Daily News Roundup

November 18, 2020

 

WEDNESDAY, NOV 18

Victoria is setting up testing facilities at its border with South Australia, after it recorded its 19th-straight day of no new coronavirus cases and no deaths.

As a coronavirus outbreak in Adelaide’s northern suburbs grows, the Victorian Government has urged South Australians to defer all non-essential travel to the state.

But Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said the Government did not consider it necessary to close the state’s border with South Australia yet.

“We are monitoring very closely the position in South Australia but at the moment our public health advice is that the South Australians are staying ahead of this,” Mr Foley said.

“On that basis we see no reasons to close our borders and we look forward to a COVID-normal Christmas, so all Victorians and all Australians can share that special time with their family in a safe manner.”

Mr Foley said COVID-19 testing facilities would be established at various points along the border with South Australia, to test truck drivers transporting freight.

“We’ll be establishing a freight testing facility just west of Nhill today, it will be operating tomorrow, and then we’ll roll out similar facilities across the border communities in coming days,” Mr Foley said.

Truck drivers will be allowed to continue their journeys after undergoing a saliva test, and will have their samples fast-tracked for analysis.

Mr Foley said the testing process would not cause significant delays for freight movement.

“That takes just a few minutes, between 5 and 10 minutes, it will be a slight disruption to the programs for freight movement but we’re working with the South Australians and the freight industry to keep that important trade route open,” he said.

The move follows measures already established to test incoming passengers on flights from South Australia.

Victoria’s latest day of no new cases came from 17,354 tests received, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

Three cases remain active in the state.

Asked why those cases had not yet been cleared, Mr Foley said “a number of those cases are quite elderly people who, out of an abundance of caution we are monitoring closely in hospital”.

“The good news is they have not been required to be in intensive care at all during that period. The medical advice is that we treat them very cautiously before we send them home.”

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The United States has announced plans to reduce the number of the country’s troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with defence officials saying the decision fulfills outgoing President Donald Trump’s pledge to bring forces home.

The new plan will accelerate troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan in Mr Trump’s final days in office, despite arguments from senior military officials in favour of a slower, more methodical pullout.

Officials said Mr Trump hopes to have all US troops home by May, but US allies have warned against a rash withdrawal.

Mr Trump has refused to concede his election loss to Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20, just five days after the troop withdrawals are slated to finish.

Acting US Defence Secretary Christopher Miller said the plan would cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from more than 4,500 to 2,500, and in Iraq from about 3,000 to 2,500.

Mr Miller, who refused to take questions from reporters during the announcement, added that the US remained ready to respond if conditions deteriorate.

US Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, warned against the US undertaking any quick changes in American defence or foreign policy, including toward Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earth-shaking changes in regard to defence or for policy,” Mr McConnell told reporters, adding that a “precipitous drawdown [of US troops] in Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake”.

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Free snacks will go, business class will stay and fares are promised to be cheaper as Virgin Australia’s new boss unveils details of the new-look airline.

Incoming chief executive officer Jayne Hrdlicka said Virgin Australia 2.0 would be neither a full service or budget carrier but a “mid-market” airline that retains its Economy, Economy X and Business classes.

Complimentary snacks in economy will be replaced by purchase-only food, although free tea, coffee and water will keep being offered.

In-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi on Virgin Australia flights are under review.

Virgin Australia’s lounges will start reopening from today in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast.

The Darwin, Cairns and Mackay lounges will close and the Canberra lounge is under review.

Virgin Australia said there would be no material change to the Velocity Frequent Flyer program.

The changes were announced this morning as US private equity firm Bain Capital formally takes over Virgin Australia as it emerges from seven months in administration.

Administrator Deloitte handed over the reins after the $3.5 billion sale to Bain Capital was completed on Tuesday.