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Covid-19 News Updates

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race a return to normal, supports "entire industry"

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race a return to normal, supports "entire industry"

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race may be one of Australia's great Boxing Day traditions, but news that the 2020 race has been give the official all clear will hearten the country's extensive boat building industry.

The official opening of Tasmania's borders to NSW this Friday removed any doubts over the venerable event.

Entries in the world-renowned 628-nautical-mile race, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), officially closed on 29 October with 100 boats looking to head south.

Sydney Hobart veteran and author Rob Mundle said the race was more than an event for the well-heeled.

He said holding the race would also be a big signal to Australia that the country was returning to normal post-pandemic.

"It supports an entire industry when you look at the boat building, the sail making and all the technology that goes into a competitive boat," he said.

"The race is the pinnacle of its kind in Australia and the world and, just like with motor racing, there's an entire industry around it that the race supports.

"If you want to win it you need to be at the top of the technology game."

Mundle said Maritimo yachts founder and owner Bill Barry-Cotter (pictured) was a great example of those flow-on benefits.

"He bought and imported a 54ft yacht from the USA and it is undergoing a complete rebuild on the Gold Coast so he can enter the race."

Tourism operators would also benefit from the decision he said,

"I've been covering the race for 50 years and the first year I went out in a little speedboat for the Daily Mirror and we nearly sank because there were so many boats there.

"It's like State of Origin where you're right on edge of play and get that feeling of excitement and drama.

"Having it on will be a big step back to normal for the whole country."

CYCA commodore Noel Cornish said the club was thrilled to have so many yachts participating this year.

"Particularly given the general uncertainty and necessary restrictions placed on many sporting events in Australia over the past six months," he said.

"While 2020 has been a very difficult year for all Australians due to the impact of COVID-19, we feel that it is important for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the sailing world to help support the various Governments goals to assist economic recovery and help communities return to some sense of normality within strict health and safety guidelines."

Updated at 5:06pm AEDT on 4 November 2020.

NSW to open border to VIC on 23 November

NSW to open border to VIC on 23 November

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced today the state's border with Victoria will reopen at midnight on 23 November.

This means at 23 November, NSW will be open to visitors from all Australian states and territories, although its residents will still face restrictions elsewhere.

The news follows another day of zero new cases for VIC, which now has its 14-day rolling average down to 1.7, while NSW reported nine new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Three of those new cases in NSW were transmitted locally with the remaining six from overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

All three of the locally acquired cases are linked to the Hoxton Park cluster, which now totals 10 cases.

Today's news means while NSW will soon be open to visitors from all Australian states and territories, its residents will still face restrictions elsewhere.

As of yesterday Queensland has reopened its borders to travellers coming from NSW, although restrictions are still in place for people coming from Greater Sydney who will either need to spend a fortnight outside the NSW capital or 14 days in hotel quarantine in the Sunshine State.

On 6 November NSW will become a low-risk area as far as Tasmanian authorities are concerned, allowing the state's residents to enter the Apple Isle through the Tas e-Travel registration system.

From 14 November Western Australia will let travellers in from NSW, although they will need to spend 14 days in quarantine in "suitable premises".

Travellers from NSW are also allowed to visit the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and South Australia so long as they are in compliance with the application processes of their respective governments. 

Updated at 11:52am AEDT on 4 November 2020.

Public health alert issued for Lebanese restaurant in Liverpool

Public health alert issued for Lebanese restaurant in Liverpool

The Jasmins1 Lebanese restaurant in Liverpool is the latest venue in Sydney to attract a public health alert from NSW health authorities after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The staff member will be included in NSW's COVID-19 numbers today.

Anyone who worked at or attended the restaurant for more than one hour on the follow dates and times is now considered a close contact and must get tested immediately and isolate for a full 14 days from exposure, regardless of the result:

  • Monday 26 October, 4pm 9pm
  • Saturday 31 October, 3pm 8pm
  • Sunday 1 November, 9am 1.45pm

Anyone who attended for less than one hour during the above times is considered a casual contact and must monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if they develop.

The restaurant closed today and will remain so until further notice.

NSW Health previously reported that cases attended the restaurant while infectious on Sunday 25 October.

Updated at 9.17am AEDT on 3 November 2020.

WA to open to QLD, SA, TAS, NT and ACT from 14 November

WA to open to QLD, SA, TAS, NT and ACT from 14 November

Western Australia will take down its hard border with the rest of Australia and introduce a "controlled" interstate border from 14 November, allowing those from "very low risk" states and territories to travel into WA.

This means those from South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be permitted to enter WA without completing 14 days of hotel quarantine.

As New South Wales and Victoria are still recording locally acquired cases of COVID-19, WA's health authorities have deemed them as "low risk", meaning those travelling into the state will have to complete 14 days of quarantine on arrival in a "suitable premises".

WA implemented a hard border with the rest of the country on 2 April, essentially banning anyone from travelling to WA except for those with exemptions.

The WA Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) says the move can be made because of the low numbers of cases in Australia's eastern states.

"Based on that health advice and the rates of local infection in the eastern states we are now at the next step of our journey to safely transition from our hard border to a new controlled interstate border," McGowan said.

"The existing hard border exemption system will be removed and replaced with a controlled interstate border regime established on an updated nationwide health based threshold.

"The time is right, the conditions are right, and I'm very confident our controlled border arrangements strike the right balance."



While the new measures are expected to come into effect on 14 November, McGowan says he will be closely monitoring the situation in the rest of the country right up to the last minute.

"If we need to delay this introduction of the controlled border then we will," McGowan said.

"We are prepared to delay the introduction of the controlled border right up to the last minute."

The new system for those in "very low risk" states is conditional, with certain rules in place for travellers depending on where they come from.

For those coming from "very low risk" states, meaning states that have gone 28 days without recording any locally acquired cases of COVID-19, the following conditions will be imposed:

  • Travellers will undergo a health screening and temperature test on arrival;
  • They will need to be prepared to take a COVID-19 test at a new clinic in Perth Airport if health officials deem it necessary;
  • They will need to sign a declaration stating they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and which jurisdictions they have been in during the last 14 days;
  • And they will receive an SMS one week into their arrival in WA telling them to get tested for COVID-19 if symptomatic.

For those coming from "low risk" states, meaning states with less than five community cases per day on a 14-day rolling average (NSW and VIC), they must comply with all the above conditions and:

  • Self-quarantine in a "suitable premises" for two weeks;
  • Present for a COVID-19 test on day 11 of the quarantine period.

Those who do not comply could be hit with a $1,000 fine per infringement.

"We know how quickly things can change," McGowan said.

"I will have no hesitation to reintroduce the hard border if that's what's needed to protect the health of Western Australians."

Updated at 4.45pm AEDT 30 October 2020.

Queensland will remain closed to all of Greater Sydney

Queensland will remain closed to all of Greater Sydney

With community transmission of COVID-19 in the New South Wales capital still a concern to Queensland's health authorities, the QLD Premier has announced the border will remain closed to all of Greater Sydney.

However, the state is now on track to reopen to the rest of NSW, bar Sydney, from 3 November at 1am.

The Queensland Government had previously flagged the state's borders would open to all of NSW back at the beginning of the month, contingent on the state not recording any cases of unlinked community transmission for 28 days prior.

However, there have been cases of unlinked community transmission in Sydney over the past 28 days, and therefore QLD border will remain shut to the 32 local government areas (LGAs) that comprise Greater Sydney.

One of those four cases was reported just yesterday by NSW Health.

If people in Greater Sydney do wish to visit QLD they must leave the city for 14-days before being allowed north of the border.

For everyone else in NSW not living in the 32 LGAs considered to be a 'hotspots', they will be allowed to cross into QLD from 1am on 3 November.

Today's decision about the hard border to Sydney will be reviewed again at the end of November.



"Prior to yesterday they had four local government areas in Sydney that had had cases of community transmission that New South Wales was unable to link to any known clusters, which means they have transmission, and they don't know where it's coming from," said QLD Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

"Then, yesterday, they had four new cases, and one of those cases they could not link to any other known clusters.

"Now, outside those 32 LGAs, there have not been any cases in the previous 28 days."

Dr Young also encouraged Queenslanders to go and get tested for COVID-19, in particular those living in Ipswich and Wynnum.

"It's really important that Queenslanders continue to come forward and get tested, if they have any symptoms, that is critically important," Dr Young said.

"There is a concern that we might have the virus circulating, and the best way to deal with that is to come forward and get tested.

"So anyone who lives out in the Ipswich area or who lives in Wynnum area, it's really important that you come forward and get tested."

QLD will also maintain its hard border with Victoria as health authorities assess the success of the state's easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

QLD recorded one new case of COVID-19 today - a person in hotel quarantine.

Updated at 11.50am AEDT on 30 October 2020.

$3.55 billion COVID-19 impact knocks ANZ profit down 40 per cent

$3.55 billion COVID-19 impact knocks ANZ profit down 40 per cent

ANZ (ASX: ANZ) has seen its profits slide by 40 per cent during the 2020 financial year after $3.55 billion of impairment charges relating to the pandemic took their toll.

The company managed to record a statutory profit of $3.58 billion for the year, and shareholders will still enjoy a final dividend of 35 cents per share.

The decrease in profits was primarily driven by full-year credit impairment charges of $2.75 billion due to the impact of COVID-19 and a first half impairment of Asian associates of $815 million, also related to the pandemic.

"We could never have forecast 2020, a year that started with devastating bushfires in Australia and unwound with the waves of a pandemic that continues today," noted ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott.

"While we still cannot predict its course, we remain confident we can deal with its impacts."

The company's Common Equity Tier 1 Capital Ratio remained strong at 11.3 per cent, down just two basis points from FY19, while return on equity decreased to 6.2 per cent.

Income also fell by 6 per cent to $17.6 billion.

"As a bank, we entered 2020 in robust condition," Elliott said.

"We have a strong balance sheet with record levels of capital and liquidity as well as provisions for potential future losses.

"We want our customers to know we will continue to do all we can to support them through the tough times."

The Big Four Bank also gave an update on how it has been supporting its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 95,000 of its more than 1 million home loan customers have received a deferral on loan repayments, with approximately 55,000 having completed their deferral or advised their intended action at maturity.

Of those accounts, 79 per cent are returning to full payment, 20 per cent have requested a further deferral, and 1 per cent have restructured their loan or sought additional support.

In terms of business customers, around 23,000 have received a deferral on business loan repayments. Of those, 15,000 have completed their deferral or advised their intended action at maturity.

"Events of the last 12 months make it difficult to predict the course of the next year," Elliott said.

"What I do know however is we are in excellent shape to navigate whatever challenges emerge.

"While we are not managing the business expecting things to return to the way they were before the pandemic, nor are we sitting idle waiting for the next event to happen to us, ANZ is well placed to respond to the opportunities that are emerging as a result of accelerated structural shifts in the economy."

Shares in ANZ are down 3.05 per cent to $18.58 per share at 11.02am AEDT.

Updated at 11.29am AEDT on 29 October 2020.

Victoria says "nay" to horse owner attendance at Melbourne Cup

Victoria says "nay" to horse owner attendance at Melbourne Cup

As Melburnians celebrate their first day of relative freedom after more than 100 days of lockdowns, the horse owners amongst them have been informed that even they won't be able to attend the city's iconic race.

Minister for Racing Martin Pakula issued a statement today about the event that is due to take place in front of empty stands on Tuesday, 3 November.

"I have today advised the Victoria Racing Club that connections of horses competing at the Melbourne Cup Carnival will not be permitted to attend the course," Minister Pakula said.

"The Government has determined that next week is not a suitable time for gatherings of that nature."

Minister Pakula described the decision as in the interests of all Victorians.

"The four days at Flemington will enthral racing fans and the Melbourne Cup will, as always, stop the nation," he said.

"We wish the Victoria Racing Club and owners all the best for the carnival."

Updated at 2:29pm AEDT on 28 October 2020.

Atomo's COVID-19 nasal swab test gets green light from TGA

Atomo's COVID-19 nasal swab test gets green light from TGA

Sydney-based Atomo Diagnostics (ASX: AT1) has yet another feather in its cap after authorities approved its nasal swab antigen test for COVID-19 to be used by medical professionals.

Unlike most nasal swabs on the market that need to be sent to the lab for processing, the Atomo COVID-19 antigen test can be processed at the point of care with results available after 10 minutes.

In contrast to the company's AtomoRapid COVID-19 (IgG/IgM) blood test that was given the green light in August, which is most accurate 15 days from exposure to the virus, the company believes antigen testing may have benefits for early detection.

As such, the group will be recommending health departments, labs, health professionals and aged care facility workers use both tests in tandem to account for different infection timeframes amongst patients.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will require all approved distributors to provide it with additional evidence to demonstrate ongoing safety and performance within 12 months of approval of the antigen test.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) has been engaged the Department of Health to assist with the post-market validation of new COVID-19 rapid tests to inform their best use.

"Atomo can now offer, in a single 15 minute window, rapid testing for both COVID-19 antigen and antibody responses," says Atomo Diagnostics co-founder and managing director John Kelly (pictured).

"This comprehensive rapid screen will help determine acute active infection and also indicate those patients who may have had prior exposure to the virus and built up an antibody response."

Kelly emphasises up to 20 per cent of infections are asymptomatic, which has led to many countries now establishing regular, proactive testing regimes. 

"Antigen tests have been proven to provide good detection of COVID-19 infection in the early stages of exposure," he says.

"We believe this makes them useful both for people showing onset of symptoms or for broad scale screening of at-risk communities and frontline workers.

"Furthermore, Atomo believes that when combined with our rapid antibody test that detects virus exposure over a longer period, they should offer excellent performance where reliable testing is most convenient and needed - outside of the laboratory."

To ensure the professional delivery of rapid testing services to organisations where there is a need, Atomo has engaged Health Solutions Group Australia, a leading provider of professional healthcare workers in Australia, to provide the professional testing services to Atomo customers.

Health Solutions' professional team of registered nurses and specialist healthcare professionals visit workplaces via customised pop-up style clinics, providing a range of point of care services, making it an ideal partner to support the launch and delivery of Atomo's rapid antigen and antibody tests to corporate and age care clients.

"We are delighted to be partnering with Health Solutions for the provision of COVID-19 screening services to our clients. Having a large national service provider with experience in professional testing to help rollout this service is very important," adds Kelly.

Australia currently has the 29th highest testing rates per capita in the world at 335,729 per million, or 8.6 million in total which puts our country in 14th position overall despite the relatively lower case count.

AT1 shares rose 12.9 per cent today to $0.35 each, but this is still well below their high of $0.63 since listing in late February.

Updated at 4:18pm AEDT on 27 October 2020.

Tasmania will open to NSW travellers from next Friday

Tasmania will open to NSW travellers from next Friday

Travellers from New South Wales will be permitted to enter Tasmania from 6 November without needing to complete two weeks of quarantine.

The decision follows observation of the COVID-19 situation in NSW, with Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein confident to classify the state as a "low risk" area from next Friday.

Until then Tasmanian health authorities still consider NSW as a "medium risk area", meaning travellers must complete two weeks of quarantine on arrival.

"Public health has now given further consideration to the situation in New South Wales," said Premier Gutwein.

"We've looked at the opportunity for this to occur and I am pleased to announce today that it's our intention to classify New South Wales as a low risk area and relax the rules and restrictions with that state.

"What we want to see in a jurisdiction that we open up to is less than five cases of unknown transmission in the last 28 days."

Gutwein acknowledges NSW has recorded six cases of unknown transmission in the last 28 days, but he is confident the state will be able to bring the numbers down prior to the planned 6 November reopening date.

"We want to ensure that as we move closer to Friday the 6th there are no further major outbreaks occurring in that state," said Gutwein.

"But at this stage they look, on balance, very safe in terms of the population size and the relative risk to Tasmania."

Tasmania reopens to the rest of Australia, bar Victoria

Yesterday, Tasmania reopened its borders to every 'low-risk' area in Australia, including South Australia, Queensland, the ACT, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.

Gutwein said the processes in place to ensure the safe arrival of these travellers "performed well", with nobody entering Tasmania referred to being tested for COVID-19.

More than 600 people arrived across seven flights into Tasmania yesterday, and more than 80 cars arrived on the Spirit of Tasmania this morning.

"The processes and systems held up well," said Gutwein.

"In fact they had performed exactly as we had hoped they would.

"And it was, I must admit, very heart-warming last night to see the pictures in the media of those families reunited."

In terms of TAS' border with Victoria, Gutwein said he is still targeting a reopening date of 1 December.

"It is so pleasing to see them driving the numbers so low," said Gutwein.

"However, obviously they have been dealing with the most significant second wave in the country and we will continue to keep that situation under advisement.

"We're still targeting December 1, but as I've always said, we'll be responding to the evolving situation there and that advice will be based on public health advice."

Updated at 3.29pm AEDT on 27 October 2020.

Marrickville venue closed following repeated breaches of COVID safety rules

Marrickville venue closed following repeated breaches of COVID safety rules

Following repeated breaches of New South Wales' COVID-19 safety rules, the Sydney Portugal Community Club in Marrickville will be closed for a week.

According to NSW Liquor and Gaming director of compliance Dimitri Ageres, no improvement was seen at the Club even after a $5,000 fine was issued.

"Inspectors visited the club three times and observed breaches relating to their COVID-19 Safety Plan, overbooking groups, gaming machine spacing, and inadequate check in processes," Argeres said.

"Since the closure order was issued however, some of the things the pub was fined for are no longer breaches for example bookings can now be up to 30 people rather than 10 and while punters need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart, gaming machines do not.

"What has not changed, is having robust, digital check in processes that allow for effective contact tracing in the event a positive case has visited the venue."

The Portuguese community club is the fourth business closed for COVID safety breaches and will be shut from 5am Wednesday 28 October to 5am Wednesday 4 November.

Inspectors from Liquor & Gaming NSW, NSW Fair Trading and SafeWork NSW have now conducted 5,605 COVID safety visits, issued 185 penalties worth $817,000 and temporarily closed four businesses.

Recent fines were issued to:

  • Cokco Korean Restaurant Wentworth Point
  • Common Ground - Long Jetty
  • House Bar Bistrot Potts Point
  • Incafe Restaurant Haymarket
  • Jan Ta Bal Strathfield
  • Kaffe Bar - Mona Vale
  • Milkbar at Café Ish (formerly Smokin Grill Pty Ltd) Redfern
  • Santhosam Family Restaurant Pendle Hill
  • Steyne Hotel Manly
  • Sydney Tower Dining Sydney CBD 
  • The Chocpot Canterbury

Updated at 3.58pm AEDT on 27 October 2020.