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The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed the reintroduction and extension of vital Covid-19 public health measures.
Dr Jacqueline Small, president-elect of the RACP, has expressed relief governments have moved in line with the RACP’s recommendations and those of the country’s senior public health advisers.
“What we are seeing with Omicron is that it spreads at lightning speed, and if we don’t take action now, we will have even more challenging times ahead of us,” Small said.
“The unprecedented climb in case numbers in NSW shows why we urgently needed public health measures to be put back in place.
“We strongly welcome the state governments’ decisions to reintroduce or maintain mask mandates, in addition to QR code check-ins and density limits.
Modelling by the Doherty Institute earlier this week had shown the need to remain flexible and prepared to reintroduce certain public health measures, Small said.
“We have to ensure that people can continue living their lives and celebrate this time of the year with their loved ones while minimising risks to their health and safety.
“These proportionate actions help keep all in our community safer and ensure the health system can meet the needs of those who become unwell,” Small said.
Queensland’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, has called in an application mining magnate Clive Palmer made to a regional council to build a large coal-fired power station.
Palmer’s application to the Barcaldine regional council was seen by conservationists as an attempt to sidestep consultation on the plan, which Miles himself had suggested could be a “thought bubble.”
Miles said this afternoon: “Barcaldine regional council has never assessed a project of this size. This call-in allows the state to address a broader range of matters than the council was able to under their planning scheme.
“This will include seeking public comment on the project. I want to make sure the community get their say on a project of this scale.”
Palmer’s Waratah Coal company made the application in February 2020 to build a 1,400-megawatt power station near the tiny town of Alpha, about 390 kilometres west of Rockhampton.
Waratah Coal has an undeveloped but approved coal mine project about 30 kilometres north of Alpha, and Waratah coal says the mine project is dependent on the power plant.
After Miles said last month he intended to call the project in, Waratah Coal wrote that the power plant would have lower emissions than other plants and provide jobs and cheap power to the state, and said the application through the council was appropriate.
Dave Copeman, the director of Queensland Conservation Council, said the project should be stopped.
“Minister Miles has acted responsibly by calling in this project. Proper government assessment will find what Queenslanders already know; we cannot build a new coal-fired power station in the face of the worsening climate crisis.
“New coal in Queensland would lock consumers into higher prices and get in the way of our chance to fully embrace the opportunities of becoming a renewable energy superpower.
“Queenslanders want a vibrant and innovative future that takes advantage of new renewable energy technology, not outdated, toxic coal-fired power.”
While we’re on SA – I have this from AAP:
South Australia’s Covid-19 cases have more than doubled in 24 hours, setting a record for the seventh consecutive day as the paramedics union warns the hospital system isn’t coping.
SA Health reported 484 new cases on Thursday, taking the number of new infections since the state’s borders opened a month ago to 1307.
Seven people are in hospital with one man in his 30s on a ventilator.
SA now has 1214 active infections, most being managed in home isolation.
The big jump in cases came as the Ambulance Employees Association said suspected and positive coronavirus patients were kept waiting in ramped ambulances outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital overnight in further evidence of the stress on the healthcare system.
Taking to social media on Thursday, the Ambulance Employees Association said one crew was sent to three “severely unwell” Covid-19 patients overnight.
It said two patients were ultimately transported in one ambulance while another crew eventually arrived to take the third patient.
“Treating paramedics almost ran out of oxygen, they ran out of medications,” the association said.
“They were calling for intensive care back-up with none available. Our healthcare system is not coping.”
But the premier, Steven Marshall, said all the patients taken to hospital were treated appropriately.
“They were triaged, they were treated within the clinically appropriate time frame,” he said.
“Our clinicians treat people in accordance to their acuity and the advice I’ve received is that’s exactly what happened.”
Marshall said of the four cases transferred to hospital overnight, three were from the same family, so it was acceptable for them to travel in the same ambulance.
Western Australian fire authorities are preparing for maximums of more than 40 degrees across WA in the coming days.
Fire and emergency services commissioner, Darren Klemm, addressed the media a little earlier and warned total fire bans are likely to be introduced soon.
The forecast weather conditions present significant challenges from a fire weather point of view.
[There are] some challenges around the health and wellbeing of those people responding, so it is important from our point of view that everyone plays a role.
Total fire bans are likely to be placed in certain parts of the south-western state.
They get decided around 4pm on each day for the next day, and people need to monitor WA to make sure that they are aware what bans are [in place] in the area they will be in on any day.
Comments from Chris Minns, NSW Labor leader on rule changes:
NSW Labor welcomes the decision by the NSW Government to back our calls for a mask mandate, and to reintroduce the 2SQM rule.
We’ve already said this is a health crisis and is above politics.
Whatever levers we can pull to get this pandemic under control, short of a lockdown, should be used.
We all want to avoid a lockdown, and today’s announcements are sensible steps that the community, experts, and Labor have been calling for.
We are in a position of strength to get through this, with some of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
The NSW transport minister, David Elliott, says he has put brakes on the easing of capacity limits on public transport until January next year. In a statement, he said:
This afternoon I instructed Transport for NSW Secretary Rob Sharp to cease the further easing of customer capacity limits on public transport services until late January 2022.
Customer capacity limits and green dots across all modes of public transport were set to be removed on Friday 31 December 2021. In light of the current environment and measures announced by the Premier today, I have directed this work to be delayed to keep commuters and staff safe.
The current capacity limit of 75 per cent of customers on any public transport service will remain in place.
Masks are mandatory for anyone using public transport services across the network.
SA Health says seven people are now in hospital, including a child.
One man in his 30s is in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on a ventilator.
Fires at Melbourne hotel housing refugees
Two separate fires have broken out in a hotel housing refugees and asylum seekers in Melbourne.
Shortly after 1.30pm on Thursday, fire crews and police were called to the five-storey Park Hotel in Carlton – where 34 asylum seekers are being held – after an automatic fire alarm was triggered.
Wearing breathing apparatus, some of the 30 firefighters on scene “entered the building and worked to contain the fires, bringing the incident under control at 2.11pm”.
Crews are still on scene extinguishing flames and ventilating the building, a Fire Rescue Victoria spokeswoman said. There were fires on the third and fourth levels of the hotel, including one in a room. It is not clear how the fires started.
While the FRV spokeswoman said “all occupants were safely evacuated” and some patients were transferred to ambulances, Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, said the asylum seekers, who are staying on levels two and three of the building, were evacuated to level one.
Mehdi Ali, one of the asylum seekers being held at the hotel, tweeted that authorities were “keeping us in the building instead of taking us to a safe place”.
Victoria Police and FRV will investigate the cause of the fires.
Additional reporting: Ben Doherty
OK, that was a big presser for NSW. Let’s recap on the big changes:
- From midnight tonight, masks indoors will be mandatory – that’s until January 27.
- Next year, rapid antigen tests will be provided for free, but how that will be rolled out is yet to be determined.
- QR codes will be brought back in a limited way in low-risk settings.
- People have been asked to work from home if they can.
- The one person per two square metres rule in indoor hospitality will be reintroduced from 27 December to 27 January.
- And people in the state are being asked that, unless they are feeling unwell or they have been specifically told to get a PCR test, don’t get one.
Hazzard is asked about visitors to households and if they will be restricted for NYE.
The phrase I have used is ‘never say never’.
We are in a pandemic, one in 100 years; we are keeping it under review, we will make changes as necessary and take public health advice where appropriate.
At this stage my view is, Christmas, you know what? Last year we had the northern beaches locked down for Christmas, then we had parts of the eastern suburbs locked down, and parts of western Sydney – we need a break.
We need people, as the premier said many times, to take some responsibility for themselves, but we don’t want to impose unnecessary restrictions.
Take it easy folks, don’t have too many people over to your house. Open the windows.
Hazzard says his advice to the federal government is that NSW “will do our bit”, but he is glad the feds are offering GPs and pharmacists more money.
If you’re a pharmacist and already tired from two years of the pandemic, 23 months on Christmas Day, you’re only making $16 a pop for a job, you won’t be too keen because you’ll make a lot more money selling things across the counter, doing prescriptions.
The fact the federal government have now said they will step up and pay additional funds to GPs and pharmacists – we should say thank you to the prime minister and thank you to the federal health minister, and hopefully that’ll make a difference.
Hazzard says the majority of cases are young people.
10- to 39-year-olds occupy 70% of all of our positive cases.
He says one positive case in Newcastle resulted in 250 positive cases.
Look after yourself and don’t actually start hanging too close together with people you probably don’t know all that well.
As we saw in Newcastle, one person went for a party boat and turned 250 people into positive cases in one nightclub in one night.
We are striking a balance of personal responsibility – get sensible, folks, don’t try and mingle too closely with people you don’t know. In some cases, even with people you know. But also, if you can, get vaccinated.