South Australia records two new coronavirus cases linked to Parafield cluster


Two new cases of COVID-19, both linked to the Parafield cluster, have been recorded in South Australia.

SA’s Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, said both people were already in quarantine.

One of the cases is a young child who is a member of the original family affected by the outbreak.

The second case is a man in his 30s — a student of the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) at Flinders University — who is a casual contact of a previous case.

He and his family members are being interviewed to establish if there were “any other locations of interest” to let the public know about.

In a statement today, IELI director Ben Rowley said the school had encouraged all pupils to isolate after an earlier student tested positive on November 17.

He said the school was working closely with SA Health to aid contact tracing efforts.

“We have reached out to SA Health to offer our assistance in contacting anyone from the IELI community to help speed up contact tracing efforts,” he said.

Mr Rowley said when the first IELI student tested positive on November 17, they “very quickly made the decision to close the school immediately, notified all stakeholders and requested that all staff and students stay home, isolate and get tested”.

“The school has remained closed since the 17th of November with classes continuing online,” he said.

The total number of cases linked to the Parafield cluster now stands at 33.

Around 5,800 close contacts or “contacts of contacts” linked to the cluster remain in quarantine.

Today’s cases follow Premier Steven Marshall’s announcement yesterday that restrictions would be eased at social gatherings and along the Victorian border.

CHO ‘disappointed’ in low testing numbers

Professor Spurrier said she was a “little bit disappointed” to see only 3,840 COVID-19 tests were carried out on Friday.

The number is a significant drop from record-high daily testing rates in the previous week, with about 19,000 tests carried out seven days earlier, on November 21.

Professor Spurrier said heatwave conditions across much of the state yesterday could have contributed to the lower numbers, but urged South Australians to keep getting tested.

SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said there are 19 active COVID-19 cases in the state.(ABC News)

“It really is the key to our defence at this point in time from the Parafield cluster,” she said.

“And you need to get tested no matter what, no matter how mild the symptoms, and on the day.”

Professor Spurrier again encouraged South Australians to wear masks where social distancing was difficult, especially in supermarkets and shopping centres.

“There are two things to remember — the first is to get tested. The second thing is that we are really pushing for everybody to be wearing masks when you’re out and about.”

Professor Spurrier said she was also “pleased to report that the one person who’d been in hospital has now been discharged”.

Nineteen active cases of coronavirus remain in South Australia, down from 36 earlier in the week as people are cleared of the virus.



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Top Iranian scientist linked to military nuclear program ‘assassinated’, state TV says


Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western countries as a leader of a covert atomic bomb program halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.

The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran. It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

State television on its website later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

The road where the assassinated was said to have occurred.Credit:Fars News Agency via AP

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh.

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “Amad” program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

AP, with Reuters

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Top Iranian scientist linked to military nuclear program ‘assassinated’, state TV says


Dubai: An Iranian scientist that Israel alleged led the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program until its disbanding in the early 2000s has been “assassinated”, Iranian state television said.

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.” Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

A photo, released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed.Credit:Fars News Agency via AP

State television on Friday, local time, cited sources confirming the death. It said it would offer more information shortly.

The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran. It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.



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South Australia’s latest coronavirus case linked to Parafield cluster via Woodville Pizza Bar


SA Health has linked the positive coronavirus case at Woodville High School to the Parafield cluster through the pizza bar that was at the centre of South Australia’s brief lockdown last week.

Authorities announced yesterday evening that a teenage girl who attends the high school has tested positive to COVID-19.

Anyone who was at the high school on Monday this week has been told to isolate immediately, as have all members of those people’s households, until further notice.

About 1,000 students have already gone into isolation.

This morning, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Mike Cusack said the case was part of the Parafield cluster, in which COVID-19 was spread by a cleaner and two security guards at the Peppers medi-hotel to close contacts and family members.

Dr Cusack said the link between the cluster and the student’s case is suspected of being trough the Woodville Pizza Bar, where one of the security guards had worked while infectious.

But Dr Cusack said the exact way the high school student caught the virus was yet to be established.

He said SA Health contact tracers had worked through the night in efforts to narrow down how the virus was transmitted and who may be at risk.

“We do believe that the case is linked to the Parafield cluster and does not represent unknown transmission in the community,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“The link that we’re looking at, at this stage, is the pizza bar.

“We believe that the student was in school on Monday when they were likely to have been infectious.”

He urged anyone who has been in the Woodville area, and who develops COVID-19 symptoms, to self-isolate and get tested for the virus.

Anyone who attended Woodville High School on November 23 has been ordered into isolation with their household.(Supplied: Woodville High School)

Education Department staff and industrial cleaning crews have arrived at Woodville High School this morning, where multiple cleaning crews are undertaking a deep clean of the site.

South Australia was sent into lockdown last week partly on the basis of a lie the security guard had allegedly told contact tracers — that he had purchased food there, but did not work there.

That claim South Australian health authorities to believe the virus was extremely transmissible and that potentially thousands of people could have picked up the virus from getting food at the pizza shop.

The lockdown was cancelled when it became clear the man had worked there, and he has expressed remorse and apologised.

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier is expected to provide more detail on the latest case at a media conference today.



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Two cases of coronavirus first thought to be contracted overseas now linked to local cluster: SA Health


Authorities in South Australia say two coronavirus cases previously believed to be acquired overseas have now been linked to the local cluster.

SA Health said on Tuesday afternoon testing had been undertaken on two cases that had previously been identified as overseas-acquired infections.

It can now be revealed the pair have the same strain of the virus as the patients in the Parafield cluster, bringing the total number of people infected to 29.

They are staying at the Peppers Waymouth medi-hotel, which was involved in the outbreak that led to the brief statewide shutdown last week.

“There is no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19, and contact tracing has previously been undertaken,” SA Health said in a statement.

“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today.”

One of the two cases had been announced earlier in the day as the state’s only new coronavirus infection.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the man, who is in his 20s, was a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival, and remains in a medi-hotel.

She said the state was another step closer to busting its COVID-19 cluster, but warned the public to remain cautious.

“I haven’t popped the cork on the champagne bottle yet but it is on ice,” she said.

“We haven’t finished the job yet and every South Australian has their part to play.

“I’d like to see how we go this week, to see the testing numbers go up. As we’ve said with previous clusters, we’d like to see two full incubation cycles so we have a bit of a way to go but I’m feeling quietly confident … we can get back to where our restrictions were.”

SA has recorded one new COVID-19 case on Tuesday.
Camera IconSA has recorded one new COVID-19 case on Tuesday. Credit: News Corp Australia

There were 6822 tests done on Monday, which Dr Spurrier said was “a little bit of a drop” compared to last week’s numbers.

More than 670,000 tests have so far been conducted statewide.

“Even if you think it’s not COVID, I want you to get yourself to a COVID testing site and get tested regardless of where you are in the state,” she said.

“Anybody who has any symptoms whatsoever or feeling not quite yourself, go and get tested.”

She also urged people to continue wearing masks in places they could not physically distance, like on public transport and in shops and shopping centres.

“There are really nice ones on the market … and when people are going out in public, have one ready in your back pocket.

“I’m sure the people serving in the shops will be most grateful that you’re wearing one.”

Premier Steven Marshall said the state was in a good position to stare down the second wave.

“This could have been a potentially catastrophic situation in SA but the swift and decisive actions taken following that unequivocal health advice has put us in a very good position,” he said.

“I want to thank every single South Australian for playing their role in making sure that we didn’t have this second wave.”

The new infection is not linked to the Parafield cluster, which has 27 infections connected.

It brings the state’s total number of cases to 557 with 39 considered active.

More than 4000 people are still quarantining.

The man in his 30s who was previously hospitalised has been released.



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Two overseas travellers linked to Parafield cluster as Spanish national breaks silence


UPDATED | Authorities are urgently testing staff and guests at a city medi-hotel after revealing a shock development in the Parafield coronavirus cluster late this afternoon – which emerged as the Spanish man who allegedly “lied” to authorities last week, sparking a statewide lockdown, today broke his silence.

In a dramatic afternoon, the mystery Spaniard, in SA on a graduate visa, released a statement through his lawyer – expressing remorse but claiming some of the information about him had been inaccurate and unfair – while authorities revealed the infections of two recently returned overseas travellers are linked to the cluster – and were picked up while they stayed in a city medi-hotel.

The travellers are a husband and wife – both aged in their 20s in quarantine at the Peppers hotel on Waymouth St since their arrival on November 11 – who up until now authorities believed acquired the disease overseas.

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told media at a hastily-assembled 5pm press conference that all staff and guests would be urgently tested, saying “we think this is being really abundantly cautious” and “we don’t expect to have any more positives”.

“It is very interesting information and of course my staff and I are working through the implications of this,” she said.

“I knew that COVID-19 was highly transmissible – it’s even more transmissible than what I had initially thought.”

She said even with the best PPE (personal protective equipment) and training “you can still transmit this virus”.

“It’s really sneaky,” she said.

Spurrier said she had details of the medi-hotel transmission chain but wouldn’t release that information to the public until a review had been finalised.

It comes amid another major development late today, as the Spaniard whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown  expressed “extreme remorse” for his role in the drama, but declared, through his lawyer, that some information in the public debate “is not fair, accurate or complete, notwithstanding the State Government’s comments” about his alleged “lie”.

Professor Nicola Spurrier addresses media late today.

The male traveller’s case was announced today as SA’s only new reported COVID infection, with Spurrier earlier telling reporters it wasn’t linked to the cluster.

“We do have one new case in SA but it’s not part of the Parafield cluster,” she said this morning.

“It’s a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival that we reported a couple of days ago.

“And this is a man in his 20s and he is in a medi-hotel, so it’s not associated with the Parafield cluster and it’s just that one case.”

But this afternoon, SA Health issued a press release saying genomic testing had now linked this case – as well as the woman’s infection – to the cluster, which now sits at 29 cases.

“Genomics test results have returned this afternoon linking two people – one of which is today’s case – to the Parafield cluster,” the statement said.

“Both these people were previously believed to have overseas-acquired COVID-19 infections.”

The statement said there was “no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing has already been undertaken”.

“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today,” the statement said.

An SA Health spokeswoman said it was unclear exactly which staff member the cases were linked to.

Three staff have tested positive – a cleaner, who authorities have previously said they believe is the original source of the cluster – and two security guards.

Spurrier today rejected the need for an independent inquiry into the medi-hotel system, saying “what we want to do is have continuous quality improvement”.

Asked if this was more evidence of a potential breach in the medi-hotel, she said she was “pretty confident there hasn’t been someone in the wrong room at the wrong time”.

She said the shock result – linking the two hotel guests to the Parafield Cluster strain – was “a bit unexpected”.

“I thought it was more likely the genomics would show the travellers had brought it in from a another country or whatever, but this is what we found,” she said.

Police and SA Health are already reviewing nearly 500 hours of CCTV from Peppers to determine the movements of staff and guests, as part of their investigation into the movements of another man who worked at the Stamford medi-hotel – a 36 year old Spanish national – whose alleged “lie” about his work arrangements prompted the unnecessary statewide shutdown.

That Spanish national, whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown – later aborted after the Premier declared the man had misled contact tracers – today broke his silence.

Solicitor Scott Jelbert, Principal at Camena Legal and Migration, issued a statement declaring he was “acting for the person under investigation for his conduct concerning contact tracing information and connected with the Woodville Pizza Bar and the recent COVID-19 shutdown in South Australia”.

“My client is in quarantine and I make this brief statement on his behalf,” he said.

“He is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for any part his conduct played in any unnecessary lock-down actions.

“He did not foresee or intend that things might unfold as they have.”

Jelbert said that since entering quarantine his client “has had limited information about government media releases, public opinion and social media”.

“I am however instructed that some information is not fair, accurate or complete notwithstanding the State Government’s comments, and he is concerned he has been all but publicly named,” Jelbert said.

“My client’s current focus is on cooperating with the authorities and completing quarantine.

“He is sincerely concerned about the impact of the lockdown on South Australians.

“My client has not been charged with any breach of the law but in the circumstances, including that such charges may emerge, no further comment about those matters is appropriate at this time.”

Spurrier was hesitant to respond to the man’s statement, but when asked if it was possible contact tracers might have misunderstood any information provided by him, she said: “We’ve got a range of staff, they are very well-trained. If we have problems and difficulties with language we do try and get an interpreter.

“There are sometimes language barriers, there are sometimes misunderstandings, we are talking about human beings here. But what I can say is that the contact tracers have done absolutely the very job that they can.”

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Two more coronavirus cases now linked to Parafield cluster, authorities say


South Australian health authorities say another two coronavirus cases have now been linked to the Parafield cluster, hours after ruling out such a connection.

The cases — a couple — were previously identified as returned travellers, but have now been linked to the northern suburbs outbreak.

The couple returned from overseas on November 11 and have been quarantining in a medi-hotel.

More to come.



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New coronavirus case linked to Parafield cluster tested negative twice, SA health authorities say


A new case of coronavirus has been identified as part of South Australia’s Parafield cluster, bringing the total number of associated cases to 27.

The woman is a member of a large family group, many of whom contracted the disease at a recent gathering.

South Australian Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the woman had been in quarantine since last Monday and had returned two negative tests before testing positive this morning.

Professor Spurrier said it took eight days for the virus to incubate in the woman’s body.

“Certainly getting out to day eight is a long period of time, but obviously the 14 days is of major importance for everybody who has been asked to be in quarantine.”

Police out the front of the medi-hotel where it is believed the virus spread from.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

There are now 38 active cases in South Australia.

A total of 556 have been recorded since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 4,000 people are quarantining and one person — a man in his 30s — remains in hospital.

Second wave so far ‘avoided’

Dr Spurrier said people should continue to check SA Health’s website daily to see if they also needed to self-isolate.

“Check the weather first, but then check our website to see if there are any sites of interest or areas of concern and please follow the instructions,” she said.

Almost 8,700 tests were undertaken in South Australia yesterday, which Premier Steven Marshall said was extraordinary considering Sunday was normally the quietest day for testing.

He said people needed to keep getting tested.

“We have avoided this second wave, avoiding 100 cases per day by mid-December,” he said.

“I’m feeling very positive and very optimistic that and as we head into Christmas that we will be experiencing newfound freedoms and celebrating well, with all of our family and friends.”

An empty main road with tram power lines above and a cathedral and bus in the background
An empty King William Road in Adelaide’s CBD during the coronavirus lockdown.(ABC News: Haidarr Jones)

Dr Spurrier urged people to continue to wear masks in places they could not physically distance, such as on public transport, and in shops and shopping centres.

“I’m sure the people serving in the shops will be most grateful that you’re wearing one,” she said.

She said regional areas were not immune from the disease spreading, even though there have been very few cases outside of Adelaide, excluding the early Barossa Valley cluster.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said regional travel was not forbidden, but that people should be going on pre-arranged holidays rather than spur-of-the-moment trips.

“Consider the necessity of the travel or that activity,” he said.

He said police had found three people not at home when they were meant to be self-quarantining.



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Donald Trump bans US investment in firms linked to Chinese military | Business News


Donald Trump’s White House has fuelled tensions with Beijing by banning US investment in firms it says have ties to the Chinese military.

The executive order, due to come into force on 11 January, is designed to stop American businesses, pension funds and others from buying stocks in 31 companies designated by the Pentagon earlier this year.

Image:
It is the first major policy initiative by Mr Trump since losing the presidential election

The move is set to ramp up pressure on companies including telecoms giant Huawei and surveillance equipment manufacturer Hikvision, which already face US export bans and other sanctions.

It was the first major policy initiative by Mr Trump since losing the presidential election to his Democratic rival Joe Biden and indicates that he is seeking to use his remaining time in office to crack down on China.

The order released by the administration stated: “China is increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernisation of its military, intelligence, and other security apparatuses.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: “This is a sweeping order designed to choke off American capital to China’s militarisation.”

The action has been condemned by the Communist regime in Beijing, which accused Washington of “wantonly suppressing Chinese companies under the pretext of national security” and violating market rules.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “The US government maliciously slandered China’s military-civilian integration development policy out of political motives and abused national power to unreasonably suppress Chinese companies.

“This move will not only seriously damage the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, but will also damage the interests of investors from all countries, including the United States.”

Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 drive past Tiananmen Square
Image:
China is accused of exploiting US investment to expand its military machine

US officials complain China takes advantage of access to American technology and investment to expand its military, already one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed.

The executive order said the companies targeted “directly support” the Chinese military, intelligence and security apparatus.

The list includes Huawei and Hikvision, which both deny links to the Chinese military.

Criticising its inclusion, Hikvision said it is independent of the People’s Liberation Army and had never participated in research and development for “military applications.”

The firm said in a statement said: “These punitive actions against the company do not make America, or the world, any safer.”

While most of the designated companies have no shares traded in the US, many sell stocks, bonds and other securities in markets outside mainland China that are accessible to American investors.

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‘Trump is not helping his legacy’

Despite Mr Biden winning the electoral support needed to be the next president, the Republican incumbent has so far refused to concede, citing unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud.

However, political analysts expect little change in the US stance to China under Mr Biden due to widespread criticism of Beijing’s record on trade and human rights, including its suppression of opposition in Hong Kong.



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