Authorities contact guests in Victorian hotel quarantine over blood test infection risk

Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine program may have inadvertently exposed returned travellers to blood-borne viruses such as HIV.

Safer Care Victoria announced on Monday that quarantine accommodation guests were being contacted to undergo precautionary screening for cross-contamination and infection.

Based on its health records, 243 guests had a blood glucose level test from 29 March to 20 August.

Testing devices not designed to be shared were used on multiple residents, presenting a risk of cross-contamination and blood-borne virus infections including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

Safer Care Victoria acting chief executive Associate Professor Ann Maree Keenan said the clinical risk of infection is low.

“The health of past quarantine residents is our immediate concern, so arranging screening for them is our absolute priority,” she said in a statement.

“The clinical risk is low. But if you are at all worried you had this test – and we have not contacted you yet – please call us.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said it was helping Safer Care Victoria and Alfred Health to identify and contact residents about the “newly identified risk”.

The devices were removed from hotel quarantine in August and it is believed they didn’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19 as the virus isn’t transmitted through blood.

Needles on the finger-prick tests were changed between uses, but the body of the device is capable of retaining microscopic amounts of blood.

Most diabetics in hotel quarantine would have had their own device and not required a test from a nurse or doctor during their 14-day stay.

“The test may also be used for pregnant women, people who fainted or people who are generally unwell,” the statement said.

Safer Care Victoria has promised a full review of how and why the devices came to be used.

“Right now, we won’t be able to answer the many questions people will have about how this happened,” Prof Keenan said.

“I hope that we will be able to bring peace of mind through getting people in for testing, and through the findings of our review.”

Any returned travellers concerned they had the test and who have not been contacted can call DHHS’s dedicated hotline on 1800 356 061 from 8am to 8pm.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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NY authorities stop wedding with up to 10,000 guests, citing coronavirus as reason

Authorities in New York quashed plans for a wedding that could have seen over 10,000 people gather in violation of COVID-19 measures, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The Rockland County Sheriff”s Office made authorities aware of the huge wedding, which was scheduled for Monday in Williamsburg.

“We were told it was going to take place. We investigated and found that it might be true. There was a big wedding planned that would have violated the rules on gatherings,” Cuomo said at a press conference.

New York’s rules for stemming the spread of COVID-19 limit social gatherings to no more than 50 people. For religious events inside a church or temple, the limit is 33 per cent of its capacity.

Elizabeth Garvey, an adviser to Cuomo, told reporters that “more than 10,000 people planned to attend” the wedding.

“You can get married. You just can’t get a thousand people at your wedding. You get the same results at the end of the day. It’s also cheaper!” Cuomo said.

Local media reported the event was an Orthodox Jewish wedding.

New York was the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak back in spring, and the city has seen more than 23,800 related deaths.

It managed to bring the crisis under control through lockdowns, but in recent weeks the number of reported COVID-19 cases has risen.

Last week Cuomo ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in the worst-hit areas and limited the number of people who can be in places of worship to 10. Schools were also closed.

The governor said Saturday that these measures were already yielding results.

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New Zealand travellers who flew to Melbourne via Sydney still in Victoria, authorities say

The Federal Government says “there was an understanding” that travellers who arrive in New South Wales from New Zealand would be allowed into other states if their borders aren’t closed, despite Daniel Andrews stating Victoria was not part of the new trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Mr Andrews said Victorian officials had “absolutely no power” to detain the 17 travellers from New Zealand who arrived in Melbourne via Sydney last night.

The passengers flew to Sydney on Friday, on day one of the new trans-Tasman travel bubble, then caught a connecting flight to Melbourne.

Passengers from New Zealand now do not need to quarantine upon arriving in New South Wales, but Mr Andrews said Victoria was not part of the bubble arrangements.

“Somehow, something has gone wrong at Sydney, I think, to allow people to travel on beyond the international flight,” he said on Saturday.

The Premier said he had written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ensure more arrivals from New Zealand do not travel on to Victoria on Sunday.

“We’re disappointed this has happened, given that I had written to the Prime Minister on this very issue the previous day, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble but it is not appropriate now,” he said.

In the letter, Mr Andrews reiterated that Victoria could not accept any foreign travellers until mid-November, after the hotel quarantine report is delivered.

“I urgently request your action to prohibit onward travel of passengers under the Safe Travel Zone Arrangements into Victoria,” he said.

“This action would avoid the need for Victoria to close its borders — an intervention I have resisted throughout this pandemic.”

However, the Federal Government has made a statement contradicting the claim that travellers from New Zealand should not be allowed to fly into Victoria.

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Alan Tudge says ‘there was an understanding’ NZ arrivals would be allowed to travel onwards from NSW.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said when the trans-Tasman travel bubble was discussed at a Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) meeting on Monday, “no official from any jurisdiction raised concerns” about arrivals from New Zealand potentially travelling to other destinations.

“There was an understanding that when Kiwis arrived into Sydney, coming from a country which has zero community transmissions, that there’d be no need for quarantining,” he said.

“And that once they had arrived into Sydney that they would be treated like any other person in New South Wales, any other Australian, any other visa holder, and therefore travel into those jurisdictions which enable people to travel into them — and that of course included Victoria.”

In an earlier letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Andrews said while Victoria wanted to give further consideration to allowing arrivals from New Zealand, it was not possible until international flight arrivals recommenced.

Victoria has not accepted international arrivals since early July, but its domestic borders have remained open.

When asked whether Victoria should consider shutting its domestic borders, Mr Andrews said he did not want to do that.

“I know that the Prime Minister would be very disappointed if that happened,” he said.

“That is what he is trying to avoid, and that is why I wrote to him this morning and made it clear that we need to get to the bottom of this, and have the requisite assurances that this won’t happen again.”

‘They could be Victorians for all we know’

The Premier said the 17 travellers from New Zealand travelled to Melbourne at about 5:30pm on Friday.

“They didn’t spend very long at the [Melbourne] airport. They left the airport within only minutes, really, of having arrived,” Mr Andrews said.

“Our officers have absolutely no power to stop someone, to detain someone in those circumstances, particularly given they were coming from a very low-virus part of the world.”

The photo shows the silhouette of a woman walking inside Melbourne Airport as a plane prepares for boarding.
The travellers flew from Sydney to Melbourne last night, after arriving from New Zealand.(AAP: Mal Fairclough, File photo)

The Premier also said on Saturday morning that Victorian officials did not know who the travellers were or where they were going, because the Australian Border Force had not handed over the passenger arrival cards.

“Because we don’t have the cards, I can’t tell you whether they are New Zealand or Australian citizens,” he said.

“They could be Victorians for all we know.”

However shortly afterwards, Mr Tudge said the passenger cards had been handed over to Victoria.

Mr Andrews said it was also unknown whether the people who arrived knew about the restrictions in place in Victoria.

“We’re not asserting or inferring that they have done anything wrong,” he said.

“Something has gone wrong in this system, we are not supposed to be part of this [travel bubble] arrangement.”

Victoria Police said they would visit the travellers on Saturday to perform welfare checks.

Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said the passengers were in Melbourne and not under any detention orders.

In a statement issued late last night, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said its authorised officers did not have legal authority to detain travellers on arrival.

“Victoria has not agreed to a travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand and did not expect to receive international travellers as a result of NSW making that arrangement,” DHHS said.

“The Victorian Government has made it clear to the Commonwealth that we expect NZ passengers who have not undertaken quarantine will not be permitted to board flights in Sydney bound for Melbourne.”

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‘Accessible only to State authorities’. Here’s how the EU explained its decision to sanction high-level Russian officials over Navalny’s poisoning

On Thursday, October 15, the European Union imposed sanctions against six senior Russian officials and one scientific research institute in response to the use of a Novichok-type nerve agent to poison opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The new sanctions were announced in the latest volume of the Official Journal of the European Union. The United Kingdom, which is not an EU member state, opted to impose similar sanctions, as well. Here’s what you need to know about who’s on sanctions list and how the EU made this decision.

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Chadstone butcher in ICU, as authorities investigate Box Hill Hospital coronavirus outbreak

The manager of a butcher shop in Melbourne’s south-east was back in intensive care yesterday after testing positive to coronavirus last week.

The Butcher Club in the Chadstone shopping centre has been linked to 31 active COVID-19 cases, with the business saying it was upset the manager’s condition had deteriorated again and he needed to return to hospital.

Butcher Club owner Peter Robinson said the manager was expected to remain in hospital for another four or five days.

Mr Robinson said the outbreak, spread by a cleaning contractor, was “very, very distressing” for the manager, his family and the staff.

“Two days ago [the manager] took a turn for the worse again and since then it’s been a steady improvement,” Mr Robinson said.

The manager was in ICU last night but Mr Robinson said doctors appeared pleased with the man’s progress.

Mr Robinson said the manager had been receiving oxygen but was not on a ventilator.

The Butcher Club owner Peter Robinson says the outbreak at the Chadstone store has been “very distressing.”(ABC News)

Victorian health authorities said 17 people with coronavirus were in hospital yesterday, including one in intensive care.

Mr Robinson said the rest of the Butcher Club’s Chadstone staff remained in isolation. He said “a number” of the store’s close contacts and family members had contracted the virus, but were recovering well.

Mr Robinson said he never thought his business would be hit so hard by coronavirus because fresh food safety procedures meant staff were used to “being all over safety and hygiene”.

“By all accounts, if we didn’t have this unfortunate case where we had a cleaner come with some symptoms, we’d still have an unblemished record,” he said.

Public health officials have urged anyone who visited the Chadstone shopping centre between September 23 and October 1 to get tested, even if they have the mildest of symptoms.

More Kilmore test results due

Testing is also continuing in a related outbreak at a cafe in Kilmore, north of Melbourne.

The town remains on alert with about 230 residents self-isolating and at least 250 awaiting coronavirus test results.

There are four cases officially linked to the town.

The cluster began when a person with COVID-19 linked to the Chadstone shopping centre outbreak dined at the town’s Oddfellows Cafe last week while infectious.

More than 500 people in the area have been tested so far.

The results of around half of those tests are already known and more will be reported today.

Box Hill Hospital outbreak under investigation

Meanwhile, contact tracing is underway to determine how two staff members and one patient came to have coronavirus at the Box Hill Hospital.

Eastern Health declined to comment on the outbreak, but the health department said contact tracing was underway.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said all appropriate public health actions were being undertaken, including cleaning, testing and quarantining.

Victoria reported 11 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, but no deaths.

To date, 809 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling case average is 9.7, down from 9.9 on Wednesday.

The front entrance and sign of Box Hill Hospital.
Investigations are underway into an outbreak at Box Hill Hospital.(ABC News: Jessica Longbottom)

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French Open match-fixing investigation launched by Paris authorities after women’s doubles match

French prosecutors have opened an investigation into alleged match-fixing in a women’s doubles match at the French Open.

The prosecutors office said the investigation into “fraud in an organised group” and “active and passive corruption”, began after Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Mari played Russian Yana Sizikova and American Madison Brengle at Roland-Garros.

The Romanians won the match before later being knocked out in the third round of the tournament.

When asked about the case, French Open organisers referred Reuters to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), which said it was aware of the investigation but declined to comment.

The investigation, which was opened on October 1, is being handled by the French police’s Central Service of Races and Games (SSCJ).

The TIU was set up in 2008 to tackle the threat of corruption in the game and has the power to issue life bans for serious offences.

Alerts flagged up to the TIU increased in the first quarter of 2020, but these cases rarely involve the ATP or WTA Tour events or grand slams.

Most TIU convictions concern players plying their trade in the lowest rungs of professional tennis.

The TIU said it had received 38 match alerts between January and March this year, compared with 21 in the same period in 2019.

In its most high-profile case, the TIU in 2018 suspended Argentine tennis player Nicolas Kicker for six years — three years of it suspended — and fined him $US25,000 ($34,970) for match-fixing and other offences.

Qualifier creates history in women’s draw

But the day was not without good news for the sport, with Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska recording a feel-good win to reach her first grand slam semi-final.

Two years ago, Podoroska could not afford to travel to tournaments after her earnings dropped following a wrist injury, but on Tuesday she ensured money would not be a problem for a while.

Nadia Podoroska is one win away from becoming the first female qualifier to make a grand slam final in the Open era.(AP: Michel Euler)

The 23-year-old beat third seed Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4 to become the first female qualifier to reach the semi-finals at the French Open, pocketing at least $702,000 — about $280,000 more than she had previously earned in her entire career.

“The toughest part for me was like two or three years ago. I had too many injuries. My ranking dropped,” she told a news conference.

“I was like eight months out of the tour. Then I didn’t have the money to start playing tournaments.”

Podoroska dropped to 508th in the WTA rankings in May, 2018 before gradually working her way up to reach a career-high of 130th last month after winning the Saint Malo Open, an ITF World Tour tournament — one level below the main WTA Tour.

She then entered the qualifiers at Roland-Garros and is now on a 13-match winning streak, living the dream.


With a certain sense of understatement, her coach, Juan Pablo Guzman, said Podoroska was “playing like a good level”.

“The good thing is she can maintain all the match playing at this level,” he said.

Podoroska’s game combines a good eye for angles, decent power and a nice touch for drop shots, which had Svitolina running around the court chasing balls throughout their encounter.

“I think the condition of the weather, of the balls, they are much heavier than usual, the part of the year it’s humid, cold, the courts are heavy, I think it helps a lot for her to play this kind of game,” Guzman said.

“I think she still has more game to show.”

Podoroska next faces Polish teenager Iga Swiatek.

Victory would make Podoroska the first female qualifier to reach a grand slam final since tennis turned professional in 1968.

A cap-wearing tennis player looks to side of court and pumps her fist in celebration at French Open.
Iga Swiatek continued her strong run at this year’s French Open, as the 19-year-old sealed a spot in the last four.(AP: Alessandra Tarantino)


Swiatek made it to her first grand slam semi-final by ending the surprising French Open run of qualifier Martina Trevisan of Italy.

The 54th-ranked Swiatek got off to a slow start before taking 11 of the last 12 games to win 6-3, 6-1 at Court Philippe Chatrier.

Both women were appearing in their first major quarter-final.

Swiatek has been dominant throughout the tournament, dropping zero sets and a total of 20 games over five matches.

That includes wins against number one seed Simona Halep, the 2018 champion in Paris, and 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.


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Russian Authorities Mull Chartering China ‘Surrogate Baby Plane’

Russian authorities are considering chartering a plane from China to fly over parents who have been estranged from their babies born to surrogates in Russia due to coronavirus restrictions, they said Tuesday.

With the practice banned in China,  parents pay to have surrogate babies abroad, but the system has been tipped into chaos by the pandemic, which has seen borders closed, flights canceled and visas pulled.

That has created a ‘pile-up’ of newborns waiting, some in orphanages, to be picked up by their biological Chinese parents.

“We are considering the possibility of providing visas and organizing a humanitarian flight from Beijing so that Chinese parents can come and pick up their children,” Anna Mityanina, in charge of children’s rights in Saint-Petersburg where many babies are blocked, told reporters.

“They all have their ID documents with their Chinese names and they are doing really well,” she added in front of an orphanage where some are being kept.

In China, rising incomes, high rates of infertility and the desire for older couples — well past their reproductive age — to have a son after China scrapped its one-child rule in 2016 has fuelled the demand for foreign surrogates. 

Mityanina stressed that not all babies born to surrogate mothers had been located.

She said surrogacy agencies are in charge of them: “They’re very opaque and prefer not to share information about their activity.”

Borders have been closed since March to most foreigners in Russia, one of few countries where commercial surrogacy is allowed, along with Ukraine.

But a backlash against foreign surrogacy is building with warnings that women and children are being exploited by wealthy foreigners.

Since the start of the pandemic, ‘baby dens’ with dozens of newborns in orphanages or apartments have been found as the backlog builds, according to surrogacy agencies in Russia and Ukraine.

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One third of the whales stranded off Tasmania’s coast have died, authorities say

About a third of the 270 pilot whales stranded on a sandbar on Tasmania’s West Coast have died, rescuers say.

The whales got into difficulty on a sandbank at Macquarie Heads, near Strahan about 190 kilometres from Hobart, yesterday.

Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said today’s early efforts would be focused on the whales with the best chances of survival.

“Some animals may simply be too big or in a too difficult location to deal with,” Dr Carlyon said.

Dr Carlyon said rescuers would this morning try to “refloat” several animals and assess their behaviour.

“We don’t really know how long this rescue is going to take, so this morning’s phase will be critical in determining what’s possible,” he said.

“[The operation] is likely to take days.

“In terms of mass strandings in Tasmania, this is up there with the trickiest we’ve had to deal with.”

Cause of whale strandings hard to pinpoint

Dr Carlyon said it was difficult to determine what caused whale strandings.

“It could be that they’ve been drawn into this area by feeding on the coast,” he said.

Dr Carlyon said “misadventure by one or two” of the whales could have drawn the rest of the social animals in.

Parks and Wildlife regional manager Nic Deka urged the public to stay clear of the animals.

“The best thing the public can do is to stay away and let us get on with the job. There’s very little people can do to assist because whale rescue operations are high risk,” he said.

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The operation to save the stranded whales continues.

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Finnish authorities failed to do due diligence to prevent school shooting in Kauhajoki in 2008

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday that Finnish authorities violated the right to life of 10 young people by failing to do their due diligence to prevent the school shooting that occurred in Kauhajoki, Western Finland, in September 2008.

The ruling was delivered by a vote of six to one.

Nineteen family members of the 10 people who died in the shooting filed a complaint with the ECHR in 2012, questioning the decision of authorities to grant the shooter a gun licence despite his mental health problems. The decision, the complainants argued, violated article two of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Police also decided not to confiscate the firearm despite interviewing the shooter a day before the shooting for posting alarming firearm-related videos and references to the Columbine High School massacre in the United States in 1999.

The 22-year-old man committed suicide after killing 10 at the school on 23 September 2008.

The ECHR ruled in favour of the complainants, ordering the Finnish state to pay the family of each victim 30,000 euros in compensation for their loss and almost 7,000 euros for the legal fees incurred during the eight-year process, according to YLE.

Also the Finnish judicial system has assessed the actions of authorities prior to the shooting, reminded Helsingin Sanomat.

The Vaasa Court of Appeal in 2011 convicted the officer who interviewed the shooter of negligent violation of official duty for failing to use their discretion and confiscate the firearm. The officer, however, also had no justified reason to suspect the shooter was planning a school shooting, according to the court.

The families of the victims had demanded that the officer be sentenced for violation of official duty and several counts of negligent homicides.

Helsingin Sanomat also highlighted that the shooting served as an impetus for amending the firearms legislation. The amendments appear to have had the desired effect. The man who killed one and wounded several others in a vocational college in Kuopio in October 2019 stated in court earlier this week that he decided to use a sword in his attack due to the difficulty of obtaining a firearm.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Authorities Intercept Package Containing Ricin Mailed to the White House

Law enforcement agents intercepted a package addressed to the White House containing the toxic poison ricin earlier this week according to CNN and the New York Times. 

The package was addressed to President Donald Trump.

A facility outside the White House typically screens all mail before it is delivered to the White House.

An official speaking to the New York Times said the letter is believed to have been sent from Canada.

An attempt to mail ricin to President Trump was also intercepted in October 2018.

William Clyde Allen, a former Naval officer was arrested by the FBI for mailing ricin filled letters to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, and FBI Director Chris Wray.


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