Australia live news updates: NSW records 30 new Covid deaths, Victoria 20 and Tasmania one; WA border backflip attacked

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Australia live news updates: NSW records 30 new Covid deaths, Victoria 20 and Tasmania one; WA border backflip attacked
© Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP Twenty people have died with Covid in Victoria and 30 in NSW.

LIVE – Updated at 00:20

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00:20

Global Tech News Daily

Albanese has been asked by Tasmanian reporters if he thinks the Tasmanian government opened its borders too early. It follows the death of a second person with Covid-19 in Tasmania this morning.

He says he respects the right of state governments to make their own decisions on state borders.

Global Tech News Daily

I respect the decisions that state governments have done, and I think one of the things we need from the national government is to bring state governments together.

I would like to see more commonality in the response, but that has been something that has happened that the prime minister and the national cabinet has presided over with state governments essentially making their own decisions based upon their own advice.

I respect the decision, and I am not here to criticise the Tasmanian state government, I wish them well, there are facing major challenges ahead for the health system. I know that is the case, there are major challenges for the aged care system as well. That is causing major concern.

He then pivoted back to federal issues, saying a major concern is the rollout of vaccines in the five to 12 age group. About one in four kids in this age group have had their first shot, with school resuming in a week. It’s rapid uptake but not quite fast enough.

But Albanese did not directly answer when asked if he thinks the start date for primary schools should be pushed back until there is greater vaccination coverage, saying instead that the Australian government should have moved faster.

I think the federal government should have been anticipating the issues that have been warned about for a long time.

 

00:13

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has been campaigning (pre-campaigning?) in Tasmania today. He is at the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Launceston, and committed $15m to rebuilding their Launceston airport base.

That’s a commitment that will be included in our very first budget and it’s a commitment that will get done.

Usual caveats about polls apply, but you may be interested to know a Roy Morgan poll this week put Labor ahead nationally on 56-44. In Tasmania it put Labor at 60.5-39.5, a swing of 4.5%.

Second person with Covid-19 dies in Tasmania

00:01

A person has died with Covid-19 in Tasmania, the second death with Covid in the state since borders reopened in December.

Tasmania recorded 726 new cases in the past 24 hours, with 31 people in hospital and two in ICU.

 

21 Jan 2022 23:55

Jones said the Country Fire Service, and all volunteer fire agencies, were grieving the loss.

While no words can ease the raw pain we currently endure, [we appreciate] the love, respect and support of fellow emergency responders political leaders and all Australians. Help us remember the special place that country fire service holds in the public esteem.

I also hope that the tributes and outpours of love and respect to those hurt and killed yesterday help with the healing process as we recover from these terrible events. Please spare a thought for the families. Louise paid the ultimate price, that all emergency responders risk when they respond and put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. We have lost a dedicated volunteer. South Australia has lost a valuable community member and her family have lost a devoted wife and mother. Louise was a much loved member of CFS and will remain forever in our hearts.

SA premier Steven Marshall said firefighting was “inherently dangerous” and all firefighters faced up to those risks every time they donned the uniform.

I on behalf of all South Australians want to express my sincere condolences to her family and to her friends… she is a hero.

South Australian fire chief pays respect to firefighter killed in forestry plantation yesterday

21 Jan 2022 23:51

South Australian fire chief Mark Jones has been speaking in Adelaide about the death of a firefighter who was hit by a falling tree at the Coles fire yesterday.

Senior firefighter Louise Hinks, 44, had been a volunteer Country Fire Service volunteer since 1994.

Jones said:

Yesterday we received an awful reminder of just how dangerous firefighting can be. The Country Fire Service is often described as a family, yesterday morning we lost one of those family members…

Firefighters were struck by a falling tree whilst firefighting in a forestry plantation in Coles, near Lucindale in the south-east of our state. Senior firefighter Louise Hinks aged 44 was killed. And another experienced firefighter in his early 60s was seriously injured in the incident. Both are very experienced CFS firefighters.

Jones said Hinks was “a much loved volunteer of the Happy Valley brigade and held positions as brigade finance officer, and as a senior firefighter. She’s remembered by colleagues as a passionate volunteer who would do anything to help any of them”.

 

21 Jan 2022 23:37

Hunt rejected suggestions that the federal government did not plan well enough for demand for rapid antigen tests, despite saying it had been buying them since August when supply constraints peaked in December.

He said that testing had always been the responsibility of state and territory governments, with the federal government funding half of the PCR program.

And we provide direct tests to aged care and then the private market is supplying the community through pharmacies and that’s very much the case around the world.

I think it’s important to understand the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, other countries, this is a global challenge which is followed from the Omicron wave. Not only have we had the 66 test approved, not only were we in the market and providing that supply, but the commonwealth was a very strong supporter of the role of rapid antigen tests and understandably the medical community had emphasised the role of PCR which has kept Australia safe.

And I think this is a very important thing. That the strong emphasis on PCR testing, because it is more accurate, has meant we are able to maintain a tracing system which allowed during the Wuhan outbreak, during the new case strain or the alpha strain, the alpha variant, and through the Delta variant very strong contact tracing … but that was appropriate at that stage. And as we had moved to opening up and as we have Omicron we recognise and the medical community recognised there is a much broader role where it’s not a case of trying to trace every case for the rapid antigen tests.

So we are in the market early, we have been providing continuous supply and that has helped keep people safe. But equally we recognise that there has been a global spike in demand and states and territories and the Commonwealth and the private sector are all bringing additional testing to the country.

A few things on that. Firstly, the United Kingdom provides free rapid antigen or lateral flow tests through the NHS and the United States has promised to distribute 500m free rapid tests. In fact a number of countries are providing free RATs – you can read about some of them here.

Secondly, the preference for PCR tests as the most accurate test does not really explain why the federal government did not ensure adequate supply of rapid antigen tests in preparation for opening up.

 

21 Jan 2022 23:27

Hunt was also asked about the supply of rapid antigen tests. He says that the Australian government has provided more than 6.6m RAT tests since August.

He said they had provided 200,000 tests to Queensland today, and that the federal government was focusing on providing tests to aged care and Indigenous health providers. The unspoken bit is that tests in other sectors are a matter for the states or individuals, apart from some limited federal government support.

So we are doing our bit to support aged care and others. We, as I say, planned early, we made sure that these tests were approved and I think 66 tests [are] approved in Australia across point of care and self-tests. And we have been encouraging states and territories to place their own orders and now we know that there are more than 200 million orders that are in place.

I do have to say that one of the reasons that we have moved apart from aligning with the domestic circumstances for international arrivals is this is a global challenge. We know from the United Kingdom, the United States, significant articles outlining the challenges they faced both with their PCR and with their rapid antigen tests or lateral flow as they are called in the UK, and in other countries. So it’s a global challenge … in our case we were in the field early, in our case we were ordering early and we have been pleased to supply and support aged care, Indigenous care and also states to this point in time.

 

21 Jan 2022 23:22

Health minister Greg Hunt has been talking to reporters in Canberra. He was asked about the decision of the Western Australian government to vacate the 5 February border opening date.

He said WA’s border opening was “very much a matter for the WA government”, but then says several things which sound like criticising the WA government.

We understand many families will be disappointed, their ability to meet loved ones, their ability to see beautiful young babies or to be present for weddings. That’s all been deferred. It is a matter for Western Australia and so we recognise that that’s a decision for the one government.

 

21 Jan 2022 23:05

The Triple J Hottest 100 will kick off at 12pm today. I am very old, so the peak of the Hottest 100 for me was 1997-2004 and I do not know any of the songs.

But, for the youth or those who like to fein youthfulness, Shaad D’Souza has written a helpful primer. This year one of the favourites for the No 1 spot is the Wiggles covering Tame Impala’s Elephant.

Other favourites are Kamilaroi rapper the Kid Laroi with Justin Bieber, for Stay, and Olivia Rodrigo’s Good For You.

You can read Shaad’s whole piece here.

Related: From Justin Bieber to … the Wiggles? What to expect from Triple J’s Hottest 100

 

21 Jan 2022 22:31

Staying in Tonga, Pacific editor Kate Lyons has written a timeline of how the disaster unfolded.

Related: Diary of a disaster: the week that Tonga went silent

 

21 Jan 2022 22:23

Save the Children is setting up temporary classrooms in Tonga following the destruction of the volcanic erruption.

From AAP:

Save the Children will provide school bags, hygiene kits and cash assistance to affected families as it’s anticipated the scheduled start to the school year will be pushed back while the full extent of the damage is being assessed.

The CEO of Save the Children Fiji said the organisation is incredibility concerned for the mental wellbeing of children in the Pacific nation, with the natural disaster causing alot of distress and anxiety.

“There is absolutely a need for psychosocial support and counselling for children,” Shairana Ali said.

“We still don’t have a lot of information about how families have fared on those low-lying islands, so we are very concerned for the safety and the wellbeing of children.”

Power has been restored to 90 per cent of the country and some international phone calls are now available but communication networks largely remain affected after a major underwater cable was damaged.

Telstra is waiving charges for calls and texts from home phones, post-paid services and mobiles for customers reaching out to family who have been impacted by recent events from Saturday.

Twenty people have died with Covid in Victoria

21 Jan 2022 22:07

Twenty people have died with Covid in Victoria in the past 24 hours and 1,029 are in hospital, with 120 people in ICU and 39 on ventilators.

Victoria recorded 16,016 new cases, 7,584 of which were self-reported rapid test results.

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAcOZP#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/fxA9MqlB90

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) January 21, 2022

Thirty people have died with Covid in NSW

21 Jan 2022 22:05

Thirty people have died with Covid in New South Wales in the past 24 hours, and 2,762 people are in hospital – that’s up slightly from yesterday.

There were 20,148 new cases recorded, 8,566 of which were from rapid antigen tests.

NSW COVID-19 update – Saturday 22 January 2022

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

– 95.3% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

– 93.9% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/q9RtpKePe2

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 21, 2022

 

21 Jan 2022 21:59

In good news for those who already own property and bad news for those who are trying to afford their first home, the Australian real estate market has just reported the highest returns for property sales in a decade.

From AAP:

The rate of profit-making resales across Australia rose to 92.4 per cent in the September quarter, up 50 basis points from the previous three months and the highest returns in a decade.

CoreLogic head of research Eliza Owen says considering the period was marked by lockdowns across Sydney, Melbourne and the ACT it was a remarkable result.

It was also the fifth consecutive quarter of increases.

Total transactions amounted to 99,000, down from 106,000 resale events in the June quarter, something blamed on distancing restrictions limiting physical inspections.

The national median nominal gain was $270,000 with total resale profits at $27.3 billion. Median losses were $37,000 or $368 million in total.

Owen says CoreLogic’s Pain and Gain report showed both the combined value of profit and loss fell through the quarter but the decline in total losses was more rapid.

“Resales had a typical hold period of 8.8 years, which was consistent on the previous quarter,” she said.

“However as the market finds a peak over the next couple of years, this may incentivise more resales and we may see the average hold period shift higher as more owners look to cash in their long-term gains.”

Properties held for more than 30 years had the highest median gain of just over $745,000.

Yet the highest nominal gains per year were achieved at the other end of the spectrum on properties held for two years or less, with the median figure $120,000.

Regional Australia had a higher rate of resale profit, at 93.1 per cent in the quarter but the combined capitals also had a fairly high rate at 91.1 per cent.

The regions have seen a more rapid increase in the rate of profit-making sales, with expectations that the trend is likely to continue.

The highest portion of these was in Bendigo (99.8 per cent) followed by Hume (99.5 per cent) and the Sunshine Coast and Ballarat (99.3 per cent).

With dwelling values showing further increases nationally through the December quarter, profitable sales are likely to keep on rising.

However it can’t last forever.

“There are accumulating headwinds for property market performance in the coming months, in the form of higher supply of advertised stock, normalising interest rates, affordability constraints and the possibility of tighter lending restrictions,” Owen said.

“A downswing in Australian housing market values would ultimately impact the profitability of resales, particularly for recent purchasers.”

Victoria calls on retired teachers to help backfill Covid-19 leave at schools

21 Jan 2022 21:35

The Victorian government is calling on retired teachers to join a pool of casual relief teachers to backfill vacancies left by teachers catching Omicron.

Schools in Victoria are scheduled to return next week. On Saturday, the education minister, James Merlino called on inactive teachers, retired teachers, education support staff, retired principals and people with education administrative experience to join a “job opportunity pool”.

Those staff will be deployed to schools on a fixed-term basis to fill any short-term gaps caused by people contracting cCvid-19 and needing to isolate, he said.

Everyone in the pool must have a valid working with children check or Victorian Institute of Teaching registration, and must all be fully vaccinated.

Merlino said:

Every sector is under pressure from the Omicron variant, and education will be no exception – but we’re taking action early to make sure staff absences don’t mean huge disruptions for students’ learning.

If you’re a retired or inactive teacher, school support staff member, allied health professional or administration worker – we want you to support our schools in 2022, so please get online and apply now.

 

21 Jan 2022 21:24

Tens of thousands of Australians will have had long Covid by the end of 2022, Guardian Australia health editor Melissa Davey has reported.

She spoke to health economist Prof Martin Hensher, who said:

I think we can be very confident that we will see many tens of thousands of people who will have long Covid, and possibly over 10,000 people who will still have long Covid by the end of the year.

He said that Australia urgently needs to roll out a regular national survey to ask people about their experience with Covid, including their ongoing symptoms.

We are flying blind about the actual scale of long Covid in this country.

Most people with Covid-19 recover within four weeks, but 5% of those infected still have symptoms three months later. The WHO describes long covid as symptoms which last at least two months past infection and which cannot be explained by any other diagnosis.

Common symptoms of long Covid include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and “others which generally have an impact on everyday functioning”.

You can read Melissa’s full article here:

Related: ‘Flying blind’: Australia faces 10,000 long Covid cases by the end of the year

 

21 Jan 2022 21:14

Good morning,

Australia is scrapping the requirement for international arrivals to show a negative PCR test and will accept a rapid antigen result instead.

Current regulations require overseas travellers to return a negative PCR test taken up to three days before their flight, but from 1am on Sunday arrivals can instead provide a negative RAT from within 24 hours of boarding.

The time a person is banned from entering the country after testing positive to Covid-19 has also been cut in half, from 14 days to seven, bringing it in line with domestic isolation requirements. But quarantine requirements upon entry remain subject to state and territory restrictions.

On Thursday Western Australia announced that its border would stay closed after the premier, Mark McGowan, went back on his promise to reopen the border on 5 February.

More than 20,000 people were scheduled to fly to Perth on Qantas and Jetstar flights alone in the first week the West Australian borders were set to reopen. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the situation was “deeply concerning”.

[West Australians] would be asking, ‘If not now, when?’” treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Seven Network on Friday, while the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, and the Business Council of Australia also criticised the delay.

Friday was Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 88 virus-related fatalities reported across the country.

More than half of the deaths announced on Friday were recorded in NSW, which had 46 fatalities, a one-day record in the state.

Yesterday Queensland reduced its booster interval from four to three months, following NSW, Victoria, ACT and South Australia, while health experts warned that delaying elective surgeries in Victoria will see blown-out waiting lists spiral into a “massive healthcare crisis”.

Today the ABC will also be broadcasting Triple J’s Hottest 100. Who will win? Justin Bieber and Kid Laroi? Olivia Rodrigo? Billie Eilish? The Wiggles’ cover of Tame Impala’s Elephant?

We’ll bring you all the news throughout the day. If you see something, you can contact me at @callapilla on Twitter or via email at calla.wahlquist@theguardian.com

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