Sydney police pursuit ends with fatality
A man has died following a police pursuit and crash in Sydney’s south-west, prompting a critical incident investigation, AAP reports.
NSW police say highway patrol officers tried to stop a Mistubishi Lancer after 11.20pm on Thursday and a pursuit began when the driver allegedly failed to stop.
A short time later the car struck a power pole in Leppington. A male passenger was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.
The driver is under police guard in hospital where he is being treated for arm injuries, the police force said on Friday morning. A critical incident team will investigate the pursuit and crash.
A “highly concerning” new variant of coronavirus that is suspected of fuelling a rise in cases in South Africa has been detected in the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.
My UK colleagues Ian Sample and Natalie Grover report that surveillance by Public Health England on Tuesday identified two people who contracted the virus after being in contact with separate travellers from South Africa. One case is in London, the other in the north-west.
Hancock told the Downing Street press briefing that the arrival of the new variant would lead to new quarantine rules for recent visitors from South Africa.
“This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant discovered in the UK,” Hancock said.
China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine 91% effective, according to preliminary reports
Turkey will receive its first shipment of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine within days as preliminary domestic tests showed it was 91% effective, health minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday.
Ankara, Turkey’s capital, will in the next few days also sign a deal with Pfizer/BioNTech for 4.5m doses of that vaccine, with the option to buy 30m more from the US pharmaceutical giant and its German partner, Koca said
Turkey will initially receive 3m doses of Sinovac and have the option for 50m more as it begins inoculations next month, starting with healthcare workers and the most vulnerable. Koca said the first shipments of the Chinese vaccine will be sent to Turkey on Sunday.
Preliminary tests on 7,371 volunteers in Turkey showed that the Chinese vaccine was 91.25% effective, although phase three tests were still not complete, AFP reports.
Turkey “will be able to vaccinate 1.5m or even two million people per day,” Koca said, adding that the “first stage” of vaccinations would cover 9m people.
The nation of 83m has officially recorded 19,115 Covid-19 deaths and 2.2m virus infections.
Thanks to all of the readers who have shared all of the ways they are spending Christmas alone. You can contribute by clicking the link at the end of this blog post. Here are some of the comments from readers so far;
I will spend Christmas as I have done so for the past several years, alone with my precious two companions, my dog and cat, both rescued from shelters. I have no other family, all now departed and the few friends I have live so far away. I am never lonely and enjoy my independence. I will take a long walk with my dog, come home, feed him and my cat then eat a bowl of homemade soup from the slow cooker. I will then curl up on the sofa with a book, dog one side, cat the other and they are the best company I could ever wish for, their eyes tell me constantly. I haven’t always lived alone but these past few years have been the most contented period of my life, having discovered the life that suits me best. I wish the very best of things to everyone who lives alone and hope, that like me, you can appreciate and cherish the moment.
I have spent every Xmas day on my own for years and love it. After years of going along with the usual hype surrounding this day, I decided that enough was enough. I make myself a nice lunch accompanied by a bottle of good rosé, read a book, listen to my music then later on watch some TV. I spend this time in quietness and peace. It is bliss.
I’ve spent a few Christmas’s alone, and not always by choice. The key I’ve found is to connect with the people around you – neighbours, shop assistants, or just people you interact with for a brief moment. Those little encounters can make all the difference between a downward spiral of depression and a cheery enough few days of quiet self-indulgence.
Although I’m alone (and self-isolating after a work trip abroad) this Christmas it will definitely not be the worst Christmas ever. I spent one Christmas in hospital after a broken leg; my family couldn’t come to see me as my grandpa had recently died and it was my granny’s first Christmas without him, and they lived too far away just to pop over.
I remember on Christmas Eve breaking down in tears as it felt so very lonely in my room alone – most of the ward had been able to go home. A nurse very sternly told me to cheer up as I had it better than many, and actually in the end Christmas Day wasn’t too bad. I wrapped up the presents for my family that they’d been able to bring the previous week, and one of the nurses dressed up as Santa and brought a present; the consultants and their wives visited; there was lots on telly to watch; and lunch was actually edible. The day after Boxing Day my parents picked me up and took me home, and that was the best bit of Christmas that year.
You can also share your Christmas day pics and observations with me by Tweeting me @MelissaLDavey or by email, [email protected]
Woman in hospital in Sydney after alleged attack
A woman is being treated in Westmead Hospital for multiple injuries after an alleged domestic violence-related assault this morning, NSW police say.
Emergency services were called to a home unit in Parkside Lane at Westmead shortly after midnight, and found a 48 year-old-woman seriously injured. Police have been told a neighbour entered their unit after hearing the older woman’s cries for help.
She was chased outside by a 17-year-old girl, who was allegedly armed with a meat cleaver. Another witness found the older woman a short time later in the garden with multiple injuries.
The woman was treated at the scene before being taken to Westmead hospital where she is reported to be in a serious condition. Officers attended and arrested the teenager and she was taken for assessment, NSW police said in a statement.
A meat cleaver has been seized at the scene and is being forensically examined. Inquiries are continuing.
Guardian contributor Benjamin Ryan reports that Dr Anthony Fauci – “America’s guiding light through the darkness of Covid-19,” turned 80 on Christmas Eve. Fauci is of course the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US.
Fauci’s wife of 35 years, Christine Grady, is the top bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health. You can read Benjamin’s lovely story about how she celebrated her husband’s birthday here:
Queensland border delays expected
Queensland police are expecting further delays at the southern border while investigations continue into the arrival of a superyacht in the north, AAP reports.
Chief superintendent Mark Wheeler said police and SES crews would continue to scale up resources at border checkpoints.
“We only had a very short window of time to close the borders and implement those checkpoints,” he said.
There are currently three checkpoints operating around the clock with plans to establish a fourth.
“We can’t do that overnight, we can’t just simply pluck police from other rosters and make this happen immediately,” Wheeler said.
Queensland health minister Yvette D’Ath is concerned about undetected coronavirus cases in the state after details of two positive cases came to light on Thursday. Sewage tests at Wynnum, Bargara and Bundaberg have returned positive results for Covid-19 and people in the areas with any sign of symptoms are being asked to get tested.
One of the cases was a 20 year-old female crew member of a superyacht that came from the Maldives and is at the centre of a police investigation. The vessel allegedly arrived in Cairns on Monday with 14 guests plus the crew on board.
The guests have been directed into hotel quarantine while six remaining crew members stay on the vessel.
The other Covid case in Queensland was a man who has been in self-isolation since returning from Sydney’s northern beaches. D’Ath says the 40-year-old tested negative after returning from the hotspot last Friday, before becoming unwell and testing positive late on Wednesday night.
More than 1m people in the US receive vaccine
Americans marked a grim Christmas Eve as coronavirus infections exploded nationwide, political leaders warned them not to travel or gather in large groups and a highly contagious variant of the virus spread further in Europe, Reuters reports.
More than 1m people have received the first of two vaccine doses since 14 December, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the vaccinations have so far had little effect on the latest surge in cases spiralling nationwide.
Achieving herd immunity against the virus could require vaccination of up to 90% of Americans, Dr Anthony Fauci, the most prominent US infectious disease expert, told the New York Times in an interview.
“We really don’t know what the real number is,” he said. “I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90%. But, I’m not going to say 90%.”
Fauci, who is advising both Republican president Donald Trump and president-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, on the pandemic, acknowledged that he had revised his estimates upward from earlier in the year, when he said the nation would reach herd immunity by inoculating 60% to 70% of the population.
Fauci was vaccinated earlier this week on live television.
The United States recorded more than 3,000 deaths for the second consecutive day on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally. The US death toll since the pandemic broke out in March has surpassed 326,000. The states of Tennessee and California have emerged as the epicentres of the latest surge.
Well, I learned something new today. Apparently, reptiles often become immobile in chilly weather and as a result, can plummet from trees though they are still alive. It means Florida in the US, which is braced for an unusually cold Christmas, is also preparing for it to rain iguanas.
My colleague Paul Karp reports that the Morrison government spent a total of $128m on advertising in the past financial year, including $5.2m on market research for the ad campaigns, new figures reveal. He writes:
A report published by the finance department reveals the biggest campaigns were for Covid-19 health ($47.8m), defence recruiting ($31.3m) and the pandemic economic response ($17.7m).
It also shows Resolve Strategic, an agency run by Jim Reed, a long-term researcher for the Liberal party pollster Crosby Textor, received $203,000 out of a contract worth $408,000 for research related to the Treasury campaign.
In October, Labor raised concerns that $1.1m has been spent on two market research projects about community attitudes to Covid-19 undertaken by Resolve Strategic.
We’ve just been told that NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant will provide a Covid-19 update at 11am.
I’ll bring you the key points from that as it happens.
Victoria reports no new Covid cases
The Victorian department of health has sent through it’s Covid-19 update, reporting no new cases of coronavirus since yesterday.
There are currently 10 active cases of Covid-19 in Victoria. Nine of these are in people in hotel quarantine, with the 10th in a teenage girl who is isolating at home after contracting the virus in NSW.
Today is the 56th straight day where Victoria has recorded zero daily community transmission cases.
The department of health says there has been an excellent response to their call-out for people to get tested over the past week, with higher-than-expected numbers of people getting tested. “But we must remain vigilant over the festive season and anyone with symptoms is urged get tested immediately,” the department said in a statement.
There will be reduced capacity of some testing sites over the Christmas break until 2 January, including reduced hours at some Community Health Service-led testing sites, however, there are more than 60 sites open today, Christmas Day, across metro Melbourne and regional Victoria. You can find a list of those here.
Testing sites will also be operating in the popular holiday destinations at Torquay, Lorne, and the Mornington Peninsula.
A total of 3,830, 531 test results have been received in Victoria which is an increase of 11,367 since yesterday. Wastewater monitoring is continuing at more than 60 locations across Victoria. Victoria’s border with New South Wales is closed and no one who has been in the northern beaches area, greater Sydney or the NSW Central Coast from 11 December is allowed to come into Victoria.
Anyone arriving at the road border from those impacted areas will be turned away and will have to find alternative accommodation in NSW. Victorians have been strongly advised not to travel to Sydney as they may not be able to re-enter without undertaking hotel quarantine for 14 days.
I just want to give a warm shout-out to all of the public health experts, infectious diseases physicians, virologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, healthcare workers and other experts who have given so much of their time, helping to explain this virus to journalists and the public throughout the year.
Many of these experts have taken calls from journalists while working in hospitals, while managing crisis after crisis, and while severely overworked and sleep-deprived, just to help us get it right and to keep people up-to-date. I was going to name them all but realised I’d be here until New Year’s if I did that, so instead I will just say a very genuine thank you to them all.
Australians behind bars in Bali for Christmas
Nine Australians who are spending Christmas in Bali jails will be banned from the traditional festive family visits as a result of Covid-19, AAP reports.
Of the Australian prisoners behind bars on the holiday island, only two qualify for the traditional Christmas sentence remissions. The others, serving life sentences or who are still on trial, do not qualify.
AAP has confirmed that two Australians – Brendon Luke Johnsson and Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis – will both be awarded sentence cuts of one month and 15 days this Christmas. Johnsson is serving a five-year-and-four-month sentence on a drugs offence and Ellis is serving 15 years after being convicted of child sex offences.
Johnsson was convicted in relation to 11.6 grams of cocaine found in his possession in Bali in 2019. Both Johnsson and Ellis are serving their time in Bali’s Kerobokan prison.
Only two members of the Bali Nine heroin smuggling gang remain in the same prison – Si Yi Chen and Matthew James Norman. However, as both are serving life sentences, they do not qualify for any sentence remissions, which are traditionally awarded to all prisoners in Indonesia twice a year, on Independence Day and on their nominated religious holiday.
Bali Nine heroin courier, Brisbane man Scott Anthony Rush, is held in the Bangli narcotic prison in Bali’s north. He is also serving a life sentence. Two other Bali Nine members, Martin Stephens and Michael Czugaj, are jailed in Java and are also serving life sentences and get no remissions.
Christmas is generally a festive time in Kerobokan jail, where families are allowed to visit for the day and religious ceremonies are held. But the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has put a stop to that. It is now nine months since any prisoners were allowed inside Bali jails, after all visits were banned in March in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus through prison populations.
Hello and welcome
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Covid – and other – coverage for Christmas Day, which I’ll be bringing to you from Melbourne. Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it, and happy Friday to everyone else.
To recap the latest news from around the country;
We were so close to an almost Covid-free Christmas in Australia until the northern beaches cluster broke out in Sydney, which goes to show how quickly this virus can spread. I know the outbreak will have changed holiday plans and family celebrations for many readers, and my thoughts are with those unable to be with those they love, those in quarantine, and those isolating or in lockdown.
There will also be many people who lost loved ones this year, especially in Victoria, for whom special occasions may be especially tough, so my thoughts are with all of you too.
If you’d like to share with me how your Christmas plans have changed due to Covid and what you’re doing to make the most of it, email me at [email protected] or tweet me @MelissaLDavey, I’ll include some of your stories and photos in this blog. That includes those of you who are loving spending Christmas alone and who are having a quieter day of it this year – I know not everyone who spends the day alone dislikes it! So share your fabulous solo plans with me too and in the comments thread in this article, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.