2021 Australian Open COVID crisis deepens, Pfizer vaccine deaths in Norway spark concern, worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

Three mystery cases of the same strain of COVID-19 that erupted within hours of each other at opposite ends of Sydney’s northern beaches are at the centre of the hunt for the outbreak’s patient zero.

However, the popular theory that Sydney’s latest wave of cases was spawned by a celebrity or a business identity self-isolating on the beaches’ affluent northern peninsula appears to have been debunked by authorities.

NSW Health has revealed it did not grant any exemptions to isolate outside of hotel quarantine to any local residents in the month leading up to the outbreak.

Find out what else health authorities know so far about “patient zero”.

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Police believe mother responsible for all four deaths in Tullamarine homicide, husband cleared

Police believe the woman found dead with her three children in Melbourne’s north-west on Thursday was responsible for all four deaths.

Her husband Tomislav Perinovic, who found the bodies at their Tullamarine home and called emergency services to report the deaths, has been released without charge.

“Investigators do not believe the 48-year-old man was involved in the incident and police are not looking for anyone further in relation to the matter,” a police statement said.

“Homicide Squad investigators have formed the preliminary view that the 42-year-old woman is responsible for all four deaths and on completion of their investigation, a report will be provided for consideration of the coroner.”

The bodies of Katie Perinovic, her three-year-old son Matthew, and daughters Claire and Anna, aged seven and five, were found in their Tullamarine home on Thursday.

Police said the detectives had spoken to a large number of people, including relatives, friends and neighbours of the family.

An extensive forensic examination of the scene has also been conducted.

Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Robert Hill said it had been an “incredibly difficult time” for the police and paramedics who responded and attended the scene.

“I know there will be many people in the community struggling to understand and come to terms with this tragedy,” he said.

“This has been an incredibly heart wrenching experience for all concerned.”

Yesterday, police said there was no known history of family violence in the household.

At the time, Acting Deputy Commissioner Hill urged the community “not to speculate” on the cause of the deaths and who was responsible.

Police and investigators outside the Perinovics’ Tullamarine home on Friday morning.(ABC News: Beth Gibson)

School community mourns heartbreaking loss

The deaths have shocked those who knew the family in the Tullamarine area.

Adrian Glasby, the principal of St Christopher’s Catholic School, which seven-year-old Claire attended, said the school was deeply shocked to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths.

“Claire was a kind, diligent, and much-loved student at St Christopher’s, and we were looking forward to welcoming Anna, with her huge smile, into Prep to begin her school journey in just a couple of weeks’ time,” Mr Glasby said.

“Today I have communicated with our school community and provided advice for them in sharing this tragic news and supporting their own children during this time of grief and loss.”

He said ongoing support and counselling would be offered to all members of the school community.

A police car parked outside a suburban house, which has police tape across its entrance.
Police said an extensive forensic examination of the crime scene was conducted.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
Flowers near a hand-drawn note from a child addressed to Claire, Anna, Matt and Katie.
Tributes have been left at the family’s home as the community mourns.(ABC News: Beth Gibson)

Outside the house this afternoon, a number of mourners have been stopping to pay their respects and place flowers.

A local paramedic, whose colleagues were among the first responders at the scene, was among them.

“Everyone is pretty shaken, it’s a horrible thing for anyone to attend,” he said.

“We share the community’s heartbreak. It affects all of us.”

Earlier, family friend Marie Groves said the incident “still hasn’t really sunk in properly”.

“It hasn’t sunk in that I’m not going to walk out the door and see her walking past to the milk bar and picking up pizzas with the kids,” she said.

“I’m not going to be able to be at the park and see Matthew jumping on the trampolines.”

Katie and Tomislav Perinovic and two of their children smile happily at the camera.
Police believe Katie Perinovic, left, was responsible for the deaths of her three children.(Facebook)

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Public health officials provide new projections on COVID-19 cases, deaths

Federal public health officials will provide new modelling figures today on the number of projected COVID-19 infections and deaths in Canada.

The briefing will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET and CBCNews.ca will carry it live.

It comes as the number of cases continues to climb across the country, threatening to overwhelm more health systems and critical care units.

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Coronavirus Australia news: COVID-19 deaths in the United States hit another one-day high as infections near 23 million

Coronavirus deaths in the US have hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II.

The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday (local time), with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past two-and-a-half months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out.

New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average. More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine.


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CNN reporter breaks down during live coverage of COVID-19 deaths

This US journalist choked up and cried her way through a report on American families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

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Ireland Report on Mother and Baby Homes Reveals Abuse and Thousands of Deaths

A government-commissioned report released on Tuesday found a shocking number of deaths and widespread abuses at religious institutions in Ireland for unwed mothers and their children. Survivors say the document is a small step toward accountability after decades of horrors.

The report, the culmination of a six-year investigation, detailed some 9,000 deaths of children at 14 of the country’s so-called mother and baby homes and four county homes over several decades, a mortality rate far higher than the rest of the population. The institutions, where unmarried women and girls were sent to give birth in secrecy and were pressured to give their children up for adoption, were also responsible for unethical vaccine trials and traumatic emotional abuse, the report found.

For decades, the stories of these places and the atrocities carried out in them, were largely unspoken — despite calls from the mothers who became virtual prisoners within their walls and children who spent their earliest years there, later sharing stories of neglect and abuse.

But as the country has made strides to reckon with uglier aspects of its conservative Roman Catholic roots, deeply intertwined with the foundation of the state, there have been recent moments when the scale of the systemic abuses has been thrust into the light.

Tuesday was one of those days.

Ireland’s leader, or Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, at a news conference said the report outlined a “a dark, difficult and shameful chapter” of the country’s past, acknowledging significant failures by the state, society and church.

“It opens a window onto a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades, with serious and systematic discrimination against women, especially those who gave birth outside of marriage,” he said. “We did this to ourselves as a society.”

Survivors of the homes say urgent action by the state is needed, and many say the Roman Catholic church, which ran the homes, needs to be held more fully accountable.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said it was disappointed in the “fundamentally incomplete” nature of the final report.

Mr. Martin and the country’s minister for children, Roderic O’Gorman, spoke with survivors earlier in the afternoon by video to discuss the contents of the report, which is more than 3,000 pages. Mr. Martin said he would issue an official state apology in front of Parliament on Wednesday, and Mr. O’Gorman pledged that the government was committed to working with survivors.

Mother and baby homes were run by religious orders, starting in the 1920s, and funded by the Irish government. But the institutions where young women and girls were taken, typically against their will, are not a thing of Ireland’s distant past. The last of the facilities was closed in 1998.

The commission focused on 18 institutions between 1922 to 1998, and was set up after reports emerged that the remains of nearly 800 babies and children were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a home run by nuns in the town of Tuam in County Galway.

Attention was initially drawn to the situation by the extensive research of a local, amateur historian, Catherine Corless, who pieced together records showing dozens of suspicious deaths of infants and children at the St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, but no graves associated with them. Mr. Martin thanked her by name Tuesday, calling her a “tireless crusader of dignity and truth.”

“It has been a long journey, and it hasn’t been easy,” Ms. Corless said in an interview on Tuesday morning. As evidence had piled up over the years, she said she felt compelled to pressure the government to take notice. “That’s all I could do: keep talking, keep being a voice for the people who had no voice.”

In the wake of her work, the government was forced to pay attention and formed the commission in 2015. A significant number of human remains were found at the site in Tuam in 2017.

Ms. Corless acknowledged that Tuesday was a “big day” for survivors, but said an apology from the state simply did not go far enough. She said the Bon Secours nuns, who ran the facility in Tuam, and orders that oversaw others, needed to be held accountable.

The atrocities did not play out just in Tuam. The 18 homes in Tuesday’s report spanned the country and were run by different groups of nuns. The Church ran the homes, but the newly founded Irish state worked hand-in-hand with them making many effectively state institutions in all but name.

The report detailed how 56,000 unmarried mothers and about 57,000 children came through the homes investigated by the commission during a 76-year period. It attempted to differentiate between the earliest years of the home and those that came later.

“In the years before 1960 mother and baby homes did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival,” the report said, adding that the women and children “should not have been in the institutions” at all.

But it also said there was “no evidence of the sort of gross abuse that occurred in industrial schools,” and said women were not forced by the state or church to enter the homes, though they were left with little choice, a point survivors took issue with.

The homes were just one part of a larger system that exploited and suppressed some of the country’s most vulnerable women and girls. Considered “fallen women,” they were relegated to the fringes, and even when they were not confined to mother and baby homes — were often pressured into giving up their newborns, often in shadowy adoptions.

After Ireland’s Sunday Independent published details of the report this week, KRW Law Human Rights, which represents a number of survivors, said the leak had further undermined confidence in the commission.

Marie Arbuckle, a survivor of one of the homes in Dublin where she gave birth to a son in 1981, said the decades since have been painful and felt the report barely scratched the surface.

“Taking a baby away from a mother, how can you say that’s not abuse?” she said. “No matter what apology they give, it cannot take back what they have stolen from us already, but own up.”

The commission’s archive has been handed over to the country’s child and family agency, though survivors had raised concerns about access to the materials. The government vowed to ensure access to their personal information and said counseling services were being offered. Mr. O’Gorman said the government had written to the religious orders involved to arrange a meeting to urge an apology and to seek compensation for the survivors.

But the church has been silent on the issue in the past.

For the survivors, the report is only the start, Ms. Corless said, adding it was time for the church and the religious orders to apologize and work with the survivors.

“Really and truly, they need an apology, not just want it, they need it for healing,” she said. “We are depending on that.”

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UK steps up vaccinations as coronavirus-related deaths and case numbers hit record highs

The United Kingdom is facing its worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Chief Medical Officer says, with deaths and cases in the country hitting record highs ahead of the rollout of a mass vaccination program.

According to Johns Hopkins University, deaths from the virus have now exceeded 81,500 in the UK — the world’s fifth-highest toll — with 3,081,368 people testing positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, the UK is rushing out its largest ever vaccination program, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories — about 15 million people — by the middle of next month.

But the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chris Whitty, warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service),” he said.

“Anybody who is not shocked by the number of people in hospital who are seriously ill at the moment and who are dying over the course of this pandemic, I think, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation,” he told the BBC.

NHS facing ‘a significant crisis’

During the peak of the first outbreak in April about 18,000 people were in hospital but now there are 30,000.

Professor Whitty said the health service was facing “a significant crisis”.

“Everybody says that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,” he said.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city’s hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and ministers and health chiefs pleaded with people to respect lockdown measures and stay at home unless it was essential to go out.

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Covid: UK reports more than 80,000 deaths

According to Johns Hopkins University, only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico have recorded more Covid deaths.

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Grim day as US, UK and Germany all see record high COVID-related deaths

The United Kingdom, Germany and the United States have all recorded their highest daily death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday the UK recorded 1,325 deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 28 days, eclipsing the previous record of 1,224 that occurred on April 21 last year during the first peak of the pandemic.

An additional 68,053 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the same 24 hour period, another record, and London has declared a “major incident” with Mayor Sadiq Khan warning hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed by a new highly transmissible strain of the virus.

The designation of a “major incident” in the UK is usually reserved for terror attacks or grave accidents, notably those likely to involve “serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.


London’s last “major incident” was the Grenfell Tower fire in a high-rise residential block in 2017, when 72 people died.

Mr Khan said there were parts of London where 1 in 20 people had the virus.

The pressure on the ambulance service, which was now dealing with up to 9,000 emergency calls a day, meant firefighters were being drafted in to drive vehicles, and police officers would follow.

The UK is currently in a national lockdown which came into effect earlier this week, while the total death toll stands at 78,833.

US deaths top 4,000 per day for first time

If the UK figures look grim they pale in comparison to the United States which topped 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus for the first time, breaking a record set just one day earlier.

The tally from Johns Hopkins University shows the US had 4,085 deaths Thursday, along with nearly 275,000 new coronavirus cases as it deals with a COVID crisis alongside the unrest caused in the Capitol this week when supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol leading to five deaths.

The numbers are another reminder of the worsening situation following travel for holidays and family gatherings, along with more time indoors during the winter months.

There’s been a surge in cases and deaths in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Tent hospitals have been set up in California to treat cases of COVID-19.(Reuters: Bing Guan)

More than 365,000 Americans have died from coronavirus.

On Friday a spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden said he will aim to release more available doses of coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a departure from Trump administration strategy of holding back a supply to make sure second doses are available.

“The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden’s transition team, told Reuters.

Mr Biden will reveal more next week about how his administration will begin releasing the available doses once he takes office on January 20, Mr Ducklo said in a statement.

Some small amount may be reserved for unforeseen circumstances but Mr Ducklo said more vaccines would be released than are currently.

‘Every two minutes someone dies from the virus in Germany’

Also on Friday, Germany reported a record 1,188 daily COVID-19 deaths, only days after further tightening a national lockdown amid fears that a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus may put additional strain on struggling hospitals.

Europe’s largest and most populous economy hopes to be able to limit the spread of the virus until enough of its population has been vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed to restrict non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany for the first time, after a lockdown decreed in December failed to significantly reduce infection numbers.

The death toll reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases on Friday surpassed a previous record of 1,129 registered on December 30, taking the total in connection with the pandemic to 38,795.

RKI also confirmed another 31,849 new infections, one of the highest daily tallies so far.

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