Australia Covid live news update: Victoria braces for case spike amid fears rally could be superspreader event; Pfizer supplies falter

Australia Covid live news update: Victoria braces for case spike amid fears rally could be superspreader event; Pfizer supplies falter

5.04am EDT

What we learned today, Friday 24 September

And with that, the week and this blog comes to an end. Here’s what we learned today:

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg made waves after making the economic case for Australia adopting a net-zero emissions commitment, warning the country can’t risk being perceived as a climate change pariah by financial markets.

Australia crossed the 50% double vaccinated mark across the adult population.
NSW recorded 1,043 local Covid-19 cases and 11 deaths today.

International students will be returning to NSW by year’s end if an updated pilot plan by the state government proves a success.
Victoria recorded 733 new local Covid-19 cases and one death today.

215 people were arrested in fifth day protests in Melbourne’s CBD and inner-north.
Mask rules extended in Queensland, but relaxed in that people will be able to remove their mask when seated.

Queenslanders were also told a complex mix of factors will determine if the state opens up in time for Christmas.
New Zealand recorded nine new local Covid-19 cases, the first time the daily cases have been in single digits since the outbreak began in mid-August.

The Australian and Nauru governments signed a memorandum of understanding to develop “enduring regional processing capability” in Nauru to “secure our region from maritime people smuggling”.

Senate president Scott Ryan has decided to retire from politics early, after initially indicating he’d remain in politics until the next election.

Pfizer confirmed 9m doses will arrive in October, after some concerns raised by state and territory leaders.

at 5.31am EDT

4.33am EDT

215 people arrested in fifth day of Melbourne protest

Victoria police have confirmed they have arrested 215 people in the fifth day of unrest in Melbourne’s CBD and inner-north.

There were 31 people arrested in the inner-northern suburb of Northcote. Police said a group of “up to 80 demonstrators attended at a park on Separation Street and a nearby shopping centre this afternoon” in breach of public health orders.

In a statement, police said they moved quickly to respond to protesters at various locations:

Police responded quickly as small groups of protestors gathered throughout the afternoon in various locations.

In total, 215 people will be issued with penalty notices for breaching the CHO [Chief Health Officer] directions.

A number of other people will be charged with criminal offences including deception, theft and drug offences.

Police are disappointed to see the number of people who are continuing to breach the CHO directions and remind those people that we will not tolerate their behaviour and will continue to arrest and fine them if they are found to be in breach of the CHO directions.

Police move through back streets in Northcote on Friday. Photograph: Michael Currie/Speed Media/REX/Shutterstock

at 4.48am EDT

4.09am EDT

As the Morrison government wrestles with internal divisions on climate change in the lead up to a crucial UN summit, Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham has signalled his opposition to providing the Nationals with any “handouts” to clinch a deal.

Government sources have told Guardian Australia the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, is telling colleagues privately that the government could try to appease Nationals trenchantly opposed to the 2050 target with a halfway house ahead of the Cop26 in Glasgow.

Birmingham used a round of television interviews on Friday to back treasure Josh Frydenberg’s significant public intervention earlier today, articulating the economic case for Australia to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

You can read more on the internal tussle here:

3.42am EDT

Alcohol ban lifted in some parks in Sydney

In what I’m sure will be seen as great news, the NSW government has lifted alcohol restrictions in some parks across Sydney.

Rob Stokes, the NSW planning minister, said the government was suspending rules that had prevented people from drinking at parks managed by Placemaking NSW.

Stokes said the easing of these rules was intended as a gift to fully vaccinated Sydneysiders:

After an incredibly tough winter, people who have followed COVID rules and received both jabs deserve to enjoy a beer or wine responsibly.

Our rangers told us that picnickers have been following the health advice and safely distancing. We only ask that rules continue to be followed, that everyone drinks responsibly and disposes of all rubbish and enjoys our beautiful public spaces.

The following parks will see the rule lifted:

Ballarat Park, Darling Island
Ballast Point Park, Birchgrove
Bicentennial Park, Sydney Olympic Park
Blaxland Riverside Park, Sydney Olympic Park
Bligh & Barney Reserve, The Rocks
Cadi Park, Pyrmont
Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park
Dawes Point Reserve, The Rocks
First Fleet Park, The Rocks
Hickson Rd Reserve, The Rocks
Jill Berry Lawn / ICC Lawn, Darling Harbour
MCA Lawn, The Rocks

The parks join the Centennial Parklands, Parramatta Park, Royal Botanic Gardens and Western Sydney Parklands as parks where drinking is allowed.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is seen from Dawes Point Park, where drinking alcohol will now be allowed. Photograph: Paul Patterson/City of Sydney

at 3.56am EDT

3.13am EDT

Victoria police have confirmed that one of their officers is considered a close contact to a Covid-positive person that attended the protests on Wednesday.

In a statement, the police say the officer involved has been told to get tested and to isolate.

A small number of Victoria police officers have been identified as close contacts to a Covid-positive person who attended the Victorian Workers Rally for Freedom protest on 22 September.

The officers involved have been informed to get tested and isolate.

For operational reasons, numbers will not be provided on how many officers were placed into quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Victoria police’s priority first and foremost is to ensure the safety of its people and the community. The community can be assured that service delivery to the public will remain unaffected during this time.

Riot police watch on as protesters gather at the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

at 3.24am EDT

2.52am EDT

Ben Doherty

Australia’s decision to sign a new agreement with Nauru to establish “an enduring regional processing capability in Nauru” has been met with opprobrium from those who were detained there, and refugee advocates who say it is deliberately damaging to those held there.

There are currently around 108 people held by Australia on Nauru as part of its offshore processing regime. Most have been there more than eight years. About 125 people are still held in Papua New Guinea.

Myo Win, a human rights activist and Rohingyan refugee from Myanmar, who was formerly detained on Nauru and released in March 2021, said those who remain held within Australia’s regime on Nauru “are just so tired, separated from family, having politics played with their lives, it just makes me so upset”.

“I am out now and I still cannot live my life on a bridging visa and in lockdown, but it is 10 times better than Nauru. They should not be extending anything, they should be stopping offshore processing now. I am really worried about everyone on Nauru right now, they need to be released.”

Jana Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the new MOU only extended a “failed system”.

An ‘enduring regional processing capability’ in Nauru means: enduring suffering, enduring family separation, enduring uncertainty, enduring harm and Australia’s enduring shame.

“The Morrison government must give the men, women and children impacted by the brutality of offshore processing a safe and permanent home. Prolonging the failure of offshore processing on Nauru and PNG is not only wrong and inhumane but dangerous.”

Australia’s minister for home affairs, Karen Andrews, and the president of Nauru, Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, issued a joint statement Friday afternoon.

Andrews thanked the president for his commitment to “stamping out” people smuggling:

This is a significant step for both our countries and I thank president Aingimea for his ongoing commitment to regional leadership in stamping out the threat of maritime people smuggling.

Aingimea said the memorandum extended the bilateral agreement already in place since 2012, but will create an “enduring form of offshore processing”.

This takes the regional processing to a new milestone. It is enduring in nature, as such the mechanisms are ready to deal with illegal migrants immediately upon their arrival in Nauru from Australia.

at 3.01am EDT

2.22am EDT

Pfizer has confirmed 9m doses will arrive in October, Lt Gen John Frewen says

Paul Karp

The head of the vaccine rollout, Lt Gen John Frewen, has revealed this afternoon that Pfizer has now given the commonwealth the details of the doses it will supply in October and confirmed that despite a warning to national cabinet on Friday about possible shortages, states and territories will get more Pfizer in October than September.

Frewen said the problem was that “normally Pfizer will contact and provide confirmed monthly allocations on a week-by-week basis”.

“Pfizer contacted us last week and was only able to provide the first two-week allocation at that point in time – it was to do with global distribution management issues with Pfizer. They’ve now come through, confirming the third week for us and assured us we’ll get our full quota in October.”

Asked why national cabinet figures suggested allocated supplies of Pfizer would fall from 10.9m in September to 8.4m in October, Frewen said:

“At that stage we only had the first two weeks, and what we received in the first two weeks was half of what we were anticipating in the first two weeks but, as I’ve said, Pfizer have now said they’ll make up the full allocation across weeks three and we expect week four.”

So what does that mean for Pfizer supplies? Frewen said:

We are receiving the 9m doses that we expect in October, that is the assurance we have had, there will be 9m doses of Pfizer in each month for the rest of the year. We will get 2m doses of Moderna this month and then we are expecting 3m doses of Moderna for the rest of the year as well.”

at 2.38am EDT

2.17am EDT

OK lets talk Pfizer supply.

Some states and territories had raised some potential supply issues, after the company confirmed a reduced number of doses for the first two weeks of October.

Concerns were raised because the company usually confirms its supplies on a four-weekly basis, with doses only confirmed for those first two weeks.

At a press conference earlier, Lt Gen John Frewen said Pfizer had confirmed its October deliveries, but conceded that the pharmaceutical giant was facing some global distribution issues:

They were only able to provide us with the first two weeks’ allocation at that point in time. It was to do with global distribution management issues with Pfizer.

They’ve now come through [and] confirmed the third week for us and assured us that we will get our full quota.

Frewen also said that Pfizer had yet to confirm supplies for November and December, but added that there should be enough supplies in the next month to vaccinate everyone.

I do encourage everybody now who hasn’t yet stepped forward to get vaccinated to please do so. The supply is now increasingly available, we’ve got more points of presence, the pharmacies have come online now with Moderna and pumping that through at a great speed.

Everything from here on in, now, it’s just about the willingness of people to come forward and to get vaccinated.

People in the post-vaccination observation area after receiving their Covid-19 vaccination at the Boondall mass vaccination hub in Brisbane. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

at 2.24am EDT

2.08am EDT

Charlie Pickering
BREAKING NEWS: Anti-Vax protesters remain trapped in Northcote Plaza unable to successfully navigate an exit as they are baffled by the presence of a second Coles.

September 24, 2021

1.59am EDT

Caitlin Cassidy

A police officer has just been filmed restraining a protestor in Northcote. A small scuffle has broken out, with shouts of “film that” and “get back”.

Riot police have arrived on the scene, though the crowd appears to have mostly dispersed.

1.48am EDT

Caitlin Cassidy

A strong police presence has descended on Northcote Plaza after dozens of protestors stormed the suburb, chanting “every day” and stopping traffic.

Dr Yves Rees
Traffic stormed in Northcote and dozens upon dozens of cops streaming into Northcote Plaza. Alarming.

September 24, 2021

Simon Love
So…. anyone wanting to go shopping in Northcote? @10NewsFirstMelb #springst

September 24, 2021

1.42am EDT

WA records one new case

Western Australia has recorded one new case, a woman in hotel quarantine who entered the state from NSW without the correct pass.

She arrived in WA earlier this week without an approved G2G pass, and was directed into hotel quarantine and tested.

WA premier Mark McGowan said she would stay in hotel quarantine for at least 14 days, as police mull the apropriate fines.

We rejected her G2G application on three separate occasions.

I think she is originally a West Australian. She had a negative test before she boarded the flight.

People will try and do the wrong thing, but our systems worked.

McGowan said he was unsure how she got onto a Virgin flight, but said she was identified as soon as she landed and put straight into quarantine.

1.20am EDT

The inaugural Australian Muslim writers festival is being held from 25 September to 2 October, and were Sydney not in lockdown I can guarantee you I’d have turned up to most of their events.

Sadly, its all being done virtually this year, and to mark the occasion, the organisers have penned a searing, genuine and thoughtful op-ed, about the struggles of having Muslim stories published, and the need to share the stories from communities that feel unheard.

You can read the article here:

at 1.39am EDT

1.00am EDT

So there were rumours of a flare-up in protesters in Melbourne today, after a series of declining turnouts. But it appears the decline has continued, with only spots of protesters seen across the city.

That hasn’t stopped videos of arrests from getting to social media:

Sami Shah
Lovely day for a picnic in Northcote

September 24, 2021

at 1.39am EDT

12.47am EDT

We are expecting an update from WA premier Mark McGowan in around 15 minutes. Lets hope its just good vibes ahead of the GF.

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