Cruise industry to introduce tough new COVID-19 measures when ban lifts in December


The world’s largest cruise industry association will introduce tough new COVID-19 measures, to come into effect when the current domestic ban on cruising soon lifts.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has confirmed it will impose mandatory COVID-19 tests for guests and crew before boarding, limit passenger numbers, and conduct daily health monitoring and temperature checks for all on board.

Joel Katz, CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, wants the Australian Government to replace the current ban on cruising, which expires on December 17, with a process that would allow cruise lines to start looking at a carefully managed resumption in 2021.

“Australia’s relative success in stemming community transmission of COVID-19 — together with the Australasian cruise industry’s robust strategy — creates an opportunity for a tightly managed and phased revival of the country’s $5 billion-a-year cruise industry,” Mr Katz said.

“This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, 100 per cent testing of guests and crew, and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place.”

Under the proposed protocols, cruise ships would initially operate within Australian state or national borders while travel restrictions are in place and would be quarantined upon their return to Australian shores.

CLIA said its COVID-19 safety plan “is extensive and meets or exceeds the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) guidelines”.

Mr Katz said the industry is continuing to work with the Federal Government to develop a “framework for the resumption of cruising”.

Industry backs cruise controls

An inquiry found NSW Health had made “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes when the Ruby Princess and its thousands of passengers arrived.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

A Carnival Australia spokesman said the company welcomed CLIA’s proposal.

“The peak industry body Cruise Lines International Association Australasia is taking the lead in working with the Federal Government and government authorities in relation to the restart of cruising when the time is right,” he said.

The proposed guidelines come after a detailed examination into the Ruby Princess cruise ship’ arrival and the failings that led to it being at the centre of one of Australia’s largest coronavirus outbreaks.

Thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark when it docked in Sydney at the conclusion of two separate voyages in March.

On both occasions, the ship, owned by company Princess Cruises, was docked in Sydney, and some passengers were at the time displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

In the weeks that followed, 663 of the passengers tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia, and around the world, and 28 people died.

An inquiry was held in August and found the Ruby Princess cruise ship outbreak resulted from “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes by NSW Health.

But the report from the special commission of inquiry made few recommendations, saying health authorities had recognised failings, and would “do things differently if they had their time again”.

“It is inappropriate and unhelpful to make recommendations to experts that in truth amount to no more than ‘do your job’,” Commissioner Bret Walker SC said in his report.

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Monopoly Community Relief edition to shine a light on towns doing it tough in 2020


An outback Queensland town says having a spot on a new Australian edition of the boardgame Monopoly is like “winning a Gold Logie”.

Winton, west of Longreach, is one of 22 Australian towns that feature on the game’s Community Relief edition, released today.

Winning Moves Australia, the maker of custom Monopoly boards, said the special edition was to honour Australian towns hit hard by bushfires, floods, or COVID-19 with $5 of every sale donated to the Australian Red Cross.

Winton Shire Council’s tourism and events manager John Elliott was chuffed that the Tatts Hotel was chosen to represent the town on the boardgame.

Winton is represented on the board game with one of its pubs.(ABC News: Blythe Moore)

“Winton has a really classic Australian country town main street, [it’s] got three pubs on the street and they’ve used one of those pubs, it’s pretty poetic actually.”

Mr Elliott hoped it would raise Winton’s profile.

“It’s nice recognition of the place that Winton holds in the psyche of the Australian people … the connection with Banjo Patterson, the fact that there were dinosaurs here.

“We hope that when people think of outback Queensland they think of Winton.”

‘Shining a light’ on regions

Close up of Monopoly board featuring Australian locations, with silver playing tokens including the Harbour Bridge and Kangaroo
Tokens for the game include an Akubra hat, kookaburra, Sydney Harbour Bridge and a football.(Supplied)

Winning Moves Australia said with limited squares on the Monopoly board, it was a difficult task choosing which locations to feature.

“The places that were selected for the board have not only been impacted by 2020, many are recognisable places loved by people around the country and showcase different aspects of the nation,” a spokeswoman said.

“We felt these areas could use some extra light and something positive for their community.”

She said towns were grouped by state or territory and “we tried to suit the states to a colour that they had a connection with in some way, whether it’s a sports team or flag”.

What’s your town’s value in Monopoly dollars?

Just like the traditional boardgame, locations in the ‘Community Relief’ edition are represented with a ‘monetary’ value in Monopoly dollars ranging from Gippsland and Mildura at M400 and M350 down to Belconnen in the ACT and Queanbeyan in southern NSW both at M60.

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall said it was “very exciting” to see the region included.

“I understand we’re in the spot that Whitechapel Road would normally occupy, well it’s very progressive area of East London,” Cr Overall said.

He said areas including Braidwood and Araluen “suffered terribly with the prolonged drought” before the bushfires “raged through”, with Black Summer claiming 80 homes and damaging many more.

“Then we had a flash flood incident which further cut the roads … and now COVID, which we’re all having to come to grips with and deal with,” Cr Overall said.

Dairy farmer and Gippsland ambassador Sallie Jones said her region had suffered through drought, bushfires, and the pandemic.

She said she was thrilled to not only see her hometown on the board, but also in one of the most valuable spots.

Woman with short brown hair wearing a brown hat, white shirt and jeans lovingly scratching under a cow's chin in cow paddock.
Ms Jones hopes the game will boost the number of domestic tourists to the region.(Supplied)

“I can’t believe that Gippsland gets a little bit of spotlight after all we’ve been through in the last couple of years,” Ms Jones said.

“Far east Gippsland in particular, where it was really heavily impacted by bushfires, has beautiful natural assets, the beaches, and the mountains.”

Noosa, valued at M140, is one of three Queensland locations along with Winton and Bundaberg.

Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart said its inclusion was “terrific news”, particularly with part of the proceeds helping disaster-impacted families.

Aerial view over surf and bushland
Noosa was chosen due to the impact of COVID-19 on the region’s tourism industry, the board game makers say.(Supplied: Paul Smith/Noosa World Surfing Reserve)

Cr Stewart hoped it would encourage travellers to visit locations they may not ordinarily have thought to go to, helping communities recover.

“So it is wonderful to be on the board … and it’s great that people who haven’t been here, it might just give them a reminder to pop up and see what a beautiful part of the world we really are,” she said.

Cr Stewart said the Noosa community was resilient, strong, and collaborative, but “everyone will be happy to see the end of 2020 and look forward to a bigger and brighter 2021”.



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As coronavirus cases flared up in some cities, China implemented a tough approach. But many worry the threat lies outside the country


Whether they intended to or not, China’s athletes made a statement earlier this month when they arrived at a Tokyo airport covered head to toe in full PPE.

As the images of the national gymnastics team popped up on social media, it elicited a bemused response from some Japanese media commentators.

Others were struck by the contrast to other international teams, who had largely donned face masks.

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But China’s National Sports administration said in a statement the measures reflected the seriousness with which Japan was also taking the pandemic and stressed that the team took off their protective gear once clearing customs.

A few commentators drew comparisons with the offence some in China took to American athletes arriving for the Beijing 2008 Olympics with face masks on to guard against air pollution.

And in the weeks since, it has become apparent that this was not an isolated incident, but part of a broader trend.

A further two sports teams — both Chinese top-tier soccer clubs — were also covered head to toe in hazmat suits, goggles and gloves to travel to the United Arab Emirates for Asian Champions League matches.

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The editor of the China Story blog at the Australian National University, Yun Jiang, said it was a sign of how seriously Chinese authorities were taking the virus.

“The Government wants to be seen as doing all it can to control the pandemic spread and protect the population,” she told the ABC.

“And this can contrast with what is happening in the US, where mask use and lockdowns are still being debated.”

Even as the average daily number of COVID-19 cases has crept up into double digits, it has remained remarkably low for a country of China’s size and density.

Many in China believe the ‘West’ is doing a lot worse in containing COVID-19

This week a commentator sparked an angry backlash online for laughing about China’s comparatively low COVID-19 death rate compared to Europe and the US.

Academic Li Yi told an online forum in Shenzhen that China’s official coronavirus death toll of around 4,000 people was “equivalent to zero” given the country’s vast population.

“1.4 billion people and only 4,000 deaths is equivalent to no-one dying, no-one getting sick,” Mr Yi told the live-streamed forum before laughing about America’s general aversion to face masks.

His hubris didn’t wash well with China’s online community, which slammed him for reducing the heartache of thousands of Chinese families to a boastful figure.

In response to the criticism, Mr Li blamed “hostile foreign forces” within and beyond China for twisting his meaning.

“Many people in China do believe that other countries, especially countries in the ‘West’, are doing a lot worse in containing COVID,” Ms Yun said.

The heavy, top-down approach authorities in cities across China have repeatedly taken to any potential new outbreaks was on display again this week at Shanghai’s biggest airport.

Scenes on social media showed Shanghai airport workers pushing back against health officials.(AP)

After two people, including a cargo worker, tested positive, officials made a snap decision to test more than 10,000 workers, triggering unruly scenes.

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In comparison, however, Ms Yun said there was a sentiment in China that “foreigners” were not as ready to follow rules.

China pushes an unproven hypothesis on origin

With significantly lower reported case numbers than Europe and the US, Chinese government health officials are increasingly trying to suggest the virus came to the outbreak city of Wuhan from abroad.

Workers in protective suits prepare to administer a COVID-19 test
Recent flare-ups have shown that there is still a risk of the virus returning, despite being largely controlled within China.(AP: Mark Schiefelbein)

The Government has recently ramped up claims of coronavirus entering China on imported food packaging.

It comes amid news that China may finally be getting closer to allowing a WHO mission of 10 experts into the country.

Australian Immunology and infectious diseases expert Dominic Dwyer, who is based at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and has previously worked on various WHO missions including the SARS outbreak in China in 2003, will be part of the delegation sent over. He was unavailable for comment.

Neither the WHO nor China’s Government has confirmed when the experts will be permitted to travel to China for the joint-mission, nor what sort of access they would have in the city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic began late last year.

Under an agreement with China, local scientists will carry out the on-the-ground Phase 1 investigations for the WHO team to later study.

While rejecting “politicisation” of the virus origins and insisting it’s a “question for science”, China has increasingly pushed an unproven hypothesis that it may have been imported from abroad on frozen food packaging into Wuhan.

A woman wearing a mask and a fur lined coat holds her phone as she walks holding her phone.
China reported two new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.(AP: Ng Han Guan)

The issue with food packaging first emerged in June, with China removing some salmon from supermarkets shelves after linking it to a COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing.

To date, the WHO hasn’t endorsed the claim that people can be infected from packaging.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand said: “There’s no evidence COVID-19 can be contracted through food or food packaging.”

But Chinese officials attribute multiple cases to the handling of imported goods — including two workers said to have been infected after cleaning a container from North America in Shanghai, and another two people who were infected from imported pig heads in Tianjin.

National Health Commission officials at a media conference in Beijing this week took question after question from government-media reporters about whether it’s “safe” to eat imported frozen food, reflecting widespread concerns within China that the pandemic is far worse abroad.

‘Better story is their ability to control the spread’

Officials answered that screening of imported food packaging showed the presence of the virus on only 0.48 packets for every 10,000 tests and hosed down fears about the risk.

“I don’t think we should give up eating for the fear of choking,” food safety official Li Ning said.

But despite the low risk, news headlines have been pushed around China’s internet from state media outlets highlighting that a WHO official proclaimed Wuhan was only the point of discovery and that the virus in the initial stages was potentially present throughout the world.

A headline from China’s Communist Party media-outlet People’s Daily claimed: “All available evidence suggests that the coronavirus, which has infected more than 59 million people in 190 countries, did not start in central China’s Wuhan, experts reiterated.”

China’s Government is extremely sensitive about the pandemic beginning on its watch and officials have even previously tweeted conspiracy theories about the virus being brought to China from the US.

“I think the Government is still not overly keen on drawing the attention to the origin,” Ms Yun said.

“For the authorities, the better story is their ability to control the spread.”



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Iraq’s Prime Minister Faces a Litany of Tough Security Challenges


On November 18, Iraq’s foreign minister condemned a rocket attack the previous day in Baghdad’s Green Zone, calling it a “terrorist act.” Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein’s statement came hours after four rockets landed inside the heavily fortified diplomatic site, wounding five people and killing a child. This latest round of rocket fire signaled an end to an informal truce announced by Iranian-backed militias last month to pause attacks targeting U.S. military personnel in Iraq. According to Iraqi officials, one rocket landed just 2,000 feet from the U.S. embassy compound. An Iraqi military spokesman stated the incident would not go without “prosecution and accountability.”

In the unexpected October 10 “ceasefire” statement, Iranian-linked militias announced their intention to halt attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, including Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, under the condition that a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. troops was verified.

For over a year, Baghdad’s Green Zone has been the target of an unprecedented number of rocket and mortar strikes. Although these attacks largely go unclaimed, it is widely suspected that Iranian-linked militias within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are the culprits. PMU groups like Kataib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq initially existed in Iraq to aid in the fight against ISIS but have been warped into lawless units guided by Iranian interests. Since the PMU technically function as part of the Iraqi Security Forces, militia members are able to act with virtual impunity even as they openly defy Iraqi law and counter the prime minister’s interests.

Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been struggling to curtail the actions of these Iranian-backed Shia militias since the onset of his premiership in May. Kadhimi’s ascension to power followed months of instability and increased domestic violence at the hands of Iranian-linked militias. In late 2019, anti-Iran protests swept the Middle East. PMU groups and other Iranian proxies violently cracked down on demonstrators in Iraq and Lebanon, resulting in over 500 deaths. In early January, U.S. forces assassinated prominent Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a targeted airstrike. In response, Iranian proxies have repeatedly targeted the U.S. presence in Iraq with constant rocket attacks.

In late September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi leaders that the embassy would close unless Iraq reined in the rogue Iranian-backed militias that have attacked U.S. interests in Bagdad. Following the informal “ceasefire” announcement in mid-October, there was a cessation in targeted airstrikes in Baghdad. The timing of the November 17 attack is questionable since it occurred just one hour after the Pentagon announced an incoming troop reduction in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500. A Kataib Hezbollah official told The Associated Press that the group wants to see a “full withdrawal, not a partial one.”

President Barack Obama withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. In 2014, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, U.S. troops were welcomed back to help Iraqi forces combat the surging threat posed by the Islamic State. Remnants of the Islamic State are still active in Northern Iraq near the Iranian border. In late October, five civilians, including a Shiite sheikh who was reportedly active in the fight against ISIS, were brutally executed by the terrorist group. The week before, ISIS reportedly attacked a sub-district in the same region with mortars and claimed responsibility for various other attacks in the region.

Prime Minister Kadhimi and U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo discussed the future of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation in the fight against terrorism during a phone call on November 17. Specifically, they discussed the “future of cooperation between Iraq and the international coalition led by the United States of America, in light of the growing Iraqi capabilities in combating terrorism.” U.S. officials in the Trump administration have been supportive of withdrawals in principle and a planned troop reduction schedule has been underway in Iraq for months.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in several countries before he leaves office, including Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq. The Trump administration reportedly plans to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq by 500, leaving 2,500. This is a change from what Trump officials announced in September 2020 when they said the U.S. troop presence in Iraq would be cut from 5,200 to 3,000 by January 2021.

As the anniversary of Soleimani’s death approaches, Iranian-linked militants in Iraq will likely escalate their frequency of attacks targeting U.S. military personnel and diplomatic sites in Baghdad. Prime Minister Kadhimi will have to balance newly independent anti-ISIS operations with countering an expected onslaught of violence from PMU groups with a reduced U.S. troop presence.

Maya Carlin is an Analyst at the Center for Security Policy, located in Washington D.C. She also holds an MA in Counter-terrorism from IDC Herzliya, located in Israel.

Image: Reuters.



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Tough task awaits Melbourne Victory


Short-term pain should lead to long-term gain for a new-look Melbourne Victory squad using their AFC Champions League campaign in Qatar as a learning and bonding experience on and off the field.

Nine months on since their most recent Group E match, a 1-0 loss to FC Seoul in Korea, the Victory resume their Champions League campaign on Tuesday night against Chinese team Beijing FC in Doha.

Half the team from that defeat are no longer with the club, there is a different coach in Grant Brebner and a host of new and inexperienced players in a Victory squad in a rebuilding phase following a disastrous 2019-20 A-League campaign.

And while there was more than a hint of apprehension throughout the squad about travelling to Qatar during the current COVID climate, Brebner said time away together was ideal for his new squad that’s expected to struggle to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.

“While I’m competitive and want to win games, I’ve got to remove myself a little bit from it and say where we’re at is a little bit behind where we would like to be” Brebner said.

“What we can do is we can really work hard as a group in this hotel environment in Qatar and in Sydney (in quarantine) when we get back towards building … a real togetherness.

“We cannot finish 10th again (in the A-League), and we understand whether we’re playing well or playing badly, we’re going to have a squad of players that desperately want to win football games for the benefit of everybody else, not just themselves.

“It’s really good from that perspective that we’re all together living day in, day out in each other’s pockets.”

With a host of teenagers in his squad, Brebner is not expecting a miracle on Tuesday night or any of the Victory’s three other group matches in Qatar.

“We’ve brought over 22 players and we’re a little bit of a mix of youth and experience, players that have played a number of games and players that haven’t played any games in the A-League,” the Victory coach said.

“Every one of them will be tested at certain points so it’s going to be a challenge but we’re here now and we’re ready to go.

“This is a major competition where we want and need to do well but it’s also a pre-season for us … so we’ll see how we go.

“I’m not going to judge them harshly.”

When the Victory do return to Australia for the start of the A-League season next month, they are set to have the services of former Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough striker Rudy Gestede, with Brebner saying the signing of the 32-year-old marksman was happening “very shortly”.



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Tough call for new leader



The WA Liberal Party will go into next March’s State election with the least experienced leadership team in the party’s history, in what is shaping as a desperate strategy to ‘save the furniture’.  The challenge will be to take the fight up to the Labor Government.



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9 Poems for a Tough Winter


“CALIFORNIA WINTER” BY KARL SHAPIRO

One of my forever favorites is Karl Shapiro’s “California Winter,” a marvelous ode to the land of the oldest living things, / trees that were young when Pharoahs ruled the world, / trees whose new leaves are only just unfurled. I like best to read it through the eyes of Joan Didion, who writes about California like no one else, and who mentions Shapiro’s poem in The White Album. She rightly points out that its last stanza possesses the rare and quiet power of a prayer.

— Adrienne LaFrance, executive editor

“SEEING OFF MENG HAORAN FOR GUANGLING AT YELLOW CRANE TOWER” BY LI BAI

When I was a kid, my mom taught me Mandarin by having me recite classical poetry. I understood little and memorized a lot, and two decades on, I find I remember most of what I learned. But I now revisit these verses with an added layer of nostalgia: The lonely sail, a faraway shadow, against an endless blue / I only see the Yangtze flowing into the horizon, goes one. The permutations of translation are infinite, frustrating, time-consuming (this one is mine; I’m no scholar and no poet). This pandemic winter, go memorize some stuff as an exercise. Translate, if you can, for fun, and for no one but yourself.

— Shan Wang, senior editor

“WILD GEESE” BY MARY OLIVER

Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” is my ultimate comfort poem; I go back to it again and again when I’m feeling despondent or defeated. You could argue this isn’t the right moment for the first line—You do not have to be good. (You do have to be good! Cancel Thanksgiving!) But the poem doesn’t feel indulgent to me as much as it feels merciful: Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. / Meanwhile the world goes on. It reminds me that this long pandemic winter will be only a blip in the vast span of the Earth’s history.

— Faith Hill, assistant editor who helps select our Atlantic weekly poem

“AFTER ABOLITION” BY KYLE CARRERO LOPEZ

In a social and political moment in which more people are discussing what role, if any, prisons and police should have in our society, I find that art can help us move our thinking away from what we believe is possible, and toward what we believe we deserve. Kyle Carrero Lopez’s poem “After Abolition” helps me dream of what it might mean to build the sort of country in which the instruments of our carceral state are pushed toward obsolescence. I will be rereading it for years to come.

— Clint Smith, staff writer and the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent

“THOSE WINTER SUNDAYS” BY ROBERT HAYDEN

I raise the blinds. I lower the blinds. I raise. I lower. My son and I rise; my son and I set. I run school, I work, I single parent. I think of my single mother’s thankless hours; I call: What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices? As days shorten, how do we keep going? Hayden’s poem of winter mornings seems bleak, yet his last line answers: love.

—Jennifer Adams, associate director of production



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Elders Ltd reports increased profit despite tough trading conditions


Despite drought, fires and COVID-19, Australian agribusiness Elders has reported $123 million statutory profit in the 12 months to September.

Those results were an 80 per cent increase on the previous financial year, and as a result, the South Australia-based company will pay a fully-franked final dividend of 13 cents per share, taking the total dividends paid for the year to 22 cents.

The underlying profit after tax was $109 million.

Managing director and CEO Mark Allison attributed the outcome to the company’s long-term strategy.

“We took a call back in the first eight-point plan that for agriculture we need to have the costs and capital base to allow us to make good money in bad years, and the great money in good years,” Mr Allison said.

“Last year is an example of a bad year where we did quite well under difficult circumstances and this year, once we established agriculture as an essential industry … we were able to do everything we could to support regional and rural Australia.”

That meant the company was able to continue trading during COVID-19: It increased its workforce and did not rely on any Government support through JobKeeper.

There has been some movement within the company with Elders putting on 417 additional staff and purchasing rural supplies wholesaler Australian Independent Rural Retailers (AIRR) and crop protection company Titan.

AIRR added $44 million in wholesale gross margins in the company’s results which Mr Allison said was in excess of projections.

Elders financial year ends on September 30.

Elders Managing Director Mark Allison(Supplied: Elders)

2021 Outlook

With summer plantings expected to increase and the prospect of rain, Mr Allison said demand for crop protection and fertiliser would likely recover.

Mr Allison said from an agricultural, seasonal and commodity viewpoint the outlook was positive with cattle prices expected to remain high, if softer than 2020.

Elders was working on the assumption that reduced consumer demand for clothing and increased levels of unsold textiles and raw fibres would probably suppress wool prices in the short term.

Mr Allison also viewed the recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as a benefit to the agribusiness.

“If you see that as additional market access and opportunity to diversify our product.

He explained that the company already had strong market relationships with Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China.



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Red cards tough to avoid in Tests: Cane


All Blacks captain Sam Cane admits a repeat of Saturday’s 14-a-side Bledisloe Cup Test might be hard to avoid given the frenetic nature of Test rugby.

Debutant Wallabies flanker Lachie Swinton and All Blacks forward Ofa Tu’ungafasi both received first-half red cards for high shots.

Tu’ungafasi’s hit on Tom Wright brought pats on the back at first, before replays showed his shoulder had made marginal contact with his chin.

He was marched by referee Nic Berry, while Swinton left him no choice but to produce the same colour soon after when he collected Sam Whitelock without using his arms in the tackle.

Their departures changed the dynamic of the contest, Australia controlling proceedings better to escape with a 24-22 win in a series already secured by the visitors.

Their exits sparked discussion about the lack of wiggle room in the law, which suggests contact with the head should result in a red card.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster admitted the “rugby spectacle” was spoiled because of the duo’s departures and Cane lamented how tough it was to toe the line between effective and illegal.

“It’s a fast moving game with big collisions and every now and then players are going to get it slightly wrong,” he said.

“And I don’t think either of those cards were malicious or dirty plays by any means, just fractionally off.

“We spend a lot of time practising, but in top sport like this there will be the odd error.”

But Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said players had no excuses and should respect laws designed to keep players safe.

“We don’t train to tackle around the head and we have to talk about player safety … we want players playing as long as we possibly can in this game,” he said.

“If that’s the interpretation from up top we’ve got to be better and tackle lower.”





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Europe’s COVID-19 cases top 11 million as more countries reimpose tough lockdowns


Europe passed a new bleak milestone on Tuesday after reporting more than 11 million coronavirus cases, as Austria and Greece became the latest countries on the continent to impose shutdowns.

Still reeling from a deadly shooting spree in the streets of Vienna on Monday evening, Austria went into partial lockdown while Greece shut down major cities.

They joined Belgium, France, Germany and Ireland in re-imposing tough curbs on people’s lives in an echo of last spring as the virus which first emerged in China during 2019, showed no sign of abating.

Meanwhile the Netherlands extended a partial shutdown to museums, cinemas and zoos as the government said new cases were not slowing down enough.

Europe has now registered 11,008,465 infections and almost 285,000 deaths according to an AFP tally of official sources on Tuesday.

Books for the soul 

The stringent new measures that are also set to hit England this week have caused exasperation and anger as experts say Europe risks being hit with further waves of infections next year if no effective vaccine is found.

Underscoring the pernicious effect of restrictions on economies, livelihoods and general wellbeing, Spain – where tourism accounts for 13 percent of employment – said the number of foreign visitors plunged by 75 percent during the first nine months of the year.

The aviation industry has also been hard-hit.

In the Netherlands, KLM pilots agreed to a five-year pay cut to unblock a planned bailout of the struggling airline.

The Spanish government meanwhile said it would offer a 475 million euro lifeline to Air Europa to help see the airline through the pandemic.

Looking forward, countries were seeking desperately for ways to ease or avoid lockdowns.

The British government was rolling out quick-result coronavirus tests for the entire population of its hard-hit, 500,000-strong city of Liverpool in a pilot scheme that could be scaled up nationwide.

The tests “can be a massive and possibly decisive use to us in this country in defeating the virus”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“So amid the uncertain gloom of November I see light ahead, and I’m absolutely certain that we will have better days before us.”

The city joins Slovakia, which has decided to test its entire population of 5.4 million people.

In Belgium, which has one of the highest number of deaths compared to its population, authorities might have shut down the country but have nonetheless have decided to keep book stores open for the sake of people’s mental wellbeing.

“In a period of anguish and uncertainty that brings us back to our own mortality, the book probably remains the best food for thought and reflection,” said Brussels bookseller Marc El Khadem, as customers thumbed through pages around him.

Transferring patients

In Greece, cafes, restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and theatres and most non-essential businesses shut down in Athens and in the northern cities of Thessaloniki and Serres, which went under even harsher lockdowns.

The curbs have drawn concern among business-owners and employees in a country that only recently emerged from a crippling financial crisis that began in 2010.

A Greek orthodox priest wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, walks during the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

AP

Neighbouring Turkey also imposed restrictions, saying restaurants, cinemas and other businesses would have to shut at 10pm.

Over in France, a hospitals federation said the pressure was such that authorities were planning to transfer COVID-19 patients to Germany for treatment – as Belgium was already doing.

As for Germany, it should postpone non-urgent surgeries to free up beds and staff, advised Uwe Janssens, president of the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.

Vaccine hopes 

The virus, which has already killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, has not spared the top corridors of power.

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was currently hospitalised in Germany with COVID-19 and “gradually recovering”, his office said on Tuesday.

Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algerian President-elect Abdelmadjid Tebboune speaks during a press conference in Algiers, Algeria, 13 December 2019.

EPA

And aviation bosses who celebrated the long-delayed opening of Berlin’s new international airport were forced into quarantine after a local official tested positive for the virus.

Amid all the uncertainty, drug companies have been rushing to produce what has become the sector’s holy grail – a viable vaccine.

The World Health Organization has identified at least nine candidate vaccines at the most advanced phase-three stage.

On Tuesday, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said he had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine, becoming the latest United Arab Emirates official to take part in trials.





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