Daily News Roundup

June 29, 2021

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 29

South-east Queensland, Townsville city, Magnetic Island and Palm Island will go into a three-day lockdown at 6pm today after the state recorded two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said today: “We’ve had two extensive meetings this morning about this. We have to take the advice of Dr Young (Chief Health Officer). I’ve accepted that advice,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Two more cases of the virus were detected in hotel quarantine.

The Queensland lockdown was announced shortly after it was revealed NSW had recorded 19 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the outbreak to 149. 

The Queensland lockdown brings to four  the number of Aussie  capital cities in lockdown, including NSW’s Greater Sydney area, Northern Territory’s Greater Darwin region and Western Australia’s Perth and Peel regions. 

A raft of restrictions are also in place across South Australia.

The lockdowns come as there is a growing push by some premiers for a drastic reduction in the number of international arrtials.

There are concerns the situation across the country could escalate even further, with head of the Kirby Institute’s Biosecurity Research Program, Professor Raina MacIntyre, warning there was still the risk of a larger outbreak.

“If by the end of this week we see [a trend] where numbers are coming down, it may be enough, but if they’re not, then it may not be,” she told the ABC.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian provided the NSW update this morning, with 17 of the 19 cases linked to known clusters. 

Two cases are under investigation. 

A total of 67,000 tests were conducted over the period.

Of the two cases under investigation,  NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said one case lived within the eastern suburbs of Sydney and the other worked within the eastern suburbs.  

Dr Chant said seven of today’s cases were in isolation while infectious. 

“As I have indicated, what I want to see in progressive days is that we start seeing all of the cases being effectively isolated that we’re announcing,” she said. 

“That will be a key indicator of success. 

“At the moment we’re still seeing some cases that were potentially infectious in the community but what we’re hoping is because of the lockdown, the number of interactions those cases have had, where there is the potential for transmitting the virus, would have decreased significantly.” 

On Monday, NSW recorded 18 covid cases, Queensland and Western Australia both recorded two cases and the Northern Territory recorded one case.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a massive change to Australia’s coronavirus vaccination program, announcing anyone under the age of 40 can now approach their GP and request the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Pfizer is the recommended vaccine for Australians under the age of 60, with states and territories now allowing people aged between 40 and 59 to book appointments to get the shot.

AstraZeneca is earmarked for Australians over the age of 60, due to the risk of rare blood clotting disorders linked to the vaccine in younger people.

That medical advice has put further pressure on the already sluggish vaccine rollout, as all Pfizer doses need to be imported from overseas.

Australia does not have the large-scale manufacturing capability to produce the next generation mRNA vaccine domestically.

However there are ample supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is manufactured at CSL’s Melbourne manufacturing facility.

Federal health authorities have been repeatedly asked whether younger Australians could roll up their sleeves and get the AstraZeneca vaccine, if fully briefed and accepting of the associated health risks.

The answer has been that Pfizer remained the recommended vaccine for Australians under the age of 60.

But on Monday night, after an emergency meeting of the National Cabinet, the Prime Minister described the health recommendation as a “preference”.

“But the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Monday night, while still locked away in The Lodge completing his own course of quarantine.

“And so if you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP and we’ve already made announcements to support those additional consultations with GPs so you can have that conversation.”

Mr Morrison was questioned further as to whether that meant “people under 40 will be able to talk to their GPs and get the jab immediately”, regardless of their age.

“Well, if they wish to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so,” he replied.

“The answer is yes, they can go and do that.”

The ABC has sought further clarification from the Prime Minister’s Office on the issue.

People over the age of 60 will still be given priority for the AstraZeneca vaccine, but younger Australians are now able to request the shot from their doctor.

Australians under the age of 40, with the exception of those in some regional areas and the Northern Territory, have not had access to the vaccine so far and would have had to wait until the vaccination of other age groups had progressed further.

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Heartbroken North Koreans have been worrying tearfully about leader Kim Jong Un’s “emaciated looks,” state media quoted a local resident as saying, in a rare acknowledgement of foreign speculation about his weight loss.

The comments were seen as an effort to boost domestic support for Mr Kim’s efforts as he grapples with deepening economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mismanagement, UN economic sanctions and natural disasters, some experts said.

“Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw (Mr Kim’s) emaciated looks,” North Korean state TV cited the unidentified male resident wearing a straw hat as saying on Friday.

“Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally.”

After five weeks out of the spotlight, Kim Jong Un emerged earlier in the month looking noticeably slimmer. (Reuters via KCNA)

In recent state media photos, Mr Kim has appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight.

Some North Korea watchers said Mr Kim, who is about 170 centimetres tall and has previously weighed 140 kilograms, may have lost 10-20 kilograms.

Mr Kim’s health is the focus of keen outside attention as the 37-year-old leader has not publicly anointed a successor who would take charge of North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal targeting the United States and its allies in the event he is incapacitated.

Some analysts in Seoul said Mr Kim is likely to have gone on a diet to improve his health, while others speculated that his weight loss might be related to health issues.

Mr Kim, known for heavy drinking and smoking, comes from a family with a history of heart problems. His father and grandfather, who ruled North Korea before him, both died of heart issues.

In recent months, Mr Kim has called for stronger unity to overcome what he calls “the worst-ever” crisis caused by pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced North Korea’s international trade, persistent US-led sanctions and crop-killing summer storms last year.

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Rebel Wilson has copped a lashing from television news commentators and on socialmedia for her comments about Sydney’s lockdown, with panellist on The Project Steve Price last night labelling the Aussie actress “smug” and “stupid.”

Wilson yesterday posted a series of social media posts railing against Sydney’s new two-week coronavirus lockdown.

 “Sydney WTF!!!” she wrote, sharing a photo her mother had taken of bare supermarket shelves.

“You can’t keep locking down as a strategy,” Wilson wrote in another post. 

Her comments were met with a swift social media backlash yesterday, with some criticising the Aussie star for speaking up given she’s based in the US.

The Project covered the story in Monday night’s episode – and Price especially didn’t hold back.

“Not sure smug rock throwing from LA is the way to go for Rebel. I don’t think she’s done herself favours there, has she? STUPID opinion,” he said.

“I’m a bit sick of people not taking celebrities’ health advice seriously, to be honest,” said panellist Peter Helliar, tongue firmly in cheek. “Next thing, people will be questioning the science behind some of (Gwyneth Paltrow’s) GOOP products.”

But host Waleed Aly offered some possible context for Wilson’s comments, suggesting those outside of Australia view lockdowns very differently, some 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic.

“The one thing I would say is, I know a few Australians who live overseas, and it seems to me most of them feel like that,” he said.

Her strong reaction has earned the ire of social media users, with a number of news.com.au’s Twitter followers piling on the star in the comments section of this story.

“I’d say an epidemiologist would disagree with her. But an actress is clearly an authority on such things,” one quipped.

“Excellent! I was eagerly awaiting Rebel’s take on this seeing as how she lives overseas has absolutely no idea what’s been happening in Australia or why. Thank you for this…..,” said another.