Coronavirus Australia live news: NSW issues hotel alert amid fears UK virus strain may have crossed border

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NSW Health urges anyone who has been at Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor as a returned traveller or worker to immediately get tested and isolate. Follow all the updates, live

Josh Frydenberg has spoken this morning, saying he believes households have sufficient savings for the economy to continue its recovery even when jobkeeper ends in March.

The federal treasurer jumped on new figures showing households and businesses have amassed more than $200bn in savings during the pandemic.

There is a huge sum of money available to be spent across the economy helping to create jobs and maintain the momentum of our economic recovery.

The unprecedented economic support provided by the Morrison government during the crisis means that even as jobkeeper and other temporary emergency support measures taper off, a fiscal cliff is avoided.

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data shows household deposits increased by around $113bn between January and November last year.

Non-financial businesses saved $104bn over the same period.

Unsurprisingly, the shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers disagrees.

One of the reasons household savings have been higher than usual is because many people have been reacting to a lot of uncertainty.

If only the treasurer was as focused on creating jobs as he is obsessed with generating headlines and congratulating himself while some workers, small businesses and communities are still struggling.

Competition regulator Rod Sims has foreshadowed possible further legal cases against tech groups as a result of inquiries into mobile phone app stores and how ads are sold online.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which Sims chairs, has been investigating so-called “ad tech”, where search engine Google is a major player, and the stores both Google and competitor Apple use to sell mobile phone apps, as part of its broader agenda to examine the power of tech companies.

Sims handed a report detailing the findings of his inquiry into ad tech to the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, on 31 December, and the government is expected to release it before the end of the month.

You can read the full story below:

I’ve just heard back from Cathay Pacific about how that airline is managing the reduction in the hotel quarantine caps, which affect its commercial flights coming into Sydney and Brisbane.

They have not said how they are selecting which passengers will fly as scheduled and which will be bumped, but said they are “committed to supporting our customers as best we can during this challenging time”.

Our ‘Fly Worry Free’ program remains in effect and guarantees unlimited ticket changes or a full refund for any passengers impacted by the government cap adjustments.”

And Etihad said this:

Following regulations being updated by the Australian authorities, a further limit on the number of passengers per flight allowed to disembark at Sydney International Airport has been applied.

As a result, Etihad Airways is temporarily restricting the number of passengers carried between Abu Dhabi and Sydney from 15 January until 15 February 2021.

Travellers returning to Australia are encouraged to contact Etihad Airways to ensure their travel plans are not disrupted. We will work closely with impacted guests and travel agents to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and re-accommodate them on alternative flights. Etihad continues to adhere to the guidelines set by the relevant authorities in the UAE and Australia.

Bureau of Meteorology, Australia
(@BOM_au)
Thunderstorms will impact parts of eastern Australia over the coming days, possibly severe.Activity will kick off in eastern #Vic & southern #NSW & #ACT today, extending across eastern NSW on Thurs/Fri, before moving into southern #Qld over the weekend https://t.co/XVOAznfBIf pic.twitter.com/GiBQjkjIfL

January 13, 2021

The buzz call of the cicada is a familiar sound of the Australian summer and this season is what David Emery calls a “super year for our summer chorusing friends”.

A veterinary immunologist at the University of Sydney and cicada expert, Emery has been monitoring the insects for decades and, along with many residents of coastal New South Wales and beyond, has registered that the volume is more ear-splitting than usual.

In NSW, Victoria and South Australia, more cicadas have emerged this summer than in recent years.

Emery says one reason is the abundance of winter and summer rainfall Australia has received.

“You often see a good emergence after drought and that may be due to plant regeneration and growth inspired by the rain,” Emery said. “After the fires, we see that regrowth as well.”
You can read the full story below:

Just on those drownings here is a bit more information.

Three people are dead after separate drownings on Victoria’s coastline, while a child is fighting for life after being recused from waters in southeast Melbourne.

A woman in her 20s died after swimming out to rescue a teenage girl struggling in the water at Venus Bay (a popular Victorian Holiday town), about 7.30pm on Wednesday.

The woman was one of several people who dived into the waters to save the girl, but she began to struggle before she was pulled from the water by an off-duty lifeguard. The others made it safely back including the teenage girl.

Earlier in the afternoon, four people were swept off rocks at Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula. Police say two onlookers then entered the water to assist.

One woman died and five other people were rescued but four required hospitalisations.

It’s not yet known if she was one of the two people who attempted the rescue.

The third death was a man in his 80s, who was brought to shore already unconscious at the popular Rye front beach in Tootgarook, on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a three-year-old girl was found unresponsive at Lysterfield Lake in Narre Warren about 5.50pm on Wednesday.

She was rescued from the water and taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Police say they have launched an investigation into the incident.

An Adelaide man says he felt “powerless” and disrespected when two employees from his disability employment agency turned up at his house without permission or prior warning, a likely breach of government guidelines.

Jobseeker Franklin Araya, 59, said two employees from Multiple Solutions arrived at his home unannounced on Friday, 8 January.

He said they asked him to sign a form that indicated he had been working for a certain number of weeks and hours – documentation that can allow providers to claim bonuses, known as outcome payments, though there is no allegation the information on the form was false.

The incident bears similarities to a case last year, where a newly unemployed man said he felt harassed by an employment agency job coach who showed up at his home unannounced and which Guardian Australia can reveal resulted in a “breach notice” being issued to the provider.

You can read the full story below:

This isn’t Australian news, but I think we can make an exception.

Kathryn Diss
(@KathrynDiss)
#BREAKING: US President Donald Trump has been impeached for a second time, making him the first in US history to face the most serious of political charges twice.The US House of Representatives voted impeach the president on a charge of “incitement of insurrection”.

January 13, 2021

You can check out all the updates from the impeachment vote today on our US live blog.

Bing bing bing! It’s my favourite time of the morning! (No prizes for guessing what state I live in).

Victoria has recorded no locally acquired cases yesterday and no cases in hotel quarantine.

Triple doughnuts baby!

VicGovDHHS
(@VicGovDHHS)
Yesterday there were 0 new locally acquired cases reported and 0 new cases in hotel quarantine. Thanks to all who were tested – 16,533 results were received. #EveryTestHelps.

More later: https://t.co/lIUrl0ZEco #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/zOan8txQEo

January 13, 2021

I mentioned before that Life Saving Victoria had taken to social media to talk about how heartbreaking yesterday was along the state’s beaches after three died and five were put in hospital in three separate incidents.

Here is one of those posts:

Kane Treloar
(@KaneTreloar)
(1/6) Today has been a challenging day for @LifeSavingVic lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers.

It breaks our hearts to have three tragic drownings in one day; three families that will never be the same again.

January 13, 2021

Kane Treloar
(@KaneTreloar)
(2/6) But shouldn’t be forgotten is that today on Port Phillip Bay, 2 young @LifeSavingVic lifeguards pulled a young woman unconscious from the water and performed a successful resuscitation saving her life with the help of @FireRescueVic and @AmbulanceVic

January 13, 2021

Kane Treloar
(@KaneTreloar)
(4/6)Tonight in Gippsland, at around 8pm a young LSV volunteer pulled a young child from a dangerous rip; saving that child’s life. His clubmates rushed to the beach to help him.

January 13, 2021

In possibly the worst news I have ever heard in my life a wild Australian sea lion has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, for the first time.

The discovery by Australian researchers has sparked concerns the disease, which was found in the mammal’s abdomen, could transfer to humans, the AAP reports.

University of Sydney researcher Rachel Gray said there was a risk of transmission.

There is risk of transmission for researchers handling the animals, as well as anyone involved in animal rescue or washed-up carcass disposal, or those working at rehabilitation centres and involved in the disease diagnostic process.

In humans, tuberculosis typically affects the lungs.

The infected seal was a dead three-year-old male found on a beach at Kangaroo Island in South Australia in 2017.

Tuberculosis was discovered in its intestines during an autopsy.

This unusual finding means we need to maintain constant vigilance around zoonotic disease risk for any person in close contact with free-ranging pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) of juvenile age or older.

The research was published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

The federal communications minister Paul Fletcher is speaking on Radio National now. He is chiefly being asked about the Liberal and National party’s reluctance to condemn MPs George Christensen and Craig Kelly for spreading misinformation on social media.

Kelly on Monday posted misleading statistics to his Facebook page, labelling mandatory mask-wearing laws “child abuse”.

The Australia Medical Association, former prime minister Malcolm Turnball and the federal opposition have all called on the LNP to censure Kelly.

Unsurprisingly Fletcher isn’t too forthcoming with any condemnations:

I’m not going to comment on individual cases of what people say online. You know as Australia’s communications minister if I’m asked to comment on anything that anybody says online, there are millions of Australians online, every day.

Let’s be very clear.

Australia’s medical advice comes from the chief medical officer of the department of health, the minister for health. The government’s advice is very clear on what people should do, and the management of the pandemic in Australia compares very favourably to any anywhere around the world, but I’m not going to get into commenting on individual posts, made by individuals.

Just a reminder that the “individual” he is talking about is an elected member of government and part of Fletcher’s own political party.

More from Berejiklian on this new UK strain of the coronavirus:

What we need to do is take a breath over the next month to learn what the new strains of the virus are doing.

They will eventually become the dominant strains because this particular strain – which has been dubbed the UK strain – is actually already in over 30 countries, so it’s not one country, one strain we need to worry about.

It’s now become a strain which is prevalent in many countries where Australians are, where Australians are trying to come home from.

And, therefore, we have to be extra vigilant. We have to take to time to learn.

The premier was asked if states should consider moving hotel quarantine to regional areas.

Well, I don’t think that will really make difference.

It depends on the health advice, but we know that transmissibility or the contagiousness of a virus goes up in smaller vehicles, so when you’re actually transporting people, when you’re travelling those longer distances and spending a longer time in close confines, it actually increases the likelihood of the spread of the virus.

So whilst it might sound good in theory, we do need to take the health advice on that. Unfortunately, the health consequences could be worse.

What we do need to do, though, is make sure that if there is also human error involved, we get to the bottom of it. There are thousands of unbelievably brave people working in our hotel quarantine system every day across the nation.

And they do a fantastic job.

Oh, speaking of, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian is on ABC News Breakfast now addressing the worrying Brisbane hotel cluster.

She says the new Covid-19 variant is a real worry.

Well, certainly we’re saying to anybody who stayed at that hotel at that time to make sure they have been tested and they’re isolating for at least 14 days.

What we also [know]about the new strains of the virus is that after 14 days, you may still be contagious and that’s why it’s important for them to get tested, stay at home and isolate for at least the 14 days and to wait for the health advice before they go back out into the community. This is to make sure that the virus doesn’t escape into the community which is the aim of all of the states …
When you have an issue like this, where you don’t know how the virus was transmitted, you don’t know whether people left the building unintentionally with the virus or not knowing they got the virus … that’s when it’s a real worry. That’s why I strongly supported halving welcoming Aussies back home through Sydney during January and February from 3,000 a week to 1,500 a week.

Good morning all, Matilda Boseley here ready to take you through all the important news this Thursday.

If you see anything that you think belongs in the blog, make sure you send it through to me on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or by email on [email protected]

So, one of the big things to watch today is NSW issuing an alert for anyone who has been at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane, fearing a highly contagious strain of coronavirus may have spread across the border.

The hotel, which has been used to quarantine returned travellers, is linked to six cases of the UK variant of Covid-19, with multiple guests and a staff member all contracting the disease on the same floor. Queensland Health has now shut the facility for deep cleaning and has moved all guests, restarting their two-week stay.

NSW Health on Wednesday urged anyone who had been at the hotel since December 30, as a returned traveller or worker, to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

This strain is said to be up to 70% more infectious than the “regular” coronavirus, although it doesn’t seem that the disease the virus causes is more virulent or deadly.

But still, state leaders are terrified that if this variant seeds in the community, it could be exponentially harder to bring under control.

In other news:
Australia’s chief medical officer has rejected calls to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after some doctors expressed concerns about the vaccine’s efficacy rate, which ranges from 62% to 90%, depending on how doses are administered.

But the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, is standing by plans to distribute AstraZeneca to most Australians.

Human Rights Watch’s annual report says Australia’s global reputation on human rights has been marred by the government’s failure to address longstanding abuses against First Nations people. The New York-based rights group also highlighted misuses of police powers during Covid-19 lockdowns and the continued mistreatment of asylum seekers.

The first of 1,200 international tennis players, support crew and officials are expected to arrive in Melbourne for the Australian Open, as health authorities issue a new alert for a Covid-hit Brisbane quarantine hotel.

AAP is reporting a charter flight carrying athletes and staff is scheduled to land at Tullamarine early Thursday evening.

Three people drowned and five ended up in hospital in three separate incidents along Victoria’s beaches yesterday.

Life Saving Victoria members have spoken on social media how “heartbreaking” the summer day had been.

Victoria Police
(@VictoriaPolice)
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner after the death of a woman at Venus Bay this evening.The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is ongoing.🔗 https://t.co/mELymXSwym pic.twitter.com/X4ok3dXGgU

January 13, 2021

Okay guys, let’s get started.

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