Victoria records seventh day of zero new COVID-19 cases, deaths; vaccine distribution could face challenges; Australia’s death toll at 907


NSW Health has reminded south-west Sydney residents to get tested with even the mildest coronavirus symptoms after virus fragments were found in sewage samples.

As part of the state’s sewage surveillance program, traces of the virus which causes COVID-19 were found in the sewage system which drains the suburbs of Leppington, Catherine Field, Gledswood Hills, Varroville and Denham Court.

“Symptoms like a runny nose or scratchy throat, cough, tiredness, fever or loss of taste or smell can all signal COVID-19,” NSW Health reminded the public in a statement.

NSW has been testing sewage for molecular markers of coronavirus since July.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has previously acknowledged the limitations of sewage testing, saying it does not necessarily indicate currently active cases but can let health authorities know which areas they should be encouraging to come forward for testing.



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Victoria records sixth consecutive day of no new cases, deaths; US faces virus surge amid election count; Australia’s death toll stands at 907


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Just as they split almost down the middle on the two candidates, voters broke into almost equal camps on how to address the pandemic that has killed more than 233,000 people and infected nearly 9.5 million people in the United States.

“It’s clear we’re heading into a period where we’re going to see increasing hospitalisation and deaths in the US and it worries me how little we’re doing about it,” said Tom Frieden, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration.

“We know by now how fast this virus can move. You have to get ahead of it.”

After more than nine months of restrictions, some state leaders are hesitant to risk further pandemic fatigue, Frieden said.

But if case counts continue rising at the current rate and strong action isn’t taken, viral transmission may soon reach a point in some areas where nothing will stop the virus except another shutdown, he said.

“The numbers keep going up, and we’re only getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas,” when some families are expected to congregate indoors and risk spreading the virus further, said Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University.

“For so many reasons, the next few weeks are going to be bad for us and good for COVID.”

With Trump and his aides fighting to hold on to the White House, the federal response to the pandemic, which already leaves major responsibilities to the states, may be even more fractured, Murray said.

“Something that deeply worries me is either way this election goes, Trump will still be in charge the next few weeks, when cases are higher than they’ve ever been,” she said.

“And he’s made clear there will be no top-down, coordinated action coming from the federal government.”

The Washington Post



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Victoria records sixth consecutive day of no new cases, deaths; US faces virus surge amid election count; Australia’s death toll stands at 907


“And in Australia by comparison, we are seeing only a handful of cases a day or zero and the early news that I have today is very positive. I don’t have any news from Victoria yet. But it’s looking very positive for the country.

“So we’re already at a massive advantage globally but these vaccines will help give real protection right across the country.

“The most likely date for the health workers and the earliest vaccinations of elderly, if it’s approved for them, will be in March and then progressively we will roll out through the year.

“But as soon as they approved and safe and available, then we will make sure that they’re available for the entire Australian population.”

Mr Hunt added that the Pfizer vaccine would be an innovation.

“They complement the two that we already have which will be overwhelmingly manufactured in Australia,” Mr Hunt told The Today Show.

“That means we are now in a very strong position with the portfolio of four different vaccines, two protein, one viral vector and one mRNA which is the Pfizer vaccine and that’s innovative, the world hasn’t had an mRNA vaccine before.

“All of these put us in a strong position for a range of eventualities and it means that during the course of 2021, beginning in the first quarter most likely, we will be able to provide that vaccination option to all Australians.”

Mr Hunt later told Sunrise he was ‘cautiously hopeful’ of a March or first-quarter 2021 date for the vaccine to start being administered.

“The guidance at this stage is not a guarantee,” Mr Hunt told Sunrise.

“If they were available earlier they would be made available earlier, if it takes a little bit longer that would be the case. But that remains the guidance and that would start, not surprisingly, with health workers. And also the elderly, if there are approvals within the particular vaccine categories following the tests for the elderly.

“It is absolutely clear that we are on a path to having vaccines for all Australians during the course of 2021”.



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Typhoon Rolly death toll climbs to 24; infra damage at P5.76B


PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE DEATH toll from typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni), the world’s strongest typhoon so far this year, has climbed to 24 while 26 others were injured and five remain missing, according to the latest report from the Philippine National Police.

Majority of the fatalities at 20 were from Bicol, the region hit hardest by the typhoon.

Three were from Calabarzon and one from Mimaropa.

The injured consists of 22 from Bicol and four in Calabarzon.

The police, among the frontline emergency responders, deployed

5,804 officers for search and rescue operations and another 1,556 in evacuation centers.

Typhoon Rolly exited the Philippine area on Tuesday, leaving a trail of over 402,000 families composed of 1.62 million people affected across six regions.

As of November 3, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that at least 106,642 families were still displaced.

In Bicol alone, nearly 80,000 homes were affected, including 20,942 that were totally destroyed and 58,696 partially damaged, according to the Office of Civil Defense’s regional office.

INFRA, AGRI DAMAGE
The cost of damage to roads, bridges, flood-control structures, and public buildings has reached over P5 billion, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported on Tuesday

Of the total P5.756 billion, the estimated cost of damage to roads is P1.52 billion, Public Works and Highway Secretary Mark A. Villar said in a statement.

He also cited the P458.2 million damage to bridges, P2.04 billion to flood-control structures, P367.25 million to public buildings, and P1.38-billion to other infrastructure.

“As expected, our assessment teams identified majority of the destruction in Bicol Region amounting to P4.621 billion,” Mr. Villar said.

The department said many roads in the island province of Catanduanes are still “impassable.”

“DPWH quick response teams are fast-tracking clearing operations along the affected road sections in the island as we have no alternative routes as of the moment. These roads must be opened soonest for the relief efforts which Catanduanes badly needs right now,” he said.

In agriculture, NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark E. Timbal, in a viber message to reporters, said damage is initially estimated at P1.74 billion across the regions of Bicol, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Eastern Visayas.

RELIEF AND RECOVERY
While authorities take stock of Rolly’s destruction, relief operations are also in full swing. 

“Government assistance provided as of 12NN today… have been estimated to 26.6 million pesos,” Mr. Timbal said.

The movement of goods in most of the typhoon-hit areas has also resumed, according to Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez. Mr. Lopez, in a radio interview with DZBB on Tuesday, said the department’s regional directors have reported that shipping in most affected provinces are back in operation, but some roads are still being cleared.

Ang flow of goods — importante ‘yunay tuluy-tuloy din (— that’s important — is continuous),” he said.

A price freeze on basic necessities and prime commodities is being implemented in areas that have declared a state of calamity.

Fines for traders found violating the price freeze range between P1,000 to P2 million, Mr. Lopez said.

The Energy department also announced a price freeze on household liquified petroleum gas and kerosene in Camariñes Sur after the provincial government declared a state of calamity.

The price freeze started Monday and will be in effect until November 16. In a Viber advisory on Monday evening, the Department of Energy said price rollbacks will be implemented while increases are strictly prohibited within the 15-day period.

This comes a day after the agency declared a price freeze in Cavite, which declared a state of calamity earlier. Other affected provinces have yet to issue similar declarations.

Mr. Lopez also confirmed in a mobile message to reporters that the department will offer micro-financing and livelihood kits for business owners in the areas affected by the typhoon. The funding will come from the Small Business Corporation, he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment, for its part, said it will release funds to employ 5,000 workers who will help in the clearing operations of Catanduanes, where typhoon Rolly first made landfall. “I will send an amount to hire at least 5,000 people to clean the streets and the debris of typhoon Rolly,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a briefing on Tuesday. ARTA: DON’T ‘WAIT-AND-SEE’The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), meanwhile, asked the Social Welfare department to proactively process food and cash aid if local governments in typhoon-hit areas have not released assistance within two days.

ARTA Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica, in a statement on Tuesday, said field or regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should monitor disaster-stricken areas and check if sufficient food and cash aid have been distributed.

If none has been extended by the local government within two days, the DSWD field office should automatically send a report to their central office to send food and cash assistance instead of waiting for a request from the local chief executive.

The local government officials concerned will be investigated.

“There will be a presumption of serious neglect of duty and grave misconduct which are both serious offences for administrative cases to be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman and which would merit immediate preventive suspension,” ARTA said.

“In times of calamities, a wait-and-see method is already a thing of the past,” Mr. Belgica said.

In the case of the current calamity, 10 local government heads are due to be summoned by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for reportedly being absent in their respective areas when typhoon Rolly pummeled parts of  the country.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Manahan Año, in his report to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night, said two of the mayors are from Bicol, four from Mimaropa, two from the northern Luzon area, and two from the Visayas.

“I cannot give their names yet until investigations are conducted and cases are filed against them,” Mr. Año said.

The officials could face administrative sanctions before the Ombudsman for dereliction of duty and gross negligence.

DDR DEPARMENT
In another development, a lawmaker on Tuesday defended the need to pass a law that will create a separate department on disaster management following criticisms that it will just worsen an already bloated bureaucracy.

“It (proposed law) does not merely create an agency. It institutionalizes disaster preparedness, response, and future-proofing as a national responsibility with an institutionalized framework,” said Representative Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who represents the 2nd District of Albay, one of the provinces in Bicol.

Mr. Salceda is the principal author of House Bill 5989 or the Disaster Resilience Act, which will establish the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) tasked to lead the government’s preparedness, response and recovery programs.

Senators Franklin M. Drilon and Panfilo M. Lacson have said it would be better to strengthen existing agencies rather than setting up the DRR, which could cost the government at least P1.5 billion and billions more for the salaries, capital outlay, and operational expenses. — Gillian M. Cortez, Arjay L. Balinbin, Jenina P. Ibañez, Angelica Y. Yang, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR










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Victoria records zero COVID-19 cases, NSW-Victoria border could reopen, US COVID-19 cases rise amid 2020 election, Australia death toll at 907


“The advice I have received from [NSW Health experts] has allowed us to maintain the strategy we have,” Ms Berejiklian said. “The approach taken by WA and Queensland, in particular, does not make sense.”

“The announcement by NSW is a logical one, but what it highlights is the lack of logic that Queensland and WA have placed in relation to their border strategy.”

She said as long as states and territories continued to get on top of outbreaks quickly, she was confident the November 23 date would hold firm.

Ms Berejiklian added the use of QR codes would be compulsory for all hospitality businesses from November 23. Businesses can have their own QR code, but she urged people to use the Service NSW code.

“The 23rd of November will be a significant day in NSW, but we believe the dual strategy of opening up our borders to all Australian citizens, all New Zealand citizens, in addition to making QR use of codes compulsory for hospitality businesses is an important step forward,” she said.



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Victoria records zero COVID-19 cases for consecutive days, Qld border to reopen to NSW, US COVID-19 case surge continues, Jasmins Liverpool customer tests positive, Australia death toll at 907


The decision was made on Friday following Sydney’s COVID-19 clusters and unlinked community transmission cases.

Gold Coast district chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said there were delays of up to 50 minutes on the motorway.

“Overall we’re happy with the way traffic is flowing,” he said.

“The true test now will be over the coming days and weeks where we do expect to see more people wanting to travel into Queensland,” he said.

“We’re looking at over three million people in NSW who will be eligible to come in and we’ll have to manage that.”

Superintendent Wheeler said about 90,000 vehicles had been intercepted since August 8. Of those, 6000 people were turned around.

“When you look at the number of people we have turned around just at the vehicle checkpoints, of almost 6000 people, it would’ve taken just one of those people to bring COVID-19 into Queensland.”

Those coming into Queensland needed to go online to the border pass declaration site and apply for a G pass.

They will be valid for 14 days instead of seven. X passes were still valid and recognised.



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NSW records one COVID-19 case, US infections soar amid 2020 election, Qld border remains closed to greater Sydney, Australia death toll at 907


Queensland is down to just three active cases, all in hotel quarantine, with no new cases reported on Monday.

The state will throw open its borders on Tuesday at 1am to NSW residents, bar Greater Sydney, with Queensland Police anticipating more long queues at the border.

Gold Coast District Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said police didn’t have solid estimates of how many people were planning on entering, but expected long delays similar to the reopening earlier this year.

Anyone in NSW, outside of the 32 Sydney local government areas, can enter Queensland from 1am Tuesday, provided they have not been in Sydney in the previous 14 days.

Superintendent Wheeler said people could transit through Sydney to get to Queensland as long as they only stopped for essential fuel, supplies, or rest stops, and wore a mask while doing so.

People can also go through Sydney airport, with the same requirements, and must ensure they have an updated border pass. The latest border pass will be updated on the Queensland government website and will be valid for 14 days, instead of the earlier seven day passes.



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