covid-19 nsw testing
(Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

TRACE STUDIES

NSW Health has updated their list of COVID-19 case locations to include a series of new locations such as fitness centres at Mona Vale and Freshwater, the 4 Pines brewery at Newport, and Twenty-One Espresso at Double Bay, while the ABC reports that, thus far, all 68 of NSW’s confirmed new cases are in the Northern Beaches.

From today, Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Illawarra-Shoalhaven and the Blue Mountains currently face a soft lockdown of sorts — i.e. 10 people per home, the four-square-metre rule returning for hospitality, no singing in indoor venues — to operate alongside the Northern Beaches’ hard lockdown until 11.59pm Wednesday.

And with “patient zero” of the Northern Beaches cluster still unknown and multiple celebrities and business/media tycoons obtaining exemptions to hotel quarantine this year, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard yesterday defended the transparency and fairness of the state’s quarantine system.

BORDERS IN FORCE

Residents of the Greater Sydney region are today locked out of almost all states and territories:

  • Victoria: Classifies all of Greater Sydney and the Central Coast as a “red zone” under the state’s permit system, meaning anyone who lives in or has visited those areas since December 11 will not be allowed to enter the state; Victorian residents however have an exemption and — save for those with Northern Beaches contact — have until midnight tonight to return and begin 14 days of quarantine at home, after which they face hotel quarantine
  • Queensland: Announced identical measures to Victoria for 1am today and — per the state’s permit system — 1am tomorrow, respectively
  • The ACT: Anyone entering Canberra from those regions must self-declare via ACT Health and quarantine for 14 days, with non-residents asked not to enter the city
  • South Australia: All arrivals from Greater Sydney will be forced to quarantine for 14 days, and be tested three times — on arrival, on day five and on day 12 — while only those from the Northern Beaches are banned entirely
    • According to the ABC, arrivals on flights from Sydney to Adelaide yesterday evening say they were told they would need to either quarantine or return to Sydney despite arriving hours before the midnight border closure
  • Northern Territory: Greater Sydney travellers will have to undertake a fortnight of supervised quarantine at a cost of $2500
  • Tasmania: Arrivals will have to quarantine for 14 days, either at home or at their own cost in a government facility, while no one from Northern Beaches is allowed, save for Tasmanian residents or essential workers
  • Western Australia: On Saturday night, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced a return of the state’s hard border for the entirety of NSW, with some exceptions to be made i.e. WA residents, senior government officials, active military personnel and truck drivers.

P.S. In Victoria, 700 police and military personnel have been deployed to the border — although none of the 200-300 requested ADF troops, The Age reports.

THE SUN AND AIR

A new report by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) suggests the average annual household electricity bill will fall by almost $120 over the next three years largely due to the growth of solar and wind power, The New Daily explains.

In figures so striking not even The Australian ($) can ignore them, the AEMC finds overall power prices will be 8.7% lower, or $117, by 2023 for the average two-person household on a market offer, with actual savings dependent on where households sit on the National Electricity Market. Notably South Australia — which sits at 60% renewables and last week announced plans to hit 500% by 2050 via green hydrogen — will save the most ($203, or 10.8% below this year).

However, prices will see a small jump from 2022-23 due to the closure of the Liddell power station, which AGL plans to effectively replace with renewables and battery storage over five years.

PS: While NSW electricity prices are set to fall over the next three years even with Liddell’s closure (2% or about $30), and the report does not account for recent renewable packages from NSW and Victoria — or, for that matter, the “dispatchable energy target” floated under Scott Morrison’s gas package, — take a wild guess how the Daily Telegraph ($) has spun the report?

GLOBAL COVID-19 WATCH: IT COULD BE SO MUCH WORSE

Finally, as stressful as Australia looks right now, a glance at international news offers a reminder of just how much worse it could be:

  • London and much of south-east England has entered a stricter “fourth tier” lockdown, following the discovery of a more infectious strain of the virus that has seen European countries start banning flights from the UK (BBC)
  • Two countries with golden track records in suppressing the virus are experiencing record surges, with Thailand recording 548 new cases on Saturday, most of whom are linked to a wholesale seafood market in outer Bangkok, and Korea hitting 1097 yesterday, including an outbreak in a Seoul prison that has infected 188 people (AP, Reuters via The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on live television Saturday, under a roll-out that will include all Israelis — including those in occupied West Bank land — but not, initially, Palestinians (Al Jazeera)
  • More than 128,000 people in the US had been vaccinated as of last Friday — just slightly more than half the number of new cases reported across the country that same day (The New York Times).

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

They seem to be engaging in a sort of form of whack-a-mole, they try and step on a gym here or a restaurant there.

Rather than playing whack-a-mole, they need to kill all the moles.

Mark McGowan

While the premier behind WA’s hard border wasn’t exactly subtle in his criticism of the Berejiklian government’s measures before Sydney’s soft lockdown, when all you have is a giant, extremely effective mallet, everything starts looking like, well…

CRIKEY RECAP

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“On Wednesday, Dan Andrews blew Annastacia Palaszczuk out of the park with a stunning performance that will send the Queenslanders back home with a lot of thinking to do if they’re going to be competitive in the corruption stakes next season.”


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READ ALL ABOUT IT

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Ben Roberts-Smith pictured cheering soldiers drinking from the prosthetic leg of a man he shot

New world of trade deals to offset ‘unfair’ China, says Simon Birmingham ($)

Top end tax cuts fail economy and boost inequality: Studies

Tennis Australia exhausts ‘rainy day’ fund to make the 2021 Australian Open COVID-safe

‘We did it’: Flyers beat Townsville to win first WNBL championship

Doug Anthony, former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, dies aged 90

US lawmakers edge towards deal over $900b stimulus package

Millionaire Republican cites deficit to block aid — after enriching himself with special tax cuts

Trump wanted conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as special counsel on voter fraud

THE COMMENTARIAT

Why Sydney is facing a super-spreading disasterRaina MacIntyre (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Forty new cases today may become 120 new cases by Christmas Day. Half of them will have no symptoms and the rest will have mild symptoms so will carry on as normal. The peak infectiousness of this virus is very early in the infection, before symptoms appear, making Christmas Day a ticking time bomb.”

Beyond difficulties of China, a world of trade optimism ($) — Simon Birmingham (The Australian): “Monday will be my last day as federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. It comes at a time of great global disruption for many of the businesses I have had the honour of working with. COVID-19 has seen global trade plummet. The World Trade Organisation predicts volumes of merchandise trade will be down by more than 9% this year. Services trade is impacted even more, with sectors such as international tourism ground to a near halt and others, like international education, dramatically impeded by widespread travel restrictions.”

The Coles warehouse lockout is a front-line struggle in the battle over automationLauren Kelly (Jacobin): “On the morning of November 18, 350 Coles warehouse workers in Smeaton Grange, New South Wales began a rolling 24-hour strike. Within hours, the supermarket giant responded by locking them out for a period of three months. At time of writing, the battle has lasted for over a month.”

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