WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25
Queensland’s hotel quarantine system is at capacity and new arrivals will be paused for two weeks from noon today.
Speaking at a press conference to announce Queensland had recorded zero new cases of COVID-19, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said people with compassionate exemptions and medical exemptions were not included in the move but people who were relocating from other states would need to wait.
“We simply do not have any room at the moment. Queensland is being loved to death,” she said.
“We are scrambling for hotels, and this has got to stop. It’s too much pressure,
“It’s putting our workers at risk and it’s also putting our community at risk as well.”
The Premier said many arrivals were relocating from interstate and Queensland’s hotels were full.
“We simply just do not have any room at the moment, we are reassessing, we are looking at other options.”
There are currently 5,114 people in hotel quarantine across 22 hotels in Queensland.
There are 37 active cases in the state, with 12,760 tests conducted in the last 24 hours.
Queensland Health administered 21,105 vaccines yesterday.
*Victoria has recorded 45 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as the Pfizer vaccine was opened up to those aged under 40.
The state’s health department announced the new local cases about 8.45am, which included another nine mystery infections.
The department said 36 of the 45 new cases could be linked to existing outbreaks.
But alarmingly, only 17 cases were in isolation throughout their infectious period, meaning 19 were out in the community.
Hopes of the lockdown being eased on September 2 were fading fast after the state recorded five straight days of 50 local cases and above before Wednesday’s figure.
But four key figures show the state may finally be getting on top of the latest outbreak that caused Victoria’s sixth lockdown.
The number of new local cases fell for the second straight day, the number of mystery cases dropped for the third straight day, new positive cases in isolation rose from 11 on Monday to 17 on Tuesday, and thousands of Victorians aged under 40 rushed to book a Covid vaccination and crashed the website for the second time in two days.
It comes as the Pfizer vaccine was made available to Victorians aged 16 to 39 years old from 7am on Wednesday.
*NSW has reported 919 new local coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest number ever recorded in the state.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there had been two deaths since yesterday’s update: the woman in her 30s reported yesterday whose death has been referred to the coroner and a man in his 80s who died at Hornsby Hospital after acquiring his infection at the Greenwood Aged Care facility at Normanhurst.
The man is the third death linked to the facility.
The danger for Australians still in Kabul is increasing every hour, the Home Affairs Minister has warned, after another 750 people were rescued overnight.
Four RAAF flights have flown out of Kabul airport to a Middle Eastern airbase in recent hours, bringing the total brought out by Australia to more than 2,450.
Minister Karen Andrews said Australian forces had been able to evacuate more people from Afghanistan than they hoped.
“This is in excess of what we thought we’d be able to achieve in such a short space of time,” Ms Andrews said.
But she said the unpredictable situation in Taliban-held Kabul was worsening.
She said the government was treating each flight as if it could be the last, as the August 31 deadline for US troops to pull out of the country approaches.
“We know that the threat, the issues in relation to security of our people there increases on an hourly basis,” Ms Andrews said.
Multiple Taliban checkpoints to the airport are preventing Australians and visa holders still trapped in the city from getting inside.
Ms Andrews said the number of people who remained to be rescued was constantly shifting, but it numbered closer to the hundreds than the dozens.
A third plane carrying evacuees touched down in Australia overnight.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has confirmed America’s remaining troops in Afghanistan are on track to leave in a week, ending their 20-year presence in the country.
Mr Biden had kept options open to extend his military deadline beyond August 31, since the chaos and humanitarian crisis caused by the fall of Kabul to Taliban control.
After discussions with his military advisers and fellow leaders of G7 nations, Mr Biden said he had decided his original withdrawal order would stand, “based on the achievement of our objectives”.
Mr Biden said in an address he was pushing US forces to leave “the sooner the better” due to increasing threats from Islamic State and other terror groups in Kabul.
The threats were “real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration”, he said.
Mr Biden said more than 70,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14.
The White House said the completion of the US mission at the end of the month depended on “continued cooperation with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees” to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Mr Biden’s decision means more than 7,000 US forces in and around the airport, as well as weapons and equipment, will be put aboard military planes and removed from Afghanistan by next Tuesday.
Because the US Army and Marines are providing most of the security at Kabul airport, military forces of other Western nations are expected to leave before them.
In the meantime, the pace of evacuations continues to rise, with 21,600 people flown out of Afghanistan’s capital in the last day.
US negotiators are keeping communication open with senior Taliban leadership to negotiate a safe withdrawal, including through a secret visit to Kabul earlier this week by CIA Director William Burns.
Mr Biden has asked the Pentagon and US State Department for “contingency plans to adjust the timeline” in case his withdrawal deadline needs to be altered.
The Taliban earlier insisted that all foreign troops must be out of Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline.
A spokesman for the Taliban also told skilled Afghans not to flee the country, as thousands continued to flock to Kabul’s airport to seek refuge.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghans had nothing to fear and that they should go home.
“We guarantee their security,” Mr Mujahid told a news conference in the capital, which Taliban fighters seized on August 15.
He said the Taliban had not agreed to an extension of the August 31 deadline and called on the US not to encourage “Afghan experts” to leave their homeland.
“This country needs their expertise,” Mr Mujahid said.
“They should not be taken to other countries.
“They should not encourage the Afghan people to flee Afghanistan.”
He also urged foreign embassies not to close or stop work. Australia closed its embassy in Kabul in May.
As he spoke, Western troops were working frantically to get more foreigners and Afghans onto planes and out of the country.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she had received credible reports of “summary executions” of civilians and of Afghan security forces who had surrendered.
The Taliban has said it will investigate such reports.
Mr Mujahid said there was no list of people targeted for reprisals and that the group was trying to come up with a procedure so women could return to work.
Charlie Watts, the drummer who provided the backbone of the Rolling Stones’ songs for more than half a century, has died at the age of 80.
Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family,” his publicist Bernard Doherty said.
“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones, as one of the greatest drummers of his generation.”
Mick Jagger paid a simple tribute to his longtime band mate on social media, posting an image of Watts laughing while behind a drum kit on stage.
Watts had announced he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 because of an undefined health issue.
The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom.
He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential members.
Watts stayed on, and largely held himself apart, through the drug abuse, creative clashes and ego wars that helped kill founding member Brian Jones, drove bassist Bill Wyman and Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor to quit and otherwise made being in the Stones the most exhausting of jobs.
A classic Stones song like Brown Sugar and Start Me Up often began with a hard guitar riff from Richards, with Watts following closely behind, and Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, “fattening the sound.”
Watts’s swing, power and timekeeping were never better showcased than during the concert documentary, Shine a Light, when director Martin Scorsese filmed Jumpin’ Jack Flash from where he drummed toward the back of the stage.
The Stones began, Watts said, “as white blokes from England playing black American music” but quickly evolved their own distinctive sound.
Watts was a jazz drummer in his early years and never lost his affinity for the music he first loved, heading his own jazz band and taking on numerous other side projects.
He had his eccentricities — Watts liked to collect cars even though he didn’t drive and would simply sit in them in his garage. But he was a steadying influence on stage and off as the Stones defied all expectations by rocking well into their 70s, decades longer than their old rivals The Beatles.
*Watts is shown smiling alongside his wife and dog in one of the last photos taken before his death.
The poignant final picture shows Watts, dressed in a beige suit and black loafers, next to his wife of 57 years Shirley, as they adopt a rescued greyhound from the charity Forever Hounds Trust.
It was taken at a charity event in May 2020 and the couple beamed as they welcomed five-year-old Suzie into their lives after years of racing.
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