That brings us to the end of our live coronavirus coverage today. Thanks very much for reading along, commenting and supporting our work.
What made COVID-19 news today?
The NSW family of a 39-year-old man named Mark, who has recently been given a terminal cancer diagnosis, have been denied an exemption to travel to Queensland. Mark’s four children, father and brother may never have the chance to say their goodbyes in person.
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she does “begrudge” her northern counterpart and also wishes WA and Queensland would take in more international arrivals. Ms Berejiklian says she hopes commonsense prevails and Queensland’s border is open by Christmas.
- Hollywood star Tom Hanks has arrived back in Queensland to resume filming an Elvis biopic on the Gold Coast after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in March. Hanks will be subject to random police checks to ensure he remains in hotel quarantine, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.
- Anti-lockdown protestors are planning to walk en masse on Saturday in Melbourne again, a week after 17 people were arrested and a police officer injured in similar protests.
This is Rachael Dexter signing off.
Stay safe, look after one another and goodnight.
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The family of a 39-year-old man with inoperable brain cancer are begging for leniency against Queensland’s border policy, after they were told that just one of the man’s four children would be able to come to see him on his death bed.
His four children, aged seven to 13, are in New South Wales.
“Just let us see our son, that’s all we’re asking,” the man’s father told Nine news.
“I’ve got no idea how to pick one [child].”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was asked about this specific case in parliament today, and responded that she was unable to visit her own uncle, who had also been diagnosed with cancer.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has pushed back on Victoria’s defence of its contact tracing system tonight, stating that NSW has performed better because of automated systems, localised tracing and more efficient isolation of people.
This week Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was “convenient misinterpretation” to suggest Victoria was being held back from opening more quickly due to inadequacies in contact tracing.
“We are doing contact tracing at a level akin to New South Wales, Queensland and most places in the world right now,” Professor Sutton told reporters this week.
But Mr Hunt said there were some “world leading epidemiologists” who all “take a respectfully different view”.
“You’ll find that a number of them have referred to contact tracing specifically. What we have seen is commentary from Peter Collignon who has talked very much about Victoria’s contact tracing and comparing it with New South Wales,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Drive program.
When pushed by host Rafael Epstein on what data there was to show the difference between the two state’s systems, Mr Hunt said before the military arrived more than 1000 cases hadn’t been traced.
“ADF when they arrived in Victoria, they recognised that difficult situation – no criticism – there were up to a thousand cases that had never been contact traced. They’ve helped provide that rigour.”
Mr Hunt said none of his comments were meant as criticism and that he welcome Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement that Victoria would adopt a localised method of contact tracing.
Melbourne’s all-important 14-day average, which will determine the timeline for the metropolitan region’s steps for reopening, has been decreasing this week, state health department data shows.
Department of Health and Human Services data shows the 14-day average for the metropolitan Melbourne region fell to 74.5 on Wednesday, down from 78.6 on Tuesday and 84.8 on Monday.
Under the state’s government roadmap, the Melbourne region will be able to move to its next step of reopening on September 28 if the 14-day average for new cases is between 30 and 50.
For Melbourne to reach step two, the red line in the above graph has to thread its way through the green zone between 30 and 50 by the time it reaches the dotted line placed at September 28.
If this target is met, gatherings of up to five people would be permitted, prep-grade twos and VCE students would return to school and some professions would return to work. Here’s a full overview of what would change under step two:
Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett said it would be tight but Melbourne was still on track to meet its step two 14-day average target of 30-50 cases if the trends in daily case numbers continued as they have been.
An interesting column over on traveller.com.au today by Ben Groundwater.
He takes a look at how the general public has responded to the border closures and how little concern there seems to be over the resulting collapse of the tourism industry.
If tradies, farmers or miners were facing a $55 billion hit to their industries this year, there would be a national outcry from the public, he writes. Here’s a taste:
Everyone has a few friends like these. They’re great to be around when the going is good. They turn up at all your parties – they invite you to all of theirs. You spend a lot of time together just having fun. You form a tight bond.
But then something goes wrong in your life, and they totally ghost you. Maybe you get sick, maybe you go through a break-up, maybe there’s some other painful disruption. And these people just cease to exist. They don’t want to know you. They’ll appear again when you’ve sorted yourself out.
The tourism industry in Australia has a lot of these fair-weather friends. Right now, hoteliers and tour guides, air hosties and travel agents, destination managers and PR reps, cleaners and drivers, bar staff and waiters and so many more people – almost a million across Australia directly or indirectly involved in tourism – are all hurting, because they’ve come to realise something: their friends have disappeared.
Australians love to travel in the good times. It’s part of our national identity, something we proudly spruik. From the long-held Indigenous tradition of the walkabout, to the modern-day gap years spent drinking at the Walkabout, we as a nation have always travelled, and we always will.
That’s why it has been such a shock to so many in the industry to find that in the bad times no one cares about travel, and no one cares about those people who work in the industry.
And these are, undoubtedly, bad times. The worst. The federal government recently released modelling showing the Australian tourism industry will lose $55 billion this year, thanks to COVID-19 and its associated restrictions and closures. Fifty-five billion dollars if states keep their borders closed and other restrictions continue.
Imagine if tradies were about to take that sort of hit to their bottom line. Imagine if chippies and sparkies, brickies and plumbers were poised to collectively lose the net wealth of an entire country in the space of a year.
Imagine if that was going to happen to the coal industry: the value of coal exports in Australia is currently about $67 billion, so that would pretty much mean an entire industry wiped from the nation. Imagine if farmers were going to lose $55 billion.
There would be a national outcry. There would be something done. If we can find a way to shift AFL players around the country to play in their grand final then we would definitely be able to swing tradies some more work, or make special allowances to salvage big coal, or lend the farmers a hand. These industries occupy an important place in the Australian psyche, there’s something solid and tangible and real about the work they do.
But tourism? Nah. It’s a bit of fun. Harmless frivolity for the good times.
Federal Health minister Greg Hunt says a pause in the phase-three trial of a highly-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine candidate won’t slow down it’s potential success.
AstraZeneca has put a hold on the late-stage trial of the vaccine being developed with Oxford University after a suspected serious adverse reaction in a study participant, though the company says this is a “routine action”.
The vaccine being trialled is the same product that biotechnology giant CSL has committed to making 30 million doses of for Australians if the product passes regulatory approvals.
“The best advice I have, and I’ve spoken with the Australian head of Astrozeneca today is that they don’t believe that’s likely,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne this evening.
“When you have a major clinical trial like this there’s an independent medical expert panel, they review any adverse events that are significants amongst the trial participants.”
Mr Hunt said it was still unknown if the adverse reaction was due to the vaccine and whether the participant had actually received a dose of the vaccine or a placebo.
“So we’ve asked if we can have that information as a matter of priority but that’s now going to be determined by an independent medical expert panel. But they set them up so as they have these multi person trials, this will ultimately grow to be a 50,000 person trial and have safety as the number one item.
“As soon as that information is known we’ll have it and we’ll share it with Australia but the expectation is that this is part of the normal process of a vaccine trials.”
Mr Hunt confirmed the frail, elderly and healthcare workers would be among the first to receive a vaccine if one became available in Australia.
A Melbourne vet has called for dog-grooming services to be reopened despite the city’s strict coronavirus lockdown after treating a number of gruesome injuries caused by owners attempting to groom their pets at home.
Dr Jack Zaks has performed emergency procedures on a number of animals at his Elsternwick clinic since stage four restrictions began in August.
In one case, he said the owner tried to trim around their dog’s ears, cutting an artery and leading to “a Hollywood-style spurting of blood”.
Dr Zaks said dog-grooming services provide an essential service to the health and welfare of pets.
For some breeds, particularly those with long hair, regular grooming is vital to the animal’s wellbeing, which some owners are unable to provide at home.
“It’s discriminating to say that you can’t go to the groomer because dogs need to be tended to, otherwise they will fall into a heap,” Dr Zaks said.
Under the government’s road map announced on Sunday, dog-grooming services will remain shut until October 26, meaning many pets will have been ungroomed for more than three months.
A change.org petition to have grooming services opened, started by dog groomer Rachael Garthe, has gathered more than 15,000 signatures so far.
The Eastern Suburbs Legion Club in Waverley is the latest venue to be linked to confirmed cases of COVID-19, NSW Health has announced.
Two confirmed cases attended the venue in late August and early September.
Anyone who attended the club between 5pm and 6.30pm on Friday August 28 is advised to get tested immediately and isolate until they receive a negative result.
The two cases were also at the club on Tuesday September 1, Friday September 4, Saturday September 5 and Sunday September 6.
Anyone who attended the club during these times must monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if they develop, the health department said.
The Canberra Marathon Festival has become the latest event to be cancelled as a result of coronavirus, with entrants informed this afternoon that the race would not go ahead.
The event has now been postponed until April 2021, which is when the race is usually run in the year.
It was pushed back to the first weekend of November after the coronavirus pandemic began.
“We have been working very closely with the ACT Health Department, NCA and Access Canberra and, as recently as last month, we felt optimistic that we’d be able to proceed with the November date,” an email to entrants read.
“However, the restrictions have not eased sufficiently to allow for mass participation events to take place.
“While we are disappointed that we can’t take on Canberra with you in 2020, we are committed to forging ahead to put on events that inspire you to come together, lace up and go beyond.”
The ultramarathon, marathon, and the other shorter-distance events will now be virtual races, with people able to run their own courses across eight days from November 7 to 15.
Sydney’s City2Surf event was officially changed to an entirely virtual race last week, ending weeks of hope that a physical event with a smaller entry number could go ahead.
As we reported earlier, the Victorian health authorities announced they were looking into new cases recorded at Australian Meat Group in Dandenong South, Woolworths in Altona North, Woolworths in Glen Waverley and Benetas Colton Close aged care facility in Glenroy.
I’ve since been able to confirm some details about the two Woolworths outbreaks.
Glen Waverley store (The Glen):
Woolworths was notified of a confirmed case on 8 September 2020. The team member last worked at the store from 8pm-1am on 6 September 2020. The store was closed for a detailed deep clean on 8 September 2020.
“Team members at the store are undertaking precautionary testing and awaiting COVID-19 test results before returning to work,” a spokeswoman said.
“In ordinary circumstances we would operate with team members from nearby stores, but we’re not permitting our team to work across multiple sites under Stage 4 restrictions.”
Altona North (Borrack Square):
A staff member who worked last worked at Woolworths Altona North on Friday 4 September has since tested positive.
“We’re making contact with our team members and providing our full support to those required to self-isolate in line with advice from the health authorities,” a spokeswoman said.
While we’re at it, I’ll draw your attention to the page where the Victorian DHHS says it will be publishing ongoing information about case locations and exposure sites (NSW style).
At the moment it’s pretty slim, but there have been the following exposure sites listed in the past day:
- Red Rooster in Campbellfied: August 27
- Dandenong Police Complex: August 25 – September 3
- Aldi in Moe: August 17 – August 28
- Mid-Valley Shopping centre (Optus and Cutting Edge Keys): August 26
- Melbourne Seafood Centre: August 20 – August 22 and
August 24 – August 26
If you have visited any of the locations listed above during the date indicated you should: