Daily News Roundup

June 24, 2021

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 24

NSW officials have remained adamant that there are no plans for Sydney to go into lockdown despite the surge in Covid-19 cases, prompting concerns from health authorities that the state isn’t doing enough to prevent the outbreak spreading.

The state confirmed 16 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the outbreak to 37.

Of those cases, 10 were recorded within the official reporting period, with seven already announced on Tuesday. There were also 13 cases confirmed after the official reporting period, meaning they will be included in today’s numbers.

A “superspreader” birthday party attended by 30 people in West Hoxton was linked to 10 of Wednesday’s infections.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Epidemiologist and advisor to the World Health Organisation, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, warned Sydney was now “overdue” for new lockdown restrictions.

“Outbreak management should first and foremost be based on a duty of care to the community,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Delta VOC, highly infectious with adverse effect on vaccine efficacy. Stay-at-home order is over due.”

The warning from Professor McLaws comes after she predicted a “big spike” in today’s Covid-19 cases, saying Sydney would be “very lucky” if it does manage to avoid a lockdown.

The surge in cases on Wednesday prompted Premier Gladys Berejiklian to announce a raft of restrictions for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong, along with a ban on travelling outside of metropolitan Sydney for seven Sydney LGAs.

However, Ms Berejiklian stopped short of announcing a lockdown, with Health Minister Brad Hazzard telling news.com.au there was “zero” truth to reports the state is likely to announce a lockdown by Friday.

“No plan to lockdown contrary to media reports this evening,” Mr Hazzard said on Wednesday night.

“Measures implemented this afternoon are proportionate and appropriate. Reports of a lockdown are greatly exaggerated.”

Despite officials saying they are confident the current restrictions match the risk posed by the outbreak, many epidemiologists have expressed concerns that not enough is being done.

Epidemiologist and editor in chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Nicholas Talley believes introducing tough restrictions early on is the best way to combat the highly-infectious Delta strain currently circulating in Sydney.

“I’m concerned the restrictions are not tough enough — this is the Delta variant, the worst possible threat, and going hard and early will provide the community the greatest safety,” he told the ABC.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist, Professor Tony Blakely warned a delay in announcing further restrictions meant a lockdown would be “longer and harder”, branding the decision to keep gyms, bars and restaurants open as “crazy”.

“Each day you delay means that if you need a lockdown, which I think is more than likely now, it will be longer and harder if they don’t do it soon,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

“One of the other measures is keeping gyms open at the moment, even with people wearing masks, is, frankly, crazy.”

Professor Blakely said NSW likely had a “50/50” chance of getting through this outbreak without a lockdown, adding it is a “really difficult decision to make”.

###

Britney Spears has claimed she is being abused and exploited by her family and carers in a conservatorship (GUARDIANSHIP) that has been in place for the past 13 years.

The statement at a Los Angeles hearing came with her first words in open court on the conservatorship.

The 39-year-old told the court her father, Jamie Spears, co-conservator of her estate, “should be in jail”.

Speaking on a phone link, she described a life where she was not in control of her money or care plan, saying “I just want my life back”.

“I’m done”, she said, comparing her situation during a period of what she said was enforced rehab as being akin to being a victim of sex trafficking.

“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” she said, asking for the judge to end it without her being forced to undergo an evaluation.

In a 20-minute written speech she revealed details which have been carefully guarded in court for years.

An attorney representing her co-conservator said the hearing and transcript should be kept sealed if private medical information was to be revealed. 

But Spears shouted her down and said her words should be public.

“They’ve interfered with my life so I feel like it should be an open court hearing and they should listen and hear what I have to say,” Spears said.

Spears said she wants to marry her boyfriend, Sam Asghari and have a baby, but the conservatorship will not allow her to.

Supporters outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles ahead of Britney Spears’ conservatorship case hearing.(Reuters: Mario Anzuoni)

She told the court she has an intrauterine device, a contraceptive device fitted inside the uterus, that she is unable to get removed under the conservatorship.

“I was told right now in the conservatorship I’m not allowed to get married or have a baby, I have an [IUD] inside myself right now so I don’t get pregnant,” she said.

“All I want is to own my money and for this to end and for my boyfriend to be able to drive me in his car,” Spears said.

She said she deserves to live her life.

“I’m traumatised. I’m not happy, I can’t sleep,” she said.

“I’m so angry and I cry every day.

“This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.

“I deserve to have a life.”

Spears has two children with her former husband Kevin Federline. Federline has custody of the children.

Despite the conservatorship, Spears made a comeback in late 2009 and performed, released albums and went on world tours solidly until late 2018, when she cancelled a string of dates.

She has not performed since late 2018.

She went on to say she was forced to take lithium against her will after rehearsals broke down for a planned Las Vegas residency in 2019, which was subsequently cancelled.

She said all she had done was disagree with one part of the show’s choreography.

“I’m not here to be anyone’s slave,” she said.

“I can say no to a dance move.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny said she would need a formal petition submitted to the court asking for the conservatorship to be terminated before she could take any action.

Judge Penny praised Spears for speaking out.

“I know it took a lot of courage,” she said.

“I just want to commend you again for really stepping forward and stepping out to have your thoughts heard, not only by myself but by everybody who has been involved in this case.”

Spears is currently responsible for footing the legal bills for both sides — including the hefty fees charged by the attorneys opposing her in the case.

About 100 fans from the #FreeBritney movement gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing, holding signs that read “Free Britney now!” and “Get out of Britney’s life!”

###

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has denied claims Russia fired warning shots and dropped bombs in front of a Royal Navy destroyer.

Russia said its forces had fired the shots to chase the British warship out of the area, with its foreign ministry calling the passage through the waters a “blatant provocation”.

But the UK government offered a firm rebuke of the Russian claims, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman saying it was “incorrect” to say the ship was fired upon “or that the ship was in Russian waters”.

The incident is an escalation in tensions between the two countries, and it occurred in disputed waters just off the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from the Ukraine in 2014.

Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing the Russian Defence Ministry, claimed military forces had “fired warning shots on the course” of the British destroyer HMS Defender after it entered Russian waters in the Black Sea on Wednesday afternoon.

“The destroyer was warned in advance that weapons would be fired in case of a violation of the Russian state border,” the statement said.

“It disregarded the warning.”

The statement said a border patrol ship fired warning shots at 12:06pm local time (7:06pm AEST) and again two minutes later, before an SU-24M fighter jet dropped four bombs on the course the British destroyer was taking.

“As a result of joint actions of the Black Sea Fleet and the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service, HMS Defender left the territorial sea of the Russian Federation at 12:23 pm,” the statement said.

Moscow’s foreign ministry has said it will summon the British Ambassador over the incident.

But the UK denied any warning shots had been fired, saying its warship had been travelling through Ukrainian waters in accordance with international law and that the Russians had been conducting firing exercises Britain had already been warned about.

“No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender,” a tweet from the UK’s Ministry of Defence said.