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Here are this week’s key developments in the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Elias Visontay and it’s Friday 11 September.
Border wars escalate
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, accused the prime minister, Scott Morrison, of bullying after he made an impassioned plea – to no avail – for a young woman from Canberra to be granted an urgent exemption from hotel quarantine to attend her father’s funeral in Brisbane.
Morrison said Australia was in danger of losing its humanity as states continue to enforce hard border closures, with the ACT still considered a hotspot by Queensland despite recording no cases for two months.
As further reports emerged of compassionate exemption requests being rejected by Queensland, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, also called for greater compassion when considering border decisions.
On Friday, the Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, indicated he would open borders to greater Sydney – currently considered a hotspot – on 9 October if Covid-19 cases remained at current levels.
Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown
Melburnians learned they would have to put up with at least several weeks more of the strict Covid-19 curfew, as the Victorian government unveiled its roadmap out of the current lockdown restrictions on Sunday.
Morrison labelled the lockdown extension “crushing news” and criticised the plan for requiring new case thresholds to lift the curfew that Sydney would not currently meet.
Business leaders also lashed the roadmap, warning that the plan could wipe out 50% of small businesses in the state, while the real estate sector is urging landlords to refuse to discuss rental reductions.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, on Friday would not reveal where the idea for the state’s strict nighttime curfew originated, and played down a complaint from federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson that the curfew was a human rights issue.
Andrews also said regional Victoria was “poised to take at least a step and potentially two steps” on the roadmap given its low case numbers.
On Monday, Victoria’s cases dropped below 50 for the first time since June, as the state looks to reduce cases to less than five a day statewide to lift its curfew.
The Victorian health department is taking advantage of the improved case numbers to overhaul its contact tracing system to focus more on local hubs, sending a delegation to Sydney on Friday to learn about the benefits of New South Wales’ contact tracing system, which is oriented around local health districts.
Cases linked to Sydney hospitals continued to climb, while other cases were also linked to boarding students at a girls’ high school. Covid-19 was detected in wastewater in South Australia, and Queensland recorded eight cases on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the development of a promising Covid-19 vaccine was put on hold due to a possible adverse reaction in a trial participant.
The announcement from AstraZeneca, the company working with a team from Oxford University, came two days after the Australian government struck a deal to provide 33.8m doses of the vaccine.
However, the government also agreed to purchase 51m doses of a University of Queensland and CSL vaccine, as part of an $1.7bn initiative to buy 84.8m vaccine doses.
China tensions rise
Australian journalists Bill Birtles, from the ABC, and Mike Smith, from the Australian Financial Review, were pulled from their posts in China after both received midnight visits from state authorities.
The foreign minister, Marise Payne, said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned the journalists and negotiated their return home, but the correspondents were forced to stay at the Australian embassy.
It is the first time in more than 40 years no Australian media agency has journalists based in China.
The Chinese government has accused the Australian embassy of obstructing the law when it sheltered the pair.
Their evacuation followed revelations last week that an Australian journalist working for Chinese state media had been detained. It is the latest escalation of tensions in the diplomatic relationship, after Canberra angered Beijing when it pushed for an inquiry into China’s handling of its coronavirus outbreak.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus Australia latest: the week at a glance | Australia news