Daily News Roundup

November 8, 2021


 

MONDAY, November 8

Victoria has recorded 1,126 new local COVID-19 cases and five deaths.

There are now 16,178 active cases of the virus in Victoria, and 366 people have died during the current Delta outbreak.

Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino announced that free, at-home rapid antigen tests will be available for all schools from next week.

The tests will be given to 20 schools affected by COVID-19 outbreaks this week, and will then be distributed to all Victorian schools.

The tests will be offered to unvaccinated students under 12 years old, who are primary close contacts of a positive case at their school.

Usually these students are asked to quarantine for 14 days, but the new testing program would allow them to return to school after seven days if they return a negative test on day six.

After that, the students can return to the classroom but will have to take the rapid antigen test before school on days eight to 14 of the quarantine period.

There are 556 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Victoria, of whom 91 are in intensive care and 54 are on a ventilator.

The new cases were detected from 44,479 test results processed on Sunday.

The health department says about 84 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and older have now been fully vaccinated.

The state’s restrictions will ease again once 90 per cent of Victorians aged 12+ have been fully vaccinated, which is expected to occur around November 24.

*Australia’s booster vaccination program begins today, meaning anyone over 18 who received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago — May 8 — can book to have a third shot.

While today marks the formal beginning of the booster program, as of Saturday more than 173,000 boosters had already been administered.

Only the Pfizer vaccine is currently being offered for booster shots, meaning people who have received the AstraZeneca jab as their primary dose are being recommended to take a different brand for their booster.

However, the government’s expert advisory group on vaccines has said that AstraZeneca can be used as a booster for people who received it as their primary course, or if they had an adverse reaction to an mRNA vaccine.

Moderna vaccines have been bought to be included in the booster program, but the company is awaiting final approval by the medical regulator.

The government has said people will not be required to receive booster shots in order to be exempt from COVID-19 restrictions.

But the Health Minister Greg Hunt said while two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine provided “very good protection, especially against severe disease”, the vaccine’s ability to prevent transmission waned over time.

“A booster dose, six or more months after the second dose, will make sure that the protection from the first doses is even stronger and longer lasting and should help prevent spread of the virus,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.

Mr Hunt said there was no global view yet as to whether a fourth or annual vaccines would be needed.

“The epidemiology and history still has to be determined on that,” he said.

*Queensland has recorded zero new COVID-19 cases after the state’s far north was put on alert over the weekend when it was revealed an infectious traveller spent time in the region.

Several positive cases have been infectious in different parts of the state in recent days, with Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirming a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case has visited Toowoomba Hospital.

People are now being asked not to visit the hospital at this time.

“We are limiting the restrictions of visitors to the hospital,” Ms D’Ath said.

“Of course, we will still allow for end-of-life care visits and palliative care.”

Acting Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said the relative had tested negative.

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Former vocalist and founding member of British reggae group UB40 — which rose to fame in the 1980s with hits like Red, Red Wine and Can’t Help Falling In Love — has died at the age of 64, his band members confirmed.

Terence Wilson — who went by the stage name Astro — performed with UB40 until 2013 before forming a breakaway band.

“We are absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken to have to tell you that our beloved Astro has today passed away after a very short illness,” his current band, UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, said on Twitter late Saturday.

“The world will never be the same without him.”

His former band confirmed the news, saying Wilson had died after “a short illness”.

UB40’s pop reggae cover of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine propelled them to fame, with the band going on to sell more than 100 million records.

They also held the record — shared with Madness — for most weeks spent in the UK singles chart in the 1980s.

Hailing from the British Midlands city of Birmingham, the group rode a wave of youthful discontent against the economic and political status quo, with their name referring to a form provided to people claiming unemployment benefits.

Drummer Jimmy Brown told the Guardian this year that the group had even been under surveillance by British intelligence.

“MI5 were tapping our phones, watching our houses, all sorts,” he said.

“We weren’t planning the revolution, but if the revolution happened, we knew what side we were going to be on.”

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The astronauts departing the International Space Station will be stuck using incontinence pants on the way home because of their capsule’s broken toilet

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur described the situation Friday as “suboptimal” but manageable.

She and her three crewmates will spend 20 hours in their SpaceX capsule, from the time the hatches are closed until Monday morning’s (US time) planned splashdown.

“Space flight is full of lots of little challenges,” she said during a news conference from orbit.

“This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission.

“So we’re not too worried about it.”

After a series of meetings on Friday, mission managers decided to bring McArthur and the rest of her crew home before launching their replacements.

That SpaceX launch had already been delayed more than a week by bad weather and an undisclosed medical issue involving one of the crew.

SpaceX is now targeting lift-off for Thursday (AEST) at the earliest.

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who will return with Ms McArthur, told reporters that the past six months have been intense.

The astronauts conducted a series of spacewalks to upgrade the station’s power grid, endured inadvertent thruster firings by docked Russian vehicles that sent the station into brief spins, and hosted a private Russian film crew — a space station first.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Two astronauts embark on spacewalk to install solar panels on the International Space Station.

They also had to deal with the toilet leak, pulling up panels in their SpaceX capsule and discovering pools of urine.

The problem was first noted during SpaceX’s private flight in September, when a tube came unglued and spilled urine beneath the floorboards.

SpaceX fixed the toilet on the capsule awaiting lift-off but deemed the one in orbit unusable.

Engineers determined that the capsule had not been structurally compromised by the urine and was safe for the ride back.

The astronauts will have to rely on what NASA describes as absorbent “undergarments”.

On the culinary side, the astronauts grew the first chilli peppers in space — “a nice morale boost” according to Ms McArthur.

“They have a nice spiciness to them, a little bit of a lingering burn,” she said.

“Some found that more troublesome than others.”

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Authorities have swung into action in Australia’s northern waters, destroying illegal Indonesian boats and seizing hundreds of kilograms of fishing gear and seafood, report the ABC. 

The Australian Border Force (ABF) has released photographs showing the small colourful boats burning at sea in the wake of the three-day operation near the Rowley Shoals Marine Park off the northern Western Australian coast.

The actions come after local tour operators raised the alarm about dozens of foreign boats in the area, saying they feared piracy during recent trips.

Rear Admiral Mark Hill, who heads the Maritime Border Command, said three boats were destroyed and 13 others escorted out of Australian waters.

“We have had a busy weekend where we have encountered 16 vessels fishing illegally, and responded in conjunction with WA Fisheries,” he said.

“It demonstrates the resolve that we have to counter illegal fishing, not only in the Rowley Shoals area, but throughout the north of the country.”

The patrol boat HMAS Larrakia joins other Australian fisheries authority vessels in intercepting illegal boats off Australia’s north-west coast.(Supplied: AustraEconomic factors

Fishing equipment was seized from the boats before they were led out of Australian waters, and a total of 630 kilograms of trepang – or sea cucumber – was confiscated.

Admiral Hill said the Indonesian fishermen did not seem surprised by the interception.

“They’re accustomed to it because sadly we see a few recidivists,” he said.

“By and large the fishers are quite compliant — they’re not belligerent, and they do what we ask.”

None of the fishermen were detained or prosecuted, despite that being an option previously pursued by authorities.