Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam (Image: AAP/James Ross)

State of emergency extended

The Victorian government’s state of emergency powers will be extended six months, after a gruelling debate in the state’s upper house overnight.

Greens MP Samantha Ratnam, returning from maternity leave, cast one of the deciding votes about 2am Wednesday to give the government a 20 to 19 majority.

The extension is shorter than the 12 months Premier Daniel Andrews initially sought, but it comes as the case numbers continue to fall in Victoria.

Overnight, the state recorded 90 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths. It’s the third straight day of transmission in the double digits.

Authoritarianism on the rise

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned the pandemic is fuelling authoritarian and protectionist trends around the world.

In a written submission made ahead of an appearance before a parliamentary committee today, the department said the pandemic could have real implications for the stability and security of the Asia-Pacific region.

“Global supply chains and international trade have been disrupted, major power strategic competition has sharpened, and protectionist and authoritarian trends have been reinforced,” the submission said.

The department also responded to increasingly frosty trade and diplomatic relations with China, saying that despite “clear differences” between our countries, it was in Australia’s interests to maintain a relationship “not defined by those differences.”

Fireworks extinguished

Sydney’s iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks could be the latest casualty of the pandemic. NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the event was unlikely to go ahead, and said it would be unfair to hold fireworks in Sydney while tourism drawcards in the regions were cancelled.

The City of Sydney and NSW Police are also uncertain about whether they can maintain social distancing during the event.

NSW COVID-19 numbers remain steady, with 17 new cases overnight.

Trump adviser promotes herd immunity

Scott Atlas, one of US President Donald Trump’s top medical advisers, wants the country to adopt a “herd immunity” strategy to COVID-19, letting the virus infect as many people as possible.

Given the country has recorded more than 6 million coronavirus cases, you might be forgiven for thinking Trump has been pursuing herd immunity all along.

Scientists have been critical of a herd immunity approach. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government briefly toyed with it as a strategy, before changing course when it realised just how many people would die.

In the US, such an approach could kill 2 million people. And Sweden, which controversially adopted a strategy more in line with a herd immunity approach, had one of the highest death rates in Europe.