No new local COVID-19 cases in Sydney; Repatriation flights from India to resume; Jarryd Hayne to appeal conviction; Five hurt when truck veered off Melbourne road


Anyone under the age of 40 in the UK will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine amid concerns of rare blood clots, reports suggest

The British government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that the age threshold be lifted from 30, the Independent reports.

The (JCVI) recommended that people in the age group should instead be offered an alternative Pfizer or Moderna jab.

The move was described as “an abundance of caution” by one government source and comes after new data on blood clots associated with the vaccine rollout was released.

“Because prevalence of COVID is low and given the strength of the programme, that means we’re in a position to act with an abundance of caution and offer a different vaccine to the younger groups,” the source said.

The latest weekly figures from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) showed that case incidence of the rare brain clots combined with low platelet counts is 10.5 per million doses.

The source said the move would not affect the UK government’s target of offering a vaccine jab to all adults by late July.

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ACCC denies Qantas and Japan Airlines deal to co-ordinate flights


Australia’s competition watchdog is set to try to block a deal struck between Qantas and Japan Airlines to co-ordinate flights.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is proposing to deny authorisation of the two airlines signing a five-year deal to co-ordinate flights, which the regulator says would ruin competition on travel routes between Melbourne, Sydney and Tokyo.

“An agreement for co-ordination between two key competitors breaches competition laws,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“This proposed co-ordination would appear to undermine competition significantly by reducing the prospect of a strong return to competition on the Melbourne-Tokyo and Sydney-Tokyo routes when international travel resumes.”

Mr Sims said the deal would only benefit the airlines at the expense of customers.

Jetstar also flies to Japan but is a subsidiary of the Qantas group.

The ACCC said the deal would make it harder for another airline to fly on these routes.

“The airline and tourism sectors have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Protecting competition in the airline industry is critical to ensuring recovery in the tourism sector once international travel restrictions ease,” Mr Sims said.

“Granting this authorisation would seem to eliminate any prospect of Qantas and Japan Airlines competing for passengers travelling between Australia and Japan as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement, Qantas said it was “disappointed” by the regulator’s position and noted the deal would have been crucial in ensuring the travel sector could recover.

“The international market will look very different post-COVID, and close collaboration between partner airlines is going to be critical over the next few years as key routes are rebuilt,” a Qantas spokesman said.
“Not only would this partnership be good for our business, it would be good for consumers and help key parts of the tourism industry recover.”

Japan is one of Australia’s largest tourist markets in terms of inbound visitors, and Qantas was banking on the deal to assist international flights to destinations such as Cairns and the Gold Coast.

The Asian nation is also the third largest economy and one of Australia’s major trading partners.

Qantas argues the partnership would mean the number of services between the two countries could be ramped up sooner.

“Some of the specific benefits include better co-ordination of flights between Qantas and Japan Airlines so people have more choice, more options for frequent flyers, joint tourism marketing and the return of direct Qantas flights between Cairns and Japan,” the spokesperson said.

The ACCC said it took into consideration the short-term benefits post COVID-19; however, it said the longer impacts from the deal would dent competition and drive up seat prices on flights.

“We have been willing to be flexible in granting limited exemptions from competition law during this time of severe economic impact on the travel sector due to COVID-19,” Mr Sims said.

“However, we must ensure that this doesn’t open the door to anti-competitive agreements that significantly harm competition in the medium to long term.”

Both Qantas and Japan Airlines will have the opportunity to convince the regulator the deal is beneficial to the travel market.

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COVID live: Indian coronavirus outbreak prompts government to pause all flights from country



There have been calls to expand hotel quarantine and have the federal government take it over, rather than individual states taking care of their own systems.

But Mr Morrison said Australia’s system was working better than any other country’s.

“If I told you a year ago, just over a year ago, when the National Cabinet agreed to put in place a system of hotel quarantine … that we would achieve a 99.99 per cent success rate, you wouldn’t have believed me. No-one in this country would have believed me. I would have found that hard to believe. But that’s what the hotel quarantine system has achieved.

“Hotel quarantine is the first ring of containment. With a 99.99 success rate is pretty good. I don’t think there’s not a country in the world that wouldn’t want a quarantine system that’s been working as effective as that. It’s not 100 per cent fool proof. And in 0.01 per cent, or less, of cases, you’ll see occasional breaches. I make no criticism of any state or territory, but on occasion we’ll see breaches.

“The challenge we’ve seen Western Australia respond to, and other states respond to on other occasions, is the ring of containment that comes in place with their contact tracing system. That’s what has been achieved again. This is how the system works. A system that is achieving 99.99 per cent effectiveness is a very strong system and is serving Australia very well.”

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Cricket Australia, IPL news 2021, India COVID cases, border closure, flights, latest, Steve Smith, David Warner


Up to 30 Australian players, coaches and commentators face a frantic dash home from the IPL as COVID wreaks havoc across India.

The cricket-mad nation is currently in turmoil, registering more than 340,000 new COVID infections in the last 24 hours alone, and 320,000 on average over the last seven days.

The country of 1.3bn people has recorded a total of 16.96m infections and nearly 200,000 coronavirus deaths and is approaching 3,000 deaths a day.

It has prompted Australia to block flights from India until May 15 at the earliest during a national cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

It leaves Australia’s stars with a decision to make on whether they come home or risk the government not extending the ban and staying until the end of the tournament.

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Flights delayed at Adelaide Airport after system failure causes security breach and evacution


Adelaide Airport was temporarily evacuated on Monday afternoon because of a security issue, which has led to flights being delayed after major queues formed in the main terminal.

The evacuation began about 2:00pm, after a system failure allowed people to enter the terminal without being properly screened.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said a “small number of people” passed through a “non-functional” security detector, describing the problem as a “minor systems outage”.

As a precaution, all passengers and staff were evacuated from the terminal while a security sweep was done.

Passengers had to disembark from planes and huge queues formed as airport security began scanning them for a second time.

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The airport is continuing to operate, but a spokesperson said some flights have been delayed as a result.

“All customers were moved out of the sterile area [and] a security sweep conducted.

“It is anticipated there will be some flight delays and passengers should check with their airlines for their flight status.”

Some passengers were left frustrated by the situation, saying communication had been poor.

Crowds congregated near the screening machines.(

ABC News: Claire Mackay

)

One passenger, Deanne, said she was ready to board when she was alerted to the problem, but information since then had been “very minimal”.

“They announced there’d been a security breach and we all had to leave the airport and re-enter screening once they’d got everyone out,” she said.

“I think we’ve been outside 30-45 minutes, my plane was meant to go at 2:55pm, and it’s now 3:45 or something, so yeah, big delay.”

A packed crowd at Adelaide Airport amid an evacuation.
Some passengers were left confused and frustrated.(

ABC News: Claire Mackay

)

Another person who was preparing to see off her sister said she was a “little bit scared because we don’t know what’s happening”.

A similar incident occurred at the airport in December 2019, when the main terminal was evacuated due to what authorities described as a “security fault” that required passengers to be re-screened.

Lines of people stand waiting to get through a security checkpoint at Adelaide Airport
Travellers weren’t allowed through security as a sweep was conducted by the AFP.(

ABC News: Mahalia Carter

)

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Qantas doubles flights between Bendigo and Sydney as talk of further routes grows


Central Victoria’s tourism and business sectors are celebrating the announcement that Qantas is doubling the number of flights per week from Bendigo to Sydney.

The now double daily flights will add 500 seats on the route each week from May 24.

“The additional flights not only mean we’ll be offering Bendigo travellers more seats than we did prior to COVID, but also more than we’ve offered on the route ever before,” QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said.

Bendigo Tourism chair Finn Vedelsby said flights from Sydney had been a big boost for the leisure industry.

“Everybody who comes directly from Sydney is impressed with what we offer – the service and quality of the food in particular.

Bendigo Manufacturing group president and restaurant owner Mark Brennan added Bendigo’s recognition as Australia’s only UNESCO City of Gastronomy was also a drawcard for visitors.

“There are some fantastic restaurants and food services here; the wine industry, it’s an untapped resource,” he said.

Mr Brennan said the service had been a boost for the manufacturing, mining and health industries around Central Victoria.

“Bendigo is well placed as a regional centre; it’s got a range of services right in the CBD, it’s a three-minute drive to the area, whereas Ballarat and Geelong don’t really have that — Bendigo is the only regional centre that does.”

But federal Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters said for extra services and potentially another carrier to operate from the city, a bigger terminal was needed.

The current site was built in the 1970s and was given a minor revamp ahead of Qantas flights starting in 2019.

“We can’t fit in many more flights or carriers without a bigger terminal, but these extra Qantas flights prove more people want to fly from Bendigo.”

In a statement, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said that in June last year the federal government announced $41.2 million for 61 projects under round one of its Regional Airports Program.

“This includes $465,000 under round one for Bendigo Airport to expand and strengthen the facility’s regular passenger transport apron and construct a run-up area,” he said.

“Round two applications are under assessment and successful applicants will be announced in coming months.”

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AFL news 2021, Western Australia, COVID-19, Mark McGowan, AFL fixture, West Coast, Fremantle, flights, positive case, lockdown


North Melbourne has been granted a special exemption to train while still completing 14-day isolation after its return from Western Australia.

The Kangaroos faced Fremantle on Saturday night at an empty Optus Stadium after WA’s snap COVID-19 lockdown and have a Round 7 match scheduled to be played in Tasmania, which remains up in the air.

Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph provided an update on the situation to Fox Footy on Sunday.

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“North Melbourne is flying home across the Nullarbor this morning having being granted a state government permission and exemption to train and play while they are in that 14-day lockdown,” he said.

“Of course they’re in the red zone so having got out of it means they will be locked down within their homes, but they will potentially still be able to play in Hobart next Sunday against the Melbourne Football Club.

“The AFL tells me today even though they’re in that lockdown the hope is that it may ease by midweek – they certainly are in no rush to make that decision on that game.

“The West Coast players flew home on Saturday night. Both West Coast and Fremantle will hope that they can get a special government exemption to train during the week, if it is that the lockdown extends further.”

Speaking on Saturday, foxfooty.com.au senior reporter Tom Morris said that, at the time, the Kangaroos were unlikely to be able to host the match in Tasmania.

“The Tasmanian state government are extremely strict and don’t normally provide exemptions, which is an issue for Round 7, North Melbourne due to play Melbourne down there,” he said.

“That game I expect will not go ahead in Tasmania, but North Melbourne still need to play four games in Tasmania this year under the contract that they have with the Tasmanian state government.”

Speaking from his hotel room via Zoom, North Melbourne coach David Noble said the Roos had been allowed to train in Perth on Friday but now wouldn’t be leaving their accommodation until they hopped on the Optus Stadium-bound bus on Saturday night.

“It’s like most things at the moment with COVID that we’ve experienced over the last 12 months. We have to be pretty flexible,” Noble said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan. Picture: Matt JelonekSource: Getty Images

WA Premier Mark McGowan held an emergency press conference to inform the public of the new COVID-19 restrictions in his state, with Anzac Day plans thrown into tatters.

McGowan revealed the man in Victoria could have been infectious for five days after leaving hotel quarantine.

The match between the Dockers and Kangaroos will continue, but no crowds will be permitted at the game, with residents given just four reasons to leave their home.

“I know this three-day short lockdown is very difficult but I hope we can keep it to three days only,” Mr McGowan said.

“It gives our contact tracing and health teams the time they need to ensure community spread is limited.”

No crowds will attend the Fremantle and North Melbourne clash. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images.Source: Getty Images

People in Perth and the Peel region are being told to wear masks from 6pm tonight until midnight on Monday.

North Melbourne arrived in Perth on Friday afternoon, just hours before McGowan addressed the media.

Perth will host an NBL and Super Rugby match on Friday, with crowds permitted wearing masks, but no fans will attend the AFL game at Optus Stadium.

Both West Australian clubs are set to meet in Round 7 at Optus Stadium, with West Coast flying into Geelong on a private flight on Thursday.

“The health and safety of everyone in the game and the wider community remains the priority as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” AFL footy operations boss Steve Hocking said.

“The AFL thanks all supporters for their understanding as we continue to be led by the advice of governments and health officials.”

Supporters will be provided refunds for tickets already purchased.

GAMES SCHEDULED IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Round 6

Saturday April 24, 8.15pm: Fremantle vs North Melbourne

Round 7

Sunday May 2, 4.40pm: West Coast Eagles vs Fremantle

Round 8

Sunday May 9, 4.40pm: Fremantle vs Brisbane Lions

Round 9

Sunday May 16, 4.40pm: West Coast Eagles vs Adelaide Crows

Round 10

Saturday May 22, 7.40pm: Fremantle vs Sydney Swans

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Virgin Australia offering triple Velocity points for flights booked before Anzac Day


Pandemic lockdowns, border closures and suspended international travel has made it pretty difficult to earn frequent flyer points over the past year.

But for the next couple of weeks, Virgin Australia’s Velocity members will be able to give their points tallies a massive boost.

Velocity members can earn triple the usual number of Velocity Points on eligible domestic flights they book between today, April 12, to Sunday, April 25.

This means members will earn 15 points for every $1 spent on the flights.

While there are only 13 days to take advantage of the triple points offer, the flights booked during that period can be taken any time between June 1, 2021 and March 8, 2022.

So you’ll have to jump in quick to book, but you’ll have almost an entire year to take the flight.

There is no limit on the number of flights members can book, however the promotion only applies to “eligible” flights.

RELATED: Why most Aussies won’t get Anzac Day off this year

RELATED: Hundreds of flights to NZ go on sale

According to the terms and conditions, an eligible flight is a “domestic flight marketed and operated by Virgin Australia, except where a domestic flight is flown as part of an international journey”.

It also must be booked and ticketed in a fare class that normally accrues Velocity points.

To take advantage of the offer, Velocity members will need to activate it on the Velocity website or app, and simply book an eligible flight by April 25.

The offer is one of the ways airlines are looking to get passengers back in the air after the COVID-19 slowdown.

“Velocity Frequent Flyer is continuously looking at ways to reward our more than 10 million loyal members and our triple points offer is a really great example of that,” the airline said in a statement.

“Loyalty works both ways and just recently we had our largest number of domestic flight bookings in the one day in our 20-year history and so we’re saying thank you by offering this fantastic offer to encourage Velocity members to explore Australia.”

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NZ flights push


“We’ve been very keen for New Zealand for many years and, given the circumstances, I think Geelong would embrace it,” Mr Giddings said.

“The inbound tourism would, hopefully, replace some of the international tourism that we’re missing out on.

“The tourism sector could pull together packages especially for people coming over from New Zealand.”

Having New Zealand flights arriving at Avalon could assist in separating those passengers from returned travellers when inbound flights recommence to Melbourne Airport, Mr Giddings said.

Mr Giddings is also awaiting a response from state government after Avalon Airport and other organisations submitted their plans for a quarantine camp to replace Victoria’s hotel quarantine program.

“We’re willing to put our hand up to accommodate whatever government determines is the best outcome for the safety of passengers,” he said.

Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine executive director Brett Ince said flights to Avalon Airport presented “considerable opportunities” for airlines to capitalise on New Zealanders visiting friends and relatives living in Geelong.

Luke Voogt

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Tourism operators banking on the release of cheap flights from today amid lockdown cancellations


Queensland tourism operators are hoping the release of 800,000 half-price airline tickets from today will help counteract Easter holiday cancellations in the wake of the greater Brisbane lockdown.

The cheap flights are part of the federal government’s $1.2 billion tourism support package which aims to get people travelling again.

The half-price fares include return travel to centres including Cairns, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays, Alice Springs, Devonport and Broome.

Travel must be booked between today and July 31, for travel between now and September.

Tourism operators in Far North Queensland had been hoping for a bumper Easter holiday period as a result of the cheap flights, but were delivered a blow when the greater Brisbane area went into lockdown on Monday evening for three days, after several people tested positive for COVID-19.

The Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will make a decision today about whether the lockdown orders will be extended.

Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree CEO Tara Bennett said there had been some cancellations as a result of the lockdown in Brisbane, thousands of kilometres away from the tropical region.

“The bookings were getting stronger each day and we were looking at 85 per cent capacity for the Easter period,” Ms Bennett said.

“But after everything we have gone through in the last year, I think people had a feeling something would go wrong and sure enough it did.

Sydney-based travel agent Claudia Rossi-Hudson said she had been receiving calls from clients wondering if they should cancel their trip to Far North Queensland as a result of the lockdown in Brisbane.

“We have been telling them if they are going north to Cairns, hang in there, they are not hot-spots, the flights are still going, the airlines are still flying those routes,” Ms Rossi-Hudson said.

“I feel desperately sorry for hotel operators, bars, it’s a terrible thing to have to cope with, having to put on all those staff and now to have to cancel them or having them sitting around, twiddling their thumbs.”

Ben Woodward from the CaPTA Group, which runs a string of wildlife parks in Cairns and Port Douglas, said the Brisbane closure was less than ideal, but that he hoped the cheap flights would encourage visitors to holiday in the north.

“It does seem to be something of a perfect storm in terms of the weekend just after JobKeeper coming to an end,” Mr Woodward said.

“We have seen see some cancellations, but mainly postponements.”

The Cairns Airport said several Brisbane services had been cancelled as a result of the lock-down in the State’s capital, however, interstate flights were going ahead as planned.

An airport spokeswoman said there are nine Melbourne flights arriving in the tropical city on Thursday, a further 10 from Sydney as well as a handful of flights from Adelaide and Canberra.

To book the cheap flights, log on to your preferred airline’s website or book a flight through Australian-based travel agents.

It is understood the flights will be clearly marked when booking online and no discount vouchers are necessary.

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