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Australian News

PM signals tough new COVID-19 vaccine rules for international travellers to Australia


International travellers who fly to Australia without proof of a COVID-19 vaccination will be required to quarantine at their own expense.

That’s if they can get on a flight, after Qantas signalled anti-vaxxers will be banned from flying on their aircraft fleets.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled the tough new rules on Melbourne’s Kiss FM radio on Wednesday.

“We’re obviously working through those issues now, but look, where people have the choice of two weeks of quarantine or being vaccinated, I think that will be an incentive, unless there’s a genuine medical reason why,” Mr Morrison said.

The cost of quarantine can run to several thousand dollars for the fortnight in a hotel, depending on what city you quarantine in.

“We’ve got a lot of those issues to work through and so do all the other countries,” Mr Morrison said.

RELATED: Australians could be travelling overseas by 2021

RELATED: Why Alan Joyce’s ‘no COVID vaccine, no fly’ rule won’t work

RELATED: Are these vaccines safe and will they be available in Australia?

Health Minister Greg Hunt has also hinted at the vaccination passport plan but stressed the policy was still under discussion.

“So there’s been no final decision, but we’ve been clear, and I’ve given guidance previously that we would expect that people coming to Australia while COVID-19 is a significant disease in the world will either be vaccinated or they will isolate. That’s early guidance,’’ he said.

“The likely course of events during 2021 is if somebody comes to Australia and a vaccine is widely available, either they’ll be vaccinated with verification or they’ll have to quarantine.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has signalled that proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be a non-negotiable condition of international air travel.

On Monday night, he told A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw that as soon as a vaccine becomes available it will be a condition of travel.

“For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,’’ he said.

“Certainly, for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that’s a necessity.”

If anti-vaxxers want to try alternative airlines, Mr Joyce predicted they won’t be travelling far.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,’’ he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously suggested vaccination will be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it” before walking those comments back in recent months.

“There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he said in August.

But just hours later, Mr Morrison told listeners on Sydney radio station 2GB that the Government would not make vaccination mandatory.

“It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine,” he said.

“I mean, we can’t hold someone down and make them take it.”



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Australian News

When the COVID-19 vaccine will be ready for Australians


As scientists across the world race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, many Australians are eagerly waiting for the groundbreaking jab to become available commercially.

The process has raised many questions not only about the timeframe but also where it will be available and who will get it first.

Here are some of the most common questions answered.

WHAT POTENTIAL VACCINE OPTIONS HAS AUSTRALIA SECURED?

There are several potential vaccine options being produced right now that could serve the Australian community.

The federal government has secured 134.8 million doses through agreements with The University of Queensland, AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Novavax and Pfizer.

Oxford University’s vaccine is in the most progressed stages, and if successful, 3.8 million doses will be delivered to Australia early next year, while another 30 million doses will be manufactured by CSL in Melbourne in monthly batches.

“I have this evening been briefed by the Australian CEO who has confirmed that AstraZeneca is now looking to proceed with Australia regulatory approval in the coming weeks, if not sooner,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“Subject to approval, this means that Australians are very much on track for the first vaccines in March.”

In September, Novavax launched phase 3 its clinical trials in the UK, with large-scale trials planned for other countries later this year.

If successful, 40 million doses of the Novavax will be made available in Australia next year, and the federal government has the option to buy another 10 million.

Another option is the Pfizer vaccine, but before that is approved for use in Australia it must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) rigorous assessment and approval processes.

If it does, 10 million doses will be available to Australians from early 2021. Those doses will be produced internationally, and the government has the option to buy more.

Back on home soil, scientists at the University of Queensland are working around the clock to make their potential COVID-19 vaccine a reality.

If successful, 51 million doses will be available from mid-2021 and manufactured in Australia by CSL.

Mr Hunt said it was likely different vaccines would be used in different circumstances, but what those “circumstances are” still remains unknown.

WHO WILL GET IT FIRST?

Earlier this month the federal government revealed who would take priority on the basis of advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

Three priority groups were identified including “those who have an increased risk, relative to others, of developing severe disease or outcomes from COVID‑19, and those working in services critical to societal functioning”.

On Tuesday Mr Hunt said the nation’s vaccination timeline was “beginning to strengthen”.

“The news from overseas is that we are on track for first vaccines in March. That will obviously start with the health workers and, if approvals are granted, for the elderly,” he said.

“It is common sense in Australia but also around the world (that) health workers and the elderly (were identified) as our priority.”

IF WE GET JABBED CAN WE GO OVERSEAS?

The Department of Health did not comment on this query specifically but was adamant that the vaccine was not mandatory.

“While the government fully supports immunisation, it is not mandatory and individuals maintain the option to choose not to vaccinate,” the health department said.

On Tuesday Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed passengers would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they could travel internationally with the airline.

He also told A Current Affair he was not ruling out extending that to domestic flights.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions, to say for international, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before getting on the aircraft,” Mr Joyce said.

“We think for international visitors coming out, and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.”

WHERE WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO GET THE VACCINE?

Australians will be able to get vaccinated at GPs, hospitals, respiratory clinics and state and territory vaccinations clinics.

It will not be available at your local pharmacy “due to the targeting of priority populations, cold chain storage requirements and the use of multi dose vials”, the health department said.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO GET JABBED?

The vaccine is free and will be accessible to every Australian.

The federal government has purchased more vaccines than what is needed for the entire population.

Mr Hunt said the expectation was that all Australians would be given access to a free vaccine on a voluntary basis during the course of 2021.

HOW LONG BETWEEN JABS?
All vaccine candidates require two doses, administered about one month apart.



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Australian News

Sydney councils scrap Australia Day plans due to COVID-19


Multiple Sydney councils have been accused of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to scrap Australia Day events.

NSW has recorded 16 days in a row of no locally transmitted coronavirus cases but some councils have already said Australia Day plans won’t be going ahead due to the risk of spreading the virus.

Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and The Hills are some of the Sydney councils that have cancelled some of their upcoming events for January 26 due to COVID-19.

This is despite the National Australia Day Council offering grants of up to $20,000 to help councils increase COVID safety measures so events can go ahead.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

RELATED: When Aussies can go overseas again

The Inner West and North Sydney councils also won’t be going ahead with some of their Australia Day events.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly has lashed out at these councils, claiming they were using COVID-19 as an excuse not to hold Australia Day events.

“This just complete nonsense. We know there are so many bureaucrats around the place that just love to cancel things and ban things,” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

“We also know there are many people that actually don’t want Australia Day and are looking for an excuse to cancel it.”

Mr Kelly said NSW’s success in suppressing the virus meant there was not excuse for councils not to be holding these outdoor events.

“We’ve got to get on with life. We just can’t continue to suspend all these things. If we had coronavirus infections like they do in America maybe there would be some argument there,” he said.

“But we have had zero infections in NSW in the last 15 days and we know from past evidence that the coronavirus is a seasonal virus, infections are very low in summertime anyway.

“These are outdoor events, there is no excuse to ban them. These local councils need to be called out. It is just nonsense and petty, foggy bureaucracy.”

RELATED: The real significance of Australia Day

Cumberland City mayor Steve Christou echoed these thoughts, labelling the decisions being made by some councils as “un-Australian”.

“I think the decision taken by some councils to cancel their Australia Day events is completely unacceptable and frankly un-Australian, particularly if the events can be hosted in a COVID-safe manner,” The Sydney Morning Heraldreported him as saying.

The publication revealed the usual pool parties and concert held by City of Canterbury Bankstown to celebrate Australia Day wouldn’t go ahead this year due to not being “essential”.

A council spokeswoman told the outlet the Australia Day Awards and citizenship event would still go ahead but would be a “scaled back seated event with tight COVID controls and no catering”.

Liverpool City Council’s outdoor Australia Day 2021 event won’t be going ahead but there was the possibility of a virtual celebration being held.

The Sydney Morning Herald also reported the Hills Shire Council had cancelled its Australia Day concert but an awards and citizenship ceremony would still be held.

News.com.au has contacted Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and The Hills councils for comment.

North Sydney’s BBQ by the Bridge Australia Day event also won’t be taking place, but this is reportedly due to major Harbour Bridge works where the event is held.

This will be the second year in a row the Inner West Council won’t hold an Australia Day event on January 26 after the council voted in 2019 to scrap the celebration.

Residents were instead encouraged to attend the Aboriginal Yabun festival held that day.

“Attitudes towards 26 January are changing in the community,” Mayor Darcy Byrne said at the time.

“For Aboriginal people, the date represents the beginning of colonisation, dispossession, the removal of children and deliberate destruction of language and culture.

“A growing number of Australians want that to be respectfully acknowledged.”



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Tokyo Olympics can save lives, become a symbol of resilience after COVID-19, says IOC chief Thomas Bach


Officials in Victoria cannot reach agreement to let around 1,000 players, officials and support staff into the state for a January Australian Open start.

But, a world away, the G20 Leaders’ Summit closed with a message of support for the Tokyo Olympic Games, where it’s expected tens of thousands of people will gather next July.

The final declaration of the G20 Summit named the host cities of the next two Olympics as symbols of the world’s resilience in fighting the pandemic.

“As a symbol of humanity’s resilience and global unity in overcoming COVID-19, we commend Japan’s determination to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 next year,” the G20 Leaders joint statement read.

“We look forward to the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022,” it added.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach addressed the summit, invited by Saudi officials who are believed to be strengthening ties with the IOC ahead of a possible Olympic bid.

Bach said in his address that the Olympics “save lives”.

“During this coronavirus crisis, we all have seen how important sport is for physical and mental health,” he said.

“The World Health Organization has acknowledged this by signing a cooperation agreement with the IOC.

“Following this agreement, the UN, the WHO and the IOC launched a co-branded campaign called ‘Healthy Together’, rolling out projects internationally.”

Bach also said the IOC would play a role in a global pro-vaccination campaign.

“We have learned one important lesson from this crisis: we need more solidarity, more solidarity within societies and more solidarity among societies,” he said.

“These Olympic Games, with the participation of all 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, will send a strong message of solidarity, resilience and unity of humankind in all our diversity.”

A ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or ‘a gamble’?

A view across a harbour in Tokyo, past blossom trees, with the Olympic rings in the distance.
The Tokyo Olympics were delayed by 12 months.(Reuters/USA TODAY Sports: Yukihito Taguchi)

During last week’s visit to Tokyo to inspect facilities and review the current contingency plans, Bach described the Games as a “light at the end of the tunnel”.

But the Japan Times newspaper has described the determination to push ahead with the Games amid so much uncertainty around the pandemic and access to a vaccine as “a gamble”.

Kenneth McElwain, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Sciences, told the paper that weighing the benefits of hosting the Games against the cost of cancelling them was a difficult prospect.



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Business

Consumer splurge on used cars gives Carsales a COVID-19 boost


The average price for a used Toyota Landcruiser on the site last month was $62,500, up 25 per cent on October 2019 and the biggest rise of all SUVs/utes. This was followed by the Toyota Hilux, up 23.2 per cent to $33,000. The overall median price of used cars listed was up 19.4 per cent to $23,888.

Prices for top-selling passenger cars have also risen. The three most searched for passenger cars on the site in October were the Mazda 3, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla. The median price of these vehicles was up 14.6 per cent year, 12 per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively, year-on-year.

It’s truly unprecedented, what’s happening with used car prices at the moment in Australia.

Ajay Bhatia, Carsales Australia managing director

What makes the price jumps more notable is that earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic first hit Australia, the prices of used vehicles on the site crashed for two months, before rebounding.

ASX-listed Carsales, valued at $5.1 billion, saw its stock price hit a 2020 low of $10.47 on March 23, the same day the S&P/ASX200 hit its COVID low. However, the stock has since recovered over 97 per cent to close last week at $20.69, while the broader market is up 43.8 per cent.

The broader auto industry was also hit hard by the pandemic, with new car sales across Australia down 48.5 per cent in April, the biggest decline recorded in almost 30 years of tracking the numbers. The slump suggested that Australians spent at least $1 billion less on new cars in April this year than in the same month last year.

The price of some popular used vehicles like the Ford Ranger has surged more than 20 per cent since the coronavirus emerged.

The price of some popular used vehicles like the Ford Ranger has surged more than 20 per cent since the coronavirus emerged.

Mr Bhatia said that in addition to an aversion to public transport because of fears of the virus, changes to superannuation rules enabling people to access their super had also helped lift prices.

Industry experts have noticed something else unusual about used car prices, with some vehicles less than a year old now selling second-hand at a higher price than what the buyer paid initially at the showroom.

“If you bought a car in the last 6-12 months then there’s a good likelihood that it’s worth more than what you bought it for. And I never thought I’d say that for cars, because cars are known as depreciating assets,” he said.

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Mr Bhatia expects demand to stay high for used cars, but said supply issues would improve and eventually put downward pressure on prices.

Supply constraints vary depending on where new cars are being made, but some key factories have operated at reduced capacity this year, while others closed because of COVID, forcing some Australian buyers to wait months for new, imported vehicles.

Carsales has recently launched a new interactive tool, known as FACTS+, to enable customers to get comprehensive information on cars such as recall and odometer history, latest reviews and information on searches and saved views by other buyers.

Mr Bhatia said FACTS+ would help consumers determine whether they’re paying a fair price. “It gives you the insights into what is happening in the market right now.”

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Teenager Charli Knott finishes year 12 exams from Women’s Big Bash League COVID-19 bubble


The final month of year 12 can be the most challenging yet rewarding time of a student’s schooling life but for Charli Knott, it was spent in a COVID-19 bubble playing professional cricket.

The Brisbane Heat all-rounder packed her bags on October 22, travelling south to Sydney for 47 days in the Women’s Big Bash League’s makeshift village.

The competition’s eight teams, with hundreds of players and staff, moved into the hub to ensure this year’s season went ahead, as the world battled a pandemic.

Days after the 17-year-old Brisbane State High School student arrived in the bubble she started her ATAR exam block.

Cricket player Charli Knott receives her cap on debut for the Brisbane Heat.
Charli Knott gets her cap for her debut for the Brisbane Heat on November 11.(Supplied)

“I had to travel to a school in Sydney called Cedar College and basically I just went into that school and sat all my exams just at that campus in a room with an adjudicator — it was all pretty well organised,” Knott said.

“All my spare time I was in my room studying, but having the opportunity to go and train was good to get my mind off study.

“Then similarly being able to study took my mind off cricket, but it was very hectic the first two weeks trying to fit all my study in.”

Missed some big milestones

Knott has missed her school formal, her graduation, and will not be able to celebrate her 18th birthday next Sunday at home with friends and family, including her identical twin sister Hannah.

“We’ve been together for a long time — we’ve been separated for shorter periods, but this is obviously a lot longer, so it’s a bit sad,” Hannah said.

“I was Facetiming her getting ready — I couldn’t talk to her at formal but it was still nice to have her there while getting ready.”

Charli Knott takes a selfie with her twin sister Hannah.
Charli Knott with her twin sister Hannah.(Supplied)

Knott said while it was sad she had not been able to celebrate those special milestones at home in Brisbane, there was no place she would rather be than playing cricket.

“I turn 18 the finals weekend actually on the 29th of November, the grand final’s on the 28th. Hopefully we make it that far,” she said.

Charli Knott and her twin sister Hannah as children
Twin sisters Charli and Hannah Knott.(Supplied)

From a family household to chaotic bubble

Knott isn’t the Heat’s only school student.

Georgia Voll, who is in year 11 at Brisbane State High School, is the youngest member of the team.

Voll and Knott are among 12 students who are living in the WBBL bubble and the group had been getting together for study sessions.

Brisbane Heat coach Ash Noffke said the side’s experienced players had taken the teenagers under their wing.

“We’ve got a female physio who’s come on for this trip — obviously we’ve got our sport psychologist and welfare officers back at home that are constantly touching base with them.

“We want the girls to be happy and relaxed — we probably don’t demand as much of them when we’re in this bubble — we try to spend some time together but spend some time apart as well.”

Charli Knott celebrates her Year 12 formal while away in Sydney.
Charli Knott had a makeshift formal inside the hub of the WBBL’s makeshift village.(Instagram)



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Business

Insurers brace for billions of dollars in COVID-19 business claims


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Public facing businesses forced to close due to lockdown restrictions, including restaurants, bars and gyms, are among those likely to have business interruption policies. A survey released in August by technology company Fivverr found one in five small businesses have lost more than $100,000 because of the pandemic.

Large businesses could also be affected, with ASX-listed entertainment group Star suing insurer Chubb over rejecting its business interruption claim. The next hearing of that case is scheduled for April next year, with Star arguing it should be covered as the abrupt change in trading conditions was out of its control.

However, the test case ruling is only relevant to policies that reference an outdated Act of Parliament. The mistake is common in policies sold by the major insurers but JP Morgan’s senior insurance analyst Siddharth Parameswaran said the exact number of policies affected had not been reported.

“They clearly didn’t intend to cover business interruption. They never charged a premium for it,” Mr Parameswaran said. “It’s the ones where they had the wordings wrong… that’s where the risks are.”

QBE said it expects each claim will be no larger than $5 million and the total payments should not exceed the group’s reinsurance cover of $500 million. Suncorp on Monday increased its provision for business interruption claims by $125 million to $195 million in the event of an unfavourable court ruling, but this provision was dependent on there not being a third wave or further lockdowns.

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Morgan Stanley told clients IAG’s strong capital position would be maintained “even if it were to incur an unlikely $2 billion of gross claims”. Few claims were lodged before the test case, “but more seem likely now”, it said.

Macquarie said it did not expect capital raises to be necessary and estimated the total exposure would be around $225 million for IAG and $250 million for Suncorp. It said between 35 to 40 per cent of business insurance packages would include a business interruption add-on and estimated total market losses of $1.25 billion.

The test case was brought by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) to extinguish doubt that pandemic exclusions were valid after the Australian Financial Complaints Authority received a handful of complaints about denied claims.

“Obviously the insurance industry didn’t expect to lose it. Now, it looks like there certainly will be some claims that they may not have been expecting that they’ll have to pay out on,” Mr Parameswaran said.

Maurice Blackburn insurance lawyer Josh Mennen said the court’s ruling was “totally unsurprising”.

“As a consumer lawyer, we see insurers rely on the plain black letter wording of their own policies to deny claims all the time,” he said. “Insurers have an obligation to ensure that their products are up to date with the existing legislation. If they fail to do that and it’s to their own disadvantage, that’s too bad. They’re stuck with the consequences of their error.”

The ICA said it would consider an appeal as well as a second test case to “explore outstanding policy matters” including proximity and prevention of access. “The Insurance Council will continue to work with all stakeholders and government to provide clarity for all parties and the industry.”

Mr Mennen called on policyholders to make a claim as soon as possible. “If it turns out that insurers ultimately are liable, the claimants who have made claims may well be entitled to interest and consequential losses for the delay.”

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Victoria records 0 COVID-19 cases for 20th consecutive day, SA lockdown begins


In measures tougher than those imposed during Victoria’s second coronavirus lockdown, South Australians are now restricted from leaving their homes and banned from all outdoor exercise until next Tuesday. Only one person per household is allowed to undertake essential activities such as shopping each day.

South Australia’s outbreak – seeded, like Victoria’s second wave, at a quarantine hotel – grew by two cases to a total of 22 on Wednesday, with seven suspected cases awaiting test results and more than 4000 close contacts in quarantine or self-isolation.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government supported the severe lockdown in South Australia, but disputed the assertion that support was in contrast to the rhetoric towards the Victorian government during that state’s second-wave lockdown.

“With great respect, that’s an incorrect representation,” he said to ABC Radio Adelaide host David Bevan.

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Mr Hunt took aim at the length of the second Victorian lockdown, and the disputed point that Victoria refused Australian Defence Force assistance.

“We wanted Victoria to go hard and go early and we did the absolute best to get the Australian Defence Force in, not just at the start in March but again in June and July,” he said.

“When the Victorian response had gone on for 100 days of lockdown, not six days, we were deeply concerned about mental health.”

South Australian authorities said the unprecedented lockdown measures were designed to be a “circuit-breaker” to halt any major spread of the virus.

But Dr Thompson said he believed six days may not be long enough to be effective, as COVID-19 could take as long as 14 days to incubate in a person’s body.

“I think it’s slightly on the short side to be perfectly honest,” he said.

People queuing at Woolworths at West Torrens in Adelaide on Wednesday.

People queuing at Woolworths at West Torrens in Adelaide on Wednesday.Credit:Getty

“If you’re only aiming for one incubation period, you’re losing your margin for error.”

Dr Thompson said while it was encouraging that South Australia was taking lessons from how Victoria’s deadly second wave unfolded, he questioned the need for the entire state to be locked down as all cases had so far been isolated to metropolitan Adelaide.

“I would probably suggest they’re being extremely harsh by doing that,” he said.

Despite South Australia’s extraordinary restrictions, residents are still able to fly interstate to Victoria.

Two flights from Adelaide and Mt Gambier are due to arrive in Melbourne on Thursday, with all passengers to be health screened.

Those from metropolitan Adelaide will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test and isolate until their results are returned, while regional South Australians are free to enter the state without a test if they have no symptoms.

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Truck drivers entering Victoria from South Australia on the Western Highway are being tested at Nhill, 60 kilometres east of the border.

Drivers will be able to continue their journey after their fast-tracked results are sent to them, according to Victoria’s health department.

There is no mandatory health screening for any other residents driving across the land border into Victoria, but the Victorian government has urged South Australians to cancel all non-essential travel.

“Most of the traffic across the border is border communities … [so] we put resources where there is the greatest risk,” deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said on Wednesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said truck drivers who refused a test would be turned around, and anyone refusing a test arriving by air would be required to quarantine for 14 days.

“There is no reason to refuse a test,” he said.

Presuming Victoria’s run of zero cases continues, Mr Andrews will announce a further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday. Victorians are expected to be allowed to have 10 people in their homes, up to 50 people may be allowed to gather in public and hospitality venues could be able to host 100 customers indoors and 200 outdoors.

Mr Andrews has also flagged that Victorians may no longer have to wear face masks outdoors where people are socially distanced from others.

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How long are Adelaide’s COVID-19 testing queues?


It appears the South Australian government’s message has hit home for Adelaide residents who have turned out in droves at the state’s COVID-19 testing clinics, triggering queues in excess of 10 hours.

There are now 20 cases linked to the latest outbreak, and more than a dozen “high risk” (close contacts or showing symptoms) residents are likely to return positive results.

But SA chief health officer Nicola Spurrier said it was too early to tell how widespread the virus was in the community.

Many residents arrived at the city’s Parafield testing site before sunrise to secure a spot in the queue ahead of a huge day of testing.

Some have come armed with deck chairs and umbrellas, and they’re being urged to bring water and snacks ahead of a long day in the queue.

Nurse Sarah Crocker, who is swabbing patients across several Adelaide clinics, is urging residents to arrive at least an hour-and-a-half before testing sites are due to open.

She said some wait times had stretched beyond 10 hours but on average were hovering between the six and eight-hour mark.

“Come prepared. Bring cold water, sunscreen, a hat, umbrella for shade, chairs, snacks and some form of entertainment,” Ms Crocker said for people heading to walk-in clinics.

“Clinics are staying open later than usual, but my advice would be to turn up at least one-and-a-half hours before it is due to open.

“The busiest time is all day.”

Lights have just been set up at the Victoria Park testing site so nurses can continue to take swabs well after sunset.

Thousands of South Australians have been forced into quarantine after being deemed close contacts of a confirmed case, with Premier Steven Marshall saying the state is only at the beginning of dealing with a “particularly nasty” Parafield cluster.

“We can and we must rise to the challenge – and that is exactly and precisely what South Australia has done,” he said.

At least 3000 people were tested on Monday, but that figure grew to more than 4500 on Tuesday.

Wait times in the Parafield area have stretched beyond 10 hours, while the drive-through clinic at Victoria Park has been inundated with residents wanting to get tested.

Contact tracers from Western Australia have been called in to help control the outbreak.

SA Health has also urged people to be patient with staff and be prepared for delays.

“Bring water and snacks with you,” the health department said in a Facebook post.

Queue jumpers have also been warned to not push in, with SA Police urging community members to do the right thing.

“Go to the back and wait just like the other members of our community,” authorities said.

Traffic disruptions around testing clinics are also widespread, and motorists are reminded to not queue across intersections.

“Please be patient, ensure that you leave enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you and remember to drive slowly through the testing clinics,” SA Police said.

“If you are lining up in person please exercise caution, remembering to social distance, wear a mask if possible and be mindful of the sun.”



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State of Origin decider: Game III will be Australia’s largest sporting event since COVID-19 began


The stakes are always high in a State of Origin decider.

But after a COVID-safe NRL season extended into October and an unprecedented back-to-back Origin series in Spring, tonight’s game will be rugby league’s big finale.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has also upped the ante, increasing the crowd capacity at Lang Park to 100 per cent for Game III.

To put that in perspective, the 52,000-strong crowd tonight will be the largest sporting event in the country since the pandemic.

Game II at Sydney’s Olympic Park was played in front of 36,212, just shy of the NRL Grand Final a month prior, with 37,303 fans.

Queensland’s AFL grand final at the Gabba also had fewer than 30,000 people attending.

Those who attend the game will be closely monitored by the Queensland Government.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath yesterday revealed the ticketing company was tracing five people from Adelaide to make sure they don’t attend tonight’s match.

Fines remain in place for anyone who breaches Queensland’s quarantine rules, with Adelaide recently declared a COVID hotspot.

‘An amazing experience’

Both State of Origin sides held their final training sessions in their respective states yesterday.

NSW coach Brad Fittler conceded the Queensland game will be history making, regardless of the result, purely due to crowd numbers.

“That in itself will be an amazing experience, these blokes, a lot of them played in front of small crowds the whole season,” Fittler said.

The occasion is not lost on his Queensland counterpart Wayne Bennett, who knows the crowd will be in Queensland’s corner.

“No New South Wales people can travel up, virtually, and the players noticed it last week in Sydney — they couldn’t believe the atmosphere in Sydney with regards to the Blues because they heard nothing about themselves there,” he said.

“It’ll be [in] reverse, and it’ll all be Maroon.”

Home advantage

Pre-COVID history shows it’s a major advantage playing Origin at home.

Since 2000, the Maroons have an impressive record, winning 20 to 7 playing in Queensland.

A pub with a sign that says the caxton hotel
The Caxton Hotel in Brisbane the day before State of Origin 3 at Lang Park.(ABC News: Brittney Kleyn)

The NSW Blues have not claimed a decider at Lang Park since 2005.

Fittler said while history has been a big discussion in camp, statistics mean nothing in State of Origin.

It’ll be particularly memorable for 2,000 people in the crowd: front-line health care workers were gifted tickets from the NRL, for their service during the pandemic.

Atmosphere will almost feel like ‘before COVID’

A rite of passage for many Queensland faithful is a trip to the Caxton Hotel, which neighbours the stadium, in the lead up to kick off.

The hotel’s Katie Button said with social distancing still in place, despite restrictions easing, they’ll still be limited to 70 per cent capacity.

“We’ll still have the 1.5 metres within the venue then you’ve got to scan in through the QR code.”

Restrictions still apply to players too, in their respective COVID-safe bubbles, requiring NSW to travel in and out of Queensland on game day.

Queensland has not won a State of Origin series since 2017.

NSW took out last year’s shield after levelling the series in Game II then proceeding to win the decider.

The game kicks off at Lang Park at 7:10pm AEST.



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