyhady

Federal vaccination teams will be sent to aged care homes to offer jabs to the remaining 24,000 unvaccinated workers in the sector by the end of the week before state and territory jab mandates come into effect on Friday.

Days out from the deadline, a small number of nursing homes – mostly in regional areas – are still reporting more than half their staff have not received at least one jab as required by public-health orders designed to safeguard elderly residents.

Roving vaccine clinics will visit nursing homes this week to offer jabs for staff.

Roving vaccine clinics will visit nursing homes this week to offer jabs for staff.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Unions and industry groups are looking to the federal government, which is confident few facilities will need help, to provide back-up workers if existing staff have to take leave or resign because they are unvaccinated when the public-health orders come into force.

But those orders give nursing home operators some leeway.

Read the full story here.

Victorian reopening road map to be released this Sunday

By Paul Sakkal

Victorians on Sunday will learn details of the state’s road map to reopening, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced.

The plan will be underpinned by modelling from the Burnet Institute, which is working with the state’s public-health team to determine which rules can safely be eased when vaccine targets are reached without rising a spike in cases that overruns hospitals.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Credit:Paul Jeffers

“I’ll have more to say about schools, more to say about social gatherings, more to say about the economy and all of its different sectors. All of that will be out there on Sunday,” Mr Andrews said.

“I’m not necessarily promising that everything will be open when people want it to be open.”

The government committed weeks ago to increasing the travel limit from five kilometres to 10 kilometres and the exercise time limit from two to three hours when the 70 per cent first dose target was hit.

This was forecast at the time to be reached on September 23, but rapid vaccine uptake means it may be reached by Friday.

Mr Andrews said the government had not decided whether the “modest” easings would start the same day the state reached 70 per cent, or if the changes would be delayed a day or two to coincide with the broader road map announcement.

“That may be Friday, or we may do the whole lot in one hit, but that may not be until Sunday at this stage,” he said.

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Indoor playground, regional petrol station among new Victorian exposure sites

By Paul Pennay and Cassandra Morgan

More than 40 exposure sites have been added to Victoria’s tally of COVID-19 exposure sites on Tuesday.

The indoor playground We Rock The Spectrum at Preston in Melbourne’s north was declared a tier-1 or close contact site on Tuesday, September 7 between 10am and 11.30am.

Anyone who attended the playground at that time will need to get tested and quarantine for 14 days regardless of the result.

A Bank of Melbourne branch at the Westfield Fountain Gate shopping centre in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Narre Warren was declared a tier-1 site between 8.50am and 3pm on Friday, September 10.

McClures Office Supplies in Fairfield in Melbourne’s north-east as declared a tier-1 site between 8.30am and 11am on Thursday, September 9 and Friday, September 10.

Three venues in Ballarat were also declared tier-1 sites: The Lake View Hotel at Lake Wendouree between 9.45am and 11.30am on Friday, September 10; The Forge Pizzeria between 2.50pm and 3.30pm on Saturday, September 11; and Big W on Friday, September 10 between 4.45pm and 5.30pm.

An office complex at Thomastown in Melbourne’s north was also declared a tier-1 site.

Tier-2 additions to the list included an apartment complex close to the Melbourne Showgrounds testing site in Ascot Vale over a five-day period to Sunday, September 12, a cafe in Carlton North and a childcare centre in Melbourne’s north.

Exposure sites outside Melbourne included a petrol station in Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula, two Coles supermarkets and the McDonald’s in Newcomb, in eastern Geelong.

People at those sites at the relevant time must get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until receiving a negative result, although authorities warned some people who attended some of the sites would be identified as tier-1 contacts.

All the exposures can be viewed here.

Nearly 60,000 aged 12 to 15 have received first vaccine doses

By Craig Butt

A total of 59,651 children aged between 12 and 15 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, newly released health department data shows.

This age bracket became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, and as it stands about 5 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have received their first jab.

But some children had received vaccine doses before Monday, given the data also shows that 5278 children nationwide aged between 12 and 15 are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Vulnerable children, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and those with underlying medical conditions, became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in August. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation subsequently approved the vaccine for all 12 to 15-year-olds, and in recent days has approved the Moderna vaccine for the same age group.

Regional Victoria hits 70 per cent first dose target

By Craig Butt

More than 70 per cent of those aged 16 and over in regional Victoria have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, new health department data shows.

As of Monday morning, 73.7 per cent of the eligible population of regional Victoria – almost 960,000 people – had received their first shot, up from 67.9 per cent this time last week.

In metropolitan Melbourne, 64.9 per cent of the eligible population had received one dose, up from 58.3 per cent the previous week.

You can see the first dose rate in your municipality using the maps below, and click here to read the full story.

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Porter declares legal fees paid from a blind trust

By Katina Curtis

Cabinet minister Christian Porter doesn’t know who ultimately paid part of his legal fees for his defamation action against the ABC and its reporter Louise Milligan.

The Industry Minister, who was the federal attorney-general when he launched the legal action, has made a declaration to Parliament that a part contribution to his fees was made by a blind trust known as the “Legal Services Trust”.

Industry Minister Christian Porter.

Industry Minister Christian Porter.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“As a potential beneficiary I have no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust,” an update to his register of member’s interests processed on Tuesday states.

The case was settled. ABC managing director David Anderson told an estimates hearing in June the broadcaster agreed to pay $100,000 to Mr Porter’s lawyer Rebekah Giles and half the mediation costs.

Mr Porter noted in his register of interests that “an amount was paid by the ABC to Company Giles” and that had now been “applied to my account”.

As well, he declared he had engaged barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC “on a commercial fee arrangement” but as was her usual practice for some clients, “she did not charge me for all of the time she spent on the matter”.

“Although all of the above contributions were made to me, or were for my benefit, in a purely personal capacity, in the interest of transparency and out of an abundance of caution I make this disclosure,” Mr Porter wrote.

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