Northern Territory shuts all remote road COVID-19 border control points


The Northern Territory Government has announced the immediate removal of all remote road border control points, although it says checkpoints will be rolled out again if the need arises.

Since the early stages of the pandemic, NT Police and Defence personnel have been stationed at remote checkpoints to help prevent the spread of coronavirus into the NT.

But what will this mean for travellers hoping to enter the Territory?

Entering the NT by road

For travellers entering the Northern Territory via road, there will no longer be a physical police presence manually checking border entry forms, but new arrivals will still need to fill one in a before crossing over.

Anyone who has been to a coronavirus hotpot in the 14 days before entering the NT — which, for purposes of travelling to the Territory, includes 10 suburbs in Melbourne — must go into two weeks of mandatory quarantine and pay $2,500 to cover the cost of their care.

The NT Government said most people arriving in the Northern Territory who had visited Melbourne, arrived by air.

But if these hotspot travellers arrive by road they need to navigate their way through the border checkpoints of other states before reaching the NT’s, and will be directed to self-isolate in another state if they’ve visited a high-risk area.

For example, people who have been in the Greater Melbourne area since January 28 and cross into South Australia — the most direct route to the NT — must self-quarantine for two weeks and get three COVID-19 tests during that time.

Entering the NT by plane

Checkpoints will remain in place at airports, and arrivals will need to have their border entry forms filled out and show it to authorities as they land.

Anyone who has been to a COVID-19 hotspot will be sent straight into mandatory quarantine.

Facemasks are now mandatory at all Northern Territory airports and while on board aircraft, although children under 12 and people who have specific medical conditions don’t have to wear them.

What if I’ve been to a hotspot?

You must declare it on your border entry form and go straight into two weeks’ mandatory quarantine, paying the $2,500 bill yourself.

It’s the responsibility of travellers to stay up to date with current declared hotspots.

There are steep penalties for those who lie or don’t abide by NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie’s directions, with fines of up to $5,056 for an individual and up to $25,280 for a business.

Hugh Heggie has made it mandatory for masks to be worn at NT airports and on aircraft.(ABC News: Felicity James)

How soon will changes be made?

The NT Government made this announcement at about 2:00pm on Saturday, and remote border checkpoints are now closed.

The decision to pull officers back isn’t completely out of the blue.

In December, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the police presence at the NT’s minor road border entry points of Docker River, Tobermorey, Lake Nash, Mulga Park, Curtain Springs, Tanami, Kintore and Finke would be wound back.

At the time, Mr Gunner said while police would still maintain a physical presence at the Northern Territory’s three major road entry points — the Stuart Highway, Victoria Highway and Barkly Highway — these three remaining road border entry points would be demobilised by early 2021.

A spokeswoman from the Department of the Chief Minister said with risks easing in other parts of the country, officers were being stood down which would also help conserve resources.

“We have been monitoring the situation closely for a number of months,” she said.

“The drawdown of BCPs [border control points] was a gradual process and has been made in consultation with our medical experts and with the guidance of operational data.”

Aircraft sit at the gates of Darwin International Airport.
Airport checkpoints will remain in place, and all arrivals will still be required to complete an online entry form.(Facebook: Darwin International Airport)

What else do I have to know?

As Dr Heggie has made clear on multiple occasions, personal behaviour is the best defence against COVID-19.

If you develop any symptoms at all — stay at home and get tested.

That means washing your hands, practising physical distancing and using The Territory Check In App to check in to businesses you visit.

There have been 102 cases of COVID-19 in the NT, all of which are linked to overseas or interstate travel and no cases of community transmission.

Currently, 448 people are undertaking quarantine in the Northern Territory.

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#Northern #Territory #shuts #remote #road #COVID19 #border #control #points



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Ben Simmons, triple-double record, John Wall, James Harden, Dante Exum shuts down Trae Young


The Philadelphia 76ers have maintained a 5-1 start with a 127-112 win over the Charlotte Hornets with Ben Simmons claiming his first triple-double of the season.

Simmons has put up 29 triple-doubles in his regular season career and is racing up the leaderboard in record time, taking just 223 games to reach the mark.

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While Dallas Mavericks wunderkind Luka Doncic is looking to eclipse Simmons’ record with 25 in his 138 game career so far, it’s a stunning record for the Australian.

Only Magic Johnson, who took 186 games and brought his 29th up in 1982, and Oscar Robertson, who did it in 74 games by 1961, have more triple-doubles in less time than Simmons.

Only Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic have more triple-doubles than Simmons since the Aussie started his career, but since Magic, Simmons 223 games beats Jokic’s 310 games, Grant Hill’s 336 games, Jason Kidd’s 372 and LeBron James with 556 games.

Westbrook took 570 games to get 29 triple doubles but exploded after that and has now tallied 150 in his career.

Simmons said the 76ers are developing into a handful for any team.

“You see the way we’ve been playing, we like to move the ball, share it, it doesn’t matter who gets the ball in the game in terms of the points, but when we play like that it’s tough,” he said.

He added that the addition of shooters at the perimeter has helped the side with all the players buying in.

Simmons had 15 points 12 rebounds and 11 assists while Joel Embiid added 19 points and 14 boards, while Tobias Harris’ 24 points and Seth Curry’s 21 were the pick of the 76ers.

Simmons is getting the relationship going with his new teammates as well with Curry dishing a no look alley-oop to Simmons for a dunk.

Before the game, Simmons gave the credit all to new coach Doc Rivers who has freed him up to play as he likes.

Rivers has been dismissive of any of the talk around Simmons’ jump shot this season and despite hitting a three in his last game, has said it doesn’t matter.

“I think that’s the good thing with Doc, he allows me to make the right reads,” Simmons said.

“He’s gonna tell me if there’s a certain spot he thinks I should get to. If I don’t do something whether it’s cut or slash, or just spacing-wise. I think I have that freedom.”

WALL DOES IT WITHOUT HARDEN

John Wall delivered a game-high 28 points as the Houston Rockets won their second straight game over the Sacramento Kings 102-94, despite playing without NBA all-star James Harden.

Eric Gordon replaced Harden and scored 21 points, while Christian Wood finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who also beat the Kings 122-119 on New Year’s Eve.

‘‘I just put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point,” Wall said. ‘‘I couldn’t ask for a better start to be 2-0 in my first two games.”

It will give Rockets fans some joy knowing the side could be OK without Harden as the trade talk continues.

Harden had 33 points in the New Year’s Eve game but was a late scratch Saturday. The disgruntled American, who has asked for a trade, sat out with a sore ankle, although he has not been placed on the injury list.

Without Harden, Wall carried the offensive load for the Rockets. He had missed their first two games of the new season because of COVID-19 restrictions and was out all of last season because of injuries.

Sterling Brown came off the bench to score 11 points in the win. Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he is pleasantly surprised with the immediate impact from Wall.

“Whatever expectations I had, he’s obviously exceeded them,” he said.

The Rockets seized their first double-digit lead of the game, 92-81, early in the fourth quarter when David Nwaba and Gordon drained back to back threes.

The Kings got to 92-83 with just over eight minutes left, but then cold shooting and turnovers resulted in them going scoreless for five minutes.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, while Buddy Hield chipped in 17 points in the loss.

AFP

DANTE EXUM COMES UP BIG

The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young is one of the NBA’s most exciting talents but Aussie star Dante Exum has shown how to shut the young gun down.

His Cleveland Cavaliers are fourth in the Eastern Conference having a 4-2 record but claimed a massive scalp against the Hawks.

While Exum had just six points and five rebounds in 35 minutes on the floor, the 96-91 win was set up as he shut down Young.

Young averages 28.2 points for the season as well as 8.3 assists but he was kept to 16 points and 10 assists.

Cleveland even had to battle back from 15 points down halfway through the third quarter, before outscoring the Hawks 26-17 to come over the top of the Hawks.

Cavs star Larry Nance Jr. was blown away by the team’s defence.

“They put up 35 on us in the first quarter and then for the rest of the three quarters of the game, for 36 minutes of basketball, we held them to 53 points,” he said. “That’s unheard of. That’s unheard of. Like we keep saying, that’s what we gotta hang our hats on every night. If you play defence, there’s no game you’re out of.”

But social media was behind Exum’s performance.



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Numbers, restrictions, venue alerts, cluster developments as border shuts


Victoria has recorded 10 new locally acquired cases of coronavirus, including two cases that tested positive in NSW.

The 10 cases doubles the 5 new locally acquired cases reported on Friday, the first day of 2021.

It comes as a man and a woman from NSW allegedly “fled” from officers at Melbourne Airport after arriving on a flight from Canberra at around 11am on Friday.

The 26-year-old man and 24-year-old woman normally reside in NSW.

After being spoken to by officers at the airport they were informed they’d have to quarantine for 14 days, at which point they allegedly ran from the officer, and were picked up by a vehicle that took them away from the airport.

It’s understood police have tracked the couple down and an update is expected later today.

The border breach at the airport comes as cars were turned away from the border at midnight. 

Yesterday Jeroen Weimar, the Victorian Health Department’s COVID-19 response commander, justified the state’s hardline stance.

“We need to close the border, because we do not wish to continue to import high-risk COVID cases back into Victoria,” Mr Weimar said.

“We do not think that would be right or fair for the Victorian community.

“We do not have the capacity to put hundreds of people into hotel quarantine because they elected to come home late.

Some people rushing to the border last night had travelled from as far away as Queensland.

Photographer Simon Dallinger was at the Hume Freeway checkpoint. He reported that the last people allowed through, seconds before midnight, were Kelli Rippon and Rachel Bartlett. The pair had travelled from Brisbane to Dubbo, and then to Victoria.

They made it just in time. Others were not so lucky.

Health authorities in Victoria believe the virus has been spreading there for almost two weeks.

All 10 cases reported since Wednesday either dined at the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock on December 21, or are close contacts of others who did.

“We know we have a likely starting point to December 21 – that is now at 10 or 11 days ago,” Mr Weimar said yesterday.

Across the border in NSW, three new infections were identified in Western Sydney yesterday.

Contact tracers are now scrambling to link the new cases to existing clusters.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned tighter restrictions could be introduced across Greater Sydney if more cases arise without known links.

An update is expected at 11am AEDT.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley and Mr Weimar are expected to give an update at 9.45am AEDT.

Read on for the latest news.

Live Updates


Jack Gramenz

Victorian health minister Martin Foley and coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar have provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 situation and response.

On Saturday, Victoria reported 10 new locally acquired cases and two in hotel quarantine, from 18,337 tests.

All of the local cases are linked to the Black Rock Thai restaurant cluster.

Two of the locally acquired cases tested positive in NSW and were already reported by NSW health authorities, but they are included in Victoria’s numbers as they are residents who returned to the state legally after receiving their positive result.

There are 29 total active cases, which Mr Foley said are posing a “very significant issue” for Victoria at the beginning of 2021.

Genomic sequencing has linked Victoria’s outbreak to the NSW cluster.

Health minister Martin Foley thanked the 900 police and SES volunteers who have been enforcing the border closure with NSW.

“I want to also acknowledge that the border closure, based on public health advice, has caused significant disruption for returning travellers and regrettably will also cause disruption for our border communities,” Mr Foley said, but added “we make no apologies for closing the border”.


Jack Gramenz

Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak, now linked to the outbreak in NSW, has led to 29 active cases in the state as contact tracers work to find those who may have been in contact with infected people.

Overnight the number of close contacts more than quadrupled, from 50 to 220, as locally acquired cases doubled from five to 10.

Two of those cases were already identified by NSW authorities after they tested positive in the state before returning home to Victoria.

18 cases have now been linked to an outbreak at Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Black Rock.

It’s not yet known how the virus travelled from NSW to Victoria.


Jack Gramenz

Genomic sequencing has linked Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak to an outbreak in NSW, but it’s not yet been determined how the virus managed to get back into Victoria.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley provided an update on Saturday morning, where he reported the 10 new locally acquired cases had been linked to a cluster at a Thai restaurant in bayside suburb Black Rock, and that the virus had come from NSW.

“We’ve yet to establish exactly the vehicle that has done that but we have established the science that has had that happen,” Mr Foley said.

“From there, so far all of the cases that have been identified have been linked back to that cluster.”


Jack Gramenz

Victorians are being encouraged to get tested but to plan ahead and be patient, as testing facilities are expanded in the state.

New facilities with expanded operating hours are being brought in to cope with demand.

People were already queuing up to be tested at 7am on Saturday according to Victoria’s coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar.

“As we saw through our second wave, it is by working together and by people heading out and getting tested, by all the work that we’re doing on the border, that we collectively work together to get on top of this particular outbreak,” Mr Weimar said.

Staff who were on holiday are coming back to help with testing, with Mr Weimar saying “hundreds of people” were coming back in from planned leave.

A full list of testing locations is available on the Victorian health department’s website.


Jack Gramenz

Victorian health minister Martin Foley has announced the two people who fled from Melbourne Airport after being told they’d have to do 14 days of quarantine will each be fined $19,000.

The 26-year-old man and 24-year-old woman have returned to Goulburn in NSW after flying to Victoria from Canberra on Friday morning.

“Upon the advice of the public health team, those people have breached numerous orders of the public-health state of emergency in Victoria and they will each be fined at least $19,000 for their breaching of those arrangements.”

“This is a very serious matter,” Mr Foley said.

“We have established the link between New South Wales’ cluster and the outbreak in Victoria. We are determined to get on top of it and I know that requires what appears to some people to be tough measures but the virus does not respect state borders,” he said.


Jack Gramenz

Victoria has recorded 10 new locally acquired cases of coronavirus, including two that were announced by NSW yesterday.

Yesterday there were 10 new local cases reported, 2 cases internationally acquired and in hotel quarantine. Thanks to all who were tested, 18,337 results were received. #EveryTestHelps #StaySafeStayOpen More later: https://t.co/lIUrl1hf3W #COVID19Vic pic.twitter.com/m9A6q7E2ki

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) January 1, 2021

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A further two cases were in returning travellers in hotel quarantine.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley and its coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar are expected to provide an update at 9.45am.


Jack Gramenz

NSW opposition leader Jodi McKay has restated her position that masks should be made mandatory in the state.

In a Twitter post on Saturday morning, Ms McKay told followers to wear a mask on public transport and in supermarkets and shopping centres.

“Masks are cheap. They’re effective. They should be mandatory to save lives and livelihoods,” Ms McKay wrote on the post.

The ACT has shut its border to visitors who’ve been in the Northern Beaches, Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong LGAs. Masks are cheap. They’re effective. They should be mandatory to save lives and livelihoods. pic.twitter.com/KW9DgwK40P

— Jodi McKay (@JodiMcKayMP) January 1, 2021

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Premier Gladys Berejiklian maintains there is a “strong recommendation” but currently no mandate to wear masks.

“Of course, should there be something that comes along … should we need to adjust our policy settings we will,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Victoria mandated masks in all indoor venues when it slammed shut its border with NSW after recording new cases of coronavirus believed to be linked to the state.


Jack Gramenz

Thousands of northern beaches residents are allowed out of the locked down areas to work around the greater Sydney area, prompting calls for financial support for workers to stay home.

“At best this is a serious mistake, at worse it’s a calculated risk to save money that has gone very, very wrong,” south coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris told the Daily Telegraph.

Residents of the northern beaches are allowed to leave the area for work if they can’t work from home.

Mr Rorris said that allowance rendered the lockdown “almost pointless”.

“Over 40 per cent of the workers in the northern bea­ches work outside of the area, and thousands of those work in restaurants, cafes and pubs and many thousands more in sales positions,” Mr Rorris said.

He said it would have cost a “substantial amount of money” but that the government should have banned people going to work and compensated them for staying home.

NSW opposition health spokesman Ryan Park wants the government to look at “short-term targeted financial assistance to those who need it most to avoid travel when we have isolated lockdowns”.


Jack Gramenz

A man and a woman from NSW allegedly “fled” from officers at Melbourne Airport after arriving on a flight from Canberra at around 11am on Friday.

The 26-year-old man and 24-year-old woman normally reside in NSW.

After being spoken to by officers at the airport they were informed they’d have to quarantine for 14 days, at which point they allegedly ran from the officer, and were picked up by a vehicle that took them away from the airport.

Victoria Police released images of the pair and a vehicle similar to the one they are believed to have left the airport in.

It’s understood police have tracked the couple down and an update is expected later today.


Jack Gramenz

The ACT will close its border to non-residents from midday Saturday in response to NSW’s ongoing coronavirus situation.

In the early hours of January 2 the territory issued a new public health alert saying non-residents who have been in the northern beaches, Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong local government areas will need an exemption to be allowed into the ACT.

Territory health authorities advise applying for an exemption at least three days prior to travelling.

ACT residents still need to notify health authorities of their intention to return to the ACT via an online declaration form and enter quarantine for 14 days.

Both forms will be unavailable from 9am Saturday until midday “so they can be updated to reflect these changes” according to ACT Health.

“In recent days we have continued to see around 80 non-ACT residents from COVID-19 affected areas of NSW travel to the ACT daily,” ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said.

“As a result we now have around 2000 people in quarantine in the ACT, 25 per cent of which are non-ACT residents.”





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COVID-19: WA shuts border to Victoria again following coronavirus outbreak


Western Australia is shutting its border to Victoria again following a coronavirus outbreak in the eastern state.

Western Australia is shutting its border to Victorian travellers again following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the eastern state.

From 12.01am on January 1, only exempt Victorian travellers will be allowed into WA, while returning residents will be required to self-isolate for two weeks and be tested on day 11.

“We don’t want them to get caught out, so they will be dealt with on a compassionate basis, case-by-case,” Acting Premier Roger Cook told reporters on Thursday.

The exemption list is limited to certain senior government officials, some active military personnel, federal parliamentarians, a person carrying out functions under Commonwealth law, people responsible for transport freight or logistics, and anyone who is granted approval.

Anyone who arrived in WA from Victoria on or after December 21 must also self-quarantine for 14 days and be tested on day 11.

“This is an evolving situation that is changing day by day, even hour by hour,” Mr Cook said.

“We are dealing with an unpredictable situation, which is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“The timing is terrible but COVID-19 doesn’t respect dates, it doesn’t respect celebrations.”

Mr Cook said the Health Department was preparing COVID-19 clinics for a surge in people presenting for tests but flagged there would likely be long lines.

He cautioned everyone planning to travel interstate to have flexible bookings during the pandemic because the situation could change quickly.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said since December 21 there had been more than 16,000 people arrive in WA from Victoria by air or road, including those arriving on one of the eight flights on Thursday.

WA has already shut its border to NSW travellers following an outbreak in that state. Both states are now deemed “medium risk”.

NSW recorded 10 new locally transmitted cases of the virus on the last day of the year, while Victoria recorded five.

WA recorded two new cases of coronavirus overnight, both overseas travellers who are in hotel quarantine.

It brings the state’s total number of confirmed infections to 861.



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Strong earthquake strikes Croatia, Slovenia shuts power nuclear plant as precaution


Other footage showed a house with a roof caved in. The reporter said she did not know if anyone was inside.

Tomislav Fabijanic, head of emergency medical service in Sisak near Petrinja, said there were many injured in Petrinja and in Sisak.

“There are fractures, there are concussions and some had to be operated on,” he said,

Slovenia’s STA news agency said that the country’s sole nuclear power plant which is 100 km from the epicentre was shut down as a precaution.

There was no further information available on casualties.

The quake could be felt in the capital Zagreb, where people rushed onto the streets, some strewn with broken roof tiles and other debris. It was also felt in neghbouring Bosnia and Serbia.

Reuters



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Australians stranded as Singapore shuts to UK


Mr Simpson said Jacob was now effectively homeless with no job, nowhere to live, and “not knowing what to do”.

Sean Simpson with his wife Vanessa, step-son Jacob Marchett and his siblings.

The family was trying to organise for Jacob to stay with friends in London – a significant ask at Christmas time. The only flights to Australia available with other airlines next week cost upwards of $10,000, while Mr Simpson said the next government-funded repatriation flight on December 29 was already full.

“We’ve got thousands of Australians just stranded there, while politicians I’m sure are sitting down for a nice turkey lunch with their families,” he said.

Singapore’s UK ban affects Australians all across Europe connecting on flights via London, while Hong Kong has also closed to the UK, cutting off Cathay Pacific’s connecting flights to Australia.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said the carrier was “continuing to explore all avenues that will allow us to provide a COVID-safe travel option for customers wishing to depart the UK for Australia and New Zealand after the new border restrictions in Singapore come in to force.”

Singapore Airlines has been operating about 30 flights per week into Australia, flying into all mainland capital cities and bringing stranded Australians home from around the world. However, they have been limited to around 30 passengers per flight due to Australia’s cap on international arrivals.

People who have been in the UK in the past 14 days will not be able to transit through Singapore's Changi Airport.

People who have been in the UK in the past 14 days will not be able to transit through Singapore’s Changi Airport.Credit:Bloomberg

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said there will be more government coordinated repatriation flights from the UK, Europe and India in the future but declined to say when. DFAT has organised 83 repatriation flights since March, bringing around 12,000 Australians home.

Passengers, other than Singapore citizens and permanent residents, who have been in the UK within the past 14 days will not be able to enter or transit through Singapore under the new restriction.

Emirates and Qatar Airways have continued to operate flights out of the UK and connecting to Australia through their hubs in the Middle East.

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Singapore has also reimposed restrictions on anyone travelling from NSW to the city-state in light of the Sydney outbreak after earlier unilaterally opening its border to Australia.

Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who have been in NSW in the past 14 days will need to isolate at home for seven days after arrival while non-citizens and non-permanent residents will not be able to enter the country. However, those travellers are still able to transit through Singapore en route to other destinations.

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South Australia shuts border to Sydney


South Australia will close its border to greater Sydney after a coronavirus cluster in the NSW capital jumped to 70 cases.

Premier Steven Marshall says the border will close to Sydney from midnight on Sunday and checkpoints will be set up to test people for COVID-19 at the NSW road border crossings and at Adelaide Airport.

All people from greater Sydney will have to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in SA, while all northern beaches residents will be turned away.

“We know this is going to significantly affect Christmas travel plans, so we don’t take these decisions lightly, but in this instance we believe that this is the best way that we can protect South Australia from any seeding into our state,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said residents of regional NSW will still be able to visit South Australia without going into quarantine.

She said any SA residents currently visiting or returning from the Sydney region must undergo self-quarantine at their homes.

“Unfortunately it will mean that the family will not be able to get together at Christmas, because we cannot take that risk,” Dr Spurrier said.

“It is hopefully some relief though for people from South Australia who happen to be in NSW at the moment so they will be able to come home, but obviously it’s going to be very disruptive for many people with their Christmas plans.”

The chief health officer said while there’s increasing concern about the NSW outbreak, contact-tracers in that state are “absolutely gold-standard”.

With 30 more virus cases reported on Sunday, the Sydney outbreak has grown to 70 confirmed infections.

SA is now less than a week away from declaring its recent Parafield cluster officially over with Dr Spurrier saying that the hotel quarantine system has also been tightened ahead of a new group of international arrivals this week.

“There’s always a risk when you have this nasty virus in your state, but I truly believe that we have gone above and beyond to make this as safe as possible for South Australia because I can tell you, I personally do not want to go through another Parafield cluster,” she said.

Authorities consider two incubation cycles, or 28 days, the necessary timeframe before an outbreak is declared eliminated.



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‘Please do not come here’: Victoria shuts border to residents of Greater Sydney



Residents of Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, will be banned from travelling to Victoria from midnight on Sunday with Premier Daniel Andrews declaring the entire region a red zone.

Anyone who enters the state after that time will be subjected to 14 days of hotel quarantine.

Returning Victorians have an additional 24 hours to make the trip home, where they will be expected to self-isolate for 14 days at home.

Those arriving after midnight on Monday will also be subjected to hotel quarantine arrangements.

Mr Andrews said the significant new step was a “difficult decision, but it is the appropriate decision”.

He said the border closures would remain in place for “as long as they needed to” and would not be lifted when the current Northern Beaches lockdown expires at midnight on Wednesday.

Victoria has gone 51 days without a locally-acquired case of COVID-19.

An additional 30 cases were recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, taking the Northern Beaches outbreak to 70.

The majority of the new cases – 28 – were linked to the Avalon cluster, with the two remaining cases, both in Northern Beaches residents, yet to be identified.

Authorities have conducted 28,000 tests in the past 24 hours.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned current restrictions could be extended beyond Wednesday as the number of new cases continues to rise.

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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Nepal struggling as coronavirus pandemic shuts down tourism and keeps Mount Everest climbers away


It was only last year that Nepal’s star attraction, Mount Everest, had become so popular that long queues of mountain climbers created dangerous traffic jams at the summit peak.

Now, the country is confronting a different reality as tourist hotspots sit mostly empty after the coronavirus pandemic forced the sector to go into a deep freeze.

In March, the lucrative mountain-climbing season ended soon after it had begun, due to the pandemic.

Nepal also introduced an extensive lockdown, but that has since been eased in recent months, with the country finally opening up to international tourists last month.

It started on a strict pre-approval basis for mountaineers and trekkers and more recently it has been expanded to visa on arrival for all tourists.

There are even ongoing discussions about easing quarantine restrictions for overseas arrivals.

Mount Everest’s 2019 climbing season was overshadowed by overcrowding.(Nirmal Purja/Nepal)

But so far only a trickle of tourists have returned.

“In the beginning, we were hoping that lockdown would end, and we’d be open by today or tomorrow,” trekking guide Pasang Lahmu Sherpa told the ABC.

“But infection is more prevalent in Nepal now. I don’t know when it will open.

Nepal welcomed almost 2.5 million people on tourist visas, and a further 26,353 on trekking visas, last year.

A group of peple wearing warm clothes and backpacks and holding sticks walk with a mountain in the background.
Sherpas and trekking guides often based in Kathmandu have returned to their home villages to work the fields due to the pandemic.(ABC News: Angad Dhakal)

But only a fraction of that number has visited in the past eight months, with Department of Immigration records putting the number of tourists at 6,208 and fewer than 200 trekkers.

Many have lost their main source of income

Nepal’s tourism season falls into two distinct seasons.

March to May is the peak time for mountain climbing, including Mount Everest, while the final months of the year are popular for trekking.

It has meant tourism, which is worth more than $2 billion a year and is linked to over a million jobs, has become one of only two major revenue streams for Nepal. The other is remittances.

With so many reliant on the industry, the shortening of this year’s climbing season has been a huge blow. Many have been devoid of a decent income for about a year.

Among those to have been significantly impacted is Ms Sherpa, who has run a trekking guide business since 2013.

A woman with brown skin and hair wearing a black top sits down as she shows off a Mount Everest shaped tattoo on her arm.
Tourist guide Pasang Sherpa climbed Mount Everest in 2018 and got a tattoo to mark the occasion.(ABC News: Angad Dhakal)

With a lot fewer customers coming in this year, she has been forced to eat into her savings to support herself and her two teenage daughters.

The 40-year-old, single mother says others in the industry are suffering in silence.

“They are hiding their problems,” she said.

“The Government has not provided relief to those involved in the trekking profession

“Also, we haven’t heard how the Government is planning to support this profession.”

A person dressed in black clothes and wearing a backpack holds up a camera to take a photo of snow capped mountains
Tourism in Nepal is worth more than $2 billion a year.(ABC News: Angad Dhakal)

Many bars and hotels in Kathmandu remain shut, while Sherpas and trekking guides often based in Kathmandu have returned to their home villages to work the fields.

Sarita Lama, the general secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, said those who rely on the sector were now just focusing on survival.

“Most of the parents work hard for their children to send them to a good school or give them good food and a comfortable home,” she said.

“A lot of children are missing that.

“We are … surviving, rather than living a life.”

A line of people with backpacks walk along a trail on a green mountain with mountains in the background.
Everest’s height was first determined by a British team in around 1856 as 8,842 metres.(ABC News: Angad Dhakal)

Long queues routinely form outside Kathmandu hospitals

It is a drastic turnaround from what the Government had been predicting for this year.

Despite witnessing a record number of tourists last year, the Nepalese Government had planned to boost the sector even more with a “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign.

Now, however, Nepal is facing a worsening pandemic.

The country’s coronavirus tally peaked at almost 4,000 daily cases in October.

A young girl wearing gold headband and jewellery and a pink mask looks down.
Nepal has poor health infrastructure and some areas are struggling with COVID-19 infections.(AP: Niranjan Shrestha)

Since then, the country of 29 million people has continued to record more than 1,300 cases a day, which per capita is higher than neighbouring India, according to Our World in Data.

Long queues routinely form outside Kathmandu’s main public hospitals as the number of testing kits fails to keep pace with infections.

Public health expert Sameer Dixit, from the Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, said authorities did not utilise the lockdown period to bolster the country’s healthcare response.

“The Government, with its limited capacity, started off well with its lockdown during March,” Dr Dixit said.

“But then it did extend the lockdown, and the extended lockdown wasn’t done very good.

“They did not increase the testing. They did not increase the hospital capacity. They did not make the quarantine facilities better.”

While Dr Dixit said the country had a low virus mortality rate of only 0.6 per cent — and the COVID-19 situation is “moderately” under control — he also pointed out the pandemic was absorbing so much of Nepal’s fragile healthcare system that people suffering other diseases were being neglected.

“We focus so much on COVID-19 that we forgot we are a developing country,” he said.

“We have three, four times the number of people dying from other diseases. Like simple diseases, like diarrheal diseases.”

For now, domestic tourism, which is seeing a revival, may be the only lifeline for people like Ms Sherpa.

“I want to return to work,” she said.

“But how long will this situation last?”



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LA Shuts Restaurants As Virus Surges, But Europe Eases Lockdowns


A restaurant dining ban in Los Angeles was due to come into force Wednesday as officials warned Americans to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday, while parts of Europe eyed looser coronavirus lockdowns over the festive season.

The three-week order in America’s second-biggest city will begin as California faces record Covid-19 cases, and its health secretary urged people to avoid large family gatherings.

“It’s as important to say ‘no’ even when it comes to the closest people in our family,” doctor Mark Ghaly said, adding he had barred his mother from a planned celebration.





The three-week dining ban in America’s second-biggest city begins as California faces record Covid-19 cases
 AFP / Apu GOMES

The US government’s health protection agency has, for the first time, called on Americans not to travel for an annual holiday which usually sees families get together over turkey, yams and cranberry sauce.

With the US confronted by soaring numbers of deaths and new cases, plans to deliver a vaccine to Americans are accelerating.

More than six million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will be available in the first week after it is cleared for emergency use — which is likely next month — and 40 million by the end of December, according to officials.



Graphic looking at countries with the highest coronavirus death tolls, and their respective death rates.


Graphic looking at countries with the highest coronavirus death tolls, and their respective death rates.
 AFP / John SAEKI

There were more than 86,000 coronavirus hospitalizations in the US on Tuesday, a record, as well as 167,000 new cases and more than 2,000 deaths.

As America grappled with its crisis, some European nations were slowly relaxing measures ahead of their own Christmas holidays, as a second wave of infections slowed following weeks of lockdowns.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warned, however, against easing restrictions too quickly.



Maps showing Covid-19 infection rate per French department over the past 3 weeks


Maps showing Covid-19 infection rate per French department over the past 3 weeks
 AFP / Simon MALFATTO

“We must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes, relaxing too fast,” she said Wednesday.

In a televised address, French President Emmanuel Macron announced shops could re-open from Saturday, and nationwide stay-at-home orders would be lifted from December 15.

British authorities also announced restrictions on social mixing and said travel would be eased across the UK over Christmas.



Many Americans still plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family despite warnings


Many Americans still plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family despite warnings
 AFP / Angela Weiss

Elsewhere in Europe, 16 German states agreed to slightly loosen limits on social contact over Christmas, according to a draft deal seen by AFP, even as cases near one million there.

State leaders agreed to cap gatherings to 10 people over the December 23 to January 1 holiday — double the limit for the rest of December.



There are now several possible vaccines internationally that have undergone or are undergoing clinical trials


There are now several possible vaccines internationally that have undergone or are undergoing clinical trials
 AFP / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA

In Australia, the country’s most populous state, New South Wales, eased social distancing measures and allowed employees back to work, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Wednesday, after three weeks without a locally transmitted Covid-19 case.

Singapore, which has one of the world’s lowest virus death rates, announced it had no live clusters of Covid-19 cases in the country — the first time since its outbreak began earlier this year.

And in more positive news, China recorded just five new coronavirus cases on Tuesday — all imported, authorities said on Wednesday.

The encouraging signs in Asia have been tempered by a second wave in Pakistan, where intensive care units were nearing capacity and hospitals forced to turn away suspected Covid-19 patients.

“The coming two weeks are critical and our situation is going to worsen,” said Qaisar Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association.

Parts of Japan have also been hit by a recent spike in cases, with experts saying a government travel subsidy campaign to help domestic tourism had contributed to the rise.

Tokyo residents were urged by the governor Wednesday to avoid non-essential outings and businesses serving alcohol asked to shut early.

There are now several possible vaccines internationally being trialled, with candidates from Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Pfizer-BioNTech leading the pack.

Britain, France, Austria and Spain have pledged to begin vaccinations in early 2021 at the latest.

Even once a vaccine becomes available, however, any return to normality for a global economy ravaged by the pandemic seems a long way off.

Still, optimism sparked by the vaccines has given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe in recent days, as well as pushing up stock markets.

More than 1.4 million people have died worldwide and the global caseload is edging towards 60 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.





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