WEDNESDAY, August 18
In a shocking escalation in the COVID-19 danger in NSW, the state recorded 633 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday – the largest daily total ever recorded in the state.
The news came as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that contact restrictions will be eased two days earlier across south-east Queensland, as a result of low local case numbers this week.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed three people with COVID-19 have died.
A man in his 60s who was in Liverpool Hopsital and two men in their 70s who died at Nepean Hospital.
“What the data is telling us in the last few days is that we haven’t seen the worst of it,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“And the way that we stop this is by everybody staying at home.”
Of the new cases, 550 were in Western and south-west Sydney.
The Premier said there was particular concern about the virus spreading in the suburbs of Merrylands, Guildford, Auburn, Greenacre, St Marys and Strathfield.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said the data showed that each person infected was passing on the virus to more than one person.
“I can’t express enough my level of concern at these rising numbers of cases,” she said.
There are 462 people with COVID-19 in NSW hospitals, 77 of them are in intensive care with 25 of those on ventilators.
Dr Chant said those in hospital included patients in their teens up to those in their 80s.
It has also been revealed that authorities in the state have raised the white flag on identifying venues visited by Covid cases – as infections continue to steadily rise.
Residents on social media had noticed the change over the past few days, asking why venues of concern in Sydney were not being listed by authorities despite the lion’s share of cases occurring in the city.
Now The Daily Telegraph has revealed that, under a new risk-based approach, places like supermarkets and shopping centres across Sydney won’t be added to the list of venues of concern, which had already become days out of date.
The change, made quietly over the weekend, means officials will now focus their contact tracing efforts on settings where Covid is more likely to be transmitted, like visits between households, workplaces, healthcare and education sites.
*Queensland has recorded no new community cases of COVID-19, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.
Four cases were recorded in the past 24 hours — three were detected on an LNG tanker and the other in home quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk announced that contact restrictions will be eased two days earlier across south-east Queensland, as a result of low local case numbers this week.
From 4:00pm on Friday across 11 local government areas, 30 people will be allowed in home and in public places, while up to 100 people will be able to attend funerals and weddings.
Community sport can resume this weekend.
Masks will no longer be required outdoors, but must still be worn indoors for another week.
*Qantas Group will make it mandatory for all of its 22,000 workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Frontline employees – including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers – will need to be fully vaccinated by November 15 and the remainder of employees by March 31.
There will be exemptions for those who are unable for documented medical reasons to be vaccinated, which is expected to be very rare.
“Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again.”
*The AstraZeneca vaccine is set to undergo a name change in Australia to make it easier for people who’ve received the vaccine to travel overseas.
In Australia the original name is still used, and AstraZeneca is in the process of registering the brand name Vaxzevria, which is now used in Europe.
“This minor difference, which will soon disappear, may have created misperceptions that the vaccine is not the same,” the pharmaceuticals manufacturer said in a statement on its website.
“For vaccines produced in our global supply chain that are using the original name Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, we are currently in the process of registering the trade name Vaxzevria, which is used in many other markets, including the EU.
“This will facilitate travel for people who have received AstraZeneca’s vaccine from anywhere in the world.”
*Victoria has recorded 24 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, 18 of whom were in quarantine while infectious.
Contact tracers have linked 20 of the cases to existing clusters in Melbourne’s Delta outbreak.
Victoria processed 39,832 test results on Tuesday and delivered 27,173 vaccine doses at state-run sites.
Melbourne’s lockdown, which will run until September 2, has been tightened further with the cancellation of late-night weekend public transport.
No trains, trams or buses will run between 1:00am and 5:00am on Saturdays and 1:00am and 6:00am on Sundays for the next two weeks.
The announcement of the cancellation, which the government said was the same setting in place during last year’s second wave, comes a day after playgrounds were closed and a curfew was put in place.
Clinical epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, who heads the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, said the state was at a crucial point in the outbreak.
Professor Baxter said bringing community transmission under control in the next 14 days was crucial if Melbourne was to avoid potentially spending months under heavy restrictions.
“What happens in these two weeks is what’s going to determine whether we’re able to get out of lockdown, or whether we have to stay in restrictions until we vaccinate our way out and that’s October/November,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
*New Zealand health authorities have recorded four new COVID-19 cases, one of which is a worker at Auckland City Hospital.
The country was plunged into lockdown yesterday after recording its first community case of COVID-19 in six months.
One of the four new cases is a workmate of yesterday’s confirmed case, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said.
Another is a fully vaccinated health worker at Auckland City Hospital who had been working recently.
There is limited movement within the hospital and it is testing patients and colleagues of the health professional.
An urgent and dangerous Defence Force mission to evacuate Australians and Afghans from Kabul’s besieged international airport has begun, with an RAAF transport aircraft flying out of the capital this morning, reports the ABC.
The capital and its main airport were a scene of chaos in recent days after thousands of people desperately tried to flee from the Taliban as they entered the city.
Sources in Kabul have told the ABC remaining Australians were told to head to the Hamid Karzai International Airport last night, with a military flight expected to leave early this morning.
Flight tracking websites recorded an RAAF Hercules aircraft heading from a military base in the Middle East towards Afghanistan just after midnight Canberra time.
It briefly reappeared on flight radars in Pakistani airspace this morning after going dark for several hours as it descended into Afghanistan.
An RAAF Hercules aircraft briefly reappeared on flight trackers after crossing back into Pakistan from Afghanistan.(Flight Radar 24)
The ABC understands there are some evacuees on board the flight, but the federal government is yet to formally confirm this.
Sources have also told the ABC a second flight into Kabul today is being considered, which is dependant on a landing slot at Hamid Karzai International Airport being allocated to Australia by the US.
There are hopes about 600 Australians and Afghans can be rescued from Afghanistan in coming days.
In a speech to soldiers preparing to deploy yesterday, Liberal MP and Afghanistan veteran Phillip Thompson warned them of the danger they were about to encounter.
“I need you to understand what your nation is asking you to do,” Mr Thompson said.
“You are going into the belly of the beast, a place where the rule of law does not exist, on an operation that is dangerous, serious, and it’s in our national interests for you to succeed.”
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Afghan support workers being evacuated from Kabul would face security checks once they arrived in Australia.
“Whilst I understand that these people have supported Australia, we still have an obligation to Australians here to make sure that those that we are giving permanency to in Australia have gone through the appropriate health, medical and security vetting that we need to,” she told Nine Radio.
The Taliban has made a string of assurances to Afghans and the world — including that there will be no revenge attacks on anyone who worked or fought with the US — during the first press conference since its rapid advance on the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The group also reiterated through spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid that it would work with women, but under the confines of sharia law.
The militants were speaking to local and international media, after sweeping through provinces and capitals virtually unopposed, and then capturing Kabul, which led to thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the country in chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.
The press conference held late on Tuesday (local time) sought to reassure a wary public that the insurgent group would bring law and order to Afghanistan and that the horrors of their previous rule would not be repeated.
“We want the world to trust us,” Mujahid said.
“I would like to assure all our compatriots, whether translators or those in military activities or civilians, all of them have been pardoned, nobody is going to be treated with revenge,” Mujahid said.
He told reporters that all foreign embassies and aid organisations would have their security ensured as well.
When asked about the status of women’s rights and freedom of the press under the Taliban, Mujahid said that both women and the media would be able to participate in society in accordance with sharia law.
“The Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of women under the laws of sharia,” he said.
“We are going to allow women to work and study within frameworks,” he said.
“Women will be very active in this society but within the frameworks of Islam. We are guaranteeing all their rights within the limits of Islam,” Mujahid said.
Pushed further on the issue and the exact make-up of those laws Mujahid said that would become clearer once a government was formed.
In the same hour as the press conference, First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh staked his claim to the presidency, saying that under Afghanistan’s constitution, in the event that the president flees, as former president Ashraf Ghani did, then the Vice-President becomes the caretaker president.
“I am currently inside my country and am the legitimate caretaker president,” he tweeted.
Mr Ghani fled abroad as the Taliban advanced, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed but Mr Saleh is making a stand in his home province of Panjshir.
Maki Kaji, the creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life’s work was spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company said on Tuesday.
He was 69 and had bile duct cancer.
Known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” Mr Kaji created the puzzle to be easy for children and others who didn’t want to think too hard.
Its name is made up of the Japanese characters for “number” and “single,” and players place the numbers one through nine in rows, columns and blocks without repeating them.
Maki Kaji was known as the Godfather of Sudoku.
Mr Kaji was chief executive at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July and died on August 10 at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area.
He travelled to more than 30 countries spreading his enjoyment of puzzles.
Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to Tokyo-based Nikoli.
Sudoku was also never trademarked except within Japan, driving its overseas craze, Nikoli said.
“Kaji-san came up with the name Sudoku and was loved by puzzle fans from all over the world. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts for the patronage you have shown throughout his life,” the company said in a statement.
Originally, Sudoku was called “Suji-wa-Dokushin-ni-Kagiru,” which translates to, “Numbers should be single, a bachelor.”
It wasn’t until 2004 that Sudoku became a global hit, after a fan from New Zealand pitched it and got it published in the British newspaper The Times.
In recent years, Sudoku, believed to be the world’s most popular pencil puzzle, has come out in digital versions.
Born in the main northern island of Hokkaido, Mr Maki started Japan’s first puzzle magazine after dropping out of Keio University in Tokyo.
He founded Nikoli in 1983 and came up with Sudoku about the same time.
Yoshinao Anpuku, who succeeded Mr Kaji as Nikoli’s chief executive, said Mr Kaji made friends easily and had a “unique and playful approach toward life.”
“Our mission is to pursue Maki’s vision and possibilities,” Mr Anpuku said.
Mr Kaji is survived by his wife Naomi and two daughters.
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