Mask rules set to relax as Victoria moves to last stage of easing, NSW to open to Victorians tomorrow


Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday.

The French health ministry also reported 276 new deaths from the virus in hospitals over 24 hours, against 386 on Friday.

Total deaths in France from the virus now stand at 48,518, of which 33,231 were in hospitals.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.

The number of patients in intensive care units also dropped for the fifth consecutive day and was down at 4,493.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of nationwide lockdown rules which have been in place since Oct. 30.

The retail industry hopes to be able to reopen shops selling “non-essential” goods such as clothes, shoes and toys.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday he hoped this could happen “within a few days”.



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Mask rules set to relax as Victoria moves to last stage of easing, NSW to open to Victorians tomorrow


Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday.

The French health ministry also reported 276 new deaths from the virus in hospitals over 24 hours, against 386 on Friday.

Total deaths in France from the virus now stand at 48,518, of which 33,231 were in hospitals.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.

The number of patients in intensive care units also dropped for the fifth consecutive day and was down at 4,493.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of nationwide lockdown rules which have been in place since Oct. 30.

The retail industry hopes to be able to reopen shops selling “non-essential” goods such as clothes, shoes and toys.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday he hoped this could happen “within a few days”.



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Victoria records three COVID-19 cases, case average falls, Brett Sutton avoided emails to hotel quarantine inquiry, NSW restrictions to relax for churches, Australia death toll at 905


Businesses covered by the exemptions include restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, function and reception centres, and wineries.

Mr Andrews has flagged that hospitality could reopen even sooner, based on the low numbers of new coronavirus cases the state has recorded this week – but not before Saturday’s AFL grand final in Brisbane.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne says they are encouraging hospitality venues to come up with “innovative” ways to operate outdoors.

This could include using car parks in the evening for pop-ups, he said.

“In talking with local government, it has been quite extraordinary the level of interest there is from hospitality venues to not only get up and thrive, but looking at really innovative ways that they want to operate in the future,” he said.

“We are looking, of course, at open space more generally, parks, and the innovation that local government and indeed the hospitality industry has shown really, I think, is going to be an exemplar not only for the state, but also for the nation, in terms of how we seek to move out of these restrictions to a more COVID-normal environment for the hospitality industry going forward.”

He said the government was removing “all hurdles” to support their efforts.

“We understand absolutely that for hospitality to really get back onto its feet, we need to not only provide the infrastructure support that we are providing, but today I can announce that the government has removed all hurdles to allow hospitality to in fact expand its operation outdoors,” he said.

“This planning scheme amendment is for the whole of Victoria. The opportunity is there for any hospitality venue that wishes to expand its existing legal operation to do so without having any hurdle in its way.”



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SA-Victorian border communities call to relax continuous COVID-19 testing as health complaints emerge


There is mounting pressure to relax seven-day COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on cross-border communities as reports emerge of health problems and growing anxiety over nasal swabs.

Those living on the South Australia-Victoria border are nearly three months into continuous testing, which involves a swab deep into the nasal cavity and throat.

They want the testing requirement relaxed, saying the burden of testing is out of proportion to the risk of COVID-19 because of the low number of cases being recorded in regional Victoria.

The SA Government announced on Tuesday it would increase the border travel bubble from 40 to 70 kilometres and consider reducing testing to fortnightly.

Local MPs, whose electorates include cross-border residents, have confirmed the tests are one of the most common issues raised.

Social media forums for the communities feature posts in which people complain of headaches, bloody noses, and anxiety because of the tests.

Testing requirements are creating anxiety within border communities.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

‘Panic and anxiety’ over testing

Facebook group Cross Border Call Out has urged its followers to report any reactions to their doctor and advise SA Health.

A department spokesperson said while the tests could be uncomfortable “we have had no reports of headaches, regular nosebleeds, earaches, or other health issues occurring following regular COVID-19 testing”.

But social media users describe them as traumatic.

“I was starting to feel like a child scared of my vaccinations,” posted one Facebook user.

“Days before my test date I’m panicking and suffer anxiety and nausea. I though I was the only one. It’s so stressful especially when you get bad tests done.

“I push the tests out if I can by staying home for as many days as I possible from day six,” posted another user.

“I honestly cannot believe we live in a world where they can force people to go through this when we are not sick, have not been a close contact, and we don’t even have any COVID cases for hundreds of kilometres.”

Cross-border residents say the discomfort from the test can vary depending on the swab used and the skill and experience of the person conducting the test.

Border electorates raise issue with MPs

Local MPs offices have been contacted frequently about the issue of testing.

Member for Mildura Ali Cupper said South Australia’s inclusion of the new 70km bubble zone would allow Murrayville residents in Victoria to travel to Loxton in SA, even though it was 130km by road.

But she said the testing requirements needed to be addressed.

“The timeline that is being applied here is excruciatingly slow,” Ms Cupper said.

“It’s an incremental step. And while 70km is better than 40km, for our cross-border towns the thing that is really driving them mad is this requirement for a COVID test every seven days.

A police officer talks to a driver on a dirt road border crossing
The border check at Sumertown Rd near Pinnaroo.(ABC Riverland: Jessica Schremmer)

‘Safer than anyone, including border police’

Murrayville resident and Pinnaroo business owner Synon Peers said while he welcomed the extension of the border bubble to 70km, the weekly testing requirement needed to be relaxed.

“Some of us have had a dozen or more consecutive negative COVID tests,” he said.

“The police on the border are unbelievable, and the army, but they’re not having COVID tests. So essentially we’re safer than anyone as far as being a risk to South Australia goes.”

Mr Peers said he had heard of health impacts and would welcome the testing moving to fortnightly.

“Half the amount of COVID testing would be great.”



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NZ relax COVID rules for Bledisloe matches


The Wallabies and All Blacks will meet in two Bledisloe Cup Sunday showdowns in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern’s government relaxed quarantine restrictions on the Australian team.

The countries jointly announced on Tuesday they had locked in Tests on October 11 in Wellington and then October 18 at Auckland’s Eden Park.

The Wallabies will then return home to Australia for the domestic Rugby Championship campaign, also involving South Africa and Argentina, beginning in early November.

Two more Bledisloe Cup Tests will form part of that tournament, which will be played mostly in NSW, with Australia hoping to break the All Blacks’ strangle-hold on the trophy which dates back to 2003.

Rugby Australia boss Rob Clarke thanked New Zealand Rugby and their NZ government for their flexibility in the arrangements.

“Thank you to New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand government for the flexibility and support over the last week, to find a mutually agreeable solution,” Clarke said in a statement.

“We will now meet with our SANZAAR joint venture partners on Thursday to work on confirming the schedule for the Rugby Championship here in Australia to start in November.”

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie slammed initial plans, saying the proposed strict quarantine conditions were unacceptable for his team to prepare properly, as they were only allowed to train together for five days.

NZ Prime Minister Ardern called her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison this week to help resolve the stand-off.

Under updated NZ government restrictions, the Wallabies will be able to train fully as a squad four days after arriving in the country, dependent on all members returning a negative COVID-19 test on day three.

The Wallabies’ travel plans to New Zealand will be confirmed in the coming days with NZ Minister of Sport Grant Robertson saying they are expecting to be based in Christchurch for their pre-Bledisloe Cup quarantine.

“Most likely location will be in Christchurch,” Robertson told TVNZ.

“It will be in a dedicated isolation facility, and they will be able to bus to and from their training grounds.”

BLEDISLOE CUP 2020

First Test

Australia v New Zealand, 1.30pm AEDT, Sunday 11 October 2020 at Sky Stadium in Wellington

Second Test

Australia v New Zealand, 1.30pm AEDT, Sunday 18 October 2020 at Eden Park in Auckland

Plus two Tests in November in Brisbane and Sydney (dates to be confirmed)





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Relax, losing access to China won’t make us the ‘poor white trash of Asia’


In another round of the increasingly bitter exchanges between China and Australia, a columnist for China’s Global Times, Yu Lei, suggested that a further decoupling from China will make former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s famous prediction a reality:

Australia would become the “poor white trash of Asia.”

The “white trash” debate took place 30 to 40 years ago and caused a lot of hand-wringing.

Yet, contrary to predictions at the time, Australian incomes and living standards have remained comfortably above most of our Asian neighbours.

That’s not because we have performed spectacularly well. Australia ranked 12th in the OECD ranking in the early 1980s and it now ranks 10th or 11th.

But growth rates in Asia have slowed as the easy gains from technological progress have been exhausted.

Although the racially charged imagery of white trash attracted attention, much of the angst in the 1980s was about our standing within the group of rich countries.

The key talking point was that while Australia was thought to have had the world’s highest income per person in the late 19th century, it had fallen to 12th in rankings of rich countries.

A further decline was widely predicted in books like Australia, The Worst Is Yet To Come.

I criticised this line of thinking at the time on the grounds that our number one position in the 19th century rested primarily on the demographic structure of what was still a frontier society, dominated by working age males.

In addition, Indigenous workers contributed to output but weren’t counted as part of the population.

Once I adjusted for these factors, Australia turned out to be in the middle of a group of rich countries in the late 19th century, just as it was in the late 20th.

Interestingly, a similar point can be made about Singapore today.

Our ranking hasn’t changed much since the 1980s

While most other Asian countries still have income levels below those in Australia, Singapore appears on lists as one of the richest countries.

This is partly due to the fact that one-third of its workforce is made up of migrant workers, many living in Third World conditions and sending remittances home.

The high number of migrant workers results in a high ratio of employment to measured population (since the families aren’t counted). As well, because migrant worker wages are so low, Singapore’s citizens can afford to hire migrants as domestic servants and for other purposes.

After correcting for these biases, Singapore has about the same income per person as Australia, but with a massively-unequal distribution.

How much does all this matter to the typical Australian family? Hardly at all.

Read more: China’s leaders are strong and emboldened. It’s wrong to see them as weak and insecure

For any given family, living standards depend more on the distribution of income, and on the ups and downs of the labour market, than on variations in Australia’s performance relative to other developed countries, or relative to our Asian neighbours.

Getting domestic policy right on issues like employment and health care is far more important than “international competitiveness” – even more so during the pandemic.

Now let’s turn to the suggestion that, in the absence of more compromise with China on trade and policy issues, we will indeed end up as poor white trash.

We need China, but we’d manage without it

The obvious threat is to our exports and, in particular, iron ore which is our biggest single export and goes mostly to China.

On the face of it, it’s a big deal. Australia exports just over A$100 billion a year worth or iron ore, mostly to China, but only a fraction of this money represents income for ordinary Australians.

The mining industry in Western Australia employs about 100,000 people – less than 1% of Australia’s workforce. Their wages amount to about $10 billion a year.

In addition, major iron ore mining companies pay around $15 billion a year in royalties and company taxes. The combined income flow is about 1% of Australia’s national income.

Iron ore adds just a few percent to our national income

Most of the rest of the industry’s income flows overseas, to pay for imported equipment or as returns to overseas bondholders and shareholders.

And even if the China’s market was closed to Australia, there would be offsets.

Iron ore is a commodity, meaning that if China bought more of it from other producers such as Brazil, there would be less Brazilian iron ore in the market for other customers who would have a greater need for Australian iron ore.

And to the extent that Australian iron ore exports did fall, the Australian dollar would depreciate, making other Australian exports more attractive.

Read more: Why the Australia-China relationship is unravelling faster than we could have imagined

Similar points can be made about other exports to China including Australian tourism and education services.

That’s not to say that we should be complacent about the risks of a breakdown in our trading relationship with China. A loss of 2% of 3 % of national income is comparable to the impact of a standard recession and would entail plenty of economic disruption with accompanying unemployment.

But, as the founder of modern economics Adam Smith ironically observed, there is “a great deal of ruin in a nation“.

Losing access to China’s market would make us a little poorer, but it wouldn’t make us the poor white trash of Asia, not now, or any time soon.

Author: John Quiggin – Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland



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Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley not happy sharing training hub with Adelaide Crows as SA refuses to relax coronavirus restrictions


The AFL’s decision to put fierce foes Port Adelaide and Adelaide in the same hotel hub makes little sense, according to Power coach Ken Hinkley.

The South Australian clubs will both be housed at the same Gold Coast resort for at least seven weeks as the AFL resumes competition on June 11.

“We are archenemies … it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put them together,” Hinkley told reporters.

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“I’m not sure about that. It just doesn’t quite feel right in Adelaide.”

Port and the Crows will depart for the Gold Coast on Sunday, ahead of clearance to resume full-contact training next Monday.

“Hopefully we’re not there for any longer than the six or seven weeks but we don’t know that,” Hinkley said.

“We can deal with it for a bit but there’s a tipping point.”

Hinkley suggested the protocol went too far in SA, which has no active coronavirus cases.

“We’re getting tested twice a week but I’m looking at the community, thinking ‘everyone else is having to live a pretty reasonable life’,” he said.

“We’re probably being shut down a little bit too far as far as what we can and can’t do.”

SA health authorities rejected appeals from the AFL clubs for exemptions which would have allowed contact training.

“We could potentially be here for another three weeks, wouldn’t that be fantastic, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get that,” Hinkley said.

“I’m seeing a fair bit of community contact going on out there when I go to the supermarket … when I drive down the road.

“There’s a standard that we’re applying to the football clubs in South Australia, we get it, we’re above the (community) level.

“We’re happy to live above the standard. We want to be community leaders.”

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks, in his first season at the helm of the Crows, had no problem with being housed with Port Adelaide.

“We cross the white line, then she’s on,” Nicks, a former Port assistant coach, said on Monday.

“But I know a lot of our (SA) guys, they know each other really well.

“Sharing a hotel with Port Adelaide, I have no issue. I know a lot of them well.

“(If) we play at that neutral venue … well, different story.”

SA health protocols bar contact training until June 8 — three days before the AFL season restarts — meaning both Port and the Crows were effectively forced into a Gold Coast hub.

Strategy important as teams begin group training

Right across the league, players began training in groups of eight on Monday, before a return to whole-group, full-contact training from Monday, May 25.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Gold Coast Suns resume training

Clubs were being strategic in compiling their groups as, if one player tests positive, the other seven players also have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew said the Suns had put together groups with a mix of experience and different positions to avoid a scenario where their best players — or for example, all their defenders — could be put into quarantine.

“We’ve done a bit of a mix of experience, bit of like-for-like stuff and also positional,” Dew told SEN radio.

“I think the theory behind it is if one group has to sit out for 14 days, obviously you don’t put all your best 22 in similar groups.

“Our boys have been pretty good and clearly everyone’s tested negative thus far but we’ve just got to be vigilant.”

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There is a range of mechanisms in place targeted at avoiding a COVID-19 outbreak.

Players and officials have already undergone the first of what will soon be twice-weekly coronavirus tests and they also face daily health checks, while the return to training has come with strict restrictions.

Players cannot have unnecessary visitors in their homes, visit friends at their houses or go to cafes — beyond getting takeaway food or coffee.

They are also not allowed to play golf or go surfing.

“We’ve had a lot of instruction from the players’ association and the AFL and we’ve got to pretty much revert back to the restrictions that we just came out of (in Victoria),” Melbourne winger Adam Tomlinson told SEN.

“It’s just what we’ve got to do to get footy back on the park.

“It’s a little bit annoying but at the same time, we’d rather be out there training and playing footy and … we still get to go to the footy club and see all the boys so it’s not as if we’re still just training with a partner.

“So, pretty much you can only go outside your house for those four reasons of work, picking up kids, medical and to the supermarket to get food.”

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Richmond AFL players do sprint and agility drills in group training after the coronavirus shutdown.
Last year’s premiers Richmond got back to business on Monday, with players training in groups as they prepare for a return to football.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Players returned to their clubs, in many cases returning equipment they had been using while trying to keep fit in isolation.

In Melbourne, Richmond players like Bachar Houli, Tom Lynch, Daniel Rioli and Josh Caddy were among those bringing equipment such as weights and exercise bikes back to the Tigers’ centre at Punt Road Oval.

The Tigers went through their paces, as Damien Hardwick’s men began to ramp up their preparations to get back to football and push for a third flag in four seasons.

AAP/ABC



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Why we should relax restrictions for regions in NSW


IN AN ideal world, we’d all be able to pop down to Yamba Shores Tavern tonight, pick a sitting area of our choosing, grab a table of eight for the whole extended family, raise a glass and say ‘cheers’.

After all, none of us have coronavirus, right? Or at least, there’s as much chance of some other deadly infectious disease or heart attack or tragic accident putting a dampener on our night.

But, despite no new cases in the Clarence Valley for more than a month, we must continue to abide by the same social distancing restrictions as the rest of the state.

It’s a rigid system. But in reality it would be a logistical nightmare to put forward any alternative, and it’s a system that so far has worked and made us the envy of the new world.

But I do hope the premier is looking seriously at options beyond the one size fits all model, particularly for regional areas where there are zero cases and the risk of community transmission is by definition much lower, in line with population density.

Yesterday the NT News gloated ‘Screw you we’re havin’ a brew’ as it highlighted the top-end’s decision to open the pub doors to one and all – “without a stupid 10-person rule”.

Front page of the NT News on Friday.

From where they sit, that’s a pretty safe call, and while I don’t necessarily think the Clarence Valley should suddenly become a free for all, a separate view for regional areas should be considered as part of the overall plan.

Parts of regional Queensland have been granted a 20-person rule, and certainly starting with more isolated parts of western NSW, this should be considered an option.

Rural areas of NSW are being penalised simply for being part of the most populous state, subject to the same rules despite vastly different demographics to the cities where COVID-19 outbreaks are concentrated.

When quizzed on ABC’s Q&A about the possibility of lifting restrictions in the regions, Ms Berejiklian unconsciously framed her response from a city-centric perspective, and entertained the idea of promoting visitation to regional areas from the cities.

Yes, economically that’s where we want to get to, and wouldn’t it be nice for Sydney-siders to breathe again, but it’s not all about that. First and foremost we want some sort of normality for our own communities in the regions.

It’s also about lifestyle and freedom – and local businesses being able to help each other get the wheel moving, irrespective of the situation in external markets.

For instance, granting temporary additional easing of restrictions within council areas that have zero active cases – on a condition of being brought back to the status quo as soon as a new case is confirmed – could be a good place to start.

But because it has no effect on the city majority, it doesn’t seem to even enter the thought process.

Don’t get me wrong – Ms Berejiklian has done a great job handling this crisis – and the bushfire crisis before that. But her shortfall is, like about five million other people, she is blinkered by this seemingly inpenetrable sandstone curtain.

We must rely on folks like The Nationals to point out the bleeding obvious from a regional perspective. Problem is they’re too busy playing political games to let Deputy Premier John Barilaro do his job properly.

If only we’d gone down the path The Daily Examiner founder Clark Irving advocated in the 1850s – to form a new state in the north of NSW – we’d be in a position to break away with the likes of NT and make our own decisions.





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key parts of the economy will take two years to recover as state prepares to relax COVID-19 rules


Mr Frydenberg said the country’s massive new spending measures will not weaken Australia’s finances long-term.

“Temporary and targeted, the new spending measures were not designed to go forever, but to build a bridge to the recovery phase.”

He touted the federal government’s “strong and stable” economic position as an asset going into the crisis.

The Treasurer flagged deregulation, lower taxes, infrastructure projects and industrial relations reform as ways for Australia to boost productivity in the post-coronavirus economy.

“Encouraging personal responsibility, maximising personal choice, rewarding effort and risk-taking, while ensuring a safety net which is underpinned by a sense of decency and fairness,” he said.

“The values and principles that have guided Coalition reforms in the past must guide us again in the future.

“The proven path for paying back debt is not through higher taxes, which curtails aspiration and investment, but by growing the economy through productivity-enhancing reforms,” Mr Frydenberg added.

The Treasurer flagged the country’s $100 billion in infrastructure projects pledged over the next decade, “tax and industrial relations reform”, and “reskilling and upskilling the workforce” as ways to boost the economy.

Mr Frydenberg said almost 1.3 million people had withdrawn more than $10 billion in superannuation under the federal government’s early access scheme.

More than 1.4 million Australians are receiving the boosted JobSeeker payment.



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