Alice Springs motorcyclist dies in hospital a week after hit-and-run, five people to face upgraded charges


A motorcyclist struck in an alleged hit-and-run incident in Alice Springs last week has died in hospital after his life support was turned off.

NT Police confirmed the man’s death on Thursday afternoon, just under a week since the crash in the Alice Springs CBD last Thursday night.

Police said charges would be upgraded for five teenagers arrested over the incident.

The man has been identified on social media as 47-year-old Alice Springs disability support worker Shane Powell.

Family friend Wayne Thompson said on Thursday the decision had been made to remove Mr Powell’s life support.

“The doctors who have fought tirelessly can do no more and Shane’s injuries to the brain are just too great,” Mr Thompson said in a Facebook post.

He said Mr Powell was riding home from work when the crash happened.

“Shane really loved his work and was at the top of his game,” he said.

Five people have been arrested and charged over the crash which happened last Thursday night.(ABC News: Mitchell Abram)

Police allege the five people charged were all occupants of the car that hit Mr Powell at the intersection of Stott Terrace and Telegraph Terrace.

Two 19-year-old men and three youths — aged 16, 15 and 13 — face charges of hit-and-run causing serious harm and failing to rescue or provide help.

The 15-year-old boy has also been charged with entering an intersection against a red light.

Police said the younger three, who are all on bail, are due to face court tomorrow.

They said one 19-year-old had been remanded in custody until November 3 and the other, who is on bail, would face court at a later date.



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Calls for stronger coronavirus controls as Darwin’s Howard Springs camp prepares for stranded Australians


The Howard Springs quarantine centre, south-east of Darwin, will soon put out the welcome mat for some of the tens of thousands of Australians currently stranded overseas.

But just last week, the former workers camp took on a different purpose — the setting of a so-called “quarantine rave” thrown by a group of people appearing to flout health guidelines.

The incident has sparked concern among health groups fearful of what would happen if infection controls are not strengthened by the time the first international repatriation flights touch down in coming weeks.

A coronavirus outbreak in the facility would go on to place a “massive burden” on the nation’s health systems, according to Rob Parker from the Australian Medical Association NT.

“It’s a significant concern, obviously, because you’re getting people from infected areas,” Dr Parker said.

“I hope that actual strict quarantine in the pods is enforced.”

Revellers gather in “hotel quarantine rave” at Howard Springs.(Supplied: TikTok)

Life in the camp, which is currently used to quarantine people arriving from interstate coronavirus hotspots, has been likened to a holiday and a back door entry to states with strict border controls.

About 1,000 Australians a month will rotate through the centre in fortnightly groups of 500, initially from London and India, the ABC revealed yesterday.

International arrivals to be kept separate

The operation is being handled by the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC), a Darwin-based disaster management team which has helped steer the response to several other coronavirus-related crises.

Those include the repatriation of Australians evacuated from Wuhan and the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship earlier this year.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner yesterday said those past operations gave him confidence in new the plan.

“We’ve been here and done this before with the Australian Government — Wuhan, the Diamond Princess,” he said.

Passengers will disembark through RAAF Base Darwin then transfer directly to the centre.

Dr Len Notaras, CEO of the Northern Territory Department of Health, at the Royal Darwin Hospital parking announcement.
Len Notaras says international travellers will be kept separate from others.(ABC News: Tristan Hooft)

The venue will continue to house interstate arrivals, NCCTRC executive director Len Notaras told ABC Radio Darwin, but the two cohorts will be kept separate.

“We can certainly handle another 500 [arrivals] at a time to 1,000, and separating them with a very sterile corridor between the existing domestic retrievals and the retrievals that we bring from overseas.”

The camp has 3,500 beds, but infection control measures reduce its capacity.

Police, ADF to be involved

The AMA NT is not the only group calling for clarity around what controls the group will face once they enter quarantine.

Deputy Opposition leader Gerard Maley called on Mr Gunner to publicly outline the measures that would be implemented to safely quarantine the arrivals.

“There was an unacceptable situation last week with the rave party and the government must assure us that standards at the facility lift, especially given a large number of arrivals from countries with COVID-19 will quarantine there,” Mr Maley said in a statement.

“The Territory is stepping up its commitment on quarantine; it’s time to step up the standards at Howard Springs.”

The ABC understands the NCCTRC will take a different approach to infection control than the current set of rules for domestic arrivals.

“The Northern Territory Police will retain operational lead and will be supported by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force with uniform patrol and law enforcement resources,” a police spokeswoman said.

More details will emerge once the arrangement is finalised.

That announcement was initially planned to coincide with Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, which has since been delayed.

A close up of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he is wearing a suit and pinned Australian flag broach.
The announcement was supposed to take place after a National Cabinet meeting on Friday.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Fears for mental health needs

Those running the program insist it will not burden the Northern Territory health system, with additional AUSMAT staff brought in from interstate to meet the spike in demand.

“What’s I’m emphatic about is we’re not going to be drawing our NT, Top End Health Service staff across and denuding a hard-working facility like the Royal Darwin Hospital, the Palmerston Hospital or the remote clinics of the staff they need to be there,” Professor Notaras said.

But Dr Parker also questioned whether the arrangements would meet the mental health needs of the cohort.

“This is a very needy and vulnerable group,” he said.

“They’ve been stuck overseas and would appear to have significant emotional and mental health issues, related to their long absence from Australia.

“We would expect the Federal Government to fund at least another psychiatric consultant, another registrar and probably two mental health clinical nurse consultants to provide an effective mental health response.”

He said the NT health system was already overburdened to provide those staff and he was unsure if any would be provided through the AUSMAT contingent.

As with the earlier international groups, people who test positive to coronavirus and require hospitalisation will be transferred for care in their home states.

Professor Notaras said a sum of federal money “well and truly in the millions” of dollars had been put up to support the operation.



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Judge Huntingford heads Northern Territory’s first ‘safe’ domestic violence court in Alice Springs


The Northern Territory’s first specialised domestic violence court has opened in Alice Springs to improve the court experience for survivors of family and domestic violence.

The court room design is intended to keep survivors safe by removing face-to-face contact with accused abusers.

The court, presided over by Judge Meredith Day Huntingford, is the result of a $15 million renovation to Alice Springs local courts.

“It’s important that victims aren’t retraumatised, or even worse, threatened or intimidated while they are using the facilities,” Judge Huntingford said.

“Its important as well that victims feel they can participate in the justice system.

The court has a separate entrance and its own waiting room.(ABC Alice Springs: Oliver Gordon)

Attorney General Selena Uibo said domestic and family violence rates in Central Australia were among the highest in the nation.

“It is imperative that the Northern Territory justice system provides a safe and supportive environment for victims and survivors of domestic and family violence to enable the courts to hold perpetrators to account,” she said.

Specialised design

The court room features a number of key adaptations that are designed to keep survivors feeling safe during proceedings.

The room can be reached via a separate street entrance and waiting area with its own security.

The room has also been designed so the defendant cannot see the accused.

“There’s a screened area up the back for those who are victims or alleged victims. They can utilise that area to give evidence or view the proceedings from there without being required to mix with other people who might be in the court,” said Judge Huntingford.

With the press of a button, a clear window becomes opaque, giving the room flexiblility to accommodate different circumstances.

one room with clear glass, another with frosted glass
At the press of a button a glass wall in the court [right] becomes opaque [left] so victims and abusers do not have to see each other.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

Special list

The court is also where a new, rehabilitation-focused domestic violence list is heard, making it was Judge Huntington calls “a therapeutic court”.

Defendants who intend to plead guilty to domestic violence charges and want to access rehabilitation can apply to join the list, which allows them access to men’s behavioural change programs.

“[The list is] for those who want to not only take responsibility but also want to engage in rehabilitation and make some changes that mean they want to stop using violence,” Judge Huntington said.

“The benefits are obvious — for the person who has been using violence, and for the members of their family.”

The application process for the special list is rigorous and assesses first and foremost the safety of the survivor.

Not every matter heard in the court will be part of this list.



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COVID infection questions about Howard Springs quarantine station


By ERWIN CHLANDA

A former COVID sufferer was put in isolation in the in the Howard Springs quarantine facility after showing “weak positive result,” according to Health Minister Natasha Fyles.

This raises the question why the man was not in isolation at all times in the facility which appears to be its purpose.

Mr Fyles said: “As soon as they were aware of this weak positive test result they [meaning he] were kept in isolation.

“There was a very low risk to other people in Howard Springs.”

The man is now in the Royal Darwin Hospital in isolation.

The Alice Springs News is seeking clarification of these issues.

The man in his sixties had travelled from Melbourne to Darwin via Brisbane.

He had previously had COVID-19 in Victoria but had been cleared.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Charles Payne said the man is “highly unlikely to be a contagious person”.

“This is not a COVID test result for the NT where the case numbers remain at 34,” said Ms Fyles said in a media conference this afternoon.

Ms Fyles and Dr Payne announced the revoking of the Greater Sydney region as a hotspot.

Minister Fyles and Dr Payne are pictured during the media conference in Darwin today.



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Crime up, transparency down | Alice Springs News


By ERWIN CHLANDA

News of a sharp rise in offences “against the person” coincided with the cancellation of Parrtjima events scheduled for the Mall as the town lost control of the CBD, according to Mayor Damien Ryan.

Assaults are up 12%, domestic violence assaults 19% and alcohol related assaults 11% over last year’s figures, according to statistics based on police reports.

The good news is that house break-ins are down 17% as is vehicle theft by 33%.

The recent trouble in the town came down squarely to rioting kids while police are failing to answer questions, their standard response being they can’t do anything unless a crime has been committed (and they find out in time to catch the offenders).

The News put to them some basic questions 30 hours ago – no answer: Does the police consider that children without adult supervision on the streets late at night are at risk? Does the police have an obligation to take action about children at risk? If so, what kind of action is the police taking? (See update below.)

Neither the police nor Parrtjima would give a detailed account of the week-end troubles in the Mall, Parrtjima claiming that “the anti-social behaviour in Todd Mall is a police matter”.

Observers say there was a mass brawl on the council lawns on Sunday. Rock throwing on both weekend days. Cars illegally driven in the Mall.

“We can confirm the anti-social behaviour took place late in the evening, after our event had finished and our patrons had left the site, so they were not at risk,” says a Parrtjima spokeswoman.

The much touted festival in lights is keeping up its evasive routine: Asked specifically about the number of people attending, divided into locals and visitors, we’re getting “attendances”.

That of course is meaningless because a single person can engage in several attendances.

Equally opaque are the references to money. We’re referred to annual reports.

In 2019 Major Events got $37.5m, an 82% increase, including $32.5m in grants. But that is for Bassinthegrass, Darwin Supercars, Red Centre NATS, Arafura Games as well as Parrtjima 2018 and 2019.

How much of the public money for Parrtjima goes out of town including to the Sydney company providing the spectacle?

Says the spokeswoman: “As is normal in the event world, agreements with our partner organisations remain Commercial in Confidence, to protect our commercial interests.”

Images from social media.

 

UPDATE 3pm

A police spokesperson provided the following statement:

About 10:30pm on Saturday night a stolen motor vehicle was driven through the closed area of the Todd Mall in an erratic manner.

There were a few people in the area at the time, including security and festival staff.

Nobody was “driven at” by the vehicle.

Police apprehended the vehicle a short time later. They arrested the 18-year-old driver; the other occupants of the car were aged between 12 and 15.

NT Police continue to work with other government and non-government agencies to address the issue of unsupervised children out at night.

Young people are spoken to by police on patrol, youth engagement officers and youth outreach officers, and in partnership with the Tangentyere bus we try to take the children home.

The parents and caregivers receive a follow-up visit the next day, not only to find out why the children are out at night, but also what sort of assistance the family can be offered to help keep the children at home.



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Morning Snowfall Blankets Colorado Springs Suburb


Early September snowfall in Colorado made for a “peaceful” morning view for some residents in Black Forest, a suburb of Colorado Springs, on Wednesday, September 9. Several inches of snow accumulated in Black Forest after a snowstorm passed through the region, the National Weather Service reported. A Colorado resident said this video shows snow covering her yard in Black Forest on a “peaceful” Wednesday morning. Credit: @LittleVodkaOwl via Storyful



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NT police say text warning Alice Springs residents of ‘social unrest’ didn’t come from them


Northern Territory police have said they never issued advice for members of the public to stay out of the Alice Springs CBD, despite hundreds of residents receiving text message warnings attributed to law enforcement.

The warnings instructed parents and carers to avoid the CBD because of “social unrest”.

Similar messages were broadcast on social media, where parents expressed deep concern for the wellbeing of their families.

But NT Police Southern Command Acting Commander Craig Laidler said NT police never issued the warning.

“That directive hasn’t been made — if that directive was made it would have come from me,” he said.

Commander Laidler said there had been a dispute in the town centre earlier in the day, but that it had been quickly dealt with and there was no threat to the public.

“There is no reason for us to be telling schools to avoid the centre of town,” he said.

Texts were sent to parents advising them to avoid the centre of town.(Supplied)

Raid response police dealt with dispute

Commander Laidler said that at about lunchtime there had been a dispute between two groups in the centre of town who were known to each other.

“We’ve dealt with this with a rapid police response,” he said.

“We’ve had a number of preparations for this week with the increase of people in town, so we did have sufficient police resources on standby, and that’s what’s enabled us to give this disturbance a very rapid response.”

He said that police had seized a weapon and that three people had been taken into custody.

A text from a school advising the recipients to avoid the Alice Springs CBD.
Police say they didn’t issue the texts.(Supplied)

Alice Springs Town Council asked to shut event

Police said that while they had not issued the alert, they had contacted the Alice Springs Town Council and instructed it to shut down a wellness event on the council lawns.

“Because there was an event on the lawns and some people from this incident had moved in that direction, we did ask for it to be shut down for their safety,” Commander Laidler said.

The council confirmed it had shut down the event and decided to close the library for the rest of the day as a precautionary measure.

The ABC understands that staff at the civic centre and library were also instructed via text message not to leave the building for their safety.

The Department of Education said it contacted Alice Springs school principals after receiving an alert from a “third party” regarding “the need for vigilance in the Alice Springs CBD”.

A spokesperson for the department says that it simultaneously sought advice from NT Police and later confirmed that there was no threat to people’s safety.



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NT judge weighs up deportation of Alice Springs man convicted of cannabis dealing



A Northern Territory judge has told a 63-year-old Alice Springs man who admitted to supplying cannabis that it would not be “much of a hardship” for him to be sent back to the Netherlands, despite him having left the country when he was six months old.

John Van Der Shuit appeared before the Alice Springs Supreme Court on Friday having pleaded guilty earlier this year to three charges relating to the possession and supply of cannabis.

In his evidence he told the court he was born in the Netherlands and left the country for New Zealand when he was six months old.

He then spent some 22 years in New Zealand before moving to Australia, where he has remained for about 40 years as a permanent resident.

But Van Der Shuit is not an Australian citizen, meaning he could now face deportation.

Acting Justice Dean Mildren said the Minister might decide not to deport the accused, or there might be an appeal to a tribunal.

Though he conceded there was still a risk of deportation, he said he would not be taking that into consideration for sentencing.

“So I make whatever sentence I intend to make without taking that possibility into account,” Justice Mildren said.

“Even at your age I suspect you will be able to find work there, [and] although you don’t have relatives there, I don’t think you would have much trouble meeting new people and making friends.

“There will be some separation from your son and daughter living in Alice Springs and your other children, but I see no reason why they couldn’t visit you from time to time.

‘I’m pretty anxious’

Van Der Shuit told the court the prospect of being deported to the Netherlands caused him anxiety.

“I haven’t been there since I was six months old, I can’t speak the language [and] I don’t have any relatives over there,” Van Der Shuit said.

Defence lawyer Noah Redmond confirmed in court the risk of deportation was real, depending on the sentence.

“My reading of the Migration Act is that if a sentence is over 12 months and the defendant spends any time of that sentence in custody, it triggers automatic cancellation of the visa with a discretion to revoke that cancellation,” Mr Redman said.

In his sentencing remarks Justice Mildren said Northern Territory Police searched Mr Van Der Shuit’s home in January, 2019, and found cannabis, cash and equipment used for distribution.

He said the accused supplied 453 grams of cannabis to various people over about seven weeks.

Justice Mildren said the accused had prior convictions for traffic offences and possession and cultivation of cannabis, but had not offended since 2011.

He said Van Der Shuit had used cannabis intermittently throughout his life.

That had increased when his partner died of cancer in 2018.

Van Der Shuit was sentenced to two years and 10 months backdated from the June 13, 2020, suspended after 12 months.



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Quarantine facility ‘ticking timebomb’ | Alice Springs News


By ERWIN CHLANDA

A man who was in compulsory quarantine in the Top End’s Howard Springs COVID-19 facility says he observed first-hand breaches of numerous requirements by the Federal Department of Health.

Braedon Earley spent five days in the facility, a 14-day stint cut short because the hotspot in Queensland, where he had been, was declared risk-free.

Mr Earley felt strongly about the shortcomings he is alleging, and embarked on a hunger strike to underscore his points.

He says: “The quarantine facility at Howard Springs is a ticking time bomb.

“It has the potential to be another Stamford Hotel in Melbourne if there was anyone, or a number of people, with the virus in the facility.”

During his stay he says he had contact with 50 or 60 staff and residents, frequently in contravention of the regulations, as he has found out since, but wasn’t told about that during his time in the facility.

Below are published Federal Government Department of Health requirements, each followed by Mr Earley’s comments.

DEPARTMENT: General principles of infection prevention and control in RCFs (Residential Care Facilities): Information about routine IPC (Infection Prevention and Control) should be provided to staff, residents (as far as possible) and visitors (as appropriate). 

EARLEY: I received no induction. Some documents were provided and were subject to change depending on who you spoke to. Not all residents were informed of the changes. 

DEPARTMENT: All staff should be trained in basic IPC practices, when they begin employment at the facility, and at regular intervals. Training should be appropriate to their roles and should include, at least, hand hygiene and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

EARLEY: Not all were wearing full PPE, including police, welfare personnel and rubbish collectors.

DEPARTMENT: Training should be appropriate to their roles and should include, at least, hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser (e.g. after going to the toilet, coughing, blowing the nose and before eating). 

EARLEY: No alcohol based sanitisers were available inside or outside the room for the residents, nor outside or inside the laundry, for the residents.

DEPARTMENT: Appropriate use of PPE, especially when caring for a resident with a respiratory infection. 

EARLEY: No residents knew who was infected or who was not. All residents were mixed together from different flights and different periods of quarantine and were not issued gloves, face shields or eye protection. I had to ask four times to receive another face mask. I was scolded for not wearing my face mask in a humiliating manner by one of the nursing staff, saying: “Everyone knows how to wear a face mask”. There was no facility to dispose of the used face masks or any other clinical waste as bio hazard material.

DEPARTMENT: Cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene for staff, residents (if possible) and visitors. 

EARLEY (at left): Not advised.

DEPARTMENT: Frequent cleaning and disinfection (at least daily) of floors and surfaces. More frequent cleaning of frequently touched or soiled surfaces.

EARLEY: Did not happen.

DEPARTMENT: Annual influenza vaccination of residents, staff and all visitors to RCFs.

EARLEY: I was not given an influenza vaccination.

DEPARTMENT: Standard contact and droplet precautions when caring for a resident with a respiratory infection.

EARLEY: Not observed. There was a guy with hayfever, wanted more medication. They did not help him.

DEPARTMENT: Limiting unnecessary movement of residents and staff within and between facilities. 

EARLEY: People were moving, nearly touch hands and bodies when simultanuously exiting their rooms with the doors close together. Some walked up to 16km a day within facility. People were playing with footballs and others played hopscotch and cards. Exercise was encouraged for up to 20 minutes a day some were exercising in excess of three hours a day.

DEPARTMENT: The virus that causes COVID-19 most commonly spreads through: Direct contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. This can be avoided by cough etiquette and physical distancing.

EARLEY: This was not discussed.

DEPARTMENT: Avoid close contact with an infectious person. 

EARLEY: I did not know who was infected. 

DEPARTMENT: Touching objects or surfaces (e.g. bed rails, doorknobs or tables) that have been contaminated with respiratory droplets from an infected person and then touching the face, especially mouth, nose or eyes.

EARLEY: We would not know who was infected. All surfaces, hard and soft, were touched by staff, with gloves on and residents with no gloves in and around the facility, e.g. handrails, door knobs, washing machines, wheelie bins, tables and chairs, footpaths, food and groceries.

DEPARTMENT: Remind staff and residents of the need for cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene. 

EARLEY: Residents were not reminded.

DEPARTMENT: Staff and visitors in contact with ill residents should follow contact and droplet precautions. Supplies of PPE should be readily available and placed strategically outside the room.

EARLEY: Neither of this happened.

DEPARTMENT: Patients should be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 at least daily.

EARLEY: I was given only one COVID test. Media from the NT Government say that all those doing quarantine will undergo two tests during quarantine. I had one and was not given the results. We were not tested as we left the facility, in darkness.

DEPARTMENT: They may leave their room for exercise or activity, with supervision by a staff member, if necessary, to ensure that they avoid contact with other residents.

EARLEY: This did not happen.

DEPARTMENT: Standard Precautions are IPC practices used routinely in healthcare. They should be used in RCFs with a suspected or proven COVID-19 outbreak and apply to all staff and all residents: Hand hygiene before and after each episode of resident contact and after contact with potentially contaminated surfaces or objects (even when hands appear clean).

EARLEY: This did not happen for residents, there were no hand sanitisers outside or inside rooms. All hard surfaces were touched by bare hands of the residents.

DEPARTMENT: Gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene. Staff should perform hand hygiene before putting gloves on and after taking them off.

EARLEY: This did not happen for residents, hand sanitisers were not issued unless demanded.

DEPARTMENT: Use of PPE if exposure to body fluids or heavily contaminated surfaces is anticipated (gown, surgical mask, protective eyewear, and gloves).

EARLEY: This did not happen for residents unless demanded.

DEPARTMENT: Regular cleaning of the environment and equipment. Provision of alcohol-based hand sanitiser at the entrance to the facility and other strategic locations.

EARLEY: This did not happen for residents unless demanded.

DEPARTMENT: RCFs should restrict admission of new residents into the facility. Depending upon the extent of the outbreak and the layout of the building, restrictions may be applied to a floor, a wing or the entire facility. 

EARLEY: New residents were admitted to the facility while other residents were serving a quarantine period and were housed either side by side or adjacent to existing residents. 

DEPARTMENT: Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Any resident care equipment should be cleaned and disinfected between each use or used exclusively for individual residents.

EARLEY: Did not happen.

DEPARTMENT: Soiled linen should always be treated as potentially infectious. 

EARLEY: Collection happens every eight days, used linen was handled by people not in full PPE.

DEPARTMENT: Disposable crockery and cutlery are not required.

EARLEY: It was used, bare hands touched it which turned it into biohazard waste. Yet it was put into general waste bin.

DEPARTMENT: Trays and trolleys used for delivery of food should be cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant wipes after use.

EARLEY: Laundry trolleys were used to deliver lunches. 

DEPARTMENT: Clinical waste should be disposed of in clinical waste streams.

EARLEY: There were no clinical waste receptacles or bio hazard bins.

DEPARTMENT: Non-clinical waste is disposed of into general waste streams.

EARLEY: All waste goes to general waste including used face masks, tissues and clothing. I saw them in general waste.

DEPARTMENT: Perform routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces with detergent / disinfectant solution / wipe at least daily or when visibly dirty.

EARLEY: Did not happen. Areas and items frequently were dirty, from dust and wind, people were touching washing machines, handrails, door knobs and bins.



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