Covid long haul for Sydney

The Sydney lockdown is set to be extended by four weeks today with concessions including a singles bubble, as Victoria and SA lift stay-at-home orders.

In NSW:

  • NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expected to announce the extension this morning, after 172 new local Covid-19 cases were recorded in NSW on Tuesday (SMH); 
  • Changes to the rules include a singles bubble for people who live alone, construction to resume in non-hotspot areas, and rapid antigen testing of year 12 students to allow them to return to school;
  • By Friday, adults of any age will be able to book an AstraZeneca jab at NSW Health clinics and hundreds of pharmacies;
  • Pharmacists and GPs have reported a surge of interest in people wanting to get vaccinated.

In Victoria and SA:

  • Victorians can now leave home for any reason, with the 5km travel limit also scrapped (Nine); 
  • In-person learning will re-open for all year levels;
  • Public gatherings are permitted with a maximum of 10 people, but gatherings at households are not allowed;
  • Victoria recorded 10 new cases on Tuesday, all in quarantine for their infectious period (ABC); 
  • SA also eased restrictions after no new cases on Tuesday, but masks will apply at healthcare centres, indoor public spaces and on public transport (InDaily).
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China turns off tap for wine exporters

Australia will no longer be able to export wine into China as a result of tariffs imposed by Beijing, according to federal government forecasts.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) warns that the anti-dumping tariffs introduced by China will see exports into the country “cease entirely” (Bloomberg). 

The industry could lose $2.4bn over five years unless there are proactive efforts to increase trade with other countries.

Australian grape growers alone would lose $67m a year over that period.

That includes $11m in the Riverina, $11m for Victoria’s North West region, $23m for South Australia and $21m for growers elsewhere (The New Daily). 

Without specific strategies to find alternative markets, only 60% of wine destined for China will find a place in other existing markets by 2025.

“Since the beginning of the year, Australian wine exporters have managed to redirect around 30 per cent of the wine destined for China. They’re well on the way,” said ABARES executive director Jared Greenville.

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Crown pays back the house

Crown has announced it will pay $61m to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation for unpaid taxes.

The company admitted it underpaid taxes in the 2012 financial year by $37m, with an additional $24m of penalty interest slapped on top of that (ABC). 

Victoria’s royal commission into the casino learnt of the tax shortfall after Crown accidently sent a spreadsheet estimating the underpayment to the inquiry.

The inquiry heard Crown Melbourne chief Xavier Walsh was aware of a potential underpayment in 2018 but only started investigating it the day after the royal commission was announced.

Prosecutors at the commission said the casino might owe as much as $480m to the state.

The royal commission will hand down its recommendations by October 15.

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Booze on ice in Antarctic

Alcohol consumption at Australia’s Antarctic stations will be ­almost halved, as part of a bid to improve health and safety and make the facilities more female-friendly.

The Australian Antarctic Division director Kim Ellis said the new drug and alcohol policy is based on government health guidelines of no more than 10 standard drinks a week (The Australian). 

He said Antarctica is “an extreme, remote environment”.

“If you walk out of the accommodation module because you’re blind drunk, into the snow, we may never find you again,” he said.

Home brewing will be banned under the new rules.

Ellis claimed the move would make facilities safer for women as he moved to increase gender equity at the stations.

Women working in Antarctica report regular experiences of sexual harassment (ABC).

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Astronomers look for intelligent life

An international team of scientists led by a controversial Harvard astronomer have announced a new project to look for evidence of technology built by extraterrestrial civilisations.

The Galileo Project, funded with US$1.75m from private donors, envisages a global network of telescopes, cameras and computers to catalog potential examples (Gizmodo). 

It was announced a month after the Pentagon released a report about unidentified aerial phenomena.

Theoretical astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who is leading the project, has been an advocate of the strongly disputed theory that Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped interstellar comet that passed through the solar system in 2017, is actually some kind of probe.

His team of researchers will capture high-resolution images of unidentified aerial phenomena, study “Oumuamua-like” interstellar objects, and search for potential alien satellites.

Mick West, a debunker of unidentified aerial phenomena theories, doubts the project will deliver useful results anytime soon, but welcomes more investigation (Scientific American). 

“Is he a voice crying out the truth in the wilderness or is he a bit of a crank?” West asks. “Time will tell.”

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The Morrison government will support pharmacies across Australia, including through skilled migration, as supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses increases over the coming weeks.

The Morrison government finally reveals its vaccine rollout plan: import the doses, and then import the pharmacists to administer them (SBS).

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Postscript: Smell You Later: The Weird Science of How Sweat Attracts

At Oktyabrskaya metro station, in Moscow, a towering bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin glares along Krymsky Val Boulevard towards Gorky Park. Below Lenin’s feet, among the proletariat entourage, a sculpted woman stands with one arm raised in triumphant solidarity, her armpit exposed and victorious. I decide that this is a good omen. I am, after all, en route to a smell-dating event, where Russians will be judging the attractiveness of my armpit aroma (The Walrus).

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