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Australian News

New section to test values


The Australian citizenship test will be updated for the first time in more than a decade to include a section on Australian values.

In the new test, would-be Aussies will be asked things like: “Should people in Australia make an effort to learn English?” and “In Australia, do religious laws override Australian law?”

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said he wanted would-be citizens to have a better understanding of the nation’s values before they were declared Australian.

“The updated citizenship test will have new and more meaningful questions that require potential citizens to understand and commit to our values like freedom of speech, mutual respect, equality of opportunity, the importance of democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

“We are asking those who apply for citizenship to understand our values more deeply before they make the ultimate commitment to our nation.”

The updated citizenship test will have 20 multiple-choice questions, including five questions on Australian values.

Applicants will be required to correctly answer all five of the questions on Australian values, with a mark of at least 75 per cent overall, to pass the test.

There will be no changes to the English language or residency requirements for citizenship.

EXAMPLE QUESTIONS

– Why is it important that all Australian citizens vote to elect the state and federal parliament?

– Should people in Australia make an effort to learn English?

– In Australia, can you encourage violence against a person or group of people if you have been insulted?

– Should people tolerate one another where they find that they disagree?

– In Australia, are people free to choose who they marry or not marry?

– In Australia, is it acceptable for a husband to be violent towards his wife if she has disobeyed or disrespected him?

– In Australia, do religious laws override Australian law?

– Do you agree that men and women should be provided equality of opportunity when pursuing their goals and interests?

– Should people’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression be respected in Australia?

The change to the citizenship test is being announced on Thursday to coincide with Australian Citizenship Day, when more than 2500 people will become citizens at more than 100 ceremonies across the country.

Since March 31, despite the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 85,000 people have become Australian citizens in online ceremonies, and testing has now resumed in all states and territories across Australia except Victoria.

While changes to the citizenship test won’t come into effect until November 15, new visa and citizenship applicants will be required to affirm the new Australian Values Statement from October 30.

The statement has been amended to better reflect the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association and equality of opportunity for everyone in Australia.



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Australian News

Australian cricket team to train at Adelaide Oval as city vies to host Test Series


The Australian men’s cricket team will quarantine at the new Adelaide Oval hotel as negotiations continue over hosting rights for the upcoming Test Series against India.

SA Premier Steven Marshall today announced that eight members of the team would be quarantining in the venue when it returns to Australia.

The players will fly into Adelaide on Friday after the three-match ODI series in England.

Mr Marshall said the quarantine training arrangement set the stage for an exciting summer of cricket at Adelaide Oval, with a number of events still under negotiation with Cricket Australia.

“We know that Cricket Australia is wanting to get their Sheffield Shield underway, there’s been talk about a hub,” he said.

“We’re also in negotiations with Cricket Australia of course for the Test Series.

A batsman and a fielder bump fists at the end of a one-day international cricket match.
Australia won the first in the three-match ODI series against England at Old Trafford on Friday.(AP/Pool: Jon Super)

SA Cricket Association chief executive Keith Bradshaw said Adelaide Oval could host more cricket than it ever has before this coming summer, despite the pandemic.

“It’s a really challenging summer ahead and yet we potentially could have more content than we’ve ever had in our history,” he said.

“One, two Test matches potentially, some white ball cricket … we’re in negotiations with Cricket Australia for the first four rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket to be played here too.

Players supervised in Adelaide Oval ‘bio-secure zone’

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the players’ movements would be “severely restricted” to ensure they pose no coronavirus transmission risk to the public.

Each player will each have to return a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to train at the oval.

An Australian Clinical Laboratories worker in Perth places a nasal swab into a vial for COVID-19 testing.
Each player will have to test negative for COVID-19 before training at Adelaide Oval.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“It will be a very secure environment,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

“Their movements are severely restricted but they will still be able to undertake their usual requirements that they would need to remain conditioned, undertaking bowling, batting practise and also in the gym.”

She said the cricketers would have “no contact with the community” and train in “cohorts” of three or four.

SA government weighs relaxing coronavirus restrictions

Meanwhile, South Australia’s COVID-19 Transition Committee has been considering relaxing border restrictions with New South Wales.

It is also considering widening the buffer zone for cross-border communities on the Victorian border.

The 40-kilometre buffer zone allows limited border crossings for non-essential workers who live in border towns close to the SA-Victoria border.

“We’re looking to see the incubation cycle sees no cases there … we also want to make sure we don’t change it and then put it back in place very quickly,” he said.

The Premier said the committee was also “getting closer and closer to lifting” the 14-day isolation requirement for travellers from New South Wales.

He added that South Australia was looking at raising the number of returning Australian citizens that it can accept each week.



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Test cricketer’s brother admits to fake terror plot


The brother of Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja has described himself as a “coward” as he apologised for fabricating a fake terror plot to sabotage a romantic rival.

Usman Khawaja on Friday described his eldest brother Arsalan as beloved by everyone including his national teammates and his parent’s favourite son as the 40-year-old gets set to learn his fate in the coming months.

Khawaja is awaiting sentencing having pleaded guilty to four charges including perverting the course of justice.

Khawaja openly wept in the NSW District Court on Friday as he detailed how he made several false complaints about two men during 2017 and 2018 in order to get the attention of two women.

Khawaja is facing a maximum of 10 years jail.

He gave evidence at his sentence hearing in Sydney’s Downing Centre on Friday, telling the court that he did not want the two men deported or arrested.

In mid-2018 he created handwritten entries in a notepad belonging to a University of NSW colleague Mohamed Kamer Nizamdeen, which were then handed to campus security.

In the false entries were various reference to ISIS, jihad and carrying out terrorist acts.

“Get bomb and weapon training in Sri Lanka,” read one entry.

“Keep recruiting for ISIS and Jamal,” said another.

They also alluded to attacking Australian politicians and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House.

Arsalan Khawaja told the court on Friday that he fabricated the notes and lied in a police interview despite describing Mr Nizamdeen as a friend and a “top bloke”.

He also denied that it was his intention for Mr Nizamdeen to be arrested and charged with terrorism offences.

He said he wanted for Mr Nizamdeen to be preoccupied with the accusations so he could get closer to Shakeela Shahid, a young woman who also worked at the University of NSW campus.

Under cross examination he said he thought he would be investigated by campus police and maybe receive a few phone calls.

“I didn’t want him arrested, that was not my goal,” Arsalan told the court.

“Kamer was a good friend of mine.”

Mr Nizamdeen was arrested by counter-terrorism police and spent four weeks in jail before being granted bail, before his charges were dropped in October 2018.

Through a stream of tears, Arsalan apologised for lying to police and for hurting his victims, describing himself as a “coward”.

“I lacked the courage to come forward, I didn’t want him arrested,” Arsalan told the court.

Appearing via audiovisual link from interstate, Usman Khawaja gave evidence that his brother was a “model citizen” until he suffered a deterioration in his mental state several years ago which led to him making several false accusations to authorities.

He said growing up that he was his parent’s favourite child, had studied IT and obtained a master’s degree and worked at IBM where he was given a national defence clearance.

“Mr brother was beloved by everyone,” Usman said of Arsalan.

“My friends loved him. My teammates loved him. Whether it was state teammates or Australian teammates, They all knew him on a first-name basis, they all used to ask me how he was going.

“He genuinely cared about people and how they were going.”



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Business

Wall Street rallies on new Fed stance, COVID-19 test progress


Declines in market-leading momentum stocks capped the S&P’s gains and held the Nasdaq in the red.

Shares of Abbott Laboratories jumped 7.9 per cent after the company won US approval to market a cheap, portable, rapid COVID-19 antigen test, which could be a step toward containing the pandemic that sent the US economy spiralling into recession.

Economic recovery was forefront in Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s remarks made as part of the Kansas City Fed’s virtual Jackson Hole symposium. In the speech Powell outlined the central bank’s aggressive new strategy to support the economy by lifting inflation and returning the economy to full employment.

“We’re going to have low interest rates as far as we can see and COVID is on the way out because of the inexpensive test that Abbot is introducing soon,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It gives investors two reasons to be positive about equities.”

But with last week’s initial jobless claims stubbornly hovering above the 1 million mark, according to the Labor Department, a return to full employment currently appears to be a long haul.

In late trade, the Dow Jones is up 0.8 per cent, the S&P 500 has gained 0.3 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite has shed 0.2 per cent. The ASX is poised to edge lower, with futures at 5.35am AEST pointing to a drop of 10 points at the open.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, financials enjoyed the biggest percentage gain while communications services , weighed down by Netflix and Facebook, lagged.

Shares of Walmart and Microsoft rose 5.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively after announcing a joint bid for TikTok’s US assets.

Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co advanced 1.9 per cent after reporting stronger-than-expected profit just days after delaying its $US16.2 billion ($22.3 billion) sale to France’s LVMH.

On the other end of the retail scale, discount stores Dollar General and Dollar Tree also beat quarterly profit expectations.

Boeing Co rose 1.4 per cent after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency announced plans to begin flight tests of its grounded 737 MAX plane.

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Cosmetics maker Coty plunged 8.7 per cent after retail closures and weak demand led to a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.05-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.30-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 37 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 58 new highs and 20 new lows.

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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne researchers work on rapid test to show COVID immunity


But similar tests have run into controversy. The Age revealed in May that the federal government spent almost $10 million on 500,000 antibody tests that independent research showed were too inaccurate to diagnose COVID-19.

An accurate test would be crucial for the healthcare sector, allowing doctors and nurses with immunity to avoid isolating after coming into contact with people with COVID-19.

Promotional material for the program does not specify how the institute’s point-of-care tests work. Similar tests monitor levels of antibodies in the blood.

Australia’s extremely low prevalence of COVID-19 means such a test is useful only if it is close to 100 per cent accurate. If not, it is likely to generate more false positives than real results.

In a video uploaded to the institute’s website, Professor Anderson said the test would be similar to the one he worked on for HIV.

“We need to identify people who have been infected, first to see who may still be infectious and need to be isolated or treated, and to find their contacts. But also to identify those who have recovered from the infection and may be safe to return to work, especially in high-risk occupations,” he said.

“Accuracy is really the key here. We need to get it right.”

The state government has also given the institute $1 million for an ambitious study that will closely track 1000 Victorians to try to improve the effectiveness of mask wearing, social distancing and lockdowns.

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The first-of-its-kind study, led by Professor Margaret Hellard, will feed information back to the government every month so it can fine-tune its strategy.

“At the centre of this is, without an effective vaccine or therapy, essentially the one weapon we have in our toolbox is human behaviour,” said Professor Hellard.

Participants will initially be asked to keep a daily diary of activities and contacts, and take part in surveys and interviews.

The researchers will then test interventions on them – such as delivering food packages to people in isolation to see if that encourages them to stay in their houses.

“Can we even avoid having further significant shutdowns? That’s what we’re really aiming for,” said Professor Hellard.

“How do we cut transmission, respond quickly and make it less likely we’re going to have to go into significant lockdowns?”

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Quarantine guests allowed to leave hotel three days after positive test


“I told him the policy was bullshit, but you just had to get on with it,” he said in his submission.

He also said a returned traveller at the Crown Metropol who had tested positive was left waiting in the lobby for almost two hours without a mask and gloves, and was in the lobby for a total of 10 hours, surrounded by security guards with lax personal protective equipment.

A returned traveller quarantined at Rydges found a discarded face mask on the floor of his room when he checked in.

A returned traveller quarantined at Rydges found a discarded face mask on the floor of his room when he checked in.

Two nurses, Mr Tait and another identified by the inquiry only as “Nurse Jen”, told the inquiry that the Department of Health and Human Services’ management of the hotel quarantine system was shambolic and resulted in guests and healthcare workers being placed in danger and distress.

Mr Tait said no swabbing kits were available for use on incoming travellers for the first three days of his posting, even though he was hired to test guests for coronavirus.

He said he put his own health at risk when he insisted on swabbing new arrivals, even though he was not issued a face shield.

A stain a quarantined guest found on a doona in the Rydges hotel.

A stain a quarantined guest found on a doona in the Rydges hotel.

“I wasn’t comfortable doing that, but it had to be done. There was no testing going on, I had to really push it and I always put my hand up to do the swab. I thought it was very important,” Mr Tait said.

Mr Tait, who chose to stay in the hotel itself because he feared infecting his own family at home, said in one incident, the department told him not to swab someone who had COVID-19 as he had not had symptoms for three days and “will be leaving quarantine early”.

Nurses and returned travellers on Thursday gave evidence to the inquiry investigating the Victorian government’s hotel quarantine program. More than 99 per cent of the state’s current COVID-19 cases have been linked to travellers quarantined at two hotels: the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotel.

Nurse Jen worked at the ParkRoyal and Holiday Inn.

Nurse Jen worked at the ParkRoyal and Holiday Inn.

Nurse Jen, who worked at the ParkRoyal Melbourne Airport, told the inquiry that the department effectively told a guest contemplating suicide to “stop being so dramatic.”

“They had specifically called this guest in the room and told them that they needed to stop threatening suicide just so they can get a cigarette,” she said.

A simple request for a kettle from a woman in extreme pain who wanted to boil water to prepare traditional medicince was refused by department staff who said anything electrical had to be “tagged and tested”, nurse Jen said.

Their testimony also put a focus on the agency they both worked for, Your Nursing Agency, with both nurses saying they were no longer rostered on for shifts after they raised concerns.

Nurse Jen told the inquiry there were enough nurses rostered on each shift at the ParkRoyal, but some who were designated mental health nurses were not qualified. She encountered some who were enrolled nurses but had not completed a degree to be properly qualified as mental health nurses.

One nurse rostered as a mental health nurse was in distress after hearing about a guest who had taken their own life in another hotel and had tried not to be rostered on a mental health shift when she wasn’t qualified, she said.

Mr Tait said nurses were overwhelmed with the number of guests, with a ratio of one nurse to 100 or 150 guests.

Despite the challenges, he said he was proud of his work in hotel quarantine.

“I had a real sense of pride being part of a team that was tasked with the impossible … we were really in it together,” he said.

Prominent human rights lawyer Hugh de Kretser, who was quarantined at the Rydges on Swanston, said his room was filthy despite his stay coming after the first outbreaks at the hotel and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton issuing a full review of health protocols.

Mr de Kretser said he found a plastic glove and a face mask under the bed, food crumbs on the floor and stains on the doonas.

A discarded glove Mr de Kretser found on the floor of his dirty hotel room.

A discarded glove Mr de Kretser found on the floor of his dirty hotel room.

“We expected that our room would be thoroughly clean and smelling of disinfectant. It was the opposite,” he said.

He wasn’t given a 15-minute fresh air break until day 12 of 14.

Another returned traveller, whose identity was suppressed at his request, detailed how his wife, 28 weeks pregnant, was in tears when hotel staff said she could not go outside for fresh air, while it was up to him to organise his family’s dietary requirements.

He said he was told “You knew what you were in for”.

Kate Hyslop and Ricky Singh, who were quarantined in April for 14 days in Crown Metropol, told the inquiry they weren’t once given a fresh air break and nor were they ever tested for COVID-19.

When they left quarantine, they weren’t told to wear a mask and were able to hail a taxi to a hire car business before they drove interstate.

The hearings continue on Friday with evidence from one of DHHS’ authorised officers who worked in hotel quarantine and quit in disgust. The authorised officers were often public servants from other disciplines, such as sheriffs, gambling and liquor enforcement.

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue’s coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348.

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So-called ‘speed test’ could cost you thousands


Vulnerable Australians are being swindled out of thousands by “insidious” scammers posing as the NBN and asking customers to do a speed test.

Over the past six months, a new scam has been on the rise, where customers receive an email from someone posing as NBN Co, and are urged to click a link to test the speed of their connection.

With just one click, they are unwittingly giving scammers access to their computer, and through that they are able to steal banking details and other sensitive information.

Jane McNamara, head of media for NBN Co, said the thief’s next move would typically be to get the customer away from their screen, giving them unmonitored remote access to the person’s desktop.

Often the target will be asked to go outside and check their NBN box, or to go into another room.

In some cases, they are told radiation or harmful UV rays will come from the computer and instructed to move away from or cover the screen.

This is currently one of the top three scams related to the NBN, in addition to robocalls from ‘Nicole’ or ‘Carol’ threatening to disconnect a customer’s account unless a payment is made, or a fraudulent invoice being issued.

The irony of this, is that NBN Co does not have the contact details for anyone connected to the service, as a person can only connect through an internet and phone provider like Telstra or Optus.

“Scammers thrive on uncertainty and misinformation when it comes to the use of the nbn brand to access people’s computers to steal information or push for unnecessary payments,” Ms McNamara said.

“NBN Co is a wholesaler and does not make unsolicited calls to sell products, request remote access to computers through programs like Team Viewer, ask you to purchase gift cards in lieu of cash payments, threaten to disconnect your services, or request personal or financial details.”

More than 2000 NBN-themed scams have been reported in the first six months of this year alone, with national losses in excess of $320,000.

Most of the victims who reported financial losses were over 45, but data showed Australians from all age groups had reported a scam since January.

In a desperate bid to end the “heartbreaking” spate of attacks on vulnerable Aussies, NBN Co is now holding one-on-one information sessions, as well as community information nights with the public.

A national virtual information session will be held on Thursday at 2pm.

NBN CO’S TOP TIPS TO AVOID SCAMMERS

  • Visit NBN Co’s website at www.nbn.com.au/scamadvice for information on how to identify and avoid potential scammers or for advice if you suspect you have been scammed
  • Remember NBN Co will never call and ask to access your computer or advise that you’re going to be disconnected. NBN Co is a wholesaler, which means it does not sell phone or internet services directly to the public. People need to contact their preferred phone and internet provider in order to make the switch
  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer or devices via the installation of programs, such as Team Viewer
  • NBN Co does not make automated calls, such as robocalls, to advise of disconnections to nbn™ or existing copper phone line services. Do not engage with these calls
  • Do not share your financial information (i.e. bank, credit card or gift card details) or personal details with an unsolicited caller or door knockers trying to seek payment for a service over the nbn network. If in doubt, hang up and call your retail service provider on their official customer service centre number to check if the call is legitimate. Do not use contact details supplied by the caller.



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Business

Haymarket site to test the market with $100m price tag


In the state’s most significant CBD development in over a decade, the design by Fender Katsalidis and SOM is set to transform the western edge of Central Station.

The project to be delivered by Dexus and Frasers Property Australia will complement the City of Sydney’s proposal to create a third new major civic-square.

The design for Central Place Sydney features two commercial towers at 37 and 39 levels and a landmark sculptural building which will activate the precinct that connects Railway Square, Central Station and the community beyond.

At Ultimo, the 1584 sq m property is one of only five freehold “island sites” and comprises the The Ultimo Hotel, a four-star rated boutique hotel operated by Rydges with 95 guest rooms and 10 retail tenancies.

Selling agents Andy Hu, Jordan Lee, Stuart Cox and Nick Lower of Savills Australia said buyers have the option of continuing management with Rydges Hotels or taking it with vacant possession.

Mr Cox, Savills’ director of residential site sales, said the chance of one of these island sites coming to market is extremely rare in Sydney, especially in the southern CBD.

“It offers not only a redevelopment or repositioning of The Ultimo Hotel but the ability to provide an additional 13 storeys above what is already present, in addition to re-leasing the retail tenancies as expiries arise or strata subdivide the retail space and sell off individually,” Mr Cox said.

The building was converted to the current hotel and retail/commercial uses in 1988 and subsequently underwent a $10 million renovation in 2016. There are redevelopment opportunities for the asset.

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Mr Hu and Mr Lee – the joint state heads, Asia Markets at Savills Australia – believe local investors and developers are being just as aggressive as their offshore counterparts for these types of assets as the Sydney market is so supply stricken for quality assets.

“Over the years, The Ultimo Hotel has garnered a lot of interest in the mid-tier market with domestic and international investors and we are confident even during the pandemic that there will be further local and offshore interest, as the opportunity to acquire prestigious sites such as this are not readily available,” Mr Hu and Mr Jordan said.

Mr Lower, state director – NSW, metro & regional sales at Savills Australia, said the southern end of the Sydney CBD is well established with surrounding developments including a mixture of heritage style commercial buildings with ground floor retail and accommodation and mixed-use residential apartment and accommodation developments.

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Two workers test positive for coronavirus


Two workers at a Sydney hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, with one of the staff members linked to an existing community cluster.

South Western Sydney Local Health District confirmed the two workers at Liverpool Hospital had become infected but advised any risk to patients was “considered low”.

“One worker wore a face mask and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and the other was not working with patients at the time they were infectious,” a spokesperson said.

“All close and casual contacts have been identified and, as is standard protocol, advised to isolate, monitor and test for COVID-19 should any symptoms present.

“One staff member has links to an existing cluster in the community and the source of infection for the other staff member is under investigation.”

It comes after NSW recorded 22 new infections overnight, with eight of those linked to a new cluster at a school in Sydney’s northwest.

Five students at Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook tested positive, along with one teacher and two social contacts of confirmed cases linked to the school.

The original source of the outbreak is unknown.



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Local News - Victoria

Aged care home St Basil’s to be emptied by end of day as more staff test positive


It was revealed on Friday that three of the 13 new cases linked with the home were people sent to take over from the original employees.

Six of the replacement workers who were brought in last week are now infected.

“Staff that came to help in that difficult time 10 days ago have now unfortunately tested positive,” Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor Alison McMillan said.

“These decisions [to move residents to hospital] are not made lightly because we know there is a risk associated with moving very vulnerable people, particularly those that have dementia.”

Professor McMillan said AUSMAT nurses and logistical staff were at St Basil’s on Friday afternoon helping transport remaining residents to a number of hospitals around Melbourne.

“AUSMAT [staff] obviously come with an incredible range of skills, they’re often very organised, they’re very experienced clinicians, but they’re also very practical and pragmatic and can get the job done and that’s why they’re there to help this process,” she said.

The disaster workers were also at another aged care facility on Friday but Professor McMillan would not reveal which one, citing privacy concerns.

Airline workers and other out-of-work service industry staff could be tapped for training to become aged care personal assistants in the coming months, as federal authorities prepare for a long haul COVID-19 response in aged care, where hundreds of staff have already been sent into quarantine.

Professor McMillan said her team was hard pressed to find enough aged care staff to plug the holes left by the coronavirus crisis now affecting 103 facilities in Victoria.

“We are struggling, I admit, to identify nurses and patient care assistants across the system,” she said.

South Australian nurses have begun arriving in Victoria to aid the coronavirus effort, while local hospital staff are helping run facilities.

Nurses from the Austin Hospital are working at Epping Gardens Aged Care facility, which is the second-worst aged care outbreak with 115 cases.

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Professor McMillan said her team was “incredibly grateful” for the number of public and private hospital staff across the state who had put their hands up to help, but there was a longer term issue of staffing that needed to be addressed with new trainees.

“So in the immediate term, interstate [staff would be used], in the longer term, building the actual base of a workforce across the country,” she said.

“People who may have come out of service industries or, for instance, the airline industries, these are the type of people who have the type of skills that we’re looking for to aid in training more in the coming months because this is a long road.”

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