Daily News Roundup

July 21, 2021

 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he “doesn’t accept” that he is responsible for the lagging vaccine rollout and the simultaneous lockdown of three major Australian cities.

Greater Sydney is in the midst of at least a five-week lockdown, while Melburnians were told on Tuesday they face another week at the minimum confined to their homes.

South Australia was also plunged into a seven-day lockdown on Tuesday, after the Delta variant spread from NSW to the state.

Speaking to Adelaide’s FIVEaa on Wednesday morning, as Victoria revealed a surprise increase in the number (22) of locally transmitted Covid 19 cases in  the state and NSW reported 110 new locally acquired infections, the Prime Minister hit back after hosts David and Will said to Mr Morrison “the reason you’ve got 12 million people in lockdown is because you got it (the rollout) so wrong in the first place”.

“No I don’t accept that,” Mr Morrison said.

“Right now, under no plan was there any plan that said we’d be at 65-70 per cent vaccination in this country. Under no plan.

“Australia was always going to be in the suppression phase this year.”

It comes after weeks of mounting blame on the slow vaccine rollout causing lockdowns across the country.

Earlier this month, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state “could not live” with the Delta variant while vaccination rates were so low.

“If we chose to live with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9 per cent, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and deaths,” she said on July 9.

As recently as Wednesday morning, Deputy Premier John Barilaro told ABC Breakfast that the vaccination rollout was “letting the state down”.

“We need people to get vaccinated and we need the Federal Government to increase supply… In NSW demand is outstripping supply,” he said.

Mr Morrison was also asked whether he regrets saying the vaccine rollout was “not a race”.

“I absolutely think we need to have total urgency on this issue, and that’s what we’ve been applying to it,” he said.

“When that was said by both Professor Murphy and I at the time, we were talking about the regulation of vaccines … to ensure the vaccines we were using had gone through the proper processes.

“The fact is, we have been moving with urgency … Once they were approved, we’ve been going as fast as we possibly can and getting over the problems we’ve had.”

Just shy of one million doses were administered in the past week, with more Pfizer doses arriving this week set to further boost the rollout.

Mr Morrison used the example of Singapore, which has a higher vaccination rate than Australia, being back in lockdown.

“And in the UK, they’re over 65 per cent (fully vaccinated) and 94 people died yesterday,” he said.

“I understand there is great frustration. Believe me, I feel the same.

“The Delta variant has thrown a completely new curveball which every country in the world is dealing with.

“We haven’t got this completely right, no country has … But we’ve got a lot of things right too.”

The news from Victoria was not all bad. The state’s health department confirmed the new local virus cases about 8.45am but in a positive sign for the state’s lockdown, they said all 22 were linked to existing outbreaks that have stemmed from NSW.

Victoria has now recorded 107 cases linked to the two outbreaks that jumped the border from Sydney’s deadly Delta cluster – one from a team of Sydney removalists that transited through the state and the other a family that returned to Melbourne’s north from a NSW red zone.

Announcing the NSW new infection total Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 43 of the 110 cases were infectious while in the community. 

“That is a high number but a number which reflects the high amount of testing that we had. What is concerning, however, is that 43 people in those number of cases were infectious in the community,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Now, I want to stress that you might not have any symptoms and not know you have the virus and still be infectious. Those 43 people haven’t necessarily done the wrong thing.

“But what it does show is how infectious and contagious the virus is so it means that every time you have contact with another human being you risk either getting the virus or passing the virus on.”

It comes after an infectious disease expert warned Sydney may never hit zero community transmission again because of how fast the Delta variant spreads.

“There are various pathways we may head down over the coming weeks and months … and I hope we do get back to zero transmission but it may not be feasible,” Professor Greg Dore, an epidemiologist with the Kirby Institute, told 2GB radio.

“The delta variant is different … once it’s well established in the community and once you’ve got several hundred active cases in the community it will be tougher, and we’re getting 30 to 40 cases a day that are not in home quarantine.

“Even though we’re under lockdown there are opportunities for those people to pass the virus on.”

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Kelly Wilkinson’s family was in court this morning.

The second man accused of murdering Gold Coast mother Kelly Wilkinson, by allegedly aiding her estranged husband, has been remanded in custody.

The Wilkinson family sat in the public gallery to witness 25-year-old Pimpama man Bradley Bell front the Southport Magistrates Court this morning.

There was no application for bail.

Ms Wilkinson’s body was found heavily burnt in her Arundel backyard on April 20 this year, after allegedly being doused in fuel and set alight.

Ex-marine Brian Earl Johnston was charged with her murder and was located with severe burns to his body several blocks from the property.

Yesterday, months after the initial arrest, police took Mr Bell into custody also charging him with Ms Wilkinson’s murder.

At a press conference yesterday, police said they would allege Bell, who worked with Mr Johnston in Coomera, drove him to the young mother’s house in Arundel the day she was killed.

Investigating officers allege Bell helped fill a jerry can with fuel and had conversations with Johnston about his alleged plans before Ms Wilkinson’s’ death in April this year.

Court documents revealed, police found a melted red jerry can, three knives, a rope, duct tape and other items in Ms Wilkinson’s backyard the morning she died.

Mr Bell appeared in front of the court today wearing a hospital-appointed gown, with the Wilkinson family watching on as he was remanded in custody.

He will next face court again in October.

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The Norwegian players were fined for wearing “improper clothing”.(Supplied: Norwegian Beach Handball Federation)

Norway’s beach handball team has been fined 1,500 euros ($2,407) for being improperly dressed after the women wore bike shorts instead of bikini bottoms at a European championship match in Bulgaria.

Reuters news agency reports The European Handball Federation (EHF) said in a statement that its disciplinary commission had dealt with “a case of improper clothing” in the bronze medal match against Spain.

It added that the shorts were “not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball Rules of the game”.

The fine worked out at 150 euros per player and was criticised by the Norwegian federation, while the country’s sports minister Abid Raja said it was “completely ridiculous” and attitudes needed to change.

The Norwegian federation said on Twitter it was proud of the women for standing up and saying enough was enough.

“We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules for clothing so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with,” it added.

Beach Handball’s rules stipulate that female players must wear tops and bikini bottoms. Men wear tank tops and shorts.

“Athletes’ uniforms and accessories contribute to helping athletes increase their performance as well as remain coherent with the sportive and attractive image of the sport,” the uniform regulations add.

“Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms … with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.”

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Jeff Bezos has blasted into space on his rocket company’s first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

The Amazon founder was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother, as well as an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest people to ever fly in space.

“Best day ever!” Mr Bezos said when the capsule touched down on the desert floor in remote West Texas after the 10-minute flight.

Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket reached an altitude of about 106 kilometres, more than 16 kilometres higher than fellow billionaire and rival Richard  Branson’s July 11 ride.

The 18-metre booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.

The passengers had several minutes of weightlessness to float around the spacious white capsule.

The window-filled capsule landed under parachutes, with Mr Bezos and his guests briefly experiencing nearly six times the force of gravity, or 6 G’s, on the way back.

Led by Mr Bezos, they climbed out of the capsule after touchdown with wide grins, embracing parents, partners and children, then popped open bottles of sparkling wine, spraying one another.

“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this,” Mr Bezos told reporters afterward.

Mr Bezos said this first crewed space flight was a step toward developing a fleet of reusable spacecraft.