Victoria COVID cases grow, NSW COVID cases grow, international travel resumes, Emmanuel Macron speaks on Scott Morrison AUKUS deal, regional NSW travel resumes


Three quarters of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as the country eyes 90 per cent vaccination targets to see the end of “large-scale, blanket lockdowns”.

In an update this afternoon, the country’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said two milestones were reached yesterday including 75 per cent of eligible New Zealanders being fully vaccinated, or 3,159,301 people.

“We expect 80 per cent or so to be in that situation next week,” he said. “Auckland has already achieved 80 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.”

New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.Credit:Getty

The first dose rate for those aged 12 and over in New Zealand is 88 per cent.

There were 162 new COVID-19 cases reported today. Of those, 156 are in Auckland, five cases in Waikato and one in Northland. A further four cases were identified in recent returnees in managed isolation.

Dr Bloomfield said 53 people are in hospital with COVID-19 and three of those patients are in ICU or a high dependency unit.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the goal is to reach 90 per cent vaccination levels for the eligible population before moving to the new COVID-19 protection framework.

“Where everything from gatherings to hospitality comes back on stream, and where we remove large-scale, blanket lockdowns,” she said.

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She said in the meantime, Dr Bloomfield had recommended restrictions in Waikato move to step two of alert level three from tomorrow, November 2, triggering the reopening of retail and public facilities such as museums, and outdoor gatherings for 25 people, removing a cap of two households.

Ms Ardern said Auckland was fewer than 5000 first doses away from “cracking” the 90 per cent goal and cabinet had decided “in principle” to move Auckland to the same restriction level as Waikato next week, on November 9.

“For those concerned that we have not eased immediately, our approach is to take a steady and conscious change in our restriction. We have only recently returned students into senior school,” she said.

“For those who have concerns about any easing, here I would say that because of high vaccination rates in Auckland, we can move forward with greater confidence, and we will continue to have very strong and clear public health guidance on how businesses that are eligible to reopen do so.

“These decisions are carefully balanced and allow us to release some of the pressure and fatigue that we know exists in Auckland while we continue to vaccinate and prepare for the new framework where much more certainty will exist for everyone.”



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International borders to reopen in November with Scott Morrison to reveal the reopening plan today


International travel bans will be lifted next month with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reveal the reopening plan today.

Australia is set to officially greenlight international travel today bringing forward the plan to scrap the international border bans to November in states that hit vaccination targets.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will later today announce the new framework the states will need to meet before they can agree to reopen international travel.

The Prime Minister first announced the border closure on March 20, 2020 to all non-citizens and nonresidents. Even Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family needed to apply for an exemption to travel and to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days on arrival at a cost of more than $3000.

NSW is expected to be first cab off the rank and travellers will be able to trial a 7-day home quarantine option. Victoria is also in talks to reopen international travel.

The international border ban is currently in place until December 17 but that will now be lifted a month earlier than previously planned.

But with states including Western Australia proposing to keep even state borders shut, the decision means Australians are likely to be able to fly to Paris before they can travel to Perth.

It’s a move that is expected to trigger a dramatic increase of Qantas flights to and from Australia before Christmas and it could hold the key to helping thousands of stranded Australians get home to their families over the summer holidays.

Even the federal budget forecast that borders would remain largely closed until July, 2022. The Prime Minister has credited the international border ban with saving thousands of lives.

“It saved over 30,000 lives in Australia,’’ he said this week in Washington.

“We also took action to save livelihoods. And our economy has come back strongly, even with the restrictions we have in place now. As they lift, then we will see our economy come back strongly. There’s nothing wrong with our economy. The only thing that’s holding back is obviously restrictions that are helping save lives.”

But with NSW and Victoria now on track to hit 80 per cent double doses within weeks, Australia can open up much faster and talks are underway between the Prime Minister and premiers on how to achieve that as soon as possible.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this week that the hotel quarantine system was an idea that was “past its use by date” as the state plans to embrace a 7-day home quarantine pilot program.

“If you’re fully vaccinated with a vaccine our authorities deem to be effective and safe, you’ll be able to quarantine at home. We’re going through the pilot as we speak. But the hotel quarantine system for returning Australians is past its use by date. If you’re fully vaccinated, you should be able to quarantine at home,’’ she told ABC Breakfast on Tuesday morning.

“I would be more than happy to welcome home Australians, fully vaccinated Australians will be able to quarantine at home in New South Wales. And obviously every other state premier will have their decisions around what they’ll do. We make sure they get safely on a flight back to their home state. What happens after that is a matter for their state premier.”

Read related topics:Scott Morrison



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Scott Morrison’s bullish response to England’s Ashes drama


Scott Morrison was unflinching when quizzed whether the families of England’s cricketers would be permitted to enter Australia for the Ashes.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has emphatically declared he would not do any “special deals” to allow the families of travelling English cricketers entry into Australia for the Ashes.

As it stands, only the players will be permitted entry into Australia, but families and partners will not be able to come.

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With the English team set to arrive on Australian shores in November, a number of touring cricketers may opt out of the tour due to the lengthy period of time they could be away from their loved ones.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson even revealed discussions had been held with Mr Morrison regarding the matter, but had not received any assurances.

“I raised the Ashes [with Morrison] and he said they were going to do their best for the families,” Johnson said.

“He totally got the point that for cricketers it is very tough to ask people to be away from their families over Christmas.”

However, Morrison seemingly shot down any hopes for family members and partners to receive a special exemption to travel to Australia, as he sticks to the national plan for international borders to open once 80 per cent of the nation aged 16 and over is fully vaccinated.

“I would love to see the Ashes go ahead, as I shared with Boris last night,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Washington.

“But there’s no special deals there, because what we’re looking to have is vaccinated people being able to travel.

“I don’t see a great deal of difference in skilled workers or students who will be able to come to Australia when you reach those vaccination rates.

“Those who are coming for that purpose when it comes to their profession, which is playing cricket, I don’t see the difference between that and someone who’s coming as a skilled, qualified engineer or someone who’s coming to be ready for study.”

Those in the English camp may point to the fact the families of the Indian cricket team were granted exemptions into Australia in 2020 as a sign of hope, but with just months to go before the England team is due to fly to Australia, the clock is ticking.

The situation becomes even trickier when the number of overseas Australians trying to get back into the country is factored in.

The First Test of the Ashes series begins on December 8 at The Gabba in Brisbane, as Australia looks to retain the urn for the third consecutive series.

Read related topics:Scott Morrison



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Ex-FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb: U.S. must ‘be clear’ on purpose of COVID-19 travel restrictions


May 2 (UPI) — Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday the United States must provide clearer reasons for COVID-19-related travel bans.

Appearing on CBS News Face the Nation, Gottlieb, who currently sits on the board of Pfizer, said he was not sure what the Biden administration was “hoping to accomplish” in terms of preventing the introduction of COVID-19 into the United States after it announced plans to ban travel from India beginning Tuesday.

“These travel restrictions could serve a purpose, but we need to be clear about what that purpose is right now,” said Gottlieb. “We still have restrictions in place against travel from China and the U.K. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I’m not really sure what the overall strategy is around these continued travel restrictions that we have in place.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the policy was implemented “in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating” in India.

India has reported a record surge with 800,000 new cases over two days bringing its overall virus totals to 19,557,457 cases and 215,542 deaths compared with 32,409,214 cases and 576,959 deaths in the United States, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

Gottlieb, however, said it is not the case that variants are appearing in one part of the world and traveling to other countries, but rather the virus is undergoing “convergent evolution” with the same variants emerging in various parts of the world spontaneously.”

“There’s probably a finite number of ways that this virus is going to try to mutate to evade our immunity and it’s testing us everywhere in the world,” he said. “So the same mutations that are arising in other parts of the world are arising here as well. They just haven’t gotten a foothold here, in part because we’ve been vaccinating our public.”

The United States has administered a total of 243,463,471 vaccine doses with 44% of the total population receiving at least one dose, including 55.8% of people age 18 and older, and 31.2% of the total population fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California leads the nation in COVID-19 cases and deaths with a total of 3,642,480 infections and 60,748 fatalities after reporting 2,254 cases and 123 deaths on Sunday. The state reopened its Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks to residents on Friday.

To date, California has administered 30,412,414 COVID-19 vaccine doses and 12,806,167 people — 40.2% of its population — are fully vaccinated.

Texas reported 919 new cases Sunday for the nation’s second-highest total at 2,473,679, while its death toll rose by 25 to 49,303. A total of 18,487,360 vaccine doses have been distributed in Texas with 8,000,995 people, or 49.64% of the state’s population, fully vaccinated.

Florida ranks third in the nation with 2,242,778 total cases after adding 3,841 infections Sunday, while also reporting 29 resident deaths to bring its toll to 35,268. The state has administered 14,665,875 vaccine doses and 6,328,296 people are fully vaccinated.

New York reported 2,849 new cases and 33 deaths on Sunday, bringing its case total to 2,039,068 — the fourth highest in the nation — while also ranking second in deaths with 52,309 since the start of the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that the statewide positivity rate dropped to 1.49% on Saturday, the first time it has been lower than 1.5% since Oct. 25.

“Every single day, New York State is moving forward in the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate. More New Yorkers are getting vaccinated and hospitalizations are declining which is good news. but we need New Yorkers to stay vigilant to make sure we don’t lose any of the progress we’ve made,” he said.

New York has administered 15,643,329 vaccine doses and 6,955,111 people, or 34.9% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

Illinois reported 1,860 new COVID-19 cases, ranking fifth in the nation with a total of 1,339,728 infections, and added 27 deaths to bring its death toll to 22,019. The state has administered 9,393,137 vaccine doses and 4,110,924 people, or 32.27%, of the population has been fully vaccinated.





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Flights from India to Australia are likely to resume within weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.


Flights from India to Australia are likely to resume within ‘several’ weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated.

The update comes after travel between the two nations was suspended until May 15 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis erupting in India.

While Mr Morrison has offered some hope to Australian’s stranded in India, many of the flights will come into a special COVID resilience facility in the NT when travel resumes.

A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 reacts at a crematorium in Jammu, India. (AP)

“We’ll be restarting those flights in several weeks’ time,” he said.

Mr Morrison confirmed Australia has now vaccinated two million people.

India Covid-19 number could be far higher than indicated

India recorded 360,960 new cases and another 3293 deaths in the past 24 hours – a new daily world record.

India has reported more than 17.6 million cases and 201,187 deaths since the pandemic began last year.

But the real number, experts fear, could be up to 30 times higher — meaning more than half a billion cases.

Health workers and scientists in India have long warned COVID-19 infections and related deaths are significantly underreported for several reasons, including poor infrastructure, human error, and low testing levels.

Some things have changed since then — testing has greatly increased in the wake of the first wave, for instance.

But still, the true extent of the second wave now ravaging India is likely much worse than official numbers suggest.

“It’s widely known that both the case numbers and the mortality figures are undercounts, they always have been,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi.

“Last year we estimated that only one in about 30 infections were being caught by testing, so the reported cases are a serious underestimate of true infections,” he said.

“This time, the mortality figures are probably serious underestimates, and what we’re seeing on the ground is many more deaths, than what has been officially reported.”

Health workers and relatives carry the body of a COVID-19 victim for cremation at a crematorium in Jammu, India. (AP)

CNN has reached out to the country’s health ministry for comment about the claims of underreporting.

As the first wave began to ebb in September last year, the government pointed to its low death rate as a sign of its success in handling the outbreak, and to support its decision to lift some restrictions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the low figures as boosting “the confidence of people,” and predicted “the entire country will emerge victorious in the battle against COVID-19,” according to a press release in August.

That battle is still ongoing. The country’s daily death toll is projected to continue climbing until mid-May, according to prediction models from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations.

The death toll could peak at more than 13,000 a day — more than four times the current daily death toll, the predictions show.

“I don’t think any family has been spared a COVID death,” said Laxminarayan. “There’s a missing person in every family that I can think of.”

People in a waiting area at in a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai, India. (Bloomberg)

India’s testing capacity has increased dramatically since the first wave. Around this time last year, the country was testing fewer than half a million people per day — now, “they are doing close to 2 million tests a day,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organisation (WHO).

But “that’s still not sufficient because the national average positivity rate is about 15 per cent — in some cities like Delhi it’s up to 30 per cent or higher,” she said on Monday.

“That means there are lots of people out there who are infected and not being detected just because of the capacity of testing … we will know only later how many was really the number of people infected.”

There are a few reasons for the insufficient testing, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

The most obvious is that asymptomatic patients — also called “silent infections” — may simply never know they were infected, and so never get tested.

Municipal workers prepare to bury the body of a person who died of COVID-19 in Gauhati, India. (AP)

There are also different case-reporting structures across different cities and states, and testing may be less accessible in rural areas.

Poorer residents might not be able to afford the time off work to get tested, or to travel to a test centre.

“All countries to some extent have faced this problem of accurately classifying COVID-related deaths, but I think in India the problem is quite acute,” said Mukherjee.

But serology surveys, which test for antibodies in the immune system to indicate if someone has been exposed to the virus, give scientists a better measure of how many people may be infected in reality.

Previous national surveys showed the number of such people is “at least 20 to 30 times higher than what had been reported,” said WHO’s Swaminathan.

When applied to the latest reported figures as of Tuesday, that estimate could raise India’s total to more than 529 million cases.

Even before the pandemic, India was undercounting its dead.

The country’s underfunded public health infrastructure means that even in normal times, only 86 per cent of deaths nationwide are registered in government systems.

And only 22 per cent of all registered fatalities are given an official cause of death, certified by a doctor, according to community medicine specialist Dr Hemant Shewade.

The majority of people in India die at home or other places, not in a hospital, so doctors usually are not present to assign a cause of death — a problem that has only deepened in the second wave, with hospitals out of space.

With nowhere to go, COVID patients are now increasingly dying at home, in idling ambulances, in waiting rooms and outside overwhelmed clinics.

India reported 349,691 new cases of COVID-19 today, the fourth day in a row the country has set a world record for daily infections during the coronavirus pandemic
India reported 349,691 new cases of COVID-19 today, the fourth day in a row the country has set a world record for daily infections during the coronavirus pandemic (Getty)

There are logistical problems too, like missing information in the national database or human error. And these issues are even more pronounced in rural areas.

The director of the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, a body within the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said in a 2020 report in The Lancet journal that it was difficult to ensure individual states followed the guidelines to capture all confirmed and suspected COVID-19 deaths.

“As per the existing law, NCDIR is not required to get data about suspected or probable deaths from states so I can’t say whether deaths are being certified,” he said.

As of Tuesday, India has reported nearly 198,000 coronavirus deaths.

However, Mukherjee estimates COVID fatalities could be underreported by a factor of between two and five — meaning the real death toll could be close to 990,000.

The number of mass funerals, cremations and bodies piling up have cast doubt on the official reported deaths in numerous cities these past few weeks. The discrepancies could partially be due to patients dying before they are tested, or having non-COVID factors listed as their cause of death, experts say.

India COVID-19 crisis overwhelms nation with record infection numbers

“The real challenge with capturing COVID deaths is because the cause of death is often assigned a comorbidity like kidney disease or heart disease,” said Mukherjee.

“That’s why many countries are now doing excess death calculations, excess mortality calculations, in the UK and United States.”

These discrepancies are stark for those on the ground, as thousands die across the country every day.

“In Delhi, at least 3000 people went to funerals in the last week,” said Max Rodenbeck, South Asia Bureau Chief for The Economist, on Monday.

“There is one crematorium in Delhi, which is a big land in the park, and (it is) building 100 new funeral pyres … This, is again, in India’s biggest city with the most attention. What happens beyond Delhi is pretty awful.”

Exhausted workers, who bring dead bodies for cremation, sit on the rear step of an ambulance inside a crematorium, in New Delhi, India. (AP)

Virus spreads across states

The underreporting could be partly why India was largely caught off guard by the second wave, said Mukherjee from the University of Michigan.

“If we had more accurate data in terms of cases, infections, as well as deaths, then of course, we’ll be much more prepared and also anticipate the healthcare resource needs,” she said.

“(Faulty data) does not really change the truth. It only makes it worse for policymakers to anticipate the needs.”

The second wave, which began in mid-March, hit the capital New Delhi hard, as well as the western state of Maharashtra.

The union territory of Delhi, where New Delhi is located, was placed under lockdown on April 19. That lockdown has since been extended until May 3.

But cases are on the rise in other states, prompting some authorities to impose new restrictions in an attempt to avoid the kind of calamity seen in the capital.

An under construction ward in a quarantine centre at the Goregaon NESCO jumbo COVID centre in the Goregaon suburb of Mumbai, India. (Bloomberg)

The southern Karnataka state is imposing a 9pm curfew for the next two weeks starting Tuesday, with only essential services allowed between 6am to 10am, according to CNN affiliate News 18.

The northern state of Punjab announced similar measures on Monday, including a night curfew and a weekend lockdown.

“Urge you all to stay at home and step out only if absolutely necessary,” tweeted the state’s chief minister on Monday.

Meanwhile, states and local authorities are desperately waiting for aid to arrive from the central government and overseas.

The US, UK, France, Germany, and Pakistan are among the countries that have stepped in to offer assistance and send much-needed medical equipment including ventilators and oxygen.

The first shipments of aid from the United Kingdom arrived in India on Tuesday, according to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“No one is safe until we are all safe,” he tweeted, with pictures of the aid arriving.



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Gov. Scott unveils timeline for easing COVID-19 travel, gathering restrictions


Gov. Scott unveils timeline for easing travel, business restrictions



>> RIGHT NOW GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT IS BEGINNING HIS REGULAR COVID-19 BRIEFING. GOV. SCOTT: FORESHADOWING TODAY, WE WILL LAY OUT THE VERMONT FORWARD PLAN. THINK OF THIS AS A ROADMAP FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS AS THE VACCINES MAKE US GET BACK TO SOMETHING MORE NORMAL. THIS INCLUDES HEALTH GUIDANCE CHANGES THAT WE EXPECT TO MAKE US MORE VERMONTERS ARE VACCINATED IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT UNLIKE LAST YEAR, WHEN WE BEGAN REOPENING THE ECONOMY, WE NOW HAVE THREE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE VACCINES IN OUR TOOLBOX, GIVING US A LEVEL OF ABILITY — OF PRICKED ABILITY WE DID NOT HAVE BEFORE. — OF PREDICTABILITY WE DID NOT HAVE BEFORE. IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO KNOW, UNLIKE THIS TIME LAST YEAR, WE ARE DOING A LOT MORE TESTING IN CONTACT TRACING. IN FACT, WE RANK AS ONE OF THE TOP STATES IN THE NATION WHEN IT COMES TO TESTING. ALLOWING US TO BETTER CONTAIN CASES AND TO LAYOUT THIS ROADMAP TODAY. OUR GOAL IS TO GIVE VERMONTERS A TRANSPARENT LOOK AND HOW WE CAN WORK OUR WAY OUT OF THE PANDEMIC, MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER AT A TIME WHEN WE CAN MANAGE THE VIRUS LIKE REDO THE FLU, WITH SIMPLE, EVERYDAY MEASURES. RATHER THAN THE STATE OF EMERGENCY WE HAVE BEEN IN FOR A YEAR. IT’S MEANT TO LET NONPROFITS, ORGANIZERS, EMPLOYERS, AND FAMILIES PLAN FOR EVENTS AND HOW THIS MIGHT LOOK. TO HELP REPAIR FOR BUDGETS AND TO GIVE VERMONTERS SOMETHING TO WORK TOWARDS. AS I HAVE SAID, WE ARE IN THE LAST LAPS OF THIS LONG AND DIFFICULT RACE. THIS PLAN SHOWS HOW WE WILL FINISH STRONG. I WANT TO BE CLEAR, THE KEY TO GETTING THERE ARE VACCINATIONS. THAT’S WHY WE ARE LASER FOCUS ON MAKING SURE AS MANY VERMONTERS AS POSSIBLE GET THEM. IT’S WHY, WHEN YOU ARE ELIGIBLE, YOU NEED TO SIGN UP. WE ARE ALREADY SEEING THE POSITIVE IMPACTS. WITH ABOUT 90% OF VERMONTERS 65 AND OLDER HAVING RECEIVED ONE DOSE, WE ARE NUMBER ONE IN THE NATION ON THIS FRONT. MORE IMPORTANTLY, CASES HAVE DROPPED DRAMATICALLY IN THIS AGE GROUP, AS HAVE HOSPITALIZATIONS AND DEATHS. THAT’S WHAT WE’VE BEEN WORKING TOWARDS. AS WE MOVE THROUGH MORE, WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING DEATH SENT OUT TO THOSE NATIONS — TO SEEING DEATHS AND HOSPITALIZATIONS DECLINE. BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FEWER CASES OVERALL. BUT AGAIN, WE NEED TO GET VACCINATED TO MOVE DOWN THIS PATH. WITHIN TWO WEEKS, ALL VERMONTERS WILL BE ELIGIBLE. TO BE CLEAR, WE HAVE WORKED ON THE PLAN FOR THE LAST FEW MONTHS AND DIRECT CONSULTATION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH INCLUDING DR. LEVINE AND DR. KELSO AND OUR EMERGENCY OPERATIONS TEAM AND MANY OTHERS. AS HAS BEEN THE CASE, WE ARE RELYING ON ADVICE FROM EXPERTS. WHILE WE ARE PROVIDING DATES, AS ALWAYS, IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCES. WITH THIS IN MIND. THE ROADMAP IS ON THE SCREEN BEHIND ME. AND IT WILL BE AVAILABLE ON OUR WEBSITE. WITH THIS PHASED APPROACH, YOU WILL SEE WE HAVE TAKEN STEPS BASED ON THE LEVEL OF VACCINATIONS WE EXPECT TO SEE. FOR THE PLAN TO WORK, WE NEED YOUR HELP GETTING EVERYONE VACCINATED. OVER TIME, CERTAIN SECTORS TRANSITION FROM SECTOR — SECTOR SPECIFIC TO UNIVERSAL GUIDANCE. THAT WILL BE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND, PROVIDE MORE FLEXIBILITY AND ALLOW FOR MORE CREATIVITY AREA SECRETARY KURRLE WILL TALK ABOUT THIS, BUT YOU CAN SEE STEP ONE, THIS IS WHEN THOSE WILL BE TRANSITIONING TO UNIVERSAL GUIDANCE. THIS STARTS ON APRIL 9 WITH GROUP A, WHICH ARE BUSINESSES THAT HAVE LITTLE OR NO CONTACT AND ARE MOSTLY OUTDOORS. GROUP A WILL SEE LITTLE CHANGE. WE BELIEVE IT WILL GIVE THEM MORE FLEXIBILITY AND BE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND. ON MAY 1, GROUP D BUSINESSES, INCLUDING MOST OTHER SECTORS WILL ALSO MOVE TO UNIVERSAL GUIDANCE. AND TO BETTER ALIGN OURSELVES WITH OTHER STATES, STEP ONE WILL ALSO INCLUDE A CHANGE TO OUR TRAVEL ESSAY. BEGINNING APRIL 9, WE WILL USE TESTING, INSTEAD OF QUARANTINES AS ONE OF OUR STRATEGIES FOR MITIGATING THE VIRUS. THIS REQUIRES UNVACCINATED VERMONTERS TO BE TESTED WITHIN THREE DAYS OF THEIR RETURN. BUT THEY NO LONGER NEED TO QUARANTINE. LIKEWISE, THIS POLICY ALLOWS VISITORS FROM OTHER STATES TO COME TO VERMONT AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A NEGATIVE TEST WITHIN THREE DAYS OF THEIR ARRIVAL. THOSE WHO ARE VACCINATED CAN CONTINUE TO TRAVEL WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS. AS A REMINDER, WE HAVE HAD ONE OF THE MOST CONSERVATIVE TRAVEL POLICIES THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. WHILE THIS EASES THOSE RESTRICTIONS, IT IS STILL MORE STRICT THAN OUR NEIGHBORS AND RELIES ON UNVACCINATED VERMONTERS AND VISITORS TO DO THEIR PART. WITH THIS STEP, BECAUSE TESTING IS FREE AND EASY, WE BELIEVE IT WILL BE EASIER TO FOLLOW. AND WE WILL SEE MORE COMPLIANCE. WE WILL CATCH CASES LITTLE EARLIER. LOOKING AHEAD, THE MAJORITY OF VERMONTERS OVER 30 WILL BE VACCINATED. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT. 14 MONTHS AFTER THE VIRUS HIT OUR STATE, WE CAN HAVE TWO THIRDS OF THE POPULATION MAXIM. WITH THAT LEVEL, OUR TEAM BELIEVES WE WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE ANOTHER STEP FORWARD. SO IN STEP TWO, ALL SECTORS MOVED TO UNIVERSAL GUIDANCE EXCEPT FOR EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE. WHICH WILL MAINTAIN THEIR OWN GUIDANCE. AND WE WILL BE ABLE TO EXPAND GATHERING SIZES. BY JUNE, WE EXPECT ALL VERMONTERS WHO WANT TO BE VACCINATED TO HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO. AT THIS TIME, AS LONG AS ANOTHER VERMONTERS STEP UP TO GET VACCINATED, IT WILL BE SAFE TO ALLOW FOR TRAVEL WITHOUT ANY TESTING OR QUARANTINE REQUIREMENTS. AND WE CAN INCREASE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT CAN SAFELY GATHER. HERE’S ANOTHER IMPORTANT POINT. THROUGHOUT ALL THE STEPS, MASKING, AND PHYSICAL DISTANCING WILL STILL BE REQUIRED, AND CONTINUE TO BE THE BEST METHODS FOR THE UNVACCINATED TO LIMIT TRANSMISSION. ALL OF THIS LEADS US TO INDEPENDENCE DAY. AT WHICH TIME, ALL VERMONTERS OVER THE AGE OF 16 WILL HAVE HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO REGISTER AND RECEIVE THEIR VACCINE. WE MIGHT EVEN BE VACCINATING PEOPLE UNDER 16 BY THEN. THAT’S WHY WE BELIEVE WE CAN BE BACK TO NORMAL BY THIS TIME. AFTER THE FOURTH, OUR GUIDANCE BECOMES EXACTLY THAT. GUIDANCE, NOT MANDATES. RECOMMENDATIONS RATHER THAN REQUIREMENTS. BY THEN WE WILL HAVE BEEN THROUGH 19 MONTHS OF A HISTORIC PANDEMIC RESPONSE. 19 MONTHS OF LEARNING HOW THIS VIRUS SPREADS, HOW TO MITIGATE, DEVELOPING INCREDIBLE TOOLS TO CONTROL IT, FROM TESTING TO THE DISTRIBUTION OF THREE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE VACCINES. AND WHO KNOWS, WE MAY HAVE MORE APPROVED BY THE FDA. THESE ARE THE TOOLS WE USE TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND MANAGED VIRUS. AND IN THE FUTURE WE WILL MANAGE COVID LIKE DO THE SEASONAL FLU, BECAUSE WE KNOW COVID-19 IS NOT GOING AWAY. BUT WITH THE VACCINE WE CAN KEEP PEOPLE SAFE AND RETURN TO NORMALCY. BY THE FOURTH OF JULY WE SHOULD BE THERE. BUT TODAY, IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE REALISTC. WE ARE STILL IN THIS PANDEMIC. IN FACT, WE NEED VERMONTERS TO LOOK AT THE ROADMAP AND DOUBLE DOWN ON THE GUIDANCE WE HAVE IN PLACE, SO WE CAN FINISH STRONG WITH THE FEWEST LIVES LOST AND THE KIDS BACK IN SCHOOL BEFORE THE SCHOOL YEAR ENDS. TO DO SO, WE MUST MEET EACH — WE MUST MEET EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE STEPS. I AM PERSONALLY ASKING YOU TO DO YOUR PART, WE NEED YOUR HELP AS MUCH TODAY AS WE DID LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME. THAT MEANS CONTINUING TO WEAR YOUR MASK, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE, STAY HOME WHEN SICK, TEST OFTEN AND GET VACCINATED AS SOON AS YOU CAN. CASE COUNTS ARE STILL HIGH. LETTING YOUR GUARD DOWN INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING OR SPREADING THE VIRUS. SO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IS ESPECIALLY WHARTON RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE ROUGHLY 90 DAYS TO GO. 90 DAYS TO STAY UNITED SO WE CAN GET BACK TO NORMAL. AS I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS FINAL PUSH, OUR STATE’S MOTTO, FREEDOM AND UNITY COMES TO MIND. THESE PRINCIPLES ARE AT THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE. IT’S NEVER BEEN MORE BECAUSE COMMITTING TO THESE PRINCIPLES, STRIVING TOWARDS THIS GOAL TOGETHER IS HOW WE DO THIS. THIS HAS BEEN A LONG AND HARD JOURNEY. A ONCE IN THE CENTURY PANDEMIC HAS GONE ON MUCH LONGER THAN ANY OF US THOUGHT OR EXPECTED. THE FINISH LINE IS IN SIGHT, BUT WE NEED TO DIG DEEP TO FIND THE STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE TO GET THROUGH THE NEXT 90 DAYS. SO HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO DELIVER TODAY. I HOPE EACH OF YOU SEES THIS ROADMAP AS A REASON FOR OPTIMISM. AND IS ALSO A REASON TO MAKE SMART CHOICES, TO DO YOUR PART FOR THE COMMON GOOD. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN TO GET VACCINATED. AS I HAVE SAID SINCE DAY ONE,

Gov. Scott unveils timeline for easing travel, business restrictions

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday unveiled a timeline for easing pandemic-related travel and business restrictions over the next three months. The “Vermont Forward Plan” includes three unique phases, all spaced approximately one month apart, that will gradually increase gathering allowances and remove quarantine restrictions currently in place for interstate travel. Full guidanceCOVID-19 data All phases lead up to Independence Day, a date the governor has repeatedly set as a benchmark for the state’s return “back to normal” as more residents become fully vaccinated. “I want to be really clear: The key to getting there is vaccinations,” Scott said. “Which is why we’re laser-focused on making sure as many Vermonters as possible get them.”Facial coverings, as outlined under the state’s mask mandate, and social distancing will be required during each phase. All dates announced by state leadership Tuesday are subject to change. STEP 1 The state’s first step in easing restrictions is scheduled to begin on April 9 with “Group A” businesses, which will include outdoor businesses and retail operations with limited contact with customers, according to Scott. Those businesses will shift to “universal guidance,” a new set of restrictions to be shared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. It will also offer a major easement on interstate travel restrictions, as a quarantine will no longer be required for unvaccinated individuals when arriving or returning to the state. Instead, those travelers will be asked to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of arriving at one of the state’s testing locations.Scott and other members of his administration did not announce how the state plans to monitor that requirement. STEP 2A second step is scheduled to begin on May 2 with “Group B” businesses, including restaurants, bars, hair salons and gyms, among others. Those businesses will shift to “universal guidance,” a new set of restrictions to be shared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Indoor gatherings will be allowed to host one unvaccinated person per 100 square feet, up to 150 people. Outdoor gatherings can host up to 300 people. Both types of gatherings will be allowed to host “any number” of vaccinated people, according to state guidance. STEP 3The final step, scheduled to begin May 1, offers another major milestone for those hopeful to travel — all quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements will be fully lifted for interstate travelers. Indoor gatherings will be allowed to host one unvaccinated person per 50 square feet, up to 300 people. Outdoor gatherings can host up to 900 people under the phase. Both types of gatherings will still be allowed to host “any number” of vaccinated people, according to state guidance. The state plans to withdraw all remaining capacity, travel and business restrictions on July 4, though facial coverings and social distancing will still be encouraged. “Beginning July 4, our guidance will become exactly that — guidance,” Scott said Tuesday. “Not mandates. Recommendations, rather than requirements.”Scott said he’s hopeful a scheduled timeline will offer a drive for Vermonters to double down on safety practices and vaccinations. The state is currently reporting its largest continued increase in new COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began. “I hope each of you sees this road map as a reason for optimism,” Scott said. “And also as a reason to make smart choices, to do your part for the common good, especially when it’s your turn to get vaccinated.”The governor received a single-shot dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday unveiled a timeline for easing pandemic-related travel and business restrictions over the next three months.

The “Vermont Forward Plan” includes three unique phases, all spaced approximately one month apart, that will gradually increase gathering allowances and remove quarantine restrictions currently in place for interstate travel.

All phases lead up to Independence Day, a date the governor has repeatedly set as a benchmark for the state’s return “back to normal” as more residents become fully vaccinated.

“I want to be really clear: The key to getting there is vaccinations,” Scott said. “Which is why we’re laser-focused on making sure as many Vermonters as possible get them.”

Facial coverings, as outlined under the state’s mask mandate, and social distancing will be required during each phase. All dates announced by state leadership Tuesday are subject to change.


STEP 1

The state’s first step in easing restrictions is scheduled to begin on April 9 with “Group A” businesses, which will include outdoor businesses and retail operations with limited contact with customers, according to Scott.

Those businesses will shift to “universal guidance,” a new set of restrictions to be shared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

It will also offer a major easement on interstate travel restrictions, as a quarantine will no longer be required for unvaccinated individuals when arriving or returning to the state. Instead, those travelers will be asked to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of arriving at one of the state’s testing locations.

Scott and other members of his administration did not announce how the state plans to monitor that requirement.


STEP 2

A second step is scheduled to begin on May 2 with “Group B” businesses, including restaurants, bars, hair salons and gyms, among others.

Those businesses will shift to “universal guidance,” a new set of restrictions to be shared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Indoor gatherings will be allowed to host one unvaccinated person per 100 square feet, up to 150 people. Outdoor gatherings can host up to 300 people.

Both types of gatherings will be allowed to host “any number” of vaccinated people, according to state guidance.


STEP 3

The final step, scheduled to begin May 1, offers another major milestone for those hopeful to travel — all quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements will be fully lifted for interstate travelers.

Indoor gatherings will be allowed to host one unvaccinated person per 50 square feet, up to 300 people. Outdoor gatherings can host up to 900 people under the phase.

Both types of gatherings will still be allowed to host “any number” of vaccinated people, according to state guidance.


The state plans to withdraw all remaining capacity, travel and business restrictions on July 4, though facial coverings and social distancing will still be encouraged.

“Beginning July 4, our guidance will become exactly that — guidance,” Scott said Tuesday. “Not mandates. Recommendations, rather than requirements.”

Scott said he’s hopeful a scheduled timeline will offer a drive for Vermonters to double down on safety practices and vaccinations. The state is currently reporting its largest continued increase in new COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.

“I hope each of you sees this road map as a reason for optimism,” Scott said. “And also as a reason to make smart choices, to do your part for the common good, especially when it’s your turn to get vaccinated.”

The governor received a single-shot dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.



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Australia news live updates: Scott Morrison blames ‘supply problem’ for slow Covid vaccine rollout | Australia news









Australia Post’s submission to the same Senate inquiry clearly indicates it doesn’t resile from the position she stood aside.

It said:


On 22 October 2020, Ms Holgate agreed to stand aside from the role of group chief executive officer & managing director of Australia Post pending the outcome of an investigation by the shareholder departments and any further actions taken by Australia Post. On 2 November 2020, Ms Holgate resigned with immediate effect and advised that she was not seeking any financial compensation from Australia Post.

The submission also quotes the Maddocks review of the incident, which it said contradicts Holgate by finding that:

  • The “former Chair’s position is that he did not” approve the provision of the watches to the watch recipients
  • There was “contradictory evidence as to whether the former Group CEO & Managing Director informed the former Chair that it was her intention to purchase the Cartier watches”.

Australia Post said it considers current chair, Lucio Di Bartolomeo’s, evidence to the Senate “to be accurate” but that is after “incorporating the subsequent clarification provided on 21 December 2020”.

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Former Australia Post chief executive, Christine Holgate, has lodged an explosive submission to the Senate inquiry into her sacking for the decision to award executives Cartier watches as bonuses.

“It is almost five months since the events of October 22nd, 2020, when, for no justified reason, I was humiliated in Parliament and then unlawfully stood down by the Australia Post Chair from a role I was passionately committed to,” the submission begins.

In the submission, Holgate doubles down on her claim she never voluntarily stood down and accuses Australia Post chairman, Lucio Di Bartolomeo, of unlawfully standing her down and alleged “he lied repeatedly to the Australian people and to their parliament about his actions”.

”Time after time he has made statements that I had agreed to stand down when I had done no such thing.”

Holgate said she offered to resign, but alleged Australia Post then leaked the letter to the media, before sending a counter-offer which is “itself confirmation that no agreement had been reached”.

Holgate said the gift of Cartier watches was “legal, within Australia Post’s policies, within my own signing authority limits, approved by the previous chairman, expensed appropriately, signed off by auditors and the CFO, [and] widely celebrated within the organisation”.

Holgate accused Di Bartolomeo of “seriously misleading” evidence to the Senate on 9 November, including about his knowledge of a BCG report into the incident.

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Travel agents and hotel operators have welcomed details of the two way travel bubble with New Zealand, but have warned “there will be very little real benefit” for the sector in the short term.

This is because most of the initial travellers from 19 April are expected to be low-spending tourists visiting family and friends, as Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive, Margy Osmond, told the Guardian.

Accommodation Association of Australia has backed that prediction up, with its chief executive Dean Long reigniting calls for post-jobkeeper wage support for CBD hotels in Melbourne and Sydney that are still reeling from a drop off in international tourism and business travel.

The Association said Sydney is currently the worst performing city market in Australia with revenue declines of 67% and forward booking rates of less than 10% for the next 90 days and that Melbourne is similarly decimated.

Long said:


The opening of the trans-Tasman corridor is a very welcome step in the right direction but the reality is while it’s good news for the travel sector, given most travellers will be catching up with friends and families there’s very little immediate benefit for our tourism sector or our hotels and motels. With the end of jobkeeper and given the massive holes in the market especially in Australia’s international hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, the flow on benefits for our hotels and motels, and the many small businesses who supply them is negligible. There’s no doubt it will be a big kick along for consumer confidence but it doesn’t erase the need for tailored support for our accommodation sector. The reality is it’s great news for our travel sector but not so good for tourism.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring said many of his members were already seeing “increased interest in booking NZ albeit primarily to visit friends and family”.

Manwaring said:


It’s not a massive increase in business and our sector still desperately needs support but it is a much needed step in the right direction.” However, we urge both the Australian and the New Zealand governments to do all they can to ensure now the corridor is open that it stays open. This is important both in terms of consumer confidence in booking travel and from a workload perspective for travel agents who are still working hard on repatriating the outstanding $4bn still owed to Australians by airlines, hotels and tour operators on Covid-impacted travel and managing re-bookings and cancellations as a result of state restrictions.

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PNG man dies of Covid in Queensland hospital

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Valley News – Vermont teams scramble to find facilities after Scott bans travel to NH


Valley News Sports Editor

Published: 1/7/2021 8:00:51 AM

Modified: 1/7/2021 8:00:39 AM

Cean Lieberman had to roll on down the road to keep his team rolling down the alley.

The Vermont state government’s nonessential travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic are having an unanticipated impact on some Upper Valley high school sports programs such as the Hartford High bowling team that Lieberman coaches. The Hurricanes can’t cross the New Hampshire border to practice and compete at their normal home, Claremont’s Maple Lanes, and have had to find alternate arrangements.

Not all of the affected programs have been so successful. Windsor bowling, another Maple Lanes guest, may not have a season. The alpine skiing teams at Thetford Academy and Hartford are on hiatus as well, unable to access their usual Granite State training slopes.

For the time being, Lieberman has his squad working on its craft at Randolph’s Valley Bowl.

“Going to Randolph is more time up (getting there), which means less practice time,” Lieberman said this week. “It’s a smaller facility, and right now that’s not bad because the state of Vermont isn’t allowing league bowling. But once their leagues start up — hopefully that’s soon for the owner’s behalf — we would have to leave practice sooner. Whether it’s 10 or 15 minutes, it’s still less practice time.”

Vermont winter high school sports remain in practice mode; those teams that didn’t commence socially distanced workouts during the Christmas holiday started Monday. Gov. Phil Scott has yet to announce a date when interscholastic competition can begin.

Without access to Lebanon’s Storrs Hill Ski Area, there’s little Thetford athletic director Blendon Salls can do for his ski team.

“The things that Storrs Hill has done for us are fantastic; they do a lot for us,” Salls said. “I would hope the state — especially since it’s noncontact; you just go and ski — would give us permission to do it. We’re just waiting on that.”

Thetford has accessed Storrs Hill for training the past two years, Salls said. Hartford’s alpinists usually congregate at Whaleback, across the border in Enfield. The fact that both hills have lights is a significant attraction.

TA used to train at the Dartmouth Skiway, which closes for the day at 4 p.m. With a 2:45 p.m. end to the school day — which has changed to 2 p.m. during the pandemic, Salls noted — it leaves very little time for on-snow teaching. Storrs Hill has kept the lights on until 5 or 5:30 p.m. to give the Panthers more training time.

Salls said East Corinth’s Northeast Slopes has moved its hours around to help the Panthers, but the small daytime-operating area — which has no snowmaking — is closed until more natural snow falls. He’s also talked with Pico Mountain to see if will accommodate the team.

“Other than that, we’re on hold,” Salls said.

Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno said his ski team’s only possible alternative is South Pomfret’s Suicide Six Ski Area. (The Quechee Ski Area operates only a Friday-to-Sunday schedule, he noted.) But Hartford runs into the same problem; Su Six has no lights, and Moreno isn’t willing to shorten the academic day to facilitate an earlier arrival. Moreno said the team may be able to do some Su Six training on Sundays soon.

“We’ll do some stuff on campus; we’ll get out and do strength and conditioning, work the cross country trail a little, get their legs in shape and get the chemistry going,” Moreno said. “I hope the kids can access Quechee or wherever they go on their own, but they’ll get no gate training or anything like that.”

Lieberman saw the writing on the wall and started investigating his options in November. Valley Bowl and Springfield’s Up Your Alley were the closest Vermont-situated possibilities; the latter has yet to reopen, the facility’s answering message simply citing “state restrictions” on Wednesday morning.

The Randolph house has provided two-hour Monday and Wednesday afternoon slots for Hartford to get rolling.

In the meantime, Moreno and Salls have written letters to Montpelier seeking a travel restriction waiver. Lieberman and Windsor bowling coach Steve Bly both noted that Maple Lanes — which also hosts the Stevens High bowling program — has put in strict mask-wearing rules and other measures that should satisfy authorities.

“They are taking the necessary steps to allow us to go there,” Bly said. “It’s just a matter of basically the governor ordering a lightening-up and allowing students to go across the border.”

Bly worried that he may not be able to attract enough athletes for a team until he can be certain it has a place to play. Windsor basketball began workouts this week; bowling can’t, because its home is 10 minutes on the wrong side of a line on a map.

Others are more fortunate.

Said Moreno: “It was good that we had options.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3226.





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