SIX AND THE CITY
Victoria has been plunged into its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began. Hundreds of protesters marched through Melbourne’s streets — some with flares — after Premier Dan Andrews announced the seven-day lockdown last night, ABC says. Andrews said he was extremely disappointed about locking down his state, but had no choice, otherwise hospitals would be “absolutely overwhelmed [with] not hundreds of patients but thousands”. It’s lockdown-as-usual: there are only five reasons a person can leave their house (shopping, work and/or study, care, exercise, and healthcare, including vaccination).
Victoria confirmed eight new infections yesterday, of which three are mystery cases (no determinable source), news.com.au says. Meanwhile, Tasmania has shut its border to Victoria after an infected 31-year-old man travelled to the island state from NSW via Victoria — making him Tasmania’s first COVID-19 case in 12 months, as The Examiner says. Tassie is already shut to Queensland and NSW.
It came as Sydney experienced its worst day — again — in this outbreak. Health authorities confirmed 262 cases and a gut-wrenching spike in fatalities — five people, all aged between 60-80, died in intensive care units on Wednesday. Four were unvaccinated and one had received a dose of AstraZeneca. A beach party in Newcastle has triggered a snap lockdown in Hunter and Upper Hunter, while remnants of the virus were found in sewage around Armidale and Dubbo, Guardian Australia reports.
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A woman from NSW has died from the rare blood clotting condition associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The 34-year-old died on Wednesday after receiving her first dose and then developing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), the Therapeutic Goods Administration said. Hers is the seventh death linked to the first dose of AstraZeneca, news.com.au says, out of more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine administered so far.
The medical regulator has again stressed that the protection of vaccination against COVID-19 far outweighs the potential risks. The ATAGI says the risk of the rare blood clotting disease is just 0.027% for those under 60, and 0.0017% for those over 60 years of age. That’s compared to our COVID fatalities — 2.64% of Australians who have contracted COVID have died, Our World In Data says, while “long COVID” is seeing people suffer prolonged health problems. If you’re wondering if AstraZeneca is right for you, The Conversation has a great explainer that might help — or talk to your GP.
HILLSONG FOUNDER CHARGED
A friend of the prime minister and co-founder of evangelical megachurch Hillsong has been charged for allegedly covering up his father’s child sex crimes, the SMH reports.
Brian Houston has been charged after police say he failed to report the alleged abuse of a boy in the ’70s. His father Frank, dead since 2004, was accused of abusing nine boys as a Pentecostal preacher at Hillsong. One of those victims, Brett Sengstock, who was abused over five years in the ’60s and ’70s, accused Brian of the cover up.
Hillsong Church actually posted a blog about this last month, where they claimed Brian found out around 1999 and confronted his father, before reporting it to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia (of which Brian is the president), the Sydney Christian Life Centre (his father Frank founded this in ’77), and made a public announcement to the church (erm, what about the police?).
Brian and his wife Bobbie were in the news in June when they were granted a rare exemption to travel overseas to Mexico, as Sky News reported. Brian is also a friend of Pentecostal Christian Scott Morrison who put the pastor’s name down for a White House state dinner with then-president Trump, though the request was denied, The Wall Street Journal says.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Well, half of Australia’s population is locked down — it’s not the best way to ring in the weekend. Lockdown can make us feel flat, lost, and despondent, and you’d be forgiven if, 18 months into the pandemic, your usual coping strategies (like TV, yoga, baking bread, rearranging your flat, picking an argument with your partner, or Zoom wines) aren’t cutting the mustard. Might I suggest water therapy?
The Guardian published a fascinating story back in November 2019 about the startling benefits of “blue spaces” — the sea and coastline, but also rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and even fountains. In fact, a 2013 study on happiness found water environments were among our happiest locations by a long shot. One expert said it just takes two hours a week in a “blue space” to see an improvement in your wellbeing. Perhaps it makes sense that we find these environments tranquil, says author James Nestor — “Each of us begins life floating in amniotic fluid that holds a 99% similar chemical composition to seawater … Human blood has a chemical composition 98% similar to seawater”.
Next time you lace up and head out for some lockdown-friendly exercise, consider walking along the Brisbane River, or around Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake, or trek a stretch of the mammoth Manly to Bondi walk in Sydney (in the west there’s Prospect Resovoir, too). Even a fountain in a local park will provide some solace, researchers said. And if you’re looking for some quick laughs — check out reporter Naaman Zhou’s picks for funniest things ever (on the internet).
Thinking of you all this weekend. Drop me a line, say hi, share some thoughts — [email protected]
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
For persons in our community who think it is a good time to commit criminal activity: it is not. It is not an exempt purpose.
The Queensland Police deputy commissioner made it clear that committing crime during the lockdown when people should be home is, indeed, illegal.
“Faced with the government’s debacle of a vaccine rollout, Labor proposes a cash bounty of $300 for anyone double-jabbed. The prime minister responds with a speech in which the adjective ‘Australian’ is put on the front of everything, including ‘Australian results’ and, who knows, ‘Australian cheese graters’ and ‘Australian sock suspenders’.
“Filthy cash payments are not the way this country works, says the leader of a country which pays people compensation for the tax they don’t have to pay on shares they haven’t sold. The polarities have been neatly reversed. The party which argued that the pursuit of individual gain is the motor of success now appeals to collective altruism; the party based on a collective orientation in pursuit of fairness is using CASH PRIZES as a policy lever.”
“The media is failing the hard locked-down communities of western Sydney with a journalism of irrelevance that privileges open-mic rants about open Bunnings stores, mask-less eastern-suburbs beaches and city curfews. It needs an urgent pivot to a reporting that breaks through the blinkers of pre-fab narratives about lockdowns too hard, too soft, too slow, too fast to focus on the hard economics of the people who work in the industries that sustain our cities and the marginal lives that confront many families.
“Right now, the western Sydney Delta outbreak is setting up as the first real-life test case of how an increasingly national news media will manage big moments in the news deserts in Australia’s suburbs. So far? It’s an F.”
Not all COVID recessions are equal. We couldn’t have avoided last year’s, but if we go again, it’s all yours, Gladys and Scott
“But that creates a devilish problem because, as all the modelling including the federal government’s own shows, even with 70% of eligible people vaccinated, we can still expect large case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths. And a well-vaccinated NSW with high case numbers is going to remain locked off from the rest of the country until they catch up, probably sometime in 2022.
“That’s why the entire economy may end up paying a steep price for Berejiklian’s failure to lock down quickly enough and hard enough. Whatever her motives or ‘advice from the experts’, we now face the real prospect of Sydney dragging growth down into the September quarter. Thus we’re into ‘technical recession’ territory.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Good air day: Team Australia hits golden PB at Tokyo Olympics (The Australian) ($)
Biden, in a push to phase out gas cars, will tighten pollution rules (The New York Times)
Prime Minister’s office loses bid to keep COVID-19 documents secret (The Australian) ($)
Israeli jets launch air raids on southern Lebanon (Al Jazeera)
Tokyo Olympians are showing that grit can be graceful (The New York Times)
The author, the work, and the no. 1 fan (The New Yorker)
The Olympics arrived just in time to lift locked-down Australia out of its toxic funk — Brigid Delaney (Guardian Australia): “Screaming ‘C’mon Aussie’ on the couch at the end of the women’s medley relay, or during the Matildas’ semi-finals — and suddenly all the trapped lockdown energy had somewhere to go. And then there were whole days that disappeared in a sort of mesmerised fascination with sports that I barely knew existed: discus! Shot put! Pole vaulting! Hammer throwing! The sheer array of skill and human body types was incredible. To go from the heft of the discus throwers to the torpedo-like bodies of the swimmers to the sleek sprinters, is to see all the ways humans are built differently, to see all the ways there are to be strong and fit.
“And although we can’t watch the Olympics with groups of friends or at the pub, our screens and social media briefly have become a respite from the sniping and toxic discourse around COVID. Social media went briefly from something to avoid for sanity’s sake to something we gathered around (phone in one hand, screen on the kitchen bench) to share the experience of watching Bol race. We got the Olympics we needed. And at the time we needed it most.”
Grattan on Friday: We will need an inquiry to learn from rollout mistakes — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “The politicians like to talk about the ‘learnings’ (aka lessons) coming out of the experience of this pandemic. At some point, when we are much further down the exit road, there should be a comprehensive inquiry into how decisions were made and what went right and wrong, at both federal and state levels, particularly in the rollout but in other areas too.
“In this context, Thursday’s decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that the national cabinet is not, as the federal government tried to claim, a cabinet committee and therefore not subject to cabinet confidentiality, is a welcome development. We can perhaps understand — while still strongly criticising — how the federal government, not expecting the problems with AstraZeneca, failed to order enough Pfizer or to have sufficient alternatives.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro will speak on his government’s strategy for tackling housing supply and affordability at a webinar held by the Urban Design Institute of Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will discuss the pandemic response with state and territory leaders at national cabinet, held online.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe will address the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics.
The Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards will be announced at the Museum and Gallery Northern Territory.
Tasmanian Minister for Trade Guy Barnett will speak about the state’s international trade strategy at the 2021 Insights Breakfast.