NSW records no new local COVID-19 cases, Victoria border partially reopens to Greater Sydney


The numbers come as Victoria announced it would be reopening to most of Greater Sydney, allowing thousands stranded over Christmas to return to their home state.

Twenty-five Greater Sydney local government areas will move from “red” to “orange” at 6pm under Victoria’s traffic light travel permit system, meaning people will be able to travel to Victoria provided they have a coronavirus test within 72 hours of arrival and self-isolate until they receive their result.

People who have been in the Blacktown, Canada Bay, Burwood, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Inner West, Liverpool, Fairfield, Parramatta and/or Strathfield local government areas within 14 days of their arrival in Victoria are still not eligible to return.

Meanwhile, Queensland will consider whether it reopens its border to Greater Sydney on January 28, giving NSW health authorities 10 days to source nine unlinked coronavirus cases.

Queensland requires declared hotspots to record 28 consecutive days without any unlinked cases before it will remove quarantine requirements for travellers.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said she would also weigh up testing rates and sewage testing when making her decision. Queensland shut its border to residents of Sydney’s northern beaches region on December 17.

Only 8773 tests were reported in NSW to 8pm on Sunday, compared with 12,764 in the previous reporting period.

Government and health authorities have said they want the state to record 25,000 to 30,000 daily tests to give them confidence to ease coronavirus restrictions in Greater Sydney.

“High testing rates are critical to our efforts to identify COVID-19 cases and to prevent it from spreading,” NSW Health said in a statement.

“This is particularly important in areas where recent cases have attended, including Auburn, Berala, and surrounding suburbs, as well as across western and south-west Sydney.”

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Eight cases were recorded in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine during the reporting period, bringing the total number of cases in NSW since the start of the pandemic to 4885.

Earlier on Monday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian repeated that she was considering an “incentive system” to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available in Australia.

“For my part I’ll be rushing to the queue as soon as I’m told I can have it,” she told 2GB.

“The more people that are vaccinated, the greater the likelihood that we can have a return to normality as we know it.”

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Ms Berejiklian said airlines had already indicated people might not be able to travel if they have not been vaccinated and that other businesses would also be able to implement their own rules.

“All workplaces and state governments will have a role in encouraging people to take [the vaccination],” she said.

“I don’t ever like to force anybody to do anything but there should be incentives in place for people to do certain things if it’s for their own safety and the safety of others and their conversations that will be had.”

She also said Australia has “the strictest regulations on the planet when it comes to approving a vaccine”.

“Please know nothing would get approved unless it was safe.”

with David Estcourt and Lydia Lynch

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AFL 2021: Hannah Mouncey, transgender footballer, legal action against AFL, wants to play local footy, trans rights, latest news


Transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey is planning legal action against the AFL and its Gender Diversity Policy in an attempt to play top-level local footy in Canberra.

Mouncey was not allowed to enter the AFLW draft in 2017, but was permitted to play at VFLW level. She now says she has no desire to play at AFLW level and is seeking to play at first-grade level in the ACT.

On Friday night, Mouncey confirmed she will begin legal proceedings – unless the issue can be resolved – based on her concerns around the AFL’s new policy revealed last October.

Get all the latest AFL news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!

Round 1

The three requirements in the new policy are:

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States eye further easing of restrictions after Australia recorded no new local coronavirus cases



NSW is considering loosening virus restrictions on Sydney residents as it takes aim at other states imposing border limitations.

Australia is eyeing its first day of no local coronavirus cases since mid-December after just one case was reported on Friday.

Queensland authorities say that case was a returned traveller recently released from quarantine who is shedding the virus and is not infectious.

NSW, which is aiming for its third-straight day of no local cases on Saturday, will monitor testing numbers over the weekend before announcing whether it will lift some of the restrictions currently in force across Greater Sydney.

“Relief is on its way so long as we maintain low or zero number of cases and have those testing rates high,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

Ms Berejiklian also fired a shot at states enforcing travel restrictions on those currently in Greater Sydney or regional NSW.

Victorians who have visited Sydney in the past fortnight face a $5000 fine and 14 days of quarantine if they try to return home without a government exemption.

The entire city is still considered a “red zone” by Victoria.

“There’s nowhere in NSW that is currently a hot spot by anyone’s definition – well, I should say, by any medical definition,” the NSW premier told reporters on Friday.

“So I don’t see why any state is precluding … people in NSW from moving freely back home.”

Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley said the government was constantly reviewing the red zones, taking into account the number of active cases and mystery cases in both states.

“Let’s be clear, there are almost 200 cases circulating in the Greater Sydney community since December the 16th, not just on the northern beaches,” Mr Foley said.

“We’re more than confident that our colleagues in New South Wales are mopping this up, but there have been chains of unknown transmission for many weeks now in Sydney.”

Travellers from Greater Brisbane arriving in South Australia from Sunday will not have to go into quarantine, the SA government announced on Friday.

Meanwhile, Western Australia late on Friday assigned a “low risk” status to Victoria, which has now recorded nine days of no local transmission.

Victorians still need to self-quarantine for 14 days but, unlike residents from “medium risk” Queensland and NSW, will be able to enter WA without an exemption from Monday.

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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Tribute to local world champion unveiled



Interpretive signage honouring former world champion race walker Kerry Saxby-Junna was

unveiled in Ballina on Friday.

The signage, located near the Ballina War Memorial Pool, forms part of the Kerry Saxby Walkway.

The Walkway starts at the River Street entry to Captain Cook Park (adjacent to Ballina RSL) and continues to the end of North Wall.

The Walkway is approximately 4.5km long, just shy of the 5km Kerry excelled at.

Ms Saxby-Junna held the 5km race walking world record for almost two decades, setting a staggering speed of 20 minutes and three seconds in 1996.

The new signage is over two metres high and features striking aluminium panels listing Kerry’s key achievements and a podium made from sandstone.

Ballina Shire Council Mayor David Wright said the signage aimed to inspire our community and visitors.

“It acknowledges Kerry’s outstanding contribution to international athletics and her important

connection to Ballina,” said Cr Wright.

Born in Young, NSW, Kerry moved to Ballina with her family in her early teens.

She joined the Ballina Athletics Club and excelled at swimming and middle-distance running before switching to race walking at age 21.

Kerry was at her peak in the late 1980s, winning five gold medals at international events after

debuting for Australia at the 1985 World Race Walking Cup in the UK. Her first international gold medal came at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow.

“When Kerry retired from race walking in 2001 – after 18 years at the elite level – she had set a total of 32 world records and won 27 national titles,” said Cr Wright.

“Her achievements have been off the track too, with Kerry awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1992.”

“I encourage everyone to enjoy the Kerry Saxby Walkway and take the time to stop, read and

reflect when they see this sign – it’s certain to inspire.”



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NSW reports no new local Covid cases, as Queensland denies hotel quarantine breach – as it happened


Madison Keys drops out of Australian Open and Andy Murray in doubt after testing positive for Covid

  • Nine days without a local Covid case in Victoria
  • Andy Murray tests positive for Covid-19 ahead of Australian Open

7.24am GMT

With that, we’ll be closing the blog for today. Here’s a recap of the day’s headlines:

6.56am GMT

Emergency warnings have been issued for separate bushfires threatening lives in Perth’s eastern foothills and the Wheatbelt region, AAP reports.

Firefighters are battling to contain an out-of-control blaze in High Wycombe, near the Perth Hills.

6.42am GMT

Health experts have cautiously endorsed the Victorian government’s decision to push ahead with hosting the Australian Open, saying the positive Covid-19 test recorded by former world number one Andy Murray before arriving at the tournament showed the protocols were working.

As Victoria recorded no new cases of the virus for the ninth day in a row on Friday, the health minister, Martin Foley, confirmed that both Murray and American Madison Keys had returned positive coronavirus tests and would be unable to travel to Melbourne without first returning a negative test.

Related: Health experts back Australian Open Covid protocols as frustrated Victorians remain stranded interstate

6.03am GMT

Australia’s Department of Agriculture is making inquiries after the American Pigeon Racing Union claimed that Joe, a pigeon that was thought to have travelled to Australia from the US, is actually a fraud – a revelation that may well save his life.

The public rallied to the defence of Joe after Australian agricultural authorities said he would be euthanised to prevent the risk of diseases from the US being transmitted to Australian native birds.

Related: Joe the pigeon’s life may be spared after fake leg tag suggests he’s not from US

5.23am GMT

South Australia will lift its coronavirus travel restrictions with greater Brisbane from Sunday, AAP reports.

The change means people travelling to SA from Brisbane will no longer need to spend 14 days in quarantine.

5.14am GMT

Police suspect a Melbourne woman killed her three children before taking her own life in the city’s outer-north on Thursday.

The bodies of a 42-year-old woman, a seven-year-old girl, a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy were found inside a Tullamarine house about 12.20pm.

Related: Victoria police believe Tullamarine woman killed herself and three children

4.31am GMT

Police investigating the deaths of three children and their mother at a home in Melbourne’s Tullamarine on Thursday do not believe the family’s father was involved.

In a statement released shortly after 3pm on Friday, Victoria police said they believe the 42-year-old mother was responsible for all four deaths.

Police located the bodies of a 42-year-old woman, a seven-year-old girl, a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy inside the address.

All were residents of that property.

Related: Woman and three young children found dead at Tullamarine home in Melbourne’s north

4.04am GMT

Great to be at the Test seeing so many people enjoying themselves and everyone doing the right thing #AUSvIND #GabbaTest pic.twitter.com/qGZrqrAjdJ

You can follow day one of the fourth Test between Australia and India over on Guardian Australia’s liveblog:

Related: Australia v India: fourth Test, day one – live!

3.42am GMT

The Morrison government is appealing to China to rule out discriminating against Australian coal, with the resources minister raising fears about the “human cost” of the standoff as seafarers are stuck aboard more than 70 ships waiting to unload the product.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Keith Pitt said the cost of coal had increased as a result of the impasse but Canberra was “yet to hear anything through official channels” about any change in Beijing’s treatment of the Australian commodity.

Related: Australian government raises fears about the ‘human cost’ of China coal standoff

3.16am GMT

For the second day in a row, there are no new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases in Australia in the most recent reporting day.

Advice from the Nat Incident Centre is there are likely 0 cases of community transmission in Aust today

There is 1 case under investigation in Qld, likely to be a historical case. Pls cont to test if any symptoms

Sadly there have been 750k+ cases & 15k lives lost globally today

3.04am GMT

The federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, and his health spokesman, Chris Bowen, are renewing their accusation the Morrison government is shifting responsibility for quarantining international arrivals onto states.

The criticisms come amid questions about how Covid-19 spread in a Brisbane hotel being used to quarantine international arrivals, and the Victorian government’s efforts to bring international students to the state and international tennis players to the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The federal government wants you to think they’re not in charge of quarantine. They want to push responsibility onto the states. That’s not leadership.

The Federal Government wants you to think they’re not in charge of quarantine. They want to push responsibility onto the states. That’s not leadership.

Quarantine is a federal responsibility. It’s right there, in our Constitution, in black and white. pic.twitter.com/cgeDRVtnmU

As state premiers grapple with how to deal with contagious strains of the virus, the Morrison government is missing in action.

Email from @dfat that luckily I read. If you don’t log in to your account they “may” remove you from the list! #strandedAussies check your email and keep an eye on your registration. @removethecaps @KKeneally @SenatorWong pic.twitter.com/Yj0jUK14lW

3.02am GMT

Today we learnt that someone has purchased the domain https://t.co/E3snA8JKIH and redirected it to our site. We had no knowledge of, or involvement with, this, however, we welcome the off chance that Senator Hanson has changed her mind on refugee policy!

2.25am GMT

The federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has lashed the Victorian premier Dan Andrews reported plan to introduce a quota within its hotel quarantine capacity specifically to bring international students into Victoria.

Littleproud said the plan ignores chronic shortages of farm workers – a result of Australia’s international border closure – that has plagued the fresh produce industry during critical harvest periods.

In October last year, the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance presented the Andrews government with a quarantine plan developed by Aspen Medical however so far Dan Andrews has failed to respond to the plan or discuss any alternative options with industry.

Dan Andrews has already done a special deal for tennis players from Covid hotspots and now wants a special deal to bring in international students, but he is stubbornly refusing to help his own farmers.

Related: Ripe for reform: pandemic crisis exposes fault lines in Australia’s fruit industry

2.10am GMT

Thanks for bringing us all the news this morning Matilda.

I’m Elias Visontay, and I’ll be taking you through the next part of the afternoon.

2.06am GMT

This is officially too much excitement for me so I’m passing over to Elias Visontay who will keep you updated on all the news of today (pigeon or otherwise).

2.03am GMT

I cannot believe that this is my third post in a row about a single pigeon, but here we are.

In a shocking twist, the American Racing Pigeon Union is claiming that Joe was never from the US and is in fact a fraud.

BREAKING NEWS: Joe may not actually be from the US after all. I have pigeon whiplash! What is the truth! Does this mean Joe could be saved? pic.twitter.com/7Svh6qoMaP

1.55am GMT

In case you were worried that Joe the pigeon (named after Joe Biden) was without supporters, never fear.

Victorian Animal Justice party MP Andy Meddick wants the federal government to put the bird in quarantine rather than kill it.

Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk.

My message to the federal government is this: take Joe off death row.

I would urge the commonwealth quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion to Joe.

I’m pretty sure we’re not planning to euthanise the people from Victoria who are in New South Wales, so I will take great exception to that.

1.48am GMT

The world’s only known natural stand of Wollemi pines has become the first site in New South Wales to be given special protected status to try to ensure its survival for future generations.

The environment minister, Matt Kean, will declare the so-called “dinosaur trees” an asset of intergenerational significance after heroic efforts by remote area firefighters in the Blue Mountains world heritage area saved the pines during the 2019-20 bushfire disaster.

Related: Wollemi pines given special protected status after being saved from bushfire disaster

1.44am GMT

Will Joe the pigeon, who travelled from the US to a Melbourne backyard, be saved from death row? It’s the question that has plagued all of us today (much like the agriculture department says Joe’s dirty US viruses could plague our native bird populations).

But in a terrible blow, it seems that – unlike Craig Kelly and George Christensen – Joe doesn’t have acting prime minister Michael McCormack on his side.

I’m not aware of Joe’s plight or flight or future. I’m happy to look into it and get back to you. Good luck Joe.

But if Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures then bad luck Joe. Either fly home or face the consequences.

Acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, on Joe the pigeon. @10NewsFirst pic.twitter.com/jcZjvmx4nx

1.23am GMT

Two men in western Sydney have allegedly assaulted two police officers who requested they wear a mask while in a shopping centre.

The men were at the Wetherill Park shopping centre on Thursday night when they were approached by officers and told to wear a mask. Police allege the pair became aggressive, argued with the officers, and resisted arrest.

If you don’t have a medical reason to not wear a mask, not wearing a mask is arrogant, selfish, and actually dopey. And so I hope the full force of the law is thrown at those people.

1.16am GMT

It seems Australians have continued to show confidence in the economy by taking out a swathe of home loans during the final stages of 2020, building on the record high set in October, reports the AAP.

Monthly lending figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Friday showed a 5.6 per cent increase in November.

12.59am GMT

The Australian competition watchdog is considering taking Google to court after the company finalised its acquisition of fitness tracking company Fitbit prior to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission finishing its public review of the acquisition.

Google announced overnight the merger had been completed, telling Fitbit customers it had agreed with regulators around the world to keep people’s health and fitness data – such as sleep patterns, heart rate, and exercise routes – separate from Google’s ad data. The company also said it would still allow third party providers to connect to Fitbit services.

Google’s decision to complete its acquisition of Fitbit before we completed our merger review means we are now conducting an enforcement investigation. As a result, and depending on the results of our investigation, we will consider whether to take legal action on this matter.

12.39am GMT

Health minister Brad Hazzard has been asked about a story of a woman from the northern beaches who was allegedly asked to wait in the carpark at a medical centre over infection fears.

Hazzard said this was a mistake on the part of the staff:

It would appear that there was an error in terms of the health staff’s assessment …

Nobody in New South Wales should be treated any differently when they go to a hospital. We have the appropriate protocols in place. If there were a likely Covid case… That person did not warrant being left in a carpark for any time at all and I think the staff there now understand it.

12.33am GMT

There has been a lot of chatter in the last few days about if the coronavirus (especially this new UK variant) can travel through air-conditioning systems.

Chant has been asked about this at the NSW press conference:

So clearly, there are certain circumstances where Covid can have an airborne component to its spread and that is where you have large numbers of people, and we are doing things to people to generate lots of aerosols and we often do that in health settings …

So clearly there is an issue that air movement in a very, in unique circumstances, can lead to transmission events. I think that is an element. But I think it is getting ahead of ourselves in speculating about the attribution of how the transmission event happened in Queensland.

12.27am GMT

Berejiklian has given a bit more details on the testing rates the state will need in order to ease restrictions:

Dr Chant has said we would like to see the number two in front or even higher. That has been the target but as high as possible. We don’t expect to have those really high numbers we had prior to Christmas but would like to see a two in front of that number.

At the moment I’m particularly interested in the testing data around those areas where we have had those unlinked cases and, obviously, we have had an unlinked case and that patient that presented to Mount Druitt, so in those areas of south-western and western Sydney, [I’m] particularly interested in making sure there is no unrecognised chains of transmission.

12.19am GMT

Just back to that point about the possibility of moving hotel quarantine sites to the outback. Berejiklian has confirmed that NSW will not be considering it:

We know the virus spreads more readily in transporting people, when you have people travelling for long periods of time you are more likely to spread the virus than where the trips are shorter.

All you would be doing is moving the challenges to a different location and the challenges already there and staff always have to go home to their loved ones. So we believe what we need to do is make sure we have the tightest quarantine system we have, the New South Wales system has proven to be effective to date.

12.13am GMT

Berejiklian has been asked what restrictions could potentially be eased in NSW in the coming weeks.

I didn’t really want to specify the range of restrictions we’re looking at, but the ones given are just examples.

We want to provide certainty for the community, certainty for business. So we would much rather have a [big] change in restrictions rather than doing little in pieces.

12.09am GMT

A doughnut day for NSW. Hazzah!

The state only recorded two cases from returned travellers in hotel quarantine and no cases acquired in the community.

It is a plea to the community to please come out for testing regardless of how minimal those symptoms, don’t delay, get a test.

And I am urging every family to prompt their love ones to come forward for testing and not delay.

12.04am GMT

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is speaking now, she says the state won’t be able to relax restrictions unless testing numbers rise:

I do want to say to the community of New South Wales, in particular, to greater Sydney, that we are very much, in the next few days, considering what restrictions we can ease.

But that will depend on obviously having low case numbers and also having higher rates of testing. So we are really pleading with the community, please come forward and get tested if you have the mildest of symptoms.

11.58pm GMT

Queensland leaders are laying down the law today about these rumoured breaches of quarantine procedures at the Grand Chancellor hotel.

Police commissioner Katarina Carroll says both the father and daughter who left the hotel to go to hospital were wearing PPE and transported by ambulance:

I can tell you, from extensive independent inquiries, the daughter was wearing full PPE at all times. She was transported by QAS, not a taxi or Uber, from the hospital back to the hotel and was then escorted by two police officers back to her room. Please, if you hear anything about that, just make sure that we do get the right story out there …

It is not unexpected that people leave the hotels to access healthcare. That has been going on for a long time. Of course it has. We have always required them to leave in an ambulance, wearing PPE, so they are treated as if they are positive. When they get to the hospital, the hospital treats them as if they’re positive …

He was taken there because he had some health issues, which were probably early symptoms of his Covid, in retrospect. We didn’t get a positive result on him until the next day but it doesn’t matter because he went via ambulance to the hospital, was assessed there, was treated as if he was positive, was kept because he needed to for the symptoms that he had. His English is not great, so the daughter went with him. She was treated as if she was positive.

11.49pm GMT

If you remember in the last few weeks Queensland authorities warned several times of postive sewage tests returning from north Cairns suggesting there was someone in the area with the virus.

They couldn’t find a source, but it seems the historical Covid-19 case discovered today might explain it.

A gentleman in his 40s who returned from the Congo in September and he was in hotel quarantine then, tested negative but he had to have a test done prior to returning to work, so an employment requirement, and he’s tested positive.

He’s totally well, asymptomatic, so we think that is most likely a persistent shedding. We know you can shed for up to nine months after you’re positive and it probably explains why we have continued to have all of those positive sewerage results in north Cairns.

11.44pm GMT

Palaszcuk has given an update of those who were re-quarantined and tested from the troublesome Grand Chancellor hotel.

In relation to the Grand Chancellor group, the 129 that were transferred, I have been advised that all have tested negative. That is good news. That was our high-risk group that we were looking at.

The 147 people who left since 30 December, the ones that were in Queensland, have all been tested and have tested negative. Once again, good news. Of the 226 staff, all have been contacted and some of them have been tested. We are still working through that. Out of the 502 in total, the Queenslanders have been contacted and the vast majority are negative.

11.41pm GMT

The Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is speaking now.

I am happy to report there have been three new cases. We’re not worried about them. Two were acquired overseas and are in hotel quarantine and none of them are from the guests at the Grand Chancellor. There is one case that has been reported in Cairns but that is an historical case.

11.39pm GMT

As more than a thousand tennis players and support staff arrive on 15 chartered flights in Melbourne, many have questions why so many have been allowed into the state from high contagious counties while many Victorians are trapped above the border in NSW.

When deputy premier James Merlino when asked about this perceived double standard at his press conference today he said he makes “no apology for keeping Victoria safe”, and stated that risk from the tennis players was different.

Martin Foley asked if he can understand anger/frustration of Vics who can’t come home while watching tennis players jet in: “I understand and have great sympathy for the situation a number of Victorians have found themselves in” “but I make no apology for keeping Victoria safe”.

11.33pm GMT

The Refugee Council of Australia has responded to the news overnight that the domain paulinehanson.com.au has been purchased and redirected to their website’s home page.

Today we learnt that someone has purchased the domain https://t.co/E3snA8JKIH and redirected it to our site. We had no knowledge of, or involvement with, this, however, we welcome the off chance that Senator Hanson has changed her mind on refugee policy!

11.30pm GMT

Oooft! Another big name tennis player has been forced to drop out of the Australian Open after contracting Covid-19.

pic.twitter.com/sXy3yu18MT

11.21pm GMT

Bad news for tennis star Andy Murray who has just contracted Covid-19 ahead of flying to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

He is currently isolating in his London apartment.

Min Foley says Andy Murray will have to test negative before he can get on a plane, and will need to quarantine for 2 wks here as part of Oz Open and Vic rules.

11.07pm GMT

Qld coronavirus update now expected 10.30AEDT .. 930 Qld time

11.06pm GMT

So the Victorian press conference seems to be less about Covid-19 and more about a new high school being constructed in the rapidly growing Melbourne suburb of Fisherman’s Bend.

The verticle campus school will open in 2022 starting with Year 7 and working their way up to VCE over the next 6 years.

Before the Andrews government came to office, vertical schools were a figment of people’s imagination, but we were making it a reality to cater for the significant enrollment growth population growth in inner-city Melbourne.

10.58pm GMT

The live stream for the Victorian press conference has finally begun so hopefully that will be starting soon (only 28 minutes late, but who’s counting).

10.56pm GMT

Controversial celebrity chef Pete Evans seems to be up to something, posting the logo for the Great Australia Party on his Instagram and teasing a big announcement next week.

The former Western Australian One Nation senator Rod Culleton, who created the political party, has been associated with Evans previously appearing on his podcast last year.

Haha omg Pete Evans just teased an announcement and posted the logo of the Great Australia Party, the outfit run by former senator Rod Culleton & is essentially a sovereign citizen group. pic.twitter.com/RGZoikjiYv

10.40pm GMT

Just a heads up we have a couple of press conferences coming up.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley and the deputy premier James Merlino are meant to speak at 9.30am (but as far as I can tell they haven’t started yet).

10.32pm GMT

Greenhouse gas emissions from Chevron’s Gorgon LNG facility have increased because the company’s carbon capture system is not working properly, meaning more carbon dioxide is being vented into the atmosphere.

Environment groups have blasted the Western Australian government for not imposing penalties on the energy company after documents revealed sand was clogging the injection system designed to bury up to 4m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year under Barrow Island.

Related: Western Australia LNG plant faces calls to shut down until faulty carbon capture system is fixed

10.18pm GMT

The Australian defence force will dump a trouble-prone fleet of armed helicopters in the coming years, replacing them with more a reliable American aircraft.

The Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters have been an issue for the army for years, plagued by design flaws and facing issues with reliability.

The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.

By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms.

10.09pm GMT

The mother of a child with special needs has won a two-year battle against Services Australia after the agency demanded she pay back more than $27,000 in carer’s payments.

In a judgment published this week, the top tier of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found mistakes by Centrelink had put Cassandra Clark under “additional strain” and “impacted on her mental health”.

Related: Woman wins two-year battle with Centrelink after it demanded she pay back $27,000

10.04pm GMT

Here is a little bit more information on the situation in Queensland via the AAP:

Queensland authorities have refuted reports of a possible Covid-19 protocol breach after a woman infected with the highly infectious UK strain left quarantine to accompany her father to hospital.

The suggestion the person caught a ride-share back to the hotel is untrue. Full and proper Covid-19 PPE protocols were followed while these guests were in the hospital.

9.53pm GMT

Police in southern NSW are appealing to the community after a toddler was found walking the streets of Albury at 4am.

No doubt a bit of a shock for the child’s parents to wake up to.

Police are searching for the family of a toddler found wandering the streets of West #Albury alone at around 4am this morning. The boy is in the care of officers who are hoping to reunite him with his parents.

Do you know this boy? Toddler found alone in West Albury at 4.30am https://t.co/pF55mw2gZj via @bordermail pic.twitter.com/xRYTdG3uYW

9.47pm GMT

And just when I was starting to think that we would never know Victoria’s number today.

But never fear he DHHS has pulled through and good news, it’s double doughnuts!

Yesterday there were 0 new locally acquired cases reported and 2 new cases in hotel quarantine. Thanks to all who were tested – 15,010 results were received. #EveryTestHelps #StaySafeStayOpen More later: https://t.co/2vKbgKHFvv #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/OvBAPRljtB

9.27pm GMT

Social media posts describe houses shaking in the regional city of Ararat after a 3.6 magnitude earthquake hit the town.

BREAKING: A 3.6 magnitude earthquake has hit the Stawell and Ararat area. The epicentre has been located near Glenorchy.

9.24pm GMT

Just a bit more from the Hazzard interview.

The NSW health minister was asked about the controversy surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine:

The major concern that I have is that the anti-vaxxers are out there trying to convince people not to use the vaccine.

The vaccines, there’s a range of them, and they’re still going through the processes, particularly with our federal independent body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

I will finish this interview with a smile … Feeling relaxed.

9.12pm GMT

Premier Daniel Andrews says he hopes to scale back its NSW red zones soon, allowing more people to travel home quicker. Under the state’s current permit system, thousands of Victorians are trapped in NSW because they are in areas designated as red zones and can only return with a special exemption.

Andrews said he hopes to make an announcement soon about reducing the red zones.

I just want to assure all Victorians, and particularly those that want to come home but can’t because it’s not safe right now, you will be in this circumstance for not a moment longer than the public health experts tell me you have to be.

9.09pm GMT

Reports to child protection services dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found.

The report analyses child protection data from March to September 2020 (the coronavirus period) and compares it to 2019 figures. In 2019, one in 33 children in Australia were subject to some degree of child protection services.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have made some more vulnerable. While this does not necessarily mean a child will be harmed, these factors may have some effect on the likelihood of child abuse and neglect occurring

9.06pm GMT

In some funny news this morning, it seems anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson’s website has been allowed to expire and has been replaced with a page that redirects users to the website of the Refugee Council of Australia.

Just a PSA that One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson’s domain name expired and has been… repurposed. https://t.co/uRjMN7c53b

8.56pm GMT

Aboriginal flags should be flown at half-mast on 26 January in the same way, and for the same reason, that Australian flags are flown at half-mast on Anzac Day – in remembrance of those who were lost.

The idea is being pushed by Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe who says it would mark a formal adoption of 26 January as a day of mourning.

For First Nations people across this country, January is a hard month. The colonial flag-waving, the heightened racism, the collective amnesia and the celebration of violent occupation. After more than 200 years of colonisation, too many Australians still think 26 January is a day of celebration.

As with Anzac Day, we ask that all Australians join us in acknowledging 26 January as a day of respectful reflection and mourning for those who died fighting for country.

A Covid-Safe checklist for the dawn service and community breakfast has been provided to the Victorian government as per their requirements.

8.53pm GMT

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard has just spoken to ABC News Breakfast.

Yesterday the Queensland premier announced the state would consider quarantining people in regional mining communities to try and reduce the risk of the highly contagious UK variant of Covid-19 entering the community. But NSW has come out to say they wouldn’t consider doing the same.

Look, we’re not rejecting what Queensland has to do for Queensland. That’s their decision. I would never tell WA what to do.

But I would say this, that New South Wales has taken by far the majority of people coming back in through our hotel quarantine system, 43% off all the people we actually take come from other states. They do their quarantine and we return them to their home states. We have 3,500 staff. So it would be very challenging to find a regional area that could cope with that.

8.45pm GMT

Good morning all, Matilda Boseley here, bringing you all of the news on Friday morning.

If you see anything in your area or online that you think I should be aware of, make sure you send it through to me on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or by email on matilda.boseley@theguardian.com.

All protocols were followed in this case … The suggestion the person caught a ride-share back to the hotel is untrue. Full and proper Covid-19 PPE protocols were followed while these guests were in the hospital.

We have successfully managed the quarantine of over 100,000 people in Queensland, and have not had a single case because of the movement of these people.

We have a long way to go before we can actually understand and appreciate what occurred.

Continue reading…

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Zero local coronavirus cases in NSW as Premier Gladys Berejiklian flags easing restrictions in Greater Sydney


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged easing restrictions in Greater Sydney next week after the state recorded a second day in a row with no locally acquired coronavirus cases.

Ms Berejiklian refused to say if mandatory masks would be one of the restrictions to be eased after two men allegedly assaulted police last night, after being asked to wear a mask while in a shopping centre.

The Premier said more than 16,000 people came forward for testing yesterday but that she wanted to see that number increase before restrictions could be eased.

“The Government is very much in the space of considering health advice easing restrictions and I want to make that clear,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“But we won’t have the confidence to do that unless we have higher rates of testing, because that will assure us that we have captured all previously undetected cases of the virus, which may still be infectious in the community.”

Ms Berejiklian declined to specify what could change next week for Greater Sydney, saying they were looking at an overarching easing of restrictions.

Among the current restrictions is a limit of five visitors in homes and mandatory masks in venues including supermarkets and on public transport.

“We would much rather have a holistic change in restrictions rather than doing it in little pieces,” she said.

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Two men were found not wearing masks at a Wetherill Park shopping centre

Two men, aged 51 and 39, were charged with several offences, after allegedly assaulting police officers at a shopping centre in Wetherill Park.

“It is so disappointing when disrespect is shown or worse to police officers or anyone else working in the system to keep all of us safe,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian said she recognised it was difficult and uncomfortable, but that safety measures including masks were keeping NSW’s cases low.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he hoped law enforcement would come down hard on the men for their refusal to comply with the health order.

“If you don’t have a medical reason to not wear a mask, not wearing a mask is arrogant, selfish, and actually dopey,” Mr Hazzard.

“And so I hope the full force of the law is thrown at those people.”

Meanwhile, Ms Berejiklian said she did not support the prospect of shifting hotel quarantine to regional areas, an idea her Queensland counterpart is taking to National Cabinet.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she said.

“That would raise a level of other complicated issues, we need police, health staff, federal authorities, ADF (Australian Defence Force) to all participate in the quarantine system and all you would be doing is simply moving those challenges somewhere else, perhaps with greater difficulty.”

Mr Hazzard agreed with Ms Berejiklian, telling ABC this morning that proximity to metropolitan hospitals was crucial for the hotel quarantine system to work.

When asked about the vaccine, Ms Berejiklian said she expected the Service NSW app would show a tick if a person had received the jab.

She said it would ultimately be up to employers if they chose to refuse people who had not had the vaccine entry to the workplace.

“I think we have to adopt a common sense approach and employers and hospitality venues may make certain decisions about who they have in their workplace or who they have in their venue and that is a matter for them to an extent.”

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No local cases, but states wary of UK spread



Welcome to live coverage of Australia’s response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

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NSW records one local COVID-19 case, AstraZeneca vaccine concerns raised, NSW-Victoria border tensions rise, 2021 Australian Open set to begin


“My temperature rose to 38 degrees celsius and I battled with it for three days, but it became clear I could not do that independently,” Shelomentseva said.

Doctors immediately performed a cesarean section to deliver baby girl Liza, but still feared for the recovery of the mother who went on to spend almost two months on a ventilator to help her breathe.

“It was a very serious case,” said Galina Shkandriy, head of the Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Department at the hospital where Shelomentseva was treated. “The entire ward is to thank for the patient recovering from 100 per cent lung damage,” the RIA news agency cited her as saying.

“When we consulted doctors from around the city, they all said ‘you probably won’t be able to do anything because with those indicators, people don’t survive’.

“Oksana spent 51 days in intensive care in a most serious condition. We were able to save her from the most severe lung damage and multiple organ failure.”

Shelomentseva was discharged on Monday and returned home to her husband and three children, including baby Liza.

At 3,448,203, Russia has the world’s fourth-largest tally of coronavirus cases after the United States, India and Brazil, and has reported 62,804 deaths from the virus.

Pregnant women are considered at higher risk of severe effects of COVID-19 compared to other women of the same age, and researchers have found a link between coronavirus and pre-term births.

with Reuters

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Victoria records no cases of local coronavirus transmission for seventh day running



Victoria’s health authorities have reported no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus for the seventh day in a row.

Three people tested positive to coronavirus in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 35.

Meanwhile, 17,908 test results were received over the previous 24 hours.

Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan

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19 golf carts damaged during break-in at local club



A Northern Rivers golf club is furious at the stupidity of unknown persons who have damaged carts after breaking into a storage shed in the early hours of Monday morning.

Casino Golf Club general manager Andrew Porter said police are investigating the incident which occurred at the club’s facilities at 147 West St.

“This is very disappointing,” he said.

Mr Porter said it is understood a number of persons have forced open the door to a cart shed and upon gaining entry, they have been able to raise the door and remove a total of nine golfing carts from the shed for what appears to be a joy ride.

He said those nine members’ carts sustained damage while being driven around the course and upon roadways surrounding the golf course.

“We have been able to recover all members’ carts, which are in the custody of Casino Police for forensics examination,” Mr Porter said.

He said a further 10 carts from the same shed have been damaged in attempts to force the ignition switches.

If any members of the community have any information regarding the offenders or persons who maybe able to assist with identifying those responsible for this crime, please do not hesitate to contact Casino Police on 6662 0099 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

“Any assistance will be greatly appreciated,” Mr Porter said.



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