NSW braces for Covid-19 surge

NSW is steeling for a spike in Covid-19 cases today following Sydney’s lockdown extension, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian flagging a significant rise in infections.

What we know:

  • NSW authorities extended the Greater Sydney lockdown by another week after identifying 27 locally acquired cases on Wednesday (ABC); 
  • Berejiklian said she had seen “some concerning statistics on what is happening in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool council areas” of south-west Sydney as exposure site numbers grow
  • The federal government refused to bring back JobKeeper, offering only a $500 disaster payment (news.com.au); 
  • The NSW government unveiled a $1.4bn support package for small business (SMH); 
  • Unions have called for food delivery drivers to join frontline workers in being prioritised for vaccination (SBS); 
  • NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard suggested the state might give up on suppression of the virus, while state treasurer Dominic Perrottet opposed the lockdown extension (The Australian); 
  • The Delta variant is affecting younger people, with 14 of 37 Covid-19 patients in NSW hospitals under the age of 55 and eight under 35 (The Guardian).

Extreme cover for natural disasters

The federal government has been urged to dramatically widen the scope of a $10bn reinsurance pool for ever-more-severe natural disasters.

A Treasury taskforce is consulting with stakeholders in Cairns, Townsville and the Whitsundays on the scheme to indirectly reinsure for cyclone and flood damage in Northern Australia.

Submissions include:

  • A Melbourne Institute analysis urging government to more directly subsidise households’ insurance costs and work to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, otherwise premiums will skyrocket out of reach (The Conversation); 
  • The Financial Rights Legal Centre recommending the reinsurance pool cover other disasters such as bushfires and be available to all Australians (The Townsville Bulletin); 
  • The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland saying that a well-designed scheme could see up to a 20% premium discount for homes in high-risk cyclone areas (Reinsurance News); 
  • The Greater Whitsunday Alliance warning that the “unpredictable aftermath” of cyclones in addition to the storms themselves needs to be covered (insurancenews.com.au). 

It comes as a new study using artificial neural networks demonstrates how climate change has intensified extreme rain events globally in recent decades (International Policy Digest).


Bid to block cheaters

Australia’s education standards regulator has launched the first legal action of its kind in a bid to block an alleged academic cheating website.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) launched the challenge against  Assignmenthelp4you.com under laws passed last year that prohibit the advertisement of academic cheating services (The Guardian). 

TEQSA is seeking to force 51 internet service providers to block Australian access to the website, which offers assignment writing “for students who are unfamiliar of writing university and academic assignments”.

The laws also could see site operators face up to two years jail, or fines of up to $110,000 for providing or advertising the services.

The agency released data detailing 2628 instances where substantially similar assignments had been submitted in Australia.


Australia sends Indonesia aid

Australia will provide immediate health support to Indonesia in response to surging Covid-19 cases in the country.

Indonesia on Wednesday registered new daily records of 34,379 coronavirus infections and 1040 deaths (Reuters).

On Wednesday evening Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced Australia would send:

  • 1000 ventilators;
  • 700 oxygen concentrators;
  • 170 oxygen cylinders;
  • 40,000 testing kits;
  • 2.5m AstraZeneca vaccine doses, drawn from an already announced pool of doses earmarked for the Asia-Pacific region (SBS). 

The death toll includes 131 healthcare workers — mostly vaccinated with China’s Sinovac shot — since June.

Those losses exacerbate inadequate staffing in hospitals, in a country with 0.4 doctors per 1000 people — the fifth-lowest rate in the Asia-Pacific (Reuters). 


Haiti’s president assassinated

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has been murdered in his own home, according to the country’s interim prime minister.

A group attacked Moïse’s home overnight on Wednesday and shot him dead in a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act”, interim Premier Claude Joseph said (CNN). 

First Lady Martine Moïse was also shot and is in hospital.

Haiti has been placed under a “state of siege”, with national borders closed and martial law temporarily imposed.

Moïse had ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, with the Opposition demanding his resignation in recent months.

A replacement is not clear, as the person next in line recently died of Covid-19.

Haiti's parliament would have to endorse any replacement, but it is effectively defunct without recent elections.

Gang violence had surged in Port-au-Prince of late, with inflation causing food and fuel scarcity.


Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.

A new book claims Donald Trump once praised the Nazi leader, prompting outcries that the former US president is ignorant of history. Given the way Trump is insidiously undermining democratic institutions after a failed coup, it appears he understands German history all too well (The Guardian).


Postscript: Why Can’t We Be Friends

It has become increasingly common for people to develop intense one-sided relationships with famous people on the internet ... John Mulaney fans share concern over his recently messy personal life as much as they laugh at his jokes. Fans of K-pop groups like Blackpink (called Blinks) flood YouTube videos with millions of comments in support of their favourite performers. (“Rosé has worked so hard for this moment, let’s support her as much as we can!!”) ... Even peloton trainers are marketed as supporting us on our fitness journeys rather than coaches who simply encourage us to sweat (Real Life).


Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.