As it happened: NSW records 207 new local COVID-19 cases; Queensland lockdown extended as cases grow by 13

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Key posts

  • Westmead Hospital worker tests positive to COVID-19
  • ‘Ludicrous’: The couples affected by Greater Sydney’s ban on marriage
  • New venue alerts for Sydney
  • Pfizer vaccine authorised for immuno-compromised children aged 12-15
  • How do COVID rules in your state compare to other states?
  • Today’s headlines at a glance
  • Crowds at AFL games in Victoria ‘possible’ next week but discussions ongoing
  • Sydney outbreak records 15th death; aged care outbreak grows to 18 residents
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The day at a glance

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Here are some of the headlines:

  • NSW recorded 207 new local cases of coronavirus, including 72 infectious in the community, as a cluster at a Sydney aged care home grew to 20 cases.
  • South-east Queensland’s lockdown has been extended to Sunday after the state recorded 13 local cases. The lockdown was originally meant to end tomorrow. Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young says she still doesn’t recommend young people receive the AstraZeneca vaccine despite the rising case numbers. Fifteen people were arrested at a series of protests against the lockdown extension.
  • The nation’s top medical expert panel has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in some children aged 12 to 15, adding about 220,000 people to the eligibility queue.
  • Victoria has tighted restrictions for residents along its NSW border. The state recorded two new cases, both linked to existing outbreaks and in isolation for their infectious period. The government says crowds will likely be allowed at AFL games after next weekend.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he hopes lockdowns will be a “thing of the past” by the year’s end once Australia has 80 per cent of eligible adults vaccinated. It comes as AstraZeneca’s Australian boss says she is disappointed and surprised at the level of hesitancy about her company’s vaccine.
  • Buy now, pay later company Afterpay has been taken over in the largest corporate deal in Australian history, after Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey’s US payments platform Square on Monday said it would buy the company and create a global fintech giant.

We’ll be back bright and early tomorrow. Have a good evening.

New NSW exposure sites include supermarkets, hotel

NSW health authorities have identified several new COVID-19 exposure sites, including a hotel south-west of Sydney and supermarkets in Lane Cove.

Three of the new sites are close contact exposure sites, meaning anyone who has visited them during the specified timeframes must get tested for COVID and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.

The new close contact sites are:

  • Repco, Rockdale – Wednesday, July 28 between 10.15am and 5pm, and Thursday, July 29 between 10am and 1pm
  • The Oaks Hotel, Wollondilly – Friday, July 30 between 12.20pm and 3pm
  • Hai Ha Money Transfer, Cabramatta – Sunday, July 25 between 7am and 8.20am

The four new remaining sites are casual contact sites, meaning anyone who visited them during the specified timeframes has to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a negative test result.

These sites are:

  • Easy Script Pharmacy, St Marys – Saturday, July 31 between 12.30pm and 12.35pm
  • Liquor Stax, St Marys – Thursday, July 29 between 4.45pm and 5.30pm
  • ALDI, Lane Cove – Saturday, July 24 between 1.30pm and 2pm
  • Coles, Lane Cove – Saturday, July 24 between 1pm and 2.15pm

A full list of NSW’s exposure sites can be found here.

Listen: How long before we hit our vaccine targets and come out of lockdown?

Late on Friday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced National Cabinet had agreed on a road map out of COVID-19 lockdowns, with greater freedoms triggered by reaching vaccine targets of 70 and 80 per cent.

The million-dollar question he gave no answer to was how long will it take us to get there?

Senior economics correspondent Shane Wright has crunched some data from the Health Department and joins Tory Maguire on Please Explain to give us an indication.

Westmead Hospital worker tests positive to COVID-19

A fully vaccinated staff member at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital who worked for three days while infectious last week has tested positive to COVID-19.

Thirty-six hospital workers have been identified as close contacts and are in strict two-week isolation.

A spokesperson for Western Sydney Local Health District said investigations into the source of the infection indicated the worker contracted the virus in the community.

“The affected areas have been deep cleaned and there has been no further transmission associated with this case to date,” the spokesperson said.

“Patient care has not been affected. Our highest priority is always the safety of patients and our staff.“

It is the second healthcare worker at Westmead Hospital to test positive in the latest outbreak, with a fully vaccinated nurse contracting the virus in July.

There was no onward transmission from the case in the nurse from last month, the spokesperson said.

Cancellation of MotoGP leaves Victoria’s Phillip Island $42m worse off

The cancellation of a world-class motorcycle race at Phillip Island off Victoria’s south coast has left a $42 million hole in the local economy, sparking a push by the Bass Coast Shire for new projects to entice domestic visitors and offset the financial damage.

The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix attracted an estimated 92,000 people to Phillip Island before the pandemic, and businesses say the event delivered major economic benefits to the region.

The MotoGP in Phillip Island in 2019. Credit:Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Border closures resulting in the loss of international travellers, who were drawn to the penguin parade and other attractions, has also inflicted major financial pain on Phillip Island’s tourism-dependent economy.

The Bass Coast Shire is now seeking state and federal government funding for an infrastructure binge to stimulate more domestic tourism in the region and break Phillip Island’s economic reliance on international travellers.

Read the full story here. 

Sydneysiders’ frustration grows with vaccine booking systems

Sydneysiders trying to follow health authorities calls to get vaccinated say they are spending hours on the online booking system, which one vaccine communication expert described as “death by websites”.

People seeking to book a COVID-19 vaccine online are directed to use the federal vaccine eligibility checker to prove they qualify before being shown a list of individual providers, ranging from NSW Health’s mass hubs to local GPs, to contact separately.

Software engineer Fraser Hemphill designed a vaccination appointment aggregator after his friend, who worked as a nurse, was unable to book an appointment.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Software developer Fraser Hemphill, 28, created his own website which aggregated Pfizer appointments after a friend who worked as a nurse spent hours attempting to book., which Mr Hemphill made in one weekend for $20, compiles real-time availability for appointments at St Vincent’s, Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead hospital hubs as well as the Olympic Park centre.

The aggregator received 40,000 views on the weekend after he posted it on Reddit, including 26,000 people who clicked through to try to book an appointment.

Read more here. 

Lockdowns may force RBA re-think on stimulus

The Reserve Bank will consider increasing its purchases of government debt to stabilise the economy in the face of rolling coronavirus lockdowns that threaten to slow the jobs market and hit consumer confidence.

As figures confirm the RBA’s interest rate settings continue to underpin record high house values in almost every corner of the country, the bank board will on Tuesday debate how to respond to the lockdowns gripping Greater Sydney and south-east Queensland.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said the RBA should lift its weekly bond purchases to $6 billion, arguing this would send a “clear signal” the bank was committed to supporting the economy.Credit:Louie Douvis

The RBA, which has official interest rates at 0.1 per cent, announced on July 6 it would slice its purchases of government debt by $1 billion a week. It made the decision when NSW’s lockdown was expected to finish by the end of July. Instead, it has been pushed out by at least four weeks.

The bank also argued at the time that the economic recovery was stronger than expected and “forecast to continue”.

Now, economists are tipping the September quarter to show the economy contracting because of the combined impact of the Greater Sydney, Victorian, South Australian and Queensland lockdowns.

Read the full story here.

Private Sydney school to run COVID-19 tests before trial HSC exams

A Sydney private school has told parents it will require every student to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test on its grounds immediately before each HSC trial exam, and has taken matters into its own hands by securing its own supply of tests.

Since the NSW government revealed the tests – known as a RAT – would be part of its return-to-school strategy for year 12 last week, there has been widespread confusion about how the process will work, given the Therapeutic Goods Administration will not allow them to be taken at home and requires them to be carried out by a medical professional.

Private companies have been contacting independent schools, saying they can supply tests, at a cost of $6 each.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Private companies that provide rapid antigen tests have been contacting independent schools, saying they can supply tests, at $6 each, trained nurses, at $115 an hour (or $165 on the weekend), and an administration assistant to run everything at $75 an hour. One nurse can carry out 10 tests in an hour.

But public school principals are still waiting to hear from the NSW Department of Education about how they can administer tests for up to 400 year 12 students at one site, how often they must do it or who will oversee them. There is also no guidance on whether they will be compulsory.

Read more here.

‘Life is pretty good’: The Aussies who are happy to stay in Bali

Michael Lenihan is sitting in a cafe overlooking Bali’s Sanur Beach, halfway through a business meeting with a colleague.

“We’re having lunch and there is beautiful surf at the front and people are walking along the beach and enjoying the sun,” he says.

Locals and foreigners soak up life by the beach in Bali last week.Credit:Amilia Rosa

“Everybody’s moving around but they’re being respectful with their masks and their social distancing.”

The owner of a foreign investment company on the island returned to his home town of Melbourne last year when alarm bells rang as the first wave of the virus struck Indonesia.

But after seven months in Victoria, the majority in lockdown, he flew back last November.

Now, while some expats are appealing for help to get to Australia amid Indonesia’s worst outbreak, Lenihan, who fell ill with COVID-19 in May, is among the large contingent of Australians remaining on Bali who have no desire to leave.

Read more here.

QR code check-in proposal for cross-border truckies

National cabinet has agreed to a review of the COVID-19 protocols for truck drivers, as the Victorian government considers new options to ensure freight workers do not reintroduce the virus into the state.

The Prime Minister and state premiers last week sanctioned federal and state transport ministers to determine improvements to the permit and testing requirements for cross-border truck drivers that vary for each state.

A Victoria Police checkpoint at Chiltern on the Hume Highway in July.Credit:Jason Robins

The ministers will consider a proposal from state transport associations to allow drivers to use rapid antigen test home kits and a national QR code check-in system that would allow truckies to scan into states instead of applying for permits.

The review comes after new measures were announced on Monday preventing NSW residents within the border bubble from entering Victoria other than for essential reasons like care-giving and exercise.

Read more here.

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