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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victoria records just one new COVID-19 case as state’s average continues to decline; third COVID-19 wave ravages US as Australian death toll stands at 905

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Eight babies among repatriated Australians bound for Darwin

By Ashleigh McMillan

Eight babies are among a planeload of Australians expected to touch down in Darwin today.

The group will arrive on the first of the special repatriation flights announced by the federal government. About 500 people are expected to complete quarantine at the Howard Springs former mining site each week.

Australians returning from overseas must receive a negative COVID-19 test result before they fly.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said while the government had been “encouraging Australians to return since March”, those arriving from London today were considered vulnerable.

“There’s a vast range of personal circumstances represented … what we’d describe as vulnerable Australians, whether that be for financial circumstances, medical, family or work circumstances,” she said.

“We’re endeavouring to bring these flights through in the coming weeks.”

Another eight repatriation flights are being organised by the government, including from New Delhi and Johannesburg.

“Our focus is on the 4000 or so most vulnerable who have identified themselves with the department in September … we are working with commercial airlines to make sure they are filling every single seat,” Ms Payne said.

Around 6000 people are able to enter Australia per week under the current federal government arrivals cap.

‘It would be helpful if we were told there was an outbreak in our area’: Victorian doctor

By Marissa Calligeros

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Still on the latest Victorian outbreak, Dr John Hodgson, who runs a respiratory clinic in Dallas in Melbourne’s north says the Health Department failed to alert him and his colleagues to the outbreak in their area.

Public health alert text messages went out to residents on Wednesday.

“And we still haven’t got anything from DHHS,” Dr Hodgson told ABC Radio National a short time ago. “We would have thought that given we are a COVID clinic that it would be helpful if we were told there was an outbreak in our area.”

Dr Hodgson worries communication breakdowns and language barriers will make it difficult to contain the virus across the migrant community in Melbourne’s north.

“It’s very low socio-economic status, it’s in the bottom 15 per cent in the country, there’s a lot of migrant people,” he said. “I think they’re afraid of being labelled as a COVID case, or a household with a COVID case in it.”

A Somali community group based in Heidelberg West is working with local health authorities to door-knock residents of Broadmeadows, Preston, Dallas, Roxburgh Park and West Heidelberg to urge anyone with coronavirus symptoms to get tested.

Testing has been ramped up in Melbourne's northern suburbs as a result of a cluster with 16 active cases.

Testing has been ramped up in Melbourne’s northern suburbs as a result of a cluster with 16 active cases. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

But Somali community leader Farah Warsame – who worked with residents of nine inner-city public housing towers put into lockdown in July – said his community, like many multicultural groups, communicated via social media and applications such as WhatsApp, rather than traditional media.

In late August, Mr Warsame recorded a YouTube video with the health department in Somali on wearing a face mask that has been viewed just 94 times since it was uploaded.

A study of 200 multicultural people in Melbourne in June found almost 22 per cent did not understand COVID-19 information.

Victoria’s coronavirus contact tracing system will switch to a new “whole household” approach rather than having members of the same family with individual case managers.

‘We hope that we’ve got our arms around it’: New Victorian case unrelated to northern suburbs cluster

By Marissa Calligeros

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One of Victoria’s senior contract tracers, Professor Euan Wallace, says Friday’s new case of COVID-19 does not appear to be connected to the northern suburbs cluster.

“We have no new cases in this outbreak in the last 24 hours and we hope that we’ve got our arms around it,” he told ABC Radio National a short time ago.

“This outbreak is mostly between and within households so we don’t have evidence yet of significant outbreaks across workplaces and broader communities. These are all households who know each other.”

Remdesivir, the virus treatment given to Trump, gets formal US approval

Here’s some more details on the breaking story out of the US on the first drug to obtain formal clearance for treating COVID-19.

The US Food and Drug Administration has just approved Gilead Sciences’s antiviral therapy remdesivir. Regulators had granted an emergency-use authorisation for remdesivir earlier this year, and since then the drug has become a widely used therapy in hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

It was given to President Donald Trump this month when he was diagnosed with the virus.

The drug was given to President Donald Trump this month when he was diagnosed with the virus.

The drug was given to President Donald Trump this month when he was diagnosed with the virus.Credit:AP

The approval of remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, will allow Gilead to market the drug and talk about its benefits to doctors, nurses, and patients in the US. That could help solidify its position as a go-to medicine for COVID-19 patients even as other drugs for the disease begin to reach the market.

In Australia, remdesivir was approved in July for use in adults and adolescent patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms who have been hospitalised.

“Veklury is now the first and only approved COVID-19 treatment in the United States,” Gilead said in a statement. While the drug was in short supply initially, Gilead said that the medicine is now widely available in hospitals across the country as manufacturing capacity has rapidly expanded. Bloomberg

Read more here.

Contact details of stranded Aussies leaked for third time

By Ashleigh McMillan and Marissa Calligeros

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Australians trying to return from overseas have had their contact details leaked for a third time this year by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed the department had shared the email addresses of Australian citizens in France who had indicated to the federal government they wanted to fly home.

“It is not an ideal situation at all … I am very sorry that these events have occurred, and as you say, this is the third occasion,” Minister Payne told ABC Radio National.

“We know this is an issue that needs to be addressed and I understand the [DFAT department] secretary is taking it up with officials to endeavour to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“It is important to be careful with people’s private information and that has absolutely been reinforced to my department.”

The leaking of email addresses by DFAT has already occurred twice during the pandemic, with a privacy breach involving more than 2700 Australians stranded overseas in September caused by putting recipients’ email addresses in the ‘Cc’ section, instead of ‘Bcc’.

On July 29, Australia’s Bogota embassy in Colombia forwarded a sensitive and private email from a concerned citizen to more than 300 Australians stuck in South America, believed to have involved clicking ‘reply all’, instead of just ‘reply’.

Almost 30,000 Australians stranded overseas have told the federal government they want to return home.

Victoria’s COVID-19 numbers

Victoria has recorded just one new coronavirus case and no deaths as hundreds connected to Melbourne’s northern suburbs outbreak remain in isolation and anti-lockdown protesters prepare to converge on the Shrine of Remembrance.

And as promised, here are our updated graphs, thanks to our data guru (and fellow blogger) Craig Butt, who dropped in this fun fact: if there are three or fewer cases confirmed tomorrow, the 14-day average will drop to five.

NRL boss ‘couldn’t be more proud’ of code ahead of grand final

By Mary Ward

Australian Rugby League boss Peter V’landys has thanked the NSW government, police and his code ahead of the NRL grand final this weekend.

The 2020 NRL season was suspended in March due to coronavirus restrictions. However, it returned on May 28 with measures such as a teams’ biosecurity bubble and cardboard cut-out fans.

Just under five months later, this weekend’s grand final between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm will be played to a crowd of 40,000 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

“I was just a captain of a team, it was a team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of the game as a whole because you can have the best protocols and the best biosecurity measures in the world but if you don’t have buy-in from each of the stakeholders you have nothing,” Mr V’landys told Ben Fordham on 2GB, adding that the players, officials and clubs were “fantastic”.

“Everyone just banded together for a common cause and we got there in the end.”

Mr V’landys said that, while many doubted the league should have returned as soon as it did, the work of the NSW government in managing the virus and the police in managing quarantine for out-of-state teams had made it possible.

“I was actually confident we could start up again on the 21st of May. It was only [the next week] because the teams needed an extra week of training,” he said.

National cabinet to meet today for first time in five weeks

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National cabinet will meet today for the first time in five weeks, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was forced to cancel last week’s meeting when a problem with a plane left him stranded in Cairns.

The agenda is expected to include the controversial border wars and how Australia can safely reopen the economy by Christmas.

As the first group of stranded Australians is expected to touch down in Darwin soon after 1pm (AEDT) today, it’s certain that quarantine arrangements will also be hotly debated. I expect everyone will be taking notes on who makes what decision and when.

One new COVID-19 case, no deaths recorded in Victoria

On the inaugural Thank You Day (the delayed grand final eve public holiday) in Victoria, just one new case of coronavirus has been recorded and no new deaths.

The rolling 14-day state average looks like it’s sitting at 5.8, but we’ll bring you the breakdown when we update our own graphs shortly.

‘Freedom day’ protesters must play by CHO rules: police

By Ashleigh McMillan

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Police are monitoring another “freedom day” protest against coronavirus restrictions planned for Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on Friday afternoon.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said that protesters would be fined if they were more than 25 kilometres from their homes, or if they gathered in groups of more than 10 people from only two households.

“Protest is not unlawful, it’s a human right and we’re now operating in a context where the Chief Health Officer’s [CHO] directions do allow people to leave home for recreation and for socialising,” he said.

“Whether you’re protesting down at your local park, whether you’re protesting at the shrine, you must comply with the CHO directions about public gatherings.

“Anyone that turns up to the shrine … can expect to find police asking them, ‘Who are you? Where are you from and where do you live?'”

Shrine of Remembrance chief Dean Lee told 3AW’s Tom Elliott on Thursday afternoon that he hoped Melburnians who were thinking about attending the protest would “stop and think” about the hundreds of thousands of Australians who fought and died in war to protect the country.

“The shrine is a place of remembrance. When you protest at a place of remembrance, you’re dishonouring that sacrifice,” he said.

“It’s wrong, it’s un-Australian and it should stop … it’s outrageous.”

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