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Local News - Victoria

Victoria records 21 new cases of COVID-19 seven deaths


“It is a combination of indoors which is 20 times more dangerous than outdoors. And the length of time you spend.

“There are brief encounters indoors, as you get your takeaway coffee, it is much less of a risk. But if you are indoors for a protracted period of time that is exactly when transmission occurs. People need to be aware of that.”

Since Monday, Victorians living alone have been allowed to visit a ‘bubble buddy’. Regional Victorians can now host up to five visitors from one nominated household.

A cluster of 34 in the city of Casey, thought to be spread by people visiting each other at home, is now under control, Professor Sutton said. He apologised on Saturday after he linked that spread to some members of the Afghan community.

“Members of the community might have felt singled out by statements I made recently. That was absolutely not my intention. So, sorry. It is a country I love and respect. I apologise.”

Premier Daniel Andrews says the low numbers showed the government’s strategy was working – not that Victorians could afford to relax it.

“Those numbers tell a powerful story of what can be achieved when you stay the course,” Mr Andrews said.

“Logic, commonsense, international our own experience shows us that you can’t hope to keep numbers low until you first get them low. That is just an undeniable fact,” he said.

To trigger an easing of lockdown restrictions on September 28, the new cases must average between 30 and 50 over 14 days.

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Thirteen of the new cases are connected to known outbreaks, eight are ‘mystery cases’ from an unknown source.

The last time Victoria recorded a lower number of new daily infections was on June 24, when the state recorded just 20 infections.

That was the beginning of Victoria’s second wave; just a week later, the state would record 75 infections.

Another 11,900 tests were done on Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“To everyone who has got tested, thank you so much. And anyone who has got symptoms, the only thing to do, don’t wait until Monday, don’t wait a moment, go and get tested,” the Premier said.

“There are more than 200 sites, it is a very quick turnaround, 90% of results are back within 24 hours. It is a massive thing that you can do. Simple but so, so important.”

It may not be enough for tens of thousands of elderly Victorians facing a lonely summer as the state’s aged care homes remain in some form of COVID-19 lockdown. Visits from friends and family will be strictly limited well into 2021.

Premier Daniel Andrews said visiting residential aged care will not return to normal until a vaccine becomes available or until a rapid test was developed that could screen visitors as they arrive.

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Queensland State of Origin prop and Storm player Christian Welch stood down over COVID-19 breach


Melbourne Storm’s Christian Welch has been stood down for a COVID-19 breach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast that occurred just hours before a two-week quarantine was due to be lifted.

The Queensland Origin prop has been placed into isolation after he invited a guest to the team’s hotel overnight, in violation of the code’s strict coronavirus measures.

The club has confirmed Welch will not play in the team’s match tomorrow night against the West Tigers and has been placed into isolation, away from his teammates.

Welch, 26, now faces the possibility of an NRL fine, similar to those imposed on Broncos players and staff who breached the code’s COVID-19 rules earlier this year.

In a statement, Welch said he was extremely remorseful.

“I love this game and everything it has given me and I’m shattered that I have let everyone down,” he said.

Melbourne Storm veteran Christian Welch sits in a stadium seat.
Storm player Christian Welch has been fined over the COVID-19 breach.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

“Calling my parents to let them know about this was the worst phone call I’ve ever made.

“I know it’s a privilege to play in the NRL and I want to apologise to all for any damage I have caused.”

The Melbourne Storm squad has been based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast since July.

The current NRL bubble placed on the Storm players and staff was due to be lifted at midnight as they last had contact with a NSW team, the Rabbitohs, on September 4.

‘We’re incredibly disappointed’

Storm chief executive David Donaghy said the timing of the matter would form a large part of the investigation by the NRL integrity unit.

“As of midnight last night, they’re effectively allowed to leave the premises and conduct themselves in non-quarantine protocols,” he said.

“The time of the matter is important and they’re some of the discussions that are going on.

“Everyone’s fully across the requirements, the timeframes and what’s expected of the group whilst they’re in the bubble … I don’t think there’s any ambiguity around that.”

The club notified both the NRL and Queensland Government of the potential breach early this morning.

Mr Donaghy said the club was also aware how tough the time away from Victoria had been on the entire team and staff.

“We’re confident that there won’t be a test result come back with anything other than negative, however that has to go through a process,” Mr Donaghy said.

“We take any type of breach seriously, I think everyone knows the standards of behaviour we expect at our football club.

“It goes without saying we’re incredibly disappointed, the player’s really upset.”

It’s understood Welch is negotiating an extension on his current contract with the Storm, after he knocked back a recent deal from St George Illawarra.



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COVID-19 cluster growth in Melbourne’s south-east driven by residents


“What we’ve seen is obviously some normal travel that we would expect people to conduct in order to get the necessary things for life … and certainly we’ve seen travel to shopping centres and stores largely within the five kilometre radius,” Mr Weimar said.

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“But we’ve also seen in this particular cluster visiting of houses beyond the five-kilometre radius, so these five houses in this particular cluster have had, unfortunately, some members of those households visiting other households and it is that limited amount of contact – relatively infrequent contact – between these five households that has now meant that we have 34 people in five houses experiencing or living with a very real threat of the coronavirus.”

No new cases have emerged in the Casey and Dandenong areas today. But yesterday, five new cases emerged and on Wednesday seven new cases were reported.

“We have had a series of deep and ongoing conversations with community members and leaders across that wider Casey and Dandenong area,” Mr Weimar said.

“We have been talking to youth groups … and talking to frankly the entire community to ensure we get the clear message. Number one, you cannot and should not mix across different households.”

Premier Daniel Andrews sharply rebuked those who were breaching restrictions on visiting others at home.

“Visiting others is the real issue here, frankly. The rules are in place by reason – the rules are in place for a reason and anyone who undermines this, undermines entire strategy,” he said.

“If you break the rules, particularly if you are breaking the rules in your home or somebody else’s home, where there is no infection control, there is no formality, it is by its very nature, close contact for potentially prolonged periods, all you will do is spread this virus.

“I cannot rule out and none of us would rule out that there may not be additional cases beyond the 34. That’s why it is so, so important if you have any symptoms at all … come forward and get tested. That is how you keep it at 34 and not see the things spread out to 340.”

14-Day average falls

The move to stamp out the outbreak in Melbourne’s south-east comes after 28 cases were recorded on Thursday and 42 cases on Wednesday and Tuesday. Another five Victorians have died, taking the state’s death toll to 750.

Melbourne’s 14-day case average, which is crucial to easing lockdown restrictions from September 28, has fallen to 42.7.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 32 of today’s 45 new cases were linked to known outbreaks and complex cases, he said, while 13 remain under investigation.

One man in his 50s, one man in his 70s, one man in his 80s and two women in their 90s died from the virus overnight. All of their deaths are linked to aged care outbreaks.

There are now 920 active cases in Victoria, including 30 cases in country areas where lockdown restrictions eased earlier this week.

“They continue to fall and that is very pleasing news,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“There is just one new case in regional Victoria, which I believe is in that Geelong corridor.”

Across aged care homes there are 474 active cases and just one active case – a staff member – linked to a disability facility.

Mr Andrews said he would leave any announcements regarding this morning’s national cabinet meeting to the Prime Minister.

There are 90 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, including 11 in intensive care and seven on a ventilator.

Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett said Melbourne’s 14-day average was likely to be “comfortably” within the required 30-50 range by September 28.

“It would be nice if we could break through the bottom of that range and be in the high 20s by then. That’s actually possible,” she said.

But authorities are concerned about a coronavirus cluster that has emerged in the Casey council area in Melbourne’s outer south-east.

The cluster involves a number of different families in the Hallam and Narre Warren areas with links to the local Afghan community and includes several mystery cases without a known source of infection.

The Department of Health and Human Services held a community meeting on Wednesday night and three new pop-up testing clinics have been set up in Clyde, Hallam and Noble Park.

Traffic chaos at Little River checkpoint

Meanwhile, traffic was banked up for kilometres at the Little River police checkpoint on Melbourne’s south-west border on Friday morning.

Motorists were stuck for hours waiting for a police check on the Princes Freeway before Geelong, with images showing the gridlock stretched as far back as Werribee.

Traffic at the Little River police checkpoint on the way to Geelong.

Traffic at the Little River police checkpoint on the way to Geelong. Credit:Nine News

A caller to radio station 3AW also told regional Victorians to avoid the Hume Freeway, which was reportedly banked up from the Kalkallo police checkpoint, about 30 kilometres north of Melbourne, all the way back to the Craigieburn bypass.

Traffic chaos at the Little River checkpoint on Friday morning.

Traffic chaos at the Little River checkpoint on Friday morning.Credit:Nine News

Police beefed-up the so-called “ring of steel” around Melbourne this week after lockdown restrictions were eased in regional Victoria. Melburnians trying to escape the city face an almost $5000 fine at the roadblocks.

At least four new locations have been identified as high-risk COVID exposure sites across Melbourne.

People infected with the virus spent time at Chemist Warehouse at 433 Sydney Road in Brunswick last Friday (September 11), Burwood One Shopping Centre on Sunday and Monday (September 13 and 14), Fountain Gate Shopping Centre in Narre Warren last Thursday (September 10) and Roxburgh Park’s Coles and Freshplus last Monday and Thursday (September 6 and September 10).

Anti-lockdown protesters who are planning another demonstration this weekend will be met by riot police.

Seventy-four people were arrested last weekend in confronting scenes in which police clashed with protesters at the Queen Victoria Market and more than 170 fines were issued.

Organisers, who have refused to reveal their names, released a statement on Thursday calling on Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to change coronavirus directions to allow them to protest without police intervention.

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Palaszczuk spent $528K on COVID-19 opinion polling


Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s department has reportedly spent more than half a million dollars on polling to gauge “sentiment” over her tough coronavirus restrictions ahead of the state election next month.

The Australian reports that on May 7, the Department of Premier and Cabinet hired polling company Ipsos Public Affairs for a $138,077 “COVID-19 Key Insights Project”, followed by a top-up contract of $390,380 on June 19.

Ms Palaszczuk has consistently said all COVID-19 restrictions are based on health advice from chief health officer Jeannette Young, and her office last month denied the government had done polling to test support for border closures.

The state shut its borders on March 26 and reopened to all but Victoria on July 10, before again closing its borders to NSW and the ACT on August 8.

A DPC spokeswoman declined to confirm to The Australian whether the Ipsos polling asked voters about the border shutdown, but said the company was “engaged to conduct market research and sentiment testing to ensure the government’s COVID-19 public information and behaviour change campaigns were effective, achieved value for money and were evaluated”.

“This is a requirement under the Government Advertising Communication Committee process,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk has come under growing pressure from her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the hardship caused by the border closures.

Queensland shut its borders on March 26, reopened to all but Victoria on July 10, and on August 8 closed to all of NSW and the ACT.

Last week, the Queensland Premier accused Mr Morrison of bullying her after he emotionally intervened in the case of Canberra woman Sarah Caisip, who had been ordered to leave the state after her father died while she was still in hotel quarantine.

Ms Palaszczuk yesterday refused to back down, saying she was willing to lose the upcoming October 31 election if it meant keeping people safe. She again hit out at the “relentless” attacks on her government’s border measures.

“If it means I have to lose the election, I will risk all that if it means keeping Queenslanders safe,” she said on Monday. “I will always stand up for what I believe to be right in this state.”

Ms Palaszczuk promised more staff would be brought on to accommodate entry requests on compassionate grounds, but said if she loses the election over the border issue, “so be it”.

“I will stand on my record, I will hold my head up high and I will stare down those people who are trying to tear Queensland apart, because we have a track record of our economy going strong, because we have put in place a good health response,” she said.

It comes after it was revealed earlier this week that Dr Young has been so overwhelmed with personal attacks over the tough border measures that she now requires police protection.

“Jeannette Young now has a couple of police outside her house who go with her everywhere,” Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Perry told Nine’s Today show on Monday.

“She has had to have extra help with sorting through the applications for quarantine exemption. She was getting over 100 per day and she was trying to deal with it herself. So working from five in the morning until nine or 10 at night … it was quite hard work. She now has eight or 10 people who help her do that.”

He added, “It has been quite stressful and it hasn’t been helped by cowardly people threatening to take the life of a woman.”

Meanwhile, other disclosures have revealed Ms Palaszczuk’s departments spent almost $60,000 on alcohol in the last financial year, which included three months of coronavirus lockdown.

The Premier defended the spending in parliament on Tuesday, saying the money was used to buy beer and wine to offer “foreign dignitaries” and at events to help connect “Queensland sellers with overseas buyers or to connect potential overseas investors with Queensland project opportunities”.

frank.chung@news.com.au



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Local News - Victoria

Victoria’s fornightly COVID-19 case average falls below 50 as state records 42 new infections


In its road map to recovery, the state government said restrictions would only start to ease from the end of September in Melbourne if the 14-day average remained between 30 and 50 cases.

The 14-day case average in regional Victoria has fallen to 3.5. The Health Department has reported an additional mystery case of unknown community transmission in regional Victoria but noted that it emerged more than 15 days ago and would not jeopardise the easing of lockdown restrictions in country areas from midnight.

Melburnians trying to escape to holiday homes following the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria will face hefty fines and beefed up police road checks amid fears they could spread the coronavirus.

In regional Victoria from Thursday, residents can have visitors to their homes, restaurants and cafes can have seated indoor and outdoor dining, beauty services can reopen and people can gather in groups of 10 outside.

However, Premier Daniel Andrews warned Melburnians could not travel to the regions without a lawful reason.

“This is very serious, very, very serious,” Mr Andrews said. “We cannot have people making unnecessary and unlawful trips to regional Victoria and potentially taking the virus with them.”

He warned fines would be issued and an increased number of cars stopped.

Mr Andrews said this would result in “significant queues”, but regional Victorians “jealously guard” their low virus status and wanted to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, research by some of the nation’s most senior scientists has found that more than 60,000 cases of coronavirus in Australia could have gone undetected, potentially adding to calls to ease restrictions sooner.

The federal government-funded study by a team of researchers including Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, estimates that by July – before Victoria’s peak in cases – 71,400 people may have contracted the virus.

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At the time, there were only 11,190 officially confirmed cases in Australia.

Of those screened by researchers in June and July, 0.28 per cent had COVID-19 antibodies, the study found, which means they had contracted coronavirus. Antibody testing can tell if a person has ever been infected with a virus, as antibodies remain in the blood for many months after a person recovers from infection.

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NRLW surviving COVID-19 cuts but strategy needed to steer game once pandemic ends, stakeholders say


Corban McGregor has been a rugby league fanatic since childhood, watching her idols compete for the ultimate prize of the premiership.

But growing up, she only had men to look up to.

Today, the 26-year-old is the female role model for young girls that she never had.

“It’s really cool, I feel like I have to pinch myself every time people say that we’re role models or heroes,” the Jillaroos, NSW Blues and Roosters player said.

Taking time off from training ahead of the 2020 NRLW competition, McGregor met aspiring players from the Kellyville Bushrangers.

The number of women playing the game has grown by 150 per cent over the past five years.

Teenagers dream of NRLW future

Teenage players Charli Buhagiar and Hayley Bell, both 14, are part of the wave of girls joining the women’s game.

They want to be just like their hero McGregor and they were blown away meeting her.

“I really love it and I think it would be good to get involved [in the NRLW] and I want to make it,” Buhagiar said.

A female rugby league player holds the ball in her hands, preparing to pass to teammate in training.
Hayley Bell (right) and Charli Buhagiar play for Kellyville Bushrangers and both dream of a career in the NRLW.(ABC News: Chloe Hart)

Bell has been playing since she was seven.

“I’ve been playing for seven years now and I enjoy going out and having a hit. It’s so fun and I’ve seen a lot more rugby league women’s sides since the NRLW competition started two years ago,” Bell said.

She believes female-only sides have made the game much more accessible to women.

McGregor beams with pride when talking about the possibilities for the next generation.

She has had to overcome a lot to get to where she is today, including having a son when she was just 16.

“When it started [getting women involved in the game] it had a main focus around players’ partners and families,” McGregor said.

“We should still acknowledge that, but it’s also grown into more female players, officials and females in senior leadership roles — it’s great to see.”

On top of being a mother, representing her country, her state and the Roosters and working, she is now doing an internship with the NRL in order to get involved in the game in another role after she finishes playing.

NRLW scaled back but still going ahead in 2020

Female athletes talking in a group
Corban McGregor has played league at the highest level. She is already planning for a role in the game after her playing career.(ABC News: Chloe Hart)

She will play for the Roosters in the NRLW 2020 premiership season, which will run alongside the men’s finals series next month.

This year the competition was meant to expand to six rounds, but the format will be the same as that played in 2018 and 2019 because of the financial pressures caused by COVID-19.

Last year’s premiers Brisbane Broncos will play runners-up St George Illawarra, as well as the Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors.

“I am really proud that we’ve had such strong growth rates all across the board,” she said.

“It’s amazing and I hope that continues to grow. There is still room for improvement.”

Continued growth key for women’s game

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page founded the Women In League Round 14 years ago to give women a bigger voice in the game.

“Why aren’t we bringing the women through? Why aren’t they playing? Why aren’t they feeling like this? They’re as big as contributors to the sport as men,” she said.

Ms Page was the strong female lead the initiative needed.

Two junior rugby players, an NRLW star and a business chief stand in front of rugby league posts.
Harvey Norman’s Katie Bell (second from left) founded the NRL’s Women in League round. She says building the women’s game will take time.(Supplied: NRL Media)

“Not everyone is going to be able to be an elite player but they can certainly play the game or can be involved,” Ms Page said.

She is pleased the NRL committed to investing in the women’s game amid huge budget cuts in response to coronavirus.

“For all sport, that’s their next challenge,” she said. “Because we’ve been through COVID, we’re still going through COVID, and a lot of things have had to be put on hold obviously.”

Ms Page sees this as an opportunity to make the game stronger.

“Take this moment to be doing your strategy for when the world returns hopefully next year and what does it look like,” she said.

She says the game must continue growing and those behind it cannot be complacent given the growth it has experienced.

“It’s about how we are evolving and doing better and growing — that’s the measure of growth,” she said. “Are we doing the right thing for this code? Are we representing community with this as well? Why are we here?”

One game of the women’s State of Origin will take place as a standalone event on Friday, November 13.



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New COVID-19 hotspot emerges in Melbourne’s south-east


“I have made an offer to personally speak to that community,” Professor Sutton said. “Having been to Afghanistan a couple of times over the years, I want to be able to reflect on my cultural experiences and the fact I know that there are universal motivations that every family has to do the right thing to protect their own families and the wider community. That is absolutely the case here and I know they’re motivated to get on top of this as much as anyone.”

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Professor Sutton stressed that residents appeared to have caught the virus at high-risk workplaces, rather than by breaching Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions.

“I think there are genuine structural issues about work, workforce, that make transmission more likely. They do the right thing. But they have some vulnerabilities in terms of where and how they are needing to work.”

There were 84 active cases in City of Casey on Monday, fewer than Wyndham, Brimbank or Melton.

Mobility data from Google and Facebook shows people living in Casey, the local government area that covers Hallam and Narre Warren, have been leaving home more often during Melbourne’s lockdown, on average, than other areas.

The stage-four lockdown, which targeted businesses, appeared to reverse that trend, said Melbourne University researcher Rohan Byrne, who is part of the team of scientists tracking the virus for the federal government.

But in the past fortnight, people in Casey have started leaving their homes again, he said. Most of that activity happened during weekdays, suggesting a strong link with work.

The data also shows when people in Casey do leave the house, they are more reliant than other areas on public transport.

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University of NSW bio-statistician Dr Nicolas Rebuli said: “I’d consider both of these activities quite high risk – especially if they have high-risk occupations.”

The Afghan community in Melbourne’s south-east is particularly vulnerable to the virus, as many of its members cannot read or write, community leader Bassir Qadiri said.

Mr Qadiri has been translating public-health messages into Dari and calling members of the Afghan community to go through the information with them.

“The government is doing their best. But because of a language and cultural barriers, it’s really difficult for the government to reach out. Especially for the Afghan community, where most of them are vulnerable seniors who have never had an education back home and are unable to read and write even in their own language,” he said.

He confirmed he had heard of two Afghan families in Hallam who had fallen ill with COVID-19.

Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre chairman Brian Oates said that aged care and insecure work would most likely be driving transmissions.

“It does seem that aged care workers are the conduit for the coronavirus in many occasions. Aged care workers tend to be casual people who work in two or three different facilities at the same time in order to make ends meet,” Mr Oates said.

“People just have to work in several different areas because they can’t get enough work in a single job as a casual worker. It’s very disappointing and I think is one of the big lessons from this COVID situation. We need to pay more attention to insecure work.”

The Age has reported extensively on potential links between disadvantage, insecure work, and the spread of COVID-19.

Mobility data shows that on average more-advantaged areas of Melbourne reduced their mobility than less-advantaged areas during lockdown.

Workers in Casey were mostly employed in aged care, hospitals, supermarkets, takeaway food and childcare at the time of the 2016 Census.

Those industries are all considered essential and cannot be done from home, and have been identified as the most difficult workplaces to suppress the virus.

Responses show that 3.7 per cent of people in Hallam work in aged care, compared to 1.8 per cent of people in other Victorian suburbs. But fewer Hallam workers were employed in hospitals than the state average.

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Victoria records new 35 cases of COVID-19, seven deaths


Victoria has recorded 35 new cases of coronavirus in the past day and another seven deaths.

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It comes as playgrounds reopened across Melbourne this morning and single people are now allowed to have one visitor in their social bubble, in the first easing of Melbourne’s stage four restrictions today.

On Sunday, the Victorian government announced a $3 billion rescue package for businesses.

For the state to move to step two in the road map out of restrictions, the 14 day average needs to get below 50 by September 28.

The 14 day average was not immediately available.

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Mass vaccination sites named in anticipation of COVID-19 vaccine


Strict infection controls, such as temperature checks, would ensure the vaccines were only administered to people free of COVID symptoms.

As the world anxiously awaits the release of a COVID-19 vaccine, the state government is preparing for a roll-out that would immunise Victorians “as quickly as possible”.

“We have begun investigating potential training programs that may be required to ensure we have the right amount of health staff needed to administer a vaccine,” a Victorian Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said.

“Victoria already has pharmacists trained to provide immunisations which will also boost our workforce capacity.”

Melbourne Council has been preparing for a pandemic for some time, with many elements of its coronavirus response detailed in a 2008 document that was created in response to the H5N1 avian flu.

GPs will also play a key role in administering the vaccine and will encourage patients to attend clinics for the shot, Dr Rio said.

“General practice is important because we do the push out, ‘you are in this group, please drop in for the vaccination’,” she said.

“This will be a relatively new vaccine and I have no doubt that all the safety data will be A-OK but there will be more reticence. I can sense it already. There will be more discussions about the safety data, the risks and benefits.”

However, UNSW epidemiologist Professor Raina MacIntyre is concerned that Australia does not have the capacity to vaccinate its population against COVID-19.

She estimates that Australia is set up to vaccinate approximately 5 million people a year through its national immunisation program, compared to the 25 million people who will need a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We don’t have anywhere near the capacity to vaccinate the whole of Australia,” she said.

Professor MacIntyre said the vaccine would need to be administered to as many people as possible within a short period of time, ideally a few months.

“You have to get the vaccination rates up quickly,” she said. ” If it is limited by the number of people who can vaccinate and it takes two or three years to vaccinate the population, then we will be living with COVID-19 for longer.”

She said vaccinators were just as important as hospital beds, ventilators and contact tracing.

“You need nurse vaccinators to be trained up right now.”

The Australian College of Nursing is lobbying the federal government for funding to train an additional 10,000 immunisers and upskill a further 50,000 to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

Chief executive Kylie Ward said immunisers must undertake annual training to remain up-to-date with vaccines.

“You could have any number of immunisers in the country but until they have done the updated courses to support coronavirus and the vaccination for that, then they wouldn’t be able to give it anyway,” she said.

A spokesman for federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had a “world-class” vaccination system and its supply chain distributed a record 17.6 million doses of the flu vaccine in 2020.

He said the government was reviewing the 2020 flu season to help determine the roll-out of the 2021 flu vaccine and COVID vaccine program.

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“It would be our expectation that pharmacist immunisers in Victoria would be given authorisation to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to patients when it becomes available,” he said.

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Long Island teen arrested at high school during COVID-19 pandemic


Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get more ridiculous here, a high school student has been arrested for turning up at school and demanding to be allowed into class.

And Top Gun fans are going to love his name: Maverick Stow.

Maverick is 17 and starting his senior year in a New York State high school in Long Island, which is the kind of town (population 15,000) that Americans like to call a “hamlet” and has merchants with names like Gabe’s Auto Repairs, Poospatuck Smoke Shop and EmpanadaVille.

It’s on the way to the Hamptons, but also a long way from the Hamptons.

Maverick turned up on Tuesday at William Floyd High School, despite it being his scheduled day for remote learning, with New York schools offering alternating days of in-school classes for social distancing.

Maverick reckons he should be allowed to go to school five days a week so he turned up again on Wednesday, even after copping a five-day suspension the day before. The school warned him he faced criminal trespass charges if he showed his face again before the suspension was over.

But he wasn’t to be deterred and turned up Thursday in a fluoro lime green shirt and readied himself for some learning.

“Well, I’ve just been trying to go to school – and they’ve been consistently disallowing me to … I’m going to go into school and they’re going to call the police and I’m going to be arrested this morning,” he told the local press.

He was right. Suffolk County police officers charged him with third-degree criminal trespass and he’s due to appear in court later this month.

Of course there is more than one side to this story – public safety, a kid trying to score cheap points against the system, and a young man’s right to enjoy a normal senior year with his friends.

MORE STORIES:

Trump slams reporter over the President’s ‘shock’ COVID remarks

White House dismisses claims that president would ‘start a war’ to stay in office

Trump supporter shot dead during clash with Black Lives Matter protesters in US

Pick your point of view. None is completely wrong and none is completely right.

It seems like it’s time to allow people to push back against what sometimes seem like arbitrary rules designed to fit a COVID era which no-one really understands. Look at Victoria – does anyone understand the plan there?

The move to arrest a teenager for demanding to be allowed to go to school is a step too far. Especially in a nation where for months people have been freely gathering at beaches, sidewalk dining areas, on public transport and at protests and riots.

Don’t blame the kid for this mess. Work with him to find a solution that everyone can live with, rather than attempt to make him the villain.

It’s time to forget about rigid rules and handcuffs and arrest warrants when it comes to dealing with the unprecedented situations we find ourselves in thanks to the pandemic. We’re all in this together. Nobody asked for this (not anyone I know anyway).

It’s time to find a way out of this cluster using our brains and compassion, not our big sticks.



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