Daily News Round-up

December 14, 2021

Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14

NSW has recorded its largest daily number of COVID-19 cases in more than 10 weeks, with 804 new infections in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday. This is an increase on the 536 reported yesterday and on the 179 cases reported just two weeks ago. There was also one death. It’s the highest daily total recorded since October 2 when 814 cases were confirmed.

Tomorrow, unvaccinated people in NSW will be given a swathe of new freedoms for the first time since the state’s lockdown was in June.

There are currently 168 people in hospital, 21 of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This is the lowest number of patients in ICU since July 18.

A total of 94.8 per cent of the population aged 16 and over has had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 93.2 per cent have had two doses.

Tomorrow, unvaccinated people will be permitted to return to non-essential retail businesses, hospitality venues and gyms.

QR check ins will only be mandatory in select spaces including hospitals, gyms, pubs and clubs and places of worship.

Face masks will also no longer be mandatory in many settings.

Victoria has recorded 1,189 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths.

There are now 11,051 active cases of the virus in Victoria, and 605 people have died during the current outbreak.

There are 364 people in hospital with the virus in Victoria, of whom 80 are in intensive care and 44 are on a ventilator.

The health department said a further 39 people were in ICU but their infections were no longer considered active.

The new cases were detected from 54,467 test results received yesterday.

There were 8,433 doses of vaccine administered at state-run sites yesterday, as well as more vaccinations at GP clinics and other venues.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine could be manufactured in Australia by the middle of the decade, with plans being put together for a new plant in Victoria capable of producing up to 100 million shots a year.

An in-principle agreement has been struck between Moderna, the federal government and the Victorian government, with hopes to have the facility running by 2024.

The federal government is putting funding into the project, but the details of the agreement are commercial in confidence.

It includes priority access to any vaccines made in Australia, to ensure the country is not competing with others abroad in future pandemics or serious outbreaks.

Moderna produces one of three COVID-19 vaccines currently being rolled out in Australia, along with Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and has joined the booster rollout too.

Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines are based on an as-yet unapproved technology. So beyond this pandemic, how might these and similar vaccines protect us against other diseases?

But mRNA vaccines are not currently being manufactured in Australia, meaning every single Pfizer and Moderna shot being administered locally has been flown in from overseas.

The new plant will manufacture Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and shots tailored for other illnesses like the seasonal flu.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said mRNA technology was likely to play an increasingly important role in Australian healthcare.

“This investment will continue to secure Australia’s future economic prosperity while protecting lives by providing access to world-leading mRNA vaccines made on Australian soil,” he said.

“The new mRNA manufacturing facility in Victoria will produce respiratory vaccines for potential future pandemics and seasonal health issues such as the common flu, protecting lives and livelihoods.”

Norway will ban the serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants, impose stricter rules in schools and speed up vaccinations as part of new efforts to limit an expected surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Presenting the country’s fourth round of measures in two weeks, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said there was “no doubt the new variant changes the rules”.

“That’s why we need to act fast and we need to act again,” he said.

“For many, this will feel like a lockdown, if not of society then of their lives and of their livelihoods.”

Britain on Monday recorded the first publicly confirmed death globally from the swiftly spreading strain.

To speed up vaccination with booster doses, the government said the armed forces, as well as pharmacies, would assist in the inoculation campaign.

At the same time, quarantines would apply more widely, the government added.

Norway is setting record highs both in terms of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, partly due to the spread of Omicron, which is expected to become the dominant variant in the coming days.

“A lack of action now could lead to large negative consequences for society, not just for health services and municipalities,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said.

Unless effective measures were established, the nation of 5.4 million people risks having between 90,000 and 300,000 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis from early January, the FHI added.

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Survivors of abuse by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar have reached a $380 million ($532 million) settlement with USAG, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and their insurers after a five-year legal battle, an attorney for some of his victims says.

As part of the settlement, USAG and the Olympic Committee also agreed to designate some of their board seats to survivors and to implement other new policies aimed at protecting athletes from future abuse.

To get those reforms in place, USOPC committed to allocating $US5 million, the lawyer said.

“This settlement is about the brave survivors who came forward, forced these organisations to listen, and demanded change,” Michelle Simpson Tuegel, who represents over two dozen Nassar survivors, said in a joint statement with Tasha Schwikert Moser, co-chair of the Survivors Creditors Committee.

“Through this agreement, these survivors are finally being acknowledged and USAG and USOPC are being forced to change so that this sport can begin a new chapter,” they said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Monday that the settlement would cover claims brought by Olympic gold medallists including Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all of whom are among Nassar’s most high-profile victims of sexual abuse.

All three women testified during a Senate hearing this year about the abuse they suffered.

At the hearing, they blasted USAG and Olympic officials for failing to stop Nassar, and they took the FBI to task over its botched investigation into Nassar’s actions.

Nassar, who had been the main doctor for Olympic gymnasts for 18 years, was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possessing child sex abuse material.

The following year, he was also sentenced to up to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, in two separate Michigan courts for molesting female gymnasts under his care.

The settlement was reached after TIG Insurance agreed to pay a large portion of the money, the Wall Street Journal reported.

USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in 2018, after Olympic bronze medallist Jamie Dantzscher had filed a lawsuit and additional claims were filed on behalf of a growing number of Nassar’s victims.

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Movie dramas The Power of the Dog and Belfast led nominations for the annual Golden Globes in a year clouded by controversy and a scaled-down ceremony.

Belfast set in 1970s Northern Ireland, and director Jane Campion’s Western The Power of the Dog got seven nods each.

They were followed by global-warming satire Don’t Look Up, King Richard, about the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams; director Steven Spielberg’s new version of the classic musical West Side Story and coming-of-age tale Licorice Pizza with four each.

Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Will Smith (King Richard), Kristen Stewart (Spencer) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) were nominated in the drama movie categories.

On the TV side, there were five nominations for Succession, including Sarah Snook as best supporting actress, four for Ted Lasso and three for Squid Game.

The winners of the Golden Globes will be announced on January 10, Australian time, but the format of the ceremony is unclear after broadcaster NBC dropped plans to televise the awards following a controversy over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the group that votes on them.

ENDS