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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victoria records just 28 COVID-19 cases in lowest daily new case tally in almost 3 months; state’s regional areas reopen as Australian death toll jumps to 832

Summary

5.29pm

‘ADF available’: Police chief diary note contradicts Andrews on military

By Tammy Mills and Michael Bachelard

Diary notes made by Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton seem to directly contradict comments to Parliament by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews that the Australian Defence Force was not offered as part of the state’s hotel quarantine system.

One note in Mr Patton’s diary in the crucial days leading up to the quarantine program starting on March 29 says: “ADF available re hotels static guarding of those sites”.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.Credit:The Age

Mr Patton said he can’t remember the actual conversation that led to the note, but the words starkly contradict Mr Andrews’ comments to Parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee on August 11 that: “I think it is fundamentally incorrect to assert that there was hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow someone said no. That’s not, in my judgment, accurate.”

The hotel quarantine inquiry has previously heard evidence that in crucial meetings on March 27 and March 28, Victorian officials, including police and public servants, decided to use the ADF for planning purposes only with no “boots on the ground”.

Read the full story here

4.55pm

Queensland border opening ‘done deal’ says Flight Centre boss

By Lydia Lynch

Flight Centre’s boss believes Queensland will soon have no choice other than to open borders regardless of the coronavirus infection rates, or the state will be isolated from the rest of the country.

Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner with one of their

Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner with one of their “captains” that greet visitors to their stores. Credit:Paul Harris

Graham Turner issued the warning as the business community and airlines called for more clarity on Queensland’s approach to border restrictions.

“I think it is already a done deal that the borders with New South Wales will be opened,” he said.

“As soon as the Northern Territory and South Australia are opened to the ACT and Sydney, Queensland won’t have any choice but to open up regardless of the infection rates, or they will have to be closed to the rest of Australia.”

The Northern Territory will lift its 14-day quarantine requirement for residents of greater Sydney from October 9, while South Australia scrapped hotel isolation rules for travellers from ACT on Tuesday.

Queensland will review its border restrictions at the end of the month, but a peak business group has pleaded for the date to be moved forward.

Read the full story here

4.18pm

Pandemic likely cause of drop in prisoner numbers

By Fergus Hunter

Prisoner numbers across the country dropped between April and June, with coronavirus restrictions thought to be the cause.

Newly released data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the number of prisoners entering the system fell 17 per cent to 14,624 nationwide in the June quarter.

This compares to 16,999 in the same period last year. Average daily prisoner numbers were down 5 per cent to 41,784 – the smallest prison population since 2017.

This was mainly driven by NSW, where numbers declined 8 per cent to 12,813. In Victoria, numbers were down 8 per cent to 7509.

Community corrections orders also dropped over the period.

In a statement, the director of the ABS National Centre of Crime and Justice Statistics, William Milne, said the decreases may be due to restrictions put in place by governments in response to the pandemic.

The measures have had a significant impact on crime rates.

3.44pm

South-east Melbourne cluster grows

By Paul Sakkal

A cluster of cases in the south-eastern local government area of Casey has grown to 34 cases, 33 of which are active.

Of today’s 28 cases, five were linked to a growing group of cases mainly around Hallam and Narre Warren.

“There’s a number of households … but we are looking into that and trying to find out where everyone has been so we can make sure the transmission chains are controlled,” Allen Cheng, the state’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, told reporters on Thursday.

There was only one additional case in the past 24 hours linked to Footscray Hospital, taking the total number of cases in the outbreak to 13.

Active cases in the state dropped by about 50 to 947, 464 of which are related to aged care outbreaks. About 150 healthcare workers remain infected.

3.19pm

Airlines say 30,000 Australians stranded in UK alone because of caps

By Latika Bourke

London: A group representing the world’s major airlines says there are 30,000 Australians stranded in the UK alone as a result of the cap on the number of citizens allowed to return home each week.

Airlines' representatives want the weekly cap on international arrivals increased to say they can bring more people home to Australia.

Airlines’ representatives want the weekly cap on international arrivals increased to say they can bring more people home to Australia.Credit:Getty Images

The figure is far higher than previously cited. The High Commission in London said 3800 Australians have requested to be allowed to go home while the federal government has said there were 30,000 registered in total with Australian embassies around the world.

The body representing major airlines that service the Australian market, including Qantas, Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines, said passengers may not be able to return well into next year.

Read the full story here

2.47pm

‘Witches’ cauldron’: Coughing dummies help track viruses on planes

For the past four months, United Airlines and Boeing have been flying around jetliners loaded with mannequins, aerosol sprays, sensors and scientists in an effort to understand how contaminated air moves through passenger planes.

The research is just one small part of a sweeping global campaign to figure out the threats posed by the coronavirus.

How big is the infection risk sitting in an airplane in close proximity to other passengers? Scientists and airlines are doing research to find out.

How big is the infection risk sitting in an airplane in close proximity to other passengers? Scientists and airlines are doing research to find out.Credit:AP

But for the airline industry, the results could help determine how quickly carriers bounce back from the edge of disaster after the pandemic made people afraid to get on a plane. US demand for flights remains at less than a third of 2019 levels, based on airport security screening data.

The US military initiated the study when the spread of COVID-19 raised concerns about infection risks for troops transported on passenger jets. Companies including United, Boeing and Zeteo Tech, a Maryland-based biodefense and medical device maker, are contributing equipment and expertise.

If the findings can show how likely it is for a passenger to be infected by breathing the air on a plane, “it’ll probably drive some policy decisions,” said Mike McLoughlin, Zeteo’s vice president of research.

Read the full story here

2.23pm

India’s coronavirus cases jump by daily record of 97,894

India reported another record jump in daily coronavirus infections with 97,894 cases in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday.

With 5.12 million cases in all, India is the world’s second-worst affected country, and trails only the United States, which has a caseload of around 6.6 million.

Deaths, which have been relatively low so far, are showing an uptick, and the country has recorded more than 1000 deaths every day for the last two weeks.

On Thursday, the federal health ministry said 1132 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the disease to 83,198.

Reuters

2.02pm

Just 34 new cases in Australia today

Australia has recorded just 34 new coronavirus cases today, largely due to a drop in the daily number of cases in Victoria.

  • Victoria recorded 28 new cases, its lowest daily total in three months. Half of those cases were linked to known sources.
  • NSW recorded five cases after another day of more than 20,000 tests. That number may decline to four as health authorities work to uncover whether the fifth case – who lives on the NSW-Victoria border – is actually a false positive after returning a negative test overnight.
  • A case was also recorded in Queensland in a health worker, although they had been in isolation for their entire infectious period.

The other low number people are talking about today is, of course, the unemployment rate, which dropped to 6.8 per cent from 7.5 per cent despite predictions it could hit 8 per cent.

This is Mary Ward signing off the blog. Matt Bungard will continue our live coverage through to the evening.

1.52pm

NBL talking to Victorian government about Melbourne basketball hub

By Roy Ward

The NBL could start its season with all nine teams playing at Melbourne Arena, after the Australian Open tennis tournament, as talks intensify with the Victorian government.

NBL officials are confident Melbourne will be functioning well enough to host a basketball hub in Victoria, potentially following the Australian Open in late January.

The NBL season has been delayed again, with tip-off now expected in mid-January.

The NBL season has been delayed again, with tip-off now expected in mid-January.Credit:Getty Images

Club Melbourne United has played a home game during the second week of the open in recent years and league officials have good working relationships with Tennis Australia and the state government.

Whether a Victorian hub operates for a full season or just to start the campaign remains uncertain but with New Zealand, Western Australia and Queensland all having hard borders and mandatory quarantine at present, the NBL season will need to operate differently to get the season underway.

1.44pm

Sydney Uni expects to lose $550 million over next four years

By Jordan Baker

Sydney University expects to lose more than $550 million in overall student revenue over the next four years, and forecasts the COVID-19 crisis will keep hurting its bottom line until 2025.

Next year would be hardest hit, with a $217 million reduction in total student revenue compared with its pre-pandemic prediction, vice-chancellor Michael Spence told staff in an email about voluntary redundancies on Thursday.

Sydney University expects to lose $550 million in student revenue due to COVID-19

Sydney University expects to lose $550 million in student revenue due to COVID-19Credit:Rob Homer

The university is expecting its international enrolments to fall by 35 per cent in semester one next year, and by 20 per cent in semester two, but that shortfall would be felt for several years afterwards as the commencing class of 2021 progresses through its degrees.

The University of NSW on Wednesday said it had achieved half of its 500-job target through voluntary applications, and would have to shed 256 full time-jobs – or 3.8 per cent of the university’s workforce – through forced redundancies. The Australian National University has said it would cut 215 positions to save $103 million a year until 2023.

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