Wednesday, August 05, 2020

ABF reopens Christmas Island

The Australian Border Force has admitted the Christmas Island detention centre will be reopened, claiming that Covid-19 had strained the capacity of the onshore detention network. The decision was confirmed on Tuesday night, following a report in The Australian that guards were being recruited and trained for reopening. That story indicated up to 200 men would initially be sent from the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia. The ABF suggested some of the detainees had committed crimes involving assault and drugs. The Human Rights Law Centre described the move as a “dangerous and inhumane response to rising Covid-19 risk in immigration detention”, pointing to medical advice that detainees should be released. The main facility is reportedly at the other end of the island to where the Biloela Tamil family are detained

Virgin Australia will today reveal how many of its 9000 workers will retain their jobs under new owner Bain Capital. The airline is also expected to announce the structure of its fleet and its destinations. Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration in April with debts of $6.8 billion.  Unions have at various times braced for 40-50 per cent of the workforce to be cut. Virgin has been expected to cut its fleet down from 132 planes to about 70 Boeing 737s, ditching the budget TigerAir brand as it aims for the middle of the market between budget JetStar flights and the high-end Qantas alternative.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has banned diplomatic and consular staff returning from overseas from skipping hotel quarantine, after a Government contractor tested positive for Covid-19. The man in his 20s returned from Afghanistan last week on a flight via Sydney, but was given an exemption to quarantine at home. He has since tested positive to coronavirus, sparking a public health alert for passengers and crew on the Sydney to Sunshine Coast flight. Palaszczuk has asked Queensland police to examine whether the documents were false, saying authorities were given federal documents on a Department of Foreign Affairs letterhead, along with an exemption provided by New South Wales authorities. The state recorded no new cases on Tuesday. There were another 439 cases reported in Victoria yesterday and 11 further deaths, New South Wales recorded 12 cases, and South Australia two.

Lebanese health minister Hamad Hassan says at least 50 people were killed and 2700 injured in a large explosion at Beirut’s port, overwhelming local hospitals. A resulting shockwave caused widespread damage to buildings, shattering windows across the city. The blast was heard 240km away on the island of Cyprus. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, with early reports linking the incident to a warehouse holding ammonium nitrate. 

 
 

“They call themselves the Covid long-haulers. Weeks and months after the initial infection has passed, people around the world are still reporting a strange medley of often debilitating symptoms that have caused them daily pain, confusion and deepening concern ... Authorities, families and healthcare workers have been understandably preoccupied with the fatality rate. But the story of Covid-19’s impact is far more complex, and in some respects more concerning, than the death rate itself.”

 

“Peter V’landys is a man with a plan to make Australia sane again. His straightforward vaccine for the financial stress and social isolation of COVID-19? The Greatest Game of All: rugby league, which, with his unapologetically bogan persona, he pronounces rugba league, a sure-fire source of amusement for smug southerners ... This isn’t V’landys’s first rodeo, or, indeed, his first public-relations campaign triggered by a plague.”

 

“Scott Morrison went into disaster management mode this week as the coronavirus pandemic came awfully close to home, both personally and politically. The ‘catastrophe’, as his political opponents described it, was the Covid-19 outbreak spreading through some private Victorian aged-care facilities – something that happens to be the direct responsibility of Canberra. No longer does the prime minister have the luxury of being a helpful but innocent bystander in the crisis.”

 
 

“The multimillionaire owners of coronavirus-stricken nursing home Epping Gardens ... Mr Antonopoulos and his wife, Stacey, who between them own half the shares in Heritage Care as well as a $10.5 million Canterbury mansion, and prestige cars including a Lamborghini, a Maserati and a limited-edition Rolls-Royce.”

 
 

“The aged care regulator has taken action against the Epping Gardens home in Melbourne where a total of 123 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with the watchdog finding there was a ‘severe and immediate risk to residents’. Sources said more than a dozen residents had now been transferred to hospital as more harrowing stories of alleged patient mistreatment emerged from the home.”

 
 

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