Another lockdown possible as Brisbane enters new stage of restrictions


Greater Brisbane will remain “on heightened alert” until January 22, which will mark the end of the virus’s 14-day incubation period.

During the next 10 days, face masks will remain mandatory at indoor public spaces, capacity limits will be reduced and fewer people can gather inside homes.

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Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the virus variant, known as B.1.1.7 or 501Y.V1, would need to be detected in people who had been out in the community, rather than isolation, for the rules to continue past January 22.

“We are really at the start of understanding this new variant, that is why we have had to be so cautious,” she said.

“I am not sure we will have to be as cautious if we have a case in the future, but while we just don’t know a lot about it, we have to be very, very cautious.”

Dr Young said one new case of the UK strain could trigger another lockdown but it “depends where it is found” and stressed a positive case in quarantine would not prompt another stay-at-home order.

Brisbane emerged from a three-day lockdown on Monday night after authorities found no evidence that the mutant strain had spread widely in Queensland.

Residents were ordered to stay home after a hotel quarantine cleaner, infected with the new strain, tested positive and was mingling in the community while unknowingly infectious.

Health authorities tracked down 370 people who came into contact with the cleaner and 172 of those have returned a negative test result. There were still 198 tests outstanding.

The woman’s partner tested positive for the virus on Monday, but has been in quarantine since January 7. Health authorities were still determining the man’s potential infectious period.

Two investigations, one lead by health authorities and the other by police, are under way to determine how the cleaner became infected.

If there are no further cases of community transmission between now and January 22, restrictions will revert back to the way they were at Christmas time, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.

“If we get this right, if we do everything that we need to do then come 22 January we can move back to the way we have been operating since December 1.”

Dr Young welcomed the national cabinet’s decision to reduce overseas arrivals which was increasing the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland.

“That will help us enormously because it was a strain on our system to take those up to 1400 people each week, that is now being reduced to 500,” she said. “I think that will help us to manage the risk.”

Both the ACT and Northern Territory revoked Brisbane’s hotspot status on Monday.

People heading from Brisbane to Tasmania still need to quarantine for 14 days, but those who arrived before January 8 no longer need to isolate.

Victoria’s border remained closed to Greater Brisbane and Western Australia has locked out all of Queensland.

South Australia is yet to reveal whether it will continue its 14-day quarantine requirement for Brisbane arrivals and there are no restrictions for Queenslanders travelling to New South Wales.

NSW was the only state in the country to have people test positive for the virus outside of quarantine on Monday.

Three new locally acquired cases were confirmed, but have been linked back to a cluster in western Sydney.

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Greater Brisbane enters three-day lockdown amid UK COVID-19 variant concern


Greater Brisbane entered a hard lockdown at 6pm on Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19.

Residents in the council areas of Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands are required to stay at home until 6pm on Monday except for essential work, exercise, essential shopping and to access healthcare.

Masks are also mandated for people leaving home in the Greater Brisbane area.

“It is incredibly important in this time to stop the spread of this infectious UK strain. We must act immediately, we must act strongly and we have taken those strong measures today,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters on Friday morning.

Ahead of the deadline, massive crowds flocked to supermarkets on Friday, stripping shelves of toiletries, perishables and canned goods with lines stretching for hundreds of metres at some stores.

Police were called in to untangle traffic gridlock around major supermarkets and shopping centres.

Shoppers faced long waits of up to two hours, with social media flooded with images of bare shelves and long checkout lines.

A shopper is seen looking at the empty shelves inside the Coles Supermarket at Kedron in Brisbane on 8 January, 2021.

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After encouraging shoppers to “only buy what they need”, supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles reintroduced storewide limits to cope with the overwhelming surge in demand.

Shoppers are restricted to purchase limits of two items from a range of toilet paper, anti-bacterial products, and canned, frozen goods from Friday.

Cafes, pubs and restaurants will be open only for take-away service. 

Funerals will be restricted to 20 guests and weddings restricted to 10 guests.

There is a limit of two visitors in homes and people are allowed to exercise with one other.

People can enter Greater Brisbane during the lockdown period but are bound by the same restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking after an emergency national cabinet meeting to discuss the UK and other variants of the virus now spreading around the world, said the situation in Brisbane was serious.

“We know there is only one case, but what we do know is that this new strain is some 70 per cent more transmissible than the previous strains of the virus,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

“So it is a very wise decision by the Queensland government, by Premier Palaszczuk, to put in place the precautions she has over the next few days.”

National cabinet also adopted several new measures around flight travel, including the introduction of pre-flight testing of returning Australians. Masks will also be mandatory on all domestic and international flights and airports.

International arrivals will also be reduced until 15 February, rather than blocking flights from certain countries.

Mr Morrison said closing off international flights was considered at the meeting but not recommended by the national cabinet.

“Australia needs to continue to function. For example, vaccines need to come to Australia. They come here on planes, as other critical supplies do,” he said.

How have other states responded? 

Tasmania responded to the news out of Queensland by declaring Greater Brisbane a high-risk area.

Any traveller arriving in Tasmania from Friday who has been in Greater Brisbane since 2 January will now need to quarantine for up to 14 days. People without “suitable premises” to quarantine in will be placed into a hotel.

In NSW, Acting Premier John Barilaro said state authorities were working with their counterparts in Queensland but his state was not considering a hard border. But he said anyone already in transit from Greater Brisbane to NSW must abide by Queensland’s isolation rules, and act as if they had remained in place.

WA premier Mark McGowan announced his state would impose a hard border with the entire state of Queensland from midnight on Friday, with travel only permitted with a police exemption.

South Australia has declared the Greater Brisbane area region a COVID-19 hotspot, with anyone arriving from midnight Friday required to go into quarantine for two weeks.

The Northern Territory Government has also declared Greater Brisbane a hotspot, starting immediately.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said this means “anyone arriving in the Territory today from these regions will have to enter mandatory two-week quarantine”.

The cleaner is Australia’s first case of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus outside of quarantining returned overseas travellers.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly earlier said the situation in Queensland was concerning.

“We do know that we’ve had cases of the UK variant in our hotel quarantine system,” he told ABC RN.

“And we do know sometimes with a very complex system which relies on humans, mistakes can happen. That apparently is the case here.”

The hotel cleaner’s infection ended almost four months of zero locally-acquired cases in Queensland.

She visited several locations while potentially infectious and contact tracers are tracking her movements.

The woman travelled on a train from Altandi station to Roma Street station at 7am on 2 January, then returned on the 4pm service the same day.

She also visited Woolworths at the Calamvale Central Shopping Centre from 11am to 12pm on Sunday 3 January.

She was at Coles in Sunnybank Hills for 30 minutes from 7.30am on Tuesday 5 January and a newsagent at Sunnybank Hills Shopping Town from 8am to 8.15am on the same day.

Residents of Algester, Sunnybank Hills and Calamvale who have symptoms of the infection are especially urged to get tested as soon as possible.

Additional reporting by SBS News.

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. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

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Kwinana bushfire emergency in Perth enters second day with warning over rubbish tip fumes


Residents in Perth’s southern suburbs have been warned it is too late to leave their homes as a bushfire continues to burn out of control in Kwinana, as deadly fumes from a rubbish tip fill the air.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has issued an emergency warning for suburbs in the City of Kwinana including parts of The Spectacles, Orelia, Medina, Naval Base, Postans, Kwinana Beach and Hope Valley.

The warning affects people in an area bounded by Anketell Road to the north, McLaughlan Road to the east, Thomas Road to the south and out to the coast.

Around 150 firefighters are tackling the fire, which started near the intersection of Thomas Road and Gilmore Avenue in Orelia.

People in an area bounded by Beard Road to the north, Rockingham Road to the east, Thomas Road to the south and the coast have been told it is too dangerous to leave due to hazardous fumes from the fire burning through part of the Kwinana town rubbish tip.

DFES has warned residents in the area to remain inside with their windows and doors closed and air conditioners switched off, to avoid the deadly fumes in the air.

Others in the emergency warning area have been told to leave for a safer place if the way is clear or get ready to shelter at home.

Those self-isolating or quarantining due to COVID-19 have also been told to leave if it is safe to do so.

They have been advised to find alternative accommodation with family or friends who live away from the area and to follow COVID-19 precautions.

Fire closes several roads

The blaze has closed several roads including Rockingham Road from Mason Road to Anketell Road, Thomas Road from Rockingham Road to Orelia Ave and Abercrombie Road between Anketell Road and Thomas Road.

Motorists are asked to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully due to smoke.

Water-bombing aircraft were called in yesterday afternoon to tackle the Kwinana bushfire.(Supplied)

The fire was reported at 12:38pm on Saturday and has already burnt through more than 230 hectares of land.

It is not known what caused the blaze.

A watch and act has also been issued for parts of Parmelia, The Spectacles, Calista, Orelia, Leda, Medina, Kwinana Town Centre, Postans, Kwinana Beach and East Rockingham due to the fire.

Those south of Thomas Road have been advised to leave in a southerly direction, while those north of Anketell Road should leave in a northerly direction.

Gosnells bushfire downgraded

Elsewhere in Perth’s southern suburbs, an emergency warning for Gosnells, in Perth’s south-east, was downgraded to watch and act just before 10:00pm as the fire was stationary.

People in an area bounded by Albany Highway, Tonkin Highway and Ferres Drive were advised there was still a possible threat to lives and homes with conditions changing.

The fire started in Martin, near the intersection of Connell Avenue and Milleara Road yesterday afternoon.

It forced the evacuation of the Riverside Gardens retirement village in Gosnells, with about 60 people moved to safety.

An evacuation centre has been opened at The Agonis, at 2232 Albany Highway in Gosnells.

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Farmers agitation enters 37th day on first day of new decade


NEW DELHI: Amid the start of a new decade, the agitation of the farmers against the three new farm laws has entered the 37th day on Friday.

The sixth round of talks between the Union government and the farmers’ unions took place on Wednesday. While a consensus was reached on issues related to the environment and Electricity Act, the deadlock continued on the two main demands, legal assurance on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and complete rollback of the three farm laws. The next round of talks will take place on January 4.

“All three new farm laws should be taken back,” demanded Sukhwinder Singh, a member of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.

“We will intensify the agitation, if there is no solution on January 4,” he added.

Am agitating farmer said they have got groceries for at least six months.

“If the government think we will back off after they solve the issues related to the environment and Electricity Act, we will not,” he said.





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Israel enters third nationwide lockdown as vaccinations ramp up


Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Israel began Sunday its third coronavirus lockdown, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced optimism that a “world record” vaccination drive will restore a degree of normality within weeks.

After a sharp resurgence of detected infections, Netanyahu’s government announced three days ago that it would re-impose the strict measures that had previously helped limit transmission.

The lockdown, which began at 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Sunday, forces most people to stay within 1,000 metres (yards) of their home.

There are a range of exceptions, including grocery shopping, seeking medical care, attending legal proceedings or exercising.

A key difference in Israel’s third lockdown compared to previous versions relates to schools, with students able to attend classes.

Instead of near total closures, Israel is keeping schools open but subject to limitations, with most children combining days in class with learning from home.

The alleys of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda open-air market, normally relatively dormant on a Sunday, were full of shoppers making last-minute food purchases before the lockdown kicked in.

A vendor in the market’s Neeman spice store shrugged when asked whether they would be allowed to operate during the lockdown.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re open,” he said. “Nobody told us what’s happening yet.”

‘World record’

Israel meanwhile ploughed ahead with its vaccination campaign, which as of Sunday morning had reached 280,000 people who got their first shot of the required two.

“National pride: Israel is the world’s champion in vaccinating!” Netanyahu tweeted Sunday, showing a chart indicating the Jewish state had the hightest vaccinations per capita.

Speaking late Saturday, Netanyahu said Israel was hoping to vaccinate a quarter of its population, or roughly 2.25 million people, against coronavirus within a month.

He said he had spoken with the heads of the companies making vaccines who had voiced confidence that the requisite number of doses could be provided.

Israel’s vaccination targets are of “such a magnitude (they amount to) a world record” pace, the prime minister said.

Netanyahu was the first Israeli to receive a COVID-19 jab on December 19, ahead of the launch last week of a nationwide innoculation programme.

According to Arnon Afek, director general of Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv, the campaign could not only expedite Israel’s exit from the pandemic, but also save lives.

“We believe that we can be the first country in the world to reach herd immunity,” said Afek, also the former director general of Israel’s health ministry.

“But even after we manage to vaccinate all the people over 60, from where come the majority of severe and deadly cases, we will see a great relief regarding our health care system,” he told reporters.

Israel has confirmed more than 400,00 cases of the novel coronavirus, including more than 3,200 deaths.

Election looming

Netanyahu has political incentives to push an accelerated vaccination campaign.

The fraught coalition government that he formed in May with his former election rival and current defence minister, Benny Gantz, collapsed last week, triggering elections in March—Israel’s fourth vote in two years.

Netanyahu’s election campaign could be hindered by the start of a more intensified phase of his long-awaited corruption trial and the departure of his staunch ally US President Donald Trump from the White House.

Political analysts have said that Netanyahu is hoping a rapid vaccination drive will put Israel’s pandemic-wracked economy on a path to recovery before election day.


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Keilira bushfire recovery enters a new phase as one-year anniversary nears


Almost 12 months on from a bushfire which burnt more than 26,000 hectares of prime agricultural land in South Australia’s south-east, the Keilira community continues to rebuild and thoughts have turned to long-term recovery.

Phil Clarke and his wife Anthea have spent 2020 getting their Keilira property back in working order.

“The [construction] work will start on [the house] early next year,” he said.

Phil Clarke on his property, Bin Bin Station.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

The house will be rebuilt in the same location as the one destroyed a year ago.

“I reckon if we shifted it somewhere, we might have the feeling that [the fire] beat us a bit,” Mr Clarke said.

Patch of smooth orange earth, scrub in the background
Keilira resident Phil Clarke will rebuild his house in the same spot as the one that was destroyed by the fire a year ago.(Supplied: Phil Clarke)

He said they have incorporated design elements like a built-in fire blanket to make their new home more fire-proof.

“On the day, you never really know — hopefully it doesn’t happen again, and we don’t have to test it,” Mr Clarke said.

Aerial shot of Keilira shows one side of the road blackened with burnt trees and the other side green.
Fire destroyed just over 26,000 hectares at Keilira.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Long-term recovery

As the one-year anniversary of the fire nears, local government looked at the recovery of the Keilira community in the longer term.

Kingston District Council CEO Nat Traeger said COVID-19 restrictions put the organisation of commemorative and volunteer recognition events on hold this year.

“We’ve asked for patience, we’ve asked for resilience, and we’ve asked for understanding as we, as a community, work through the battle of COVID-19, as well as Keilira,” she said.

A blonde, smiling woman stands on a street corner wearing a red and white patterned top.
Kingston District Council CEO Nat Traeger says the Keilira community has been very resilient.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Ms Traeger said council has worked throughout the year to stay connected to locals grappling with bushfire recovery.

“They’ve called the Keilira fire the forgotten fire,” she said.

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Resilience officer to help community

Among a number of bushfire recovery projects, Kingston District Council was awarded $160,000 from the SA Primary Health Network to employ a community resilience officer until June 2022.

Ms Traeger said it is hoped the officer will start work in January.

“They’ll help [the Keilira] community, especially as we approach that one-year anniversary,” she said.

“One of their first jobs will actually be a commemoration event, both in terms of the one year anniversary, but also a celebration event for those assisted through the volunteers.”

A colourful mural on an outside wall, with fish, jelly fish, a bird and orchids
This augmented reality mural, the first in South Australia, was funded through a bushfire recovery grant.(Supplied: Kingston District Council)

Ms Traeger said the region is now approaching storm season.

“We’ve had a few lightning strikes and a couple of fires that has certainly brought to the fore the fragile mental health of that community and you know anyone really that has been impacted before,” she said.

Back at Keilira, Mr Clarke said the community is looking to the future with a positive frame of mind.

“They say, ‘my sheep yards were gone, but I’ve changed them around, and now they’re going to be a lot better’, stuff like that,” she said.

A plume of smoke fills the sky with blackened and burnt vegetation in the foreground.
The Keilira fire raged at the same time as fires burned in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island at the end of 2019.(ABC South East SA: Becc Chave)

Mr Clarke said one thing stood out from the last 12 months and “really lifted [his] faith in human nature”.

“I just can’t believe the [donated] hay, people fencing, Blazeaid, Anthea — she could start a dress shop with the amount of clothes that women had dropped in,” he said.

“We’ll never be able to thank everyone enough … it’s just unbelievable.



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Illinois WR Imatorbhebhe enters 2021 NFL Draft


FILE PHOTO: Dec 12, 2020; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) runs after catching a pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

December 17, 2020

Illinois wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday and will not play in Saturday’s season finale at Penn State.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound redshirt senior leads the Fighting Illini (2-5) with 22 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns.

After transferring from Southern California, he caught 33 passes for 634 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games 2019.

“My time here exceeded my wildest expectations and I leave here knowing that I am forever a member of the Illini Nation. Thank you for taking me in a year ago and giving me a chance to reclaim my dream,” Imatorbhebhe wrote on Twitter. .”.. I want to announce that I am officially declaring for the NFL Draft. I wish the team and my brothers nothing but the best.”

Illinois fired coach Lovie Smith on Sunday. Acting head coach Rod Smith will lead the Fighting Illini against the Nittany Lions (3-5).

(Field Level Media)

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Germany enters tough new lockdown as coronavirus death toll reaches record high



Germany entered a strict lockdown on Wednesday in an effort to get soaring coronavirus cases under control as the number of registered deaths from COVID-19 jumped by 952, the highest daily increase yet.

Fears that the pandemic is spiralling out of control in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state governors to announce on Sunday a tough lockdown until 10 January at the earliest.

Shops and schools will stay shut from Wednesday in a pre-Christmas tightening of restrictions following a partial lockdown in November, which closed bars and restaurants but failed to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

Germany was more successful than many European countries in keeping the new coronavirus under control in the first wave in the spring. But the situation looks very different now.

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases put the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 1,379,238 – an increase of 27,728. The total death toll in Germany is at 23,427.

The previous highest daily increase in deaths was 598 on Friday.

Ms Merkel told lawmakers on Tuesday she was worried by the coronavirus trend and warned them that January and February would be very tough months.

Germans are waiting for regulatory approval for a vaccine partly developed in Germany even as other countries, including Britain and the United States, are rolling it out.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has said Germany should start giving coronavirus shots 24 to 72 hours after the vaccine by BioNTech and Pfizer gets EU approval and could begin as soon as Christmas.

European authorities are expected to approve the vaccine next week.

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.

News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW,VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania



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Heavy rain and flooding risks as northern NSW enters sixth day of severe weather


A dangerous low pressure trough over the northern New South Wales coast continues to bring heavy rain and flooding to the region.

Rainfall rates are expected to ease on Wednesday morning as the trough weakens and extends south.

However, heavy rainfall is forecast across the Mid-North Coast, with a line of showers that could extend to the Northern Rivers.

Locations copping the brunt of the severe weather are Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, Ballina, Yamba, Maclean, Woolgoolga, Sawtell and Dorrigo.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the showers and thunderstorms would continue for the next couple of days, bringing the risk of flash flooding.

“Rainfall rates could be locally enhanced with thunderstorms, leading to the possibility of very heavy rainfall and dangerous flash flooding along coastal areas,” a spokesperson said.

The risk will ease later on Wednesday morning.

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Wednesday morning’s high tide, which will peak around 10:00am to 10:30am, could cause flooding in low-lying coastal areas.

Flood warnings have been issued for the Wilsons, Bellinger and Kalang, Macleay, Hastings, Orara, Nambucca, Camden Haven and Richmond rivers.

A flood watch remains in place for the remaining river catchments along the Mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers.

Rainfall catchments have seen 142 millimetres at Coffs Harbour and 182mm at Maria River since 9:00am on Tuesday.

The Tweed Heads offshore wave rider buoy has recorded significant wave heights of around 5 metres and a maximum wave height of more than 10m during Monday and overnight.



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Third suitor enters race for Link Group with blockbuster bid


Link Group is in the sights of a third suitor, with NASDAQ-listed financial services firm SS&C Holding lobbing a $3 billion indicative bid for the ASX-listed superannuation fund administrator.

The offer from SS&C Holding, at $5.65 per share, is higher than the bid put forward by private equity suitors – Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) and The Carlyle Group – which was rebuffed by Link six weeks ago.

Outgoing Link Group chief executive John McMurtrie said a private equity takeover would not be a step backwards. Credit:Ben Rushton

Link’s board has labelled the $5.40 a share offer from PEP and Carlyle inadequate. However, it has left the door open for the private equity consortium to potentially return with another offer, giving it access to its books on a non-exclusive basis.

The non-binding proposal from SS&C Holding comes with six conditions, including unanimous board approval and the ability to obtain necessary debt financing, a statement filed with the ASX on Monday evening said.



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