Daily News Roundup

July 15, 2021

 

THURSDAY, July 15

Queensland has recorded three new community cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours with mask-wearing restrictions to be extended for a number of regions for another week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.

One of the latest cases is a 12-year-old who had completed their quarantine in Sydney and flew into Brisbane on QF544 on July 9.

The child’s parent has also tested positive.

The other locally acquired case is a fully vaccinated international airport worker.

Ms Palaszczuk said because of the new cases, masks will need to continue to be worn for another week in the 11 local government areas in south-east Queensland currently under restrictions.

Those areas include Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim.

Townsville restrictions will be eased at 6:00am as planned.

Ms Palaszczuk said she knows people will be disappointed by the announcement.

“I am disappointed by that, Dr Young is disappointed by that, but what we are seeing is these outbreaks are happening across the country,” she said.

“We just have to get on top of these things quickly, so I am asking Queenslanders for their patience and understanding because we have to get this right.

“So that is to avoid a lockdown, we just want to make sure we get on top of those cases.”

There are 50 active cases in the state.

NSW recorded 65 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday. 

It’s the lowest total of new infections in four days.

There were around 58,000 tests conducted yesterday. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says today’s figure is a welcome drop on yesterday’s numbers – but she remains concerned 28 of the cases were infectious in the community. 

“Whilst the case numbers are bouncing around, we are seeing a stabilisation,” the Premier said.

“They’ re not growing exponentially. That tells us that the settings that we have in place are having an impact.

“My strongest message to everybody is keep doing what you are doing.”

But she warned people not to let down their guard.

“I am predicting that we will have higher case numbers tomorrow,” she said. 

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant expressed concern people with symptoms were going to medical centres, GPs and pharmacists.

“We are urging you to ring ahead and obviously if you are sick and need care, there should be no barrier to you getting that care,” she said.

“But we just need to bring you into your medical care in a safe way.”

Health authorities have listed areas of increased concern which include Fairfield Heights, Smithfield, Canley Heights, Fairfield West, Bankstown, Condor Park, Hurstville, Roselands, Rosebery, Canterbury, Belmore, the Georges River area and the Liverpool local government area.

Victoria recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, the state’s health department has confirmed.

Seven of those cases were announced by authorities at yesterday’s press conference, and the ABC reported a further three throughout the afternoon.

The infections were detected from 27,061 test results processed on Wednesday.

The daily tally counts positive results in the 24 hours to midnight, meaning more infections could be announced this morning.

The rapid escalation of the outbreak prompted mask rules to be tightened from midnight, and further restrictions are expected to be introduced later today.

In a familiar warning to a state which has lived through four lockdowns and more outbreaks, COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar yesterday said the coming days were critical.

Victorians continue to be urged to be tested, check in to venues and follow physical distancing guidelines.

###

Victorian couple Lissa Koehler and her wife Kariah had always planned to give their three-year-old daughter a biological sibling, using one of five embryos kept in storage for the past five years.

Last week, the donor that provided sperm for all of Lissa’s embryos withdrew consent for them to be used, and Lissa was told they would be destroyed, reports the ABC..

Unlike other parts of Australia, Victoria has laws which explicitly allow sperm donors to withdraw consent for their sperm to be used, even after the creation of an embryo.

“I feel like my heart’s been ripped out of my chest, I feel like I have lost a child,” Lissa said.

She said that, given her daughter may never meet her father, she had hoped to give her another biological connection.

“She would have a link to a biological human being her brother or her sister, so that was always my rationale behind it,” she said.

The road to having her daughter had already been a difficult one.

Putting on five kilograms in fluid within 48 hours was just one example of the severe side effects she experienced while creating the embryos through IVF and said it had a big impact on her emotional state. 

“I’m not someone who has suffered from mental illness or anything like depression or anxiety, but at one point, I just didn’t even want to live,” she said. 

“I’m also someone who has suffered sexual assault, so the amount of internal ultrasounds and prodding and touching and all of that was quite difficult for me to deal with.”

Lissa said even if she started over with a new donor, being five years older would have a huge impact on whether she could conceive.

“It’s unfortunately a reality that a woman at 35, compared to a woman at 40 is not as fertile, so the reality for us now is that we would have to start the IVF process all over again,” she said.

“For me, putting my body through that is a really, really scary and daunting thought.”

She said despite the potential fallout of the donor retracting his consent, she does not remember being notified about the possibility when she was consulting with her clinic.

“We had two counselling sessions, and it’s not something that I recall being told at all,” she said.

“If it was said, it was very loosely brushed over.”

Laws are ‘cruel and crushing’

Jess and Leroy Natoli had just moved from Melbourne to Adelaide, having spent more than $30,000 creating embryos using the same donor, when they were told they could not use them.

Despite living in a different state, the couple have no legal recourse, and the Victorian laws still apply.

“It’s quite scary when that can be taken away and everything that you’ve put all your time, money, effort, emotional time into, can just be destroyed with just one person’s decision,” Leroy said.

“We want to see Victoria come in line with all the other states where, if a donor pulls out, they can pull out any of their donations, but when the actual embryos are created, the donor has no right to ask for those to be destroyed.”

###

A new attorney has been appointed to represent Britney Spears in her conservatorship after a hearing in which the singer tearfully spoke about the case’s impact on her life, reports Reuters news agency.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny on Wednesday approved Spears hiring former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart to represent her.

The ruling was cheered by fans outside the courthouse.

Mr Rosengart requested that Ms Spears’s father, Jamie, step down as her conservator, but that was rejected.

Ms Spears via phone link spoke for the second hearing in a row, at one point calling the acts of the conservatorship that has governed her personal and financial affairs since early 2008 “cruelty”.

She asked that the case end immediately, but not if she has to go through more “stupid” evaluations.

After the decision, the singer broke down in tears as she again pleaded for her father to be removed immediately from the legal arrangement.

“You’re allowing my dad to ruin my life,” Ms Spears said.

“I have to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse,” she added.

The hearing came three weeks after Ms Spears dramatically addressed the court for the first time in open session, telling Judge Penny she was being forced to take medication and use an intrauterine device for birth control, said she was not allowed to marry her boyfriend, and said she wanted to own her own money.

“I just want my life back,” she said on June 23.

Spears supporters gathered outside the Los Angeles courthouse where the hearing was held, as they have during recent hearings.

In Washington, DC, a group of Spears supporters demonstrated on the National Mall in support of the singer.

###

Members of the Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association have expressed disappointment after the case against a former farm worker accused of placing needles in strawberries in 2018 was dropped.

My Ut Trinh — who was a farm supervisor at Berrylicious farm in Caboolture, north of Brisbane — was arrested after needles were found in punnets purchased at supermarkets.

The contamination scare resulted in a social media frenzy, with dozens of copycat cases reported to police across Australia.

For a time, some major supermarkets stopped stocking strawberries and thousands of tonnes of fruit ended up being dumped at the peak of the Queensland and New South Wales strawberry season.

Ms Trinh, 53, was set to face a four-week trial in the Brisbane District Court but Judge Michael Byrne yesterday told Ms Trinh’s interpreters to relay to her: “The prosecution have indicated that they will no longer proceed against you with these charges.

“You are now discharged and you can leave the dock.”

QGSA president Adrian Schultz said that, while industry members were “very disappointed that charges have been dropped” they “respected the legal process”.

“There must be a good reason for it to happen but the impact that this had on many people’s businesses and livelihoods should not be forgotten,” Mr Schultz said.

The nation’s strawberry growers contributed more than $472 million to the economy in 2019–2020.

Berries Australia director Rachel Mackenzie said the silver lining since the strawberry sabotage crisis had been “much greater cohesion within the industry with crisis management protocols”. 

“The berry industry was able to support our growers very quickly with COVID-19, as we had already been through a crisis,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“We had all the connections and communication channels set up.” 

Ms Mackenzie said the sector had undergone massive changes.

“Everyone is now hyper-vigilant about these issues and there have been increased efforts around traceability.

“These are risks that not just happen on a farm but [also] all through the supply chain, and one of the most significant risks is actually from copycats.” 

Since the crisis in 2018, the federal government has increased the maximum prison sentence for food-tampering from 10 to 15 years.

Mr Schultz said the industry was now focused on the future and the bumper crop ahead.

A cooler, wetter winter had slowed production at the start of the season, delaying the full potential impact of worker shortages caused by the pandemic.