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Australia news LIVE: NSW records 199 new local COVID-19 cases; Queensland records 16 new cases

Sydneysiders are abandoning the city in favour of cheaper housing and lockdown-free life in the state’s regions as the coronavirus pandemic up-ends migration around the country.

A record net 11,800 people left the nation’s capital cities in the three months to the end of March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Tuesday, with Sydney and Melbourne hit hardest by the pandemic-fuelled drain.

Since the start of the pandemic, a net 24,500 people have left Sydney for other parts of NSW. In total, almost 40,000 have moved out of Sydney since the pandemic started, with more than 10 per cent making the move to Brisbane.

But there are signs of change. In the first three months of this year, NSW gained a net 880 people from Victoria – the first time since the middle of 2017. But it lost people to every other state or territory.

Read the full story here. 

Deaths from COVID-19 were surging across Africa in June when 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Chad. The delivery seemed proof that the United Nations-backed program to immunise the world could get the most desirable vaccines to the least developed nations. Yet five weeks later, Chad’s health minister said, 94,000 doses remained unused.

Nearby in Benin, only 267 shots were being given each day, a pace so slow that 110,000 of the program’s AstraZeneca doses expired. Across Africa, at least nine countries are at risk of having doses spoil this summer.

The vaccine pile-up illustrates one of the most serious but largely unrecognised problems facing the immunisation program as it tries to recover from months of missteps: difficulty getting doses from airport tarmacs into people’s arms.

A shipment of COVAX AstraZeneca arrives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many poorer nations struggle to store and ship the doses they receive.

A shipment of COVAX AstraZeneca arrives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many poorer nations struggle to store and ship the doses they receive. Credit:Getty

Known as COVAX, the program was supposed to be a global powerhouse, a multibillion-dollar alliance of international health bodies and non-profits that would ensure through sheer buying power that poor countries received vaccines as quickly as the rich.

Instead, COVAX has struggled to acquire doses: it stands half a billion short of its goal. Poor countries are dangerously unprotected as the Delta variant runs rampant, just the scenario that COVAX was created to prevent.

Read more here.

Builders have warned projects worth up to a combined $6 billion have ground to a halt in Sydney as thousands of construction workers from eight council areas across the city’s western suburbs remain under strict lockdown.

More than 70,000 workers and tradespeople in COVID-19 hotspots from Parramatta to Campbelltown cannot attend work despite the NSW government lifting its two-week ban on some building sites over the weekend.

Building projects in western Sydney remain shut down due to the state’s coronavirus crisis.

Building projects in western Sydney remain shut down due to the state’s coronavirus crisis. Credit:Nick Moir

Master Builders Association executive director Brian Seidler estimated work on projects worth a combined $5 billion to $6 billion had stopped in those areas where the construction ban still applied, including Fairfield, Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown.

“We’ve got some real, real problems, particularly in the commercial sector. I think there’s a bit of desperation starting to seep into a resilient industry. I think we’re going to hit the wall within two weeks,” Mr Seidler said.

Read more here.

The Australian men’s cricket team faces its first total television blackout in 27 years after Fox Sports rejected the rights to Australia’s T20 series of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh cricket sources, who declined to be named because they are not authorised to comment, said the series would not be shown in Australia on any platform following the failure of Fox Sports to agree to terms.

The first of five T20 clashes will be played in Dhaka tonight at 10pm.

The Bangladesh source claimed that the series was offered to all Australian networks including Fox Sports and was flatly rejected without a discussion around the rights fee.

“Not one dollar was discussed,” the source claimed.

A Foxtel spokesman confirmed Fox Sports would not be showing the series but denied the claim of no financial negotiations, and said that rights fees were discussed.

It is the first time since the 1994 Test series in Pakistan – Mark Taylor’s first as captain – that an overseas international series has not been telecast in Australia, further highlighting the further tightening of the sports rights market.

Read more here.

An alert has been issued for contact tracing locations in far north Queensland after health authorities confirmed they were investigating a new case of COVID-19 in Cairns.

Late today, authorities confirmed the case was active, not historic.

A public health alert was issued for a flight from Brisbane to Cairns on Thursday, July 29, as well as several locations around Cairns, Trinity Beach and Yorkeys Knob.

The case is the first in the region after the Queensland lockdown was announced on Saturday, and the furthest the coronavirus has spread in the state.

The department said the circumstances around the case were still being investigated and testing capacity was being increased in the region.

Read more here.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Victoria has done a “great job” doling out the AstraZeneca vaccine through its state-run hubs, as he spruiks the nation’s four-step path towards no more COVID lockdowns.

Mr Morrison spoke to Tom Elliott on 3AW’s Drive program this afternoon, and denied the suggestion young people were being told to get Pfizer, not AstraZeneca.

He said there’s been nothing to suggest Australia won’t meet its vaccination targets of 70 per cent and then 80 per cent because of vaccine hesitancy.

“In the last 24 hours, almost 10,000 people under the age of 40 took AstraZeneca,” Mr Morrison said.

“Victoria has done a great job with AstraZeneca going through their state hubs. They’ve been one of our best performing in the state hubs with AstraZeneca, but the biggest performer on AstraZeneca has been the GPs and with more pharmacists coming online now, that’s how we get the job done.”

He said the nearly 10,000 young people going and getting the AstraZeneca vaccine “says to me … that Australians want to get this done”.

“They know where we want to get to … at 80 per cent, those who are vaccinated can travel, they can come back, we won’t have to have these costly lockdowns,” Mr Morrison said.

He said there was no need Labor’s suggestion of cash incentives to be introduced to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The head of the Victorian royal commission into Crown casino says the company would be getting away with criminality if it was allowed to continue running its Melbourne casino unhindered.

Crown Resorts announced its Melbourne chief executive Xavier Walsh would step down half an hour before commissioner Ray Finkelstein, QC, began the final hearings of the months-long probe that has uncovered illegal behaviour. Crown’s lawyer said on Tuesday it “accepts” the findings and “apologises” for them.

Xavier Walsh, left, leaving the royal commission last month.

Xavier Walsh, left, leaving the royal commission last month.Credit:Eamon Gallagher

Mr Finkelstein, who referenced the possibility of another company taking over the casino, questioned submissions made by Crown’s lawyers urging him to allow the casino to continue with an independent monitor to oversee governance reforms and help the company return to being an acceptable casino operator.

While Crown conceded Mr Finkelstein would be within his rights to find the company “unsuitable”, the casino’s lawyers argued cancelling or suspending the licence would cause it to default on loans, cost thousands of jobs, harm Victoria’s economic recovery and deprive the state government of revenue.

Read more here.

Victoria’s tourism and events sectors are in urgent need of financial and mental health support, with a parliamentary inquiry calling for a new voucher system to help beleaguered businesses survive the pandemic.

The resumption of JobKeeper for the sectors, better access to mental health services for struggling businesses and establishment of an events industry taskforce are other key recommendations from cross-party MPs on the parliamentary economy and infrastructure committee.

Victoria’s tourism industry has lost billions of dollars during the pandemic.

Victoria’s tourism industry has lost billions of dollars during the pandemic. Credit:Paul Jeffers

The committee found that while the state government had established a $2.6 billion business support fund, many operators in tourism and events were ineligible.

The committee recommended expanding the Victorian voucher scheme, in which a person who spends $400 on accommodation or other tourism-related costs gets $200 back from the government. But it called for the scheme to be adapted to encourage people to go away midweek and not just on weekends.

It also wants a similar voucher initiative for the events sector.

Read more here.

Dozens of Sydney schools have cancelled in-person HSC trials even though year 12 will be allowed to return to classrooms in two weeks amid anxiety from students, parents and teachers about the safety of attending campus while COVID-19 case numbers remain stubbornly high.

The Catholic sector has also called on the government to “urgently” provide more information on its plan for large-scale COVID-19 screening for schools, and asked it to release the medical advice upon which it based its decision to allow face-to-face HSC classes to resume.

Dozens of schools pull out of HSC trials amid health concerns from students, parents and teachers

Dozens of schools pull out of HSC trials amid health concerns from students, parents and teachers

More than 70 schools have pulled out of the Catholic Schools Secondary Association HSC trials, which are due to begin on August 18; most of those will do online assessments instead. Other schools will hold in-person trial exams but will continue with remote learning afterwards.

As Premier Gladys Berejiklian flagged that amendments to her controversial plan to let HSC students return will be released within days, including “strict conditions” for hotspot local government areas, the Catholic sector wrote to Education Minister Sarah Mitchell outlining the challenges faced by its schools.

Read more here.

Labor and the Greens have ramped up pressure on the Morrison government for its delay in putting in place new sanctions to target corrupt officials and human rights offenders.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching has introduced a private member’s bill to create a law similar to the US Magnitsky Act, which would give Australia the power to impose visa and property-related sanctions on individuals who commit serious human rights abuses and corruption.

Labor Senator Kimberly Kitching.

Labor Senator Kimberly Kitching.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

A bipartisan parliamentary inquiry last December recommended the federal government enact laws and the government has been working on a proposal since then.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed in June that senior officials inside the Prime Minister’s and Defence departments were holding up the drafting of new laws.

Introducing her own bill this afternoon, Senator Kitching said “the free world”, including Australia, needed to act.

“In a world of growing authoritarianism, this becomes a weapon for democratic pushback,” she said.

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