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- New COVID ‘venue of concern’ identified in Newcastle
- Labor calls for end to pork barrelling
- Plea to wear masks, get booster shots as NSW cases skyrocket
- Victorian COVID cases expected to spike, but Christmas plans are safe: CHO
- This morning’s headlines at a glance
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New COVID ‘venue of concern’ identified in Newcastle
Multiple cases of COVID-19 have been associated with a new venue of concern in Newcastle, including some likely to be the Omicron variant, NSW Health says.
Anyone who attended The Cambridge Hotel on Hunter Street between 6.30pm on Friday, December 10 and 2.30am on Saturday, December 11 is considered a close contact and must get tested and isolate for seven days.
“All household contacts of close contacts should also be tested and self-isolate until a negative result is received by everyone in the household,” NSW Health said in a public health alert issued late yesterday.
“This venue was visited by confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is likely some of these cases have the Omicron variant of concern.”
The health department is appealing for anyone who did not check-in to get tested and isolate, and for the community “to ensure other potential attendees are aware of this advice”.
Prior to the confirmation of multiple cases, The Cambridge Hotel had said on social media it had been advised by NSW Health of a potentially infectious case at the venue, “just like most venues in Newcastle”.
“No surprise here,” a post on its Facebook page reads.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to a number of the city’s hospitality venues, including the Argyle House nightclub, resulting in hundreds of cases, and Finnegan’s Hotel.
A raft of restrictions eased in NSW yesterday, however QR codes remain in use at pubs and clubs.
Of yesterday’s 1360 new cases, 424 were identified in the Hunter New England Local Health District, including 243 from the Newcastle local government area.
A total of 110 cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in NSW so far, with more expected to be confirmed by genomic sequencing.
Labor calls for end to pork barrelling
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is warning grant programs used to funnel money into key marginal and Liberal-held seats across the country could be investigated under the party’s planned national integrity commission, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to continue funding local projects.
An analysis by this masthead of more than 19,000 grants across 11 programs found Coalition seats received $1.9 billion in three years while Labor electorates got less than $530 million.
Anthony Albanese said “pork barrelling is just out of control”.Credit:Louise Kennerley
Two hard-fought battlegrounds at the last election, Corangamite in Victoria and Lyons in Tasmania, account for 21 per cent of the total Labor funding.
There were huge discrepancies between the nation’s 151 electorates, with the boundary of a seat sometimes separating voters from millions of dollars in funding for their community.
Mr Albanese’s Sydney-based seat of Grayndler received $718,000 in grants. The neighbouring seat of Reid, the most marginal Liberal electorate in NSW, received $14.8 million.
Read the full story here.
Plea to wear masks, get booster shots as NSW cases skyrocket
Advice from NSW’s top doctor is at odds with the government’s decision to ease restrictions on wearing masks, with Dr Kerry Chant urging people to keep wearing them amid warnings the state could hit 25,000 cases a day by January.
Despite NSW’s daily infections tripling in a week, the state government pushed ahead with easing a raft of restrictions yesterday, including scrapping crowd density limits, dropping QR codes and masks in most settings, ending vaccination verification and having unvaccinated people rejoin society.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Premier Dominic Perrottet and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. Credit:Janie Barrett
Chief Health Officer Dr Chant said it was a “matter for government in setting those mandates”, but her strong recommendation from a public health position was to maintain mask-wearing – saying it was “a small price” to pay and a “very community-minded action”.
“My clear advice is in indoor settings, people should be wearing masks,” she said at yesterday’s press conference.
More on the situation in NSW here.
Victorian COVID cases expected to spike, but Christmas plans are safe: CHO
Victoria’s COVID-19 cases could initially double every two days as a result of the new Omicron variant, but local authorities are confident Christmas plans are safe from last-minute domestic border closures and gathering restrictions.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton expects the state to follow a similar trajectory to NSW, where new modelling suggests Omicron could send case numbers soaring to 25,000 a day by the end of January, as both states push ahead with plans to ease restrictions, including the scrapping of vaccine mandates in some low-risk settings from today.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley yesterday.Credit:Chris Hopkins
However, shoppers will still need to wear masks indoors after fears that hundreds of people were exposed to the Omicron variant at Fitzroy and Collingwood nightclubs last Friday night, prompting warnings of a possible superspreader event.
Early data suggests Omicron is highly transmissible but less likely to cause serious illness than the Delta variant.
Read the full story here.
This morning’s headlines at a glance
Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.
It’s Thursday, December 16. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of the day’s biggest stories as they unfold.
Here’s everything you need to know.
- NSW’s top doctor is urging people to keep wearing masks despite coronavirus restrictions easing in her state. It comes amid warnings NSW could hit 25,000 cases a day by January. Yesterday, NSW recorded 1360 cases of COVID-19 and one death (the highest daily tally in three months).
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
- In Victoria, masks will remain mandatory in shops and other high-risk settings after the state government walked back an easing of mask rules. However, proof of vaccination is being eased in most retail settings, including real estate and places of worship. Victoria recorded 1405 cases of COVID-19 yesterday and three deaths. VCE results are also out today, and we’ll have a dedicated blog for that coverage.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton.Credit:Joe Armao
- In federal politics, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will deliver the mid-year economic update in Canberra today. It’s expected a million jobs will be created in the next four years. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham will also do the media rounds this morning to defend the federal government’s system of grants, which have been under the spotlight thanks to an analysis by this masthead (which found the taxpayer grants favour Coalition-held seats).
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg now expects to create one million jobs over the next four years.Credit:Eamon Gallagher
- Elsewhere, the second Ashes test will get underway in Adelaide today. New data suggests Queenslanders are the most reluctant to get the coronavirus jab. And the ACT recorded seven cases of COVID-19 yesterday.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark has tested positive to COVID-19. Credit:Getty
- In international news, the United Kingdom has recorded 78,610 cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period. That’s the largest daily tally since the beginning of the pandemic and 10,000 more cases than the previous UK record set in January, when the UK is in lockdown. And Princess Mary of Denmark, who is originally from Australia, has tested positive to COVID-19.
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