Daily News Roundup

September 13, 2021

 

MONDAY, September 13

Queensland has recorded two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and two overseas cases.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the local cases are considered low-risk — both students from St Thomas More College, linked to the Sunnybank cluster, and have been in home isolation.

Ms Palaszczuk thanked the 1,000 families from the Sunnybank school currently holed up in 14-days home quarantine.

“We are thanking you for doing the right thing for Queensland,” she said.

“We saw how well it worked in the Indooroopilly cluster when everyone did the right thing.”

“Now we ask everyone of those families, because as we see, we are seeing a few cases pop up from that cluster but they are in home quarantine.”

More than 14,500 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, while Queensland Health administered 15,378 COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Ms Palaszczuk said 56.39 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have now had their first dose and 38.08 per cent are fully vaccinated.

The new cases in students came as more children became eligible for vaccination. 

“Today the vaccination program for 12- to 15-year-olds opened up, which is wonderful news,” she said.

“I know there are a lot of students out there looking forward to getting their vaccines.”

*NSW recorded 1,257 locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday.

There were seven COVID-19 deaths in the reporting period.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian fronted the media this morning despite announcing on Friday that her daily briefings would end from today.

Ms Berejiklian appealed to people “not to let their guard down” despite the easing of some restrictions today.

“It’s way too early for any of us to get complacent and we are concerned that an unexpected event, a super spreader event can suddenly have a major setback,” she said.

The latest vaccination figures show that 46.2 percent of adults have received two doses and 78.5 per cent have had their first dose.

The Premier warned that there would be different rules for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated once the state opened up.

“Don’t assume that at 80 per cent double-dose vaccination that unvaccinated people are going to have all those freedoms,” she said.

“I want to make that point very clear.”

*Victoria has recorded 473 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day tally of the outbreak so far.

Of the new cases, 202 have so far been linked to known outbreaks.

There were 49,037 test results received yesterday, and 30,032 doses of vaccine were administered at state-run sites.

Four Melbourne childcare centres were listed as tier 1 exposure sites overnight, bringing the number of venues to nearly 1,100.

The latest figures show at least 66.2 per cent of the eligible 16+ population has had one dose of a vaccine, and 40.8 per cent are fully vaccinated.

V/Line passengers are again dealing with major disruptions to train services after hundreds of workers forced into isolation.

Five drivers and staff have now tested positive to COVID-19, forcing V/Line to furlough 300 workers, up from 180 a day earlier.

V/Line will operate a limited number of morning services on the Ballarat and Bendigo lines, and a full service on the Seymour line, but there are major changes elsewhere.

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Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at postgraduate levels, but classrooms will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress is compulsory, the Taliban have said.

The announcement came as a Taliban official said Qatar’s Foreign Minister arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul — the highest level visitor since the Taliban announced their interim Cabinet.

There was no immediate confirmation of the visit by Qatari officials.

Earlier Sunday, Afghan Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani laid out the new policies at a news conference. It came several days after Afghanistan’s new rulers formed an all-male government.

On Saturday, the Taliban had raised their flag over the presidential palace, signalling the start of the work of the new government.

The world has been watching closely to see to what extent the Taliban might act differently from their first time in power, in the late 1990s.

During that era, girls and women were denied an education and were excluded from public life.

The Taliban have suggested they have changed, including in their attitudes toward women.

However, women have been banned from sports and the Taliban have used violence in recent days against women protesters demanding equal rights.

Mr Haqqani said the Taliban did not want to turn the clock back 20 years.

“We will start building on what exists today,” he said.

However, female university students will face restrictions, including a compulsory dress code.

Mr Haqqani said hijabs would be mandatory but did not specify if this meant compulsory headscarves or also compulsory face coverings.

Gender segregation will also be enforced, he said.

“We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said.

“We will not allow co-education.”

Mr Haqqani said the subjects being taught would also be reviewed. While he did not elaborate, he said he wanted graduates of Afghanistan’s universities to be competitive with university graduates in the region and the rest of the world.

The Taliban, who subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam, banned music and art during their previous time in power.

This time around television has remained and news channels still show women presenters, but the Taliban messaging has been erratic.

In an interview on Afghanistan’s popular TOLO News, Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said last week that women should give birth and raise children.

While the Taliban have not ruled out the eventual participation of women in government, the spokesman said “it’s not necessary that women be in the Cabinet”.

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Daniil Medvedev spoiled Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam party, producing a brilliant performance to down the world number one in straight sets at Flushing Meadows to win the US Open.

Medvedev, who had lost his previous two finals at major tournaments, came out firing and would not relent, sweeping Djokovic aside 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours 15 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The win not only ended Djokovic’s chances of emulating Rod Laver’s calendar-year Grand Slam – he had earlier won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021 — it also stopped the Serbian superstar from passing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for a men’s record Fox Sport

As Medvedev celebrated, Djokovic, after hugging and congratulating his opponent, went back to his chair, put a towel over his head, and burst into tears, huge, body-wracking sobs consuming the 20-time grand slam champion.

So much of that is just pent up tension.

He was just outplayed today. It hasn’t happened often in his career of late, but it happened today.

*Samantha Stosur has achieved more glory at the US Open championships, where she pulled off her greatest triumph a decade ago, winning the women’s doubles crown with Chinese partner Zhang Shuai.

The 37-year-old Australian ensured that the teenage women stars at Flushing Meadows weren’t going to get everything their own way on Sunday, as she and Zhang defeated US teenager Coco Gauff and Caty McNally 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in an absorbing final.

Gauff and McNally, seeded 11th, were hoping to join 18-year-old singles champion Emma Raducanu as teenage title winners at the US Open.

The 2011 singles champion Stosur wasn’t at her best but still produced the goods near the end of the match as she lifted a second women’s doubles title in New York, having reigned 16 years ago with Lisa Raymond.

*Australian Dylan Alcott completed a remarkable wheelchair tennis Golden Slam on Monday (AEST) by capturing titles at the US Open.

Top seed Alcott defeated Dutchman Niels Vink 7-5 6-2 in 75 minutes in the quad singles wheelchair final, becoming the first man to win all four Grand Slams and Paralympic gold in the same year.

Alcott won his second consecutive Paralympics title in Tokyo after claiming titles at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon earlier in the year.

“I can’t believe I just won the Golden Slam,” Alcott said following his win. “I used to hate myself so much, I hated my disability, I didn’t even want to be here any more.

“I found tennis and it changed and saved my life.

“Now I’ve become the only male ever in any form of tennis to win the Golden Slam which is pretty cool.

“To everybody at home, I love you. Hopefully this puts a smile on your face. Better times are around the horizon.

“To everybody in New York, I feel honoured and privileged to be out here on this court.

“I’m going to be upfront, I don’t know whether I’ll be back here, so I really appreciate everything.

“Thanks for making a young, fat disabled kid with a really bad haircut, thanks for making his dreams come true because I can’t believe that I just did it.”

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The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog hailed a deal struck with Iran on Sunday over access to surveillance equipment at Iranian nuclear facilities, saying it allowed space for diplomatic talks.

The agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) soothes a sore point in deadlocked talks to resuscitate the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, also known as the JCPOA.

Since Donald Trump’s administration walked away from the JCPOA in 2018, Iran has also retreated from many of its commitments.

In a joint statement Sunday, Grossi and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) chief Mohammad Eslami — also one of the country’s vice presidents — hailed a “spirit of cooperation and mutual trust”, while noting that surveillance was an issue to be treated “exclusively in a technical manner”.

Iran has refused to provide real-time footage from cameras and other surveillance tools that the UN agency has installed in these locations.

Under a compromise deal, the monitoring equipment remains in the agency’s custody but the data is in Iran’s possession, and must not be erased as long as the arrangement remains in force. 

With no word on next steps, the IAEA said in a report last Tuesday that its “verification and monitoring activities have been seriously undermined” by Tehran’s actions and Grossi spoke of a “major communication breakdown” with Iran.

“The way and the timing are agreed by the two sides.”

However, in terms of the access to the information recorded by the equipment, Grossi said “the reconstruction, the coming together of the jigsaw puzzle will come when there is an agreement at the JCPOA level”. 

Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, welcomed the results of Grossi’s Tehran visit and called for a resumption of negotiations with Iran.

His call was echoed by European Union diplomat and nuclear deal negotiator Enrique Mora, who said he had “the same objective”.

The surveillance issue had heightened tensions at the time the new government of Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi was taking charge in Tehran.

Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at the International Crisis Group think tank, said of Grossi’s visit that “Iran’s turnabout is… indicative of the fact that it still wants to try to revive the JCPOA”.

He added that Raisi’s administration will be hoping Grossi’s visit heads off a possible resolution censuring Iran at next week’s meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors.

“We have decided to be present at the next meeting and to continue our talks on the sidelines” of next week’s meeting, Iran’s Eslami told the IRNA news agency.