First repatriation flight departs Sydney, with stranded Aussies to begin returning this weekend


The first groups of stranded Australians will come home from India this weekend, when a plane carrying desperately needed medical supplies to the COVID-ravaged country returns.

Australia’s first rescue flight to India departed Sydney at 8.30am on Friday and, after a stopover in Darwin, will arrive in New Delhi at 10.30pm AEST.

On board the flight were much-needed oxygen supplies – 1056 ventilators and 60 oxygen concentrators.

The government’s India travel ban expires at midnight on Friday, paving the way for the resumption of repatriation flights over the weekend.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the controversial measure was necessary to bring Australians home “consistently and sustainably”.

“That is going to happen this weekend because of the very strong action and decisive action we took several weeks ago. That pause has done its job,” he said on Friday.

The plane will return carrying the first group of 9000 Australians stranded in India but, with passengers required to test negative to COVID-19 before boarding, final numbers will be subject to results.

RELATED: Australians to be jailed or fined if they fly in from India

Active COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine had dropped from 292 to 171, a government spokesman said.

The government has faced criticism over the ban, which threatened Australians with five years in jail or $66,000 fines for returning from India.

It was the first law in Australia’s history making it illegal for citizens to come home.

India is grappling with the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, having recorded at least 300,000 infections each day since April 21.

As the country’s health system buckled under the caseload, Health Minister Greg Hunt warned India was “literally gasping for oxygen” and Australia would continue to provide support.

“With over the half the world’s cases on a daily basis, the challenge that that nation is facing is unprecedented, and extraordinary,” Mr Hunt said on Monday.

“We’ve made one humanitarian contribution and we’re working with the Indian Government and Indian people on their additional requirements going forward.”

But the ban has caused internal frictions in the Coalition, after two Queensland senators – Matt Canavan and Gerard Rennick – crossed the floor on Thursday to support a motion demanding the government “help Australians in India return, rather than jailing them, and fix our quarantine system rather than leaving our fellow Australians stranded”.

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Japan cautiously explores possibility of US returning to TPP


TOKYO — When Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House in April, there was one topic he wished to broach even though it would be in vain, the possibility of the U.S. returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Suga intended to sound out Washington’s stance on the issue by saying Japan wants the U.S. to rejoin the trade accord sooner or later.

The U.S. seems to remain affected by skepticism spread about economic globalization during the era of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden has said his administration will not conclude new trade agreements until other countries increase their investments in the U.S. In his address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, Biden did not refer to free trade. Instead he emphasized domestic employment of middle-class and other workers.

Suga understands it will be difficult for the U.S. administration to make a policy shift in favor of free trade even if the Biden-led Democrats win midterm elections in the autumn of 2022.

Nevertheless, Suga wanted to broach the subject as Japanese government officials concluded through behind-the-scenes negotiations with the U.S. before the summit that the Biden administration does not rule out the U.S.’s eventual return to the TPP.

The premier was told by the officials that the Biden administration in its heart wants the U.S. to return to the TPP at some stage but officially cannot decide to do so anytime soon.

The Suga-Biden meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, focused on pressing issues, such as China policy and climate change, and left little time to discuss the TPP.

The pact’s framework was agreed on in principle by 12 countries, including the U.S., in 2015, when Biden was serving as vice president under Barack Obama. But it never took effect. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact in one of his first acts as president, fulfilling a major campaign promise.

Under Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government was greatly disappointed. Japan’s participation was realized through strenuous efforts to persuade agricultural and other organizations that opposed the TPP. Suga has a strong sense of attachment to the TPP due to his own experience of negotiating with the U.S. as chief cabinet secretary. He believes the TPP can serve as the foundation of establishing an economic order based on free and fair rules in the Asia-Pacific region.

Without the U.S., the TPP forms an economic bloc accounting for a little more than 10% of global gross domestic product. That rises to 40% if the U.S. comes aboard.

The necessity of countering China’s growing hegemony has never been greater, and this sense of crisis is shared by the U.S. administration.

As attempting to gain U.S. participation in the TPP is an “unavoidable assignment” for Japan, Suga will “surely” propose it to Biden sooner or later, a senior Japanese government official said.

China is also playing politics with the TPP. In November, President Xi Jinping said China would seriously consider participating in the bloc. His remark came around the time that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade agreement was signed by 15 countries, including China. The statement was evidently made to check Biden following his electoral victory over Trump.

It is not yet known how serious China is about participating in the TPP. Ke Long, a senior fellow at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, said any such move would “probably be aimed at blocking Taiwan’s participation because the isolation of Taiwan in the world is the Chinese leadership’s top priority issue.”

The Japanese government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party have strong expectations that Taiwan will join the bloc.

“China runs counter to the principle of the TPP as it is strengthening the involvement of the state in economic activity,” said Akira Amari, a veteran LDP lawmaker who served as the cabinet minister in charge of the TPP. China’s “participation is unrealistic.”

Amari cited a TPP pillar that prohibits governments from distorting competition by subsidizing state-owned enterprises.

The 2016 Study Group on Japan-U.S. Economy, a panel of experts set up by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2016 compiled a package of recommendations that holds clues about what should be done today.

“Japan should proactively promote and support the participation of important partners including Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines who share our common strategic interests in the TPP Agreement,” the panel’s report says. “Through such an ‘open-door policy’ concerning the TPP Agreement, it is expected that the Agreement will also become established as an important platform for the U.S. regional strategy in the Asia-Pacific.”

At the time, the proposal was intended to stimulate China and encourage domestic reforms by putting Taiwan at the top of a list, hoping to encourage a recurrence of efforts to reform state-owned enterprises made by China before it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Those expectations were not met.

Eight years have passed since Japan declared it would participate in the TPP as a “century-old national policy goal.”  A government official close to Suga says Japan has no other choice but to raise the value of the TPP by paving the way for the U.S.’s return and luring friends such as Britain, which earlier this year applied for TPP membership.



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Canberra Raiders recruit Ryan James scores a try in his first NRL match since returning from back-to-back ACL injuries



You do not have to be a Raiders fan to feel joy for recruit Ryan James, who charged his way over the try line in his first NRL match in 693 days.

It was an emotional moment for the forward, who considered retirement last year following back-to-back ACL injuries while captaining the Gold Coast Titans.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart praised James’s courage and determination, which helped Canberra claim a 30-12 round one victory over the West Tigers.

“I was just really happy for him that he got through what would have been a pretty nervous day for him, because he’s been a player that’s had some bad luck with a couple of knee reconstructions,” Stuart said.

“It was nice for Ryan James from an individual point of view that he got through an NRL game with his new club.”

The 29-year-old arrived in Canberra ahead of the 2021 pre-season following a 10-year career at the Titans starring in 144 matches.

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Unfortunately for James, the final two years of his Titans contract were spent in rehab after suffering his first ACL injury in the early rounds of 2019, before a second at training which saw him miss the entire 2020 season.

Eager to put his best foot at the Raiders, James moved his family earlier than anticipated to ensure he was in good stead by the time the 2021 season rolled around.

“He’s worked extremely hard all off-season. He’s just a real professional,” Stuart said.

“What I admire about Ryan was that him, Anna and the kids, they came to Canberra earlier than he needed to, to get him ready for his season.

“He started training with our under 20s. You visualise and imagine the buzz that our under-20s had with a guy such as his stature in the game — 10 seasons he’s played as an NRL player — and he’s in the gym training with the under-20s, 19s and 18-year-olds.”

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Stuart said he had not planned to name the forward in his starting line-up for the round one clash, but he could not look past his work ethic to be ready for a return.

“I don’t know when he was expecting to play NRL but he’s worked his way right through the pre-season into a position to start in the 17 this week,” he said.

The Canberra Raiders hit the road in round two to face the Cronulla Sharks.

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North Melbourne players in COVID-19 quarantine after returning from Perth given permission to ‘train and play’



Kangaroos AFL players and officials are self-isolating after returning to Melbourne from Perth, but they have been given permission to continue training and playing in line with league protocols.

The Kangaroos played Fremantle at an empty Perth Stadium last night, after the Western Australian government imposed a three-day lockdown in Perth and the Peel region on Friday following the state’s latest COVID-19 scare. 

The club’s travelling party were tested for COVID-19 at their Arden Street base after they returned to Melbourne.

They will isolate in their homes for 14 days in line with current Victorian government directions relating to arrivals from a red zone.

The AFL released a statement this afternoon saying the state government had granted Kangaroos players and officials who travelled to Perth an exemption allowing them to leave their homes to “train and play” under the league’s protocols.

“All training sessions will be closed to the general public with media to be completed remotely via video conference for the 14-day period,” the statement read.

The Kangaroos players can also leave their homes to obtain medical care or supplies, or on compassionate grounds.

They are scheduled to play unbeaten Melbourne in Hobart next Sunday but that may depend on advice from Tasmanian health authorities.

Melbourne’s Docklands stadium is available on the same day and could host the match should it be moved from Hobart.

The Kangaroos lost to the Dockers by 51 points to record their sixth defeat of the season.

They are yet to win a match and sit at the bottom of the AFL ladder.

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Victorians returning from NZ urged to get tested


Victorians returning home from New Zealand are being urged to monitor for coronavirus symptoms and “get tested immediately” following an Auckland Airport worker who contracted the virus.

The Department of Health on Wednesday advised: “Anyone who has travelled to Victoria from Auckland since April 17 to monitor for symptoms and isolate and get tested immediately should symptoms develop.”

The New Zealand Ministry of Health has released a number of exposure sites since the worker was confirmed to have contracted the virus on Tuesday.

Anyone who has visited these exposure sites on the listed dates and times needs to get tested, isolate until they get a negative result and phone the Victorian Department of Health on 1300 651 160, it was advised.

All close contacts of the Auckland case have so far tested negative to COVID-19.

It comes amid revelations the coronavirus-infected airport staffer who cleaned planes from high-risk countries also worked on an aircraft bound for Australia, with fears the staffer may have passed the infection on just two days after the trans-Tasman bubble opened.

New Zealand’s director of public health Caroline McElnay said authorities believed the case was linked to a returning passenger from Ethiopia.

“The person who has become infected works at cleaning planes from international flights,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“This includes countries that are deemed red zone where COVID-19 is widespread, but also includes having cleaned green zone planes flying back to Australia on Monday.”

Dr McElnay noted it was the same protocol used in Australia.

“The person wore full PPE while cleaning and we have been in touch with Australian authorities to notify them about this case,” she said.

“Our assessment is that there is no additional risk to any passengers who travelled on those flights cleaned by the infected person.”

The worker has received both doses of the COVID-19 jab, which means the risk to the community is low.

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Returning Aussies may be able to quarantine at home, says PM



The “sensible next step” in easing Australia’s international border restrictions would be to allow vaccinated Australians flying in from overseas to quarantine at home, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

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NRL news: Wayne Bennett is definitely returning to Brisbane this year but won’t be going back to the Broncos


Super coach Wayne Bennett has ruled out a return to the Broncos, revealing he has received interest to coach Brisbane’s second NRL team from 2023.

Bennett’s future beyond this season has become a talking point after he announced he was leaving South Sydney at season’s end to return to Queensland.

The seven-time premiership winning mentor declared he is a “free agent” and open to all offers.

This includes a potential return to Brisbane, where he could reunite with his former captain turned Broncos coach, Kevin Walters.

But Bennett says he isn’t prepared to forgive, forget and return to Brisbane after being forced out of the Broncos during an ugly exit in 2018.

Asked if he would be happy to return to Red Hill, he replied: “No, I’ve moved on and that is where it is at.

“And that is where it could it stay as far as I’m concerned.

“I never think about it (the Broncos)- I’ve moved on.”

Bennett was happy to talk about his interest in coaching the second Brisbane team.

“I’ve had one phone call about the 17th team and a guy wanted to know if I was interested in coaching them,” he said.

“And I said at this point in time I would be if something becomes available.”

It comes as Brisbane officials feel Bennett will use the club as leverage to ensure he remains the first-choice for a new franchise in southeast Queensland from 2023.

The veteran mentor didn’t discuss this speculation, but confirmed he could still be involved in coaching next season to help the second Brisbane franchise prepare for its maiden season a year later.

“I may be employed in coaching still,” he said about coaching in 2022.

“If there is a new franchise they will be looking to buy players and have things to set up.”

Bennett had a simple answer when asked why he is interested in heading up a new franchise given his age and experience.

“I love what I do and I think I can make a contribution,” he said.

“But I’ll keep an eye on everything. I have no commitments to anyone.”

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‘Hotel deals and house swaps’: Returning to the office after a sea or tree change


Did you move to the coast or country during COVID-19, but kept your job in the city? 

If so, the long commute may be about to bite, as more bosses demand their employees return to the office for at least a couple of days per week.

So, what’s a person to do – other than suck it up, or try to plead the case for continued remote working? 

For many, the answer is a combination of long drives or train travel, broken up by nights spent crashing in family or friends’ spare rooms. Others are making the most of largely empty hotels or Airbnbs in the city to nab cheap last-minute deals.  

Or in the case of Angus Smith, who moved from Melbourne to Barwon Heads earlier this year, catching the ferry back to the big smoke.

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Angus Smith catches the 70-minute ferry to the Docklands before cycling to work along the Yarra. Photo: Supplied

While he and his partner used to spend most weekends in the coastal town prior to COVID-19, the Melbourne lockdowns sealed the decision to make a full-time sea change. 

“To be able to be locked out from friends, family and the surf beach was a bit much, and we thought we’re working remotely most of the time, so why not?” 

Smith, who works at an international humanitarian organisation, now throws his bike in the car for the scenic drive to Portarlington about twice a week, and catches the 70-minute ferry to the Docklands ($33 return), before cycling the last part of his journey along the Yarra River.

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Angus says the commute is his favourite part of the day. Photo: Supplied

On the ferry ride in, he does some work, and on his return journey, enjoys a glass of wine.

“I thought it was going to be a horrible commute but it’s actually my favourite part of the day,” he says.

Many companies are taking a more flexible approach to working from home, or slowly easing employees back into office life. For example, this week the Victorian government announced a new flexible work policy that requires public servants to return to the office at least three days a week.

By law, employers can give directions to their employees to work their normal hours at their workplace (except if they’re on approved leave), according to a Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson.

“An employee can’t refuse an employer’s direction to perform work if the direction is lawful and reasonable,” the spokesperson said.

Of course, when you work for yourself, there’s more opportunity to be flexible, even when many of your clients are still in the CBD. 

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Last December Amber Daines and her family moved to Kariong on the Central Coast. Photo: Stephen Blake

That’s the case for business communications specialist Amber Daines. Last December, she and her family rented out their place in Gladesville, nine kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, to move to Kariong on the Central Coast.

But their move wasn’t really about the beach lifestyle. Rather, Daines’ eldest son had secured a spot at a sought-after sports college.

“We kind of all went, well COVID lets us work more flexibly, do we give it a couple of years and see how it goes?” says Daines. “A year ago I wouldn’t have even thought about it.”

She usually stays in a hotel for one to two nights each fortnight to meet her city clients, while her husband commutes more frequently to his full-time job and often stays with a friend.

Airbnb
Check Airbnb for cheap rooms. Photo: Peter Braig

“There are a lot of good deals at the moment,” says Daines, who always books hotels that offer free cancellations, just in case clients change meeting times. 

“During summer it was actually cheaper to stay in Sydney in a five-star hotel than to stay in an Airbnb on the Central Coast.”

Recently she stayed two nights for free, including parking, at a luxury hotel in Circular Quay, using points through American Express Travel.

Back in Victoria, sales manager and surfer Raphael Bieniara commutes to his Melbourne office two to three times a week, after moving from Elwood to Jan Juc last July. The drive takes about an hour and 20 minutes.

“I sometimes stay in Melbourne, so it’s a mix of both,” he says. “The commute I don’t mind, I’m listening to podcasts and I’m on the phone to customers.”

Bieniara says he has no regrets about the move – even with the much longer commute. “It was absolutely the right decision.”

How to find a cheap city crash pad

  • Check hotel websites and apps directly for a better price
  • Book a cheap private room on Airbnb
  • Dust off your Frequent Flyer points for a hotel stay
  • Find a youth hostel with barely any guests
  • Sign up to loyalty programs. For example, hotels.com offers a free night for every 10 nights booked
  • Try shopback.com.au for cheap deals and cash-back offers
  • Do a room trade with your city friends.

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What it’s like returning home years after coming out


When Kay Langford said goodbye to Nambour, the regional Queensland town she left at 22, she was not out — to herself or her family.

It wasn’t until she moved away and saw more queer identities that she figured out her own sexuality.

“I probably started to identify as a lesbian when I started to see more examples of people [who were] representing what I was feeling or experiencing in my body,” she said.

“I probably spent too many years suppressing that.

“Visibility and community and allies — whether you’re queer or not — is so important to help people to come out, but also to make them feel safe.”

That is why Ms Langford returned to her hometown recently — to create some of that representation and to host a party for the local LGBTQI community.

“I wanted to be able to contribute that back to my town as something that I wish that I had more of,” she said.

Returning to your hometown can be disorientating, especially when you return as a different person.

“There’s definitely been a lot of nerves [being back here], because Nambour is still, I would say, very heteronormative,” Ms Langford said.

“Being here the last few days, I haven’t seen one queer couple, or even you know, somebody, even dressed outlandishly.

“But I think the hope is that by putting on an event like this, and calling people out to celebrate together and to connect each other and to say, ‘Yeah, we do exist’, there is an opportunity to start building community.”

Ms Langford said she felt there was more pressure in country towns for women to conform to heteronormative identities, because when people saw difference they sometimes reacted from a place of discomfort.

“I think [when] you’re not used to seeing maybe trans people, same-sex couples, or just people who are expressing themselves differently to what the general the norms are for certain genders, then it makes people uncomfortable,” she said.

When the event came along, Ms Langford was worried that no-one would come.

“At times it felt overwhelming and terrifying that it would flop, because I’ve never seen anything like this done before,” Ms Langford says.

“But standing up with the drag queen on the final night and looking out at all the smiling faces made me tear up.

Ms Langford said she could not have imagined when growing up in Nambour that Mardi Gras events and drag bingo nights would exist on the Sunshine Coast in the future.

“I couldn’t even imagine seeing a drag queen anywhere near my home,” she said.

Now, she feels like there is a future in queer events on the Coast.

“I think it will take more events like this to build a safe space and a community vibe so that queer people don’t feel like they have to leave and go to a city to find their tribe,” she said.

“I think we’re on a fabulous sparkly rise with increasing awareness and role models in the space, which will only build the community and do wonders for the Coast.”

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Returning to sports and physical activity after COVID-19: What parents need to know



While most children and teens who have COVID-19 recover completely, sometimes the virus can have lasting effects. One of those effects can be damage to the muscle of the heart — and if a damaged heart is stressed by exercise, it can lead to arrhythmias, heart failure, or even sudden death.

This appears to be rare. But given that we are literally learning as we go when it comes to COVID-19, it’s hard for us to know how rare — and just how risky exercise after testing positive for COVID-19 might be. To help doctors, coaches, gym teachers, parents, and caregivers make safe decisions, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published some guidance on returning to sports and physical activity after having COVID-19.

This is “interim guidance” — our current best guess about what to do, based on what we know so far. Unfortunately, there is much we don’t know, and can’t know until we have had more time to study the virus and watch what happens to patients as they recover over weeks, months, and years.

What’s important to know about returning to sports and physical activity?

Teens and young adults who play competitive sports are at highest risk for a heart problem. This is both because younger children appear to be less affected by COVID-19, and because older teens and young adults have harder workouts that are more likely to stress the muscle of the heart. Of course, nobody can say for certain that running around an elementary school playground is completely risk-free for a child who has had COVID-19.

The guidance for returning to physical activity depends on whether the case of COVID-19 was considered mild (including asymptomatic), moderate, or severe.

  • Mild: fewer than four days of fever greater than 100.4, and less than one week of muscle aches, chills, or fatigue (this would include those with asymptomatic cases)
  • Moderate: four or more days of fever greater than 100.4; a week or more of muscle aches, chills, or fatigue; or a hospital stay (not in the ICU) with no evidence of MIS-C. (MIS-C is the multisystem inflammatory syndrome that sometimes occurs with COVID-19.)
  • Severe: any ICU stay and/or intubation, or evidence of MIS-C. During intubation, a tube is placed through the mouth into the airway and connected to a machine to help a child breathe.

What screening might be done after a child recovers from an asymptomatic to mild case of COVID-19?

It’s toughest to offer guidance for youths who have had mild or asymptomatic cases, as we truly have limited data on this group when it comes to the health of their hearts.

For these children, experts recommend that parents check in with the child’s primary care provider. Wait until the child has recovered from their illness (or at least 10 days after a positive test if a child is asymptomatic). They should be screened for any symptoms of heart problems, with the most worrisome being

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath that is more than you’d expect after a bad cold
  • palpitations that they have never had before
  • dizziness or fainting.

A simple phone call to the doctor’s office may be sufficient following very mild or asymptomatic cases in children who aren’t serious athletes.

An in-person examination is a good idea for those whose cases were more borderline, or if there are any concerns at all, or if the child is a serious athlete.

If there are any worries based on the answers to questions or the physical examination, then an EKG and a referral to a cardiologist make sense.

If there aren’t any worries, then children can return to recreational physical activity as they feel able. Returning to competitive sports should be done gradually, watching for symptoms along the way. See the AAP guidance linked above for suggestions on how to do this.

What screening might be done after a child recovers from a moderate or severe case of COVID-19?

Any child who had a moderate illness should see their primary care provider to be screened for symptoms and examined. Schedule the visit at least 10 days after the child had a positive test for the virus, and has had no symptoms for at least 24 hours without taking any acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If there are any questions or worries at all about symptoms or a finding on the physical examination, referral to a cardiologist for clearance and guidance about returning to physical activity is a good idea.

Children who have had severe illness absolutely need to see a cardiologist, and should be restricted from activity for a minimum of three to six months, only returning when a cardiologist says it’s okay.

Again, this is interim guidance that will evolve as we learn more about COVID-19 and its short- and long-term effects. If you have questions, talk to your doctor.

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

The post Returning to sports and physical activity after COVID-19: What parents need to know appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

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