Australia Extends Melbourne Lockdown Despite Drop In Cases

An ambulance is seen outside one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 coronavirus numbers in Melbourne on July 6, 2020. – Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said on July 6, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

 

Australian officials on Sunday extended a strict virus lockdown of the country’s second-biggest city by two weeks, saying new cases had not dropped enough to prevent another spike.

Melbourne residents were due to exit a harsh six-week lockdown next weekend but face continued restrictions for months to come, with Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews saying the current lockdown would remain in place until September 28.

“If we open up too fast then we have a very high likelihood that we are not really opening up at all — we are just beginning a third wave,” he told a press conference.

“And we will be back in and out of restrictions, coming in and out of lockdown, before the end of the year.”

Just 63 new cases and five deaths were recorded in Victoria on Sunday, after peaking above 700 at the height of the outbreak, but health officials are taking a cautious approach.

Hopes of a return to normality this month have been dashed, with an overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a limit on travelling more than five kilometres (about three miles) set to remain in place until at least October 26.

Announcing the roadmap for the easing of restrictions, Andrews said that rushing to experience a “brief period of sunshine” would likely lead to the virus again spiralling out of control.

The toughest rules will be eased in Melbourne from September 13, with an overnight curfew beginning an hour later at 9:00 pm, daily exercise increased to two hours and small “social bubbles” created for people living alone.

Under the government’s plan, childcare centres will reopen and up to five people will be able to gather outdoors from the end of September — but only if cases fall below an average of 50 per day.

Rules for people living in regional and rural Victoria will be relaxed more quickly, due to small numbers of active cases in those areas.

The announcement comes a day after more than a dozen anti-lockdown protesters were arrested in Melbourne during clashes with police.

Hundreds attended the illegal gathering organised online by conspiracy theorists, labelling the government’s response to the pandemic overblown or an outright “scam”.

Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, with the country recording just over 26,000 cases and 753 deaths in a population of 25 million.

The vast majority were reported in Melbourne over the past two months, while other regions have rolled back restrictions after largely bringing the virus under control.

AFP

Police Arrest 17 Anti-Lockdown Protesters In Melbourne

Police arrest a protester at the Albert Park Lake in Melbourne on September 5, 2020, during an anti-lockdown rally to protest the state’s strict lockdown laws as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. William WEST / AFP

 

Over a dozen of anti-lockdown protesters were arrested Saturday in Melbourne, as those deliberately flouting stay-at-home orders clashed with Australian police.

Ignoring official warnings and public health orders, several hundred people gathered at an illegal protest — promoted by several virus-related conspiracy theory groups online — calling for an end to lockdown measures.

A huge police presence responded, arresting 17 as the crowd chanted “freedom” and “scam” towards lines of officers who repeatedly attempted to move people on.

Two protesters were seen raising their arms in a Nazi salute at officers and yelling “Heil Dan”, comparing the state of Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews to Adolf Hitler, while standing on the forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance — a war memorial which partly commemorates Australians killed fighting in World War II.

Demonstrators moved to a nearby park before being surrounded by police and eventually dispersing.

Officers said they issued 160 fines for breaching health orders and were expecting to hand out more in the coming days.

Several attendees told AFP they were protesting the government’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 865,000 people around the world, labelling it overblown or an outright “scam”.

“We are in a city where the cure from Daniel Andrews is actually worse than what’s happening,” protester Fiona Kat said.

The “Freedom Day” events were largely promoted by several loosely-connected groups online that espouse anti-vaccination and virus-related conspiracy theories.

Rallies were also held around the country, with 14 people arrested at protests in Sydney and Byron Bay.

Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has dealt relatively well with the virus allowing the rest of the country to roll back restrictions.

The nation has recorded over 26,200 cases and 748 deaths in a population of 25 million.

Before the protest, Victorian premier Andrews told people to stay home and warned the gathering could jeopardise a path out of lockdown, which is expected to be outlined on Sunday.

“It is not safe, it is not smart, it is not lawful,” he told media.

“In fact, it is absolutely selfish.”

Panic-Buying Returns As Melbourne Braces For Lengthy Lockdown

 

Police in the southern New South Wales (NSW) border city of Albury check cars crossing the state border from Victoria on July 8, 2020 after authorities closed the border due to an outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus in Victoria. – With the city of Melbourne going into lockdown for the next six weeks, the entire state of Victoria will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country with the state border to NSW closing on 08 July. William WEST / AFP.

 

Shoppers in Australia’s second-biggest city stripped supermarket shelves Wednesday as millions in Melbourne prepared for a return to virus lockdown, with warnings the new restrictions could prompt a mental health crisis.

Five million residents were ordered back into a six-week lockdown beginning midnight Wednesday into Thursday as soaring community transmission of the coronavirus brings more than 100 new cases daily.

A further 134 infections were detected in the past 24 hours — small in comparison to the tens of thousands in hard-hit countries such as the US and Brazil, but considered a major spike in Australia, which had otherwise been successful in containing COVID-19.

The country’s largest supermarket chain, Woolworths, said it had reimposed buying limits on items including pasta, vegetables and sugar after shoppers rushed to stores across Victoria state.

Experts have warned that people everywhere will have to get used to the “new normal” of on-and-off restrictions as new clusters emerge and subside, while there are also concerns over the economic and mental health impacts the measures will bring.

“As frustrating as it is I support (the lockdown) — but ask me again in six weeks,” stoic Melbourne resident Michael Albert told AFP.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Melbourne lockdown would cost the economy up to Aus$1 billion ($700 million) a week, telling public broadcaster ABC the burden would “fall heavily on businesses”.

“This is not the situation that anybody wanted to be in, but it is the reality that we must confront,” said state Premier Daniel Andrews.

Restaurants and cafes will be limited to serving takeaway food, while gyms, beauty salons and cinemas will be forced to close again.

Residents will be restricted to their homes except for work, exercise, medical care or to buy essentials — a return to social isolation that was only recently lifted.

Professor Michael Kyrios, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, warned that Victoria needed to brace for a “coming mental health crisis” as a result.

– Guards replaced –

“This will likely place the mental health care system in a precarious situation with very limited ability to mobilise resources in response to the increased incidence of mental illness arising from the COVID crisis,” he said.

Health authorities say they have linked many of the Melbourne coronavirus cases to hotels where residents returning from overseas were being quarantined.

Local media reported security guards had breached infection control regulations — including allegedly having sex with guests held in isolation — prompting the government to replace the private contractors with prison staff and launch an inquiry.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was now considering limiting the number of citizens returning from abroad, after Victoria began diverting international flights to other cities to ease the burden on its quarantine facilities.

“There is a volume that can be accommodated by the (other) states and territories currently, but they certainly wouldn’t want to see that increase,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Thousands of health workers are knocking on doors in the worst-affected areas of Melbourne urging residents to get tested for coronavirus, with officials saying about 10,000 people have refused after being influenced by online disinformation.

Around 3,000 people in the city have already been locked inside their homes since Saturday in Australia’s strictest coronavirus response to date after a cluster emerged in a high-rise public housing estate.

A total of 75 cases have been detected in the densely populated towers during a major testing blitz.

Long queues of cars were backed up at Victoria’s border Wednesday after neighbouring New South Wales closed the boundary for the first time in the pandemic — essentially sealing off the state from the rest of Australia.

The hastily announced decision left residents of border towns scrambling to obtain permits to cross for work or other essential reasons, while school holiday travellers were rushing to return home.

Police checkpoints have been set up at major road crossings and drones are monitoring large sections of the vast border, with one man arrested Wednesday after allegedly attempting to cross illegally.

Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases of coronavirus and 106 deaths.

AFP

Mid-Air Plane Collision Kills Four In Australia

Scene of the crash. Credit: 9News.

 

Four people were killed in a mid-air collision between two light planes in Australia on Wednesday, scattering debris across a rural area north of Melbourne.

Police said the two twin-engined aircraft were each carrying a pilot and a passenger when they crashed around 4,000 feet (1,200) above the town of Mangalore.

Images from the crash scene on the ground showed twisted metal and chunks of fuselage scattered in a field and among trees.

Police said both planes were flying legally in the area but investigations were ongoing.

“We’re not sure why both aircraft were exactly on the same trajectory or why they were in that area but unfortunately they have collided mid-air,” Police Inspector Peter Koger said.

One aircraft had just taken off from the nearby airfield but the other plane’s origin was still unclear, he added.

Coco Gauff, 15, Stuns Title-Holder Osaka At Australian Open

 

 

Unseeded 15-year-old Coco Gauff beat reigning champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in a major upset at the Australian Open on Friday.

The American prodigy, making her Melbourne debut this year, beat the third seed 6-3, 6-4 in the third round to avenge her heavy defeat at last year’s US Open.

The youngest player in the draw will play 14th seed Sofia Kenin of the United States or China’s Zhang Shuai.

“Oh my gosh. Two years ago I lost the first round in the juniors and now I’m here — this is crazy,” said Gauff.

“I was just telling myself one point at a time and just keep fighting because you never know what happens on this court.”

This was the second installment of a budding rivalry that could light up tennis for the next decade or more, having met at the US Open, where Osaka won easily.

READ ALSO: Serena Williams Stunned At Australian Open, Ending Record Bid

The teenager Gauff, who spent time training with Serena Williams in the off-season, had said she would be less nervous and more aggressive this time round.

And so it proved as they rattled through the first five games in barely 15 minutes at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka, a relative veteran at age 22, fired into the net to drop serve in game eight and then racked up more unforced errors in gifting Gauff the first set in 32 minutes.

“Come on!” shouted Gauff, ranked 67 but fast making a name for herself as the most exciting prospect in women’s tennis.

The young American carried the momentum into the first game of the second set, breaking a subdued and rattled Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The Japanese broke back for 1-1 when Gauff volleyed into the net, but it was a rare mistake by the American and she broke once more, before serving for the match at 5-4.

The nerveless teenager clinched victory on the first match point when Osaka fired into the net.

Gauff announced herself to the sporting world at Wimbledon last year when, as a qualifier, she stunned Venus Williams in the first round.

She did the same thing to the seven-time Grand Slam champion on her Melbourne debut this week, then came back from a set and 3-0 down to defeat Sorana Cirstea on Wednesday.

When Gauff and Osaka met five months ago in New York, also in round three, then-world number one Osaka crushed the tearful and overawed teenager 6-3, 6-0 in a little over an hour.

That first clash was memorable also for what happened afterward when the teenager cried and Osaka consoled her before Osaka herself began welling up.

Serena Williams Stunned At Australian Open, Ending Record Bid

 

Serena Williams was sensationally knocked out of the Australian Open third round by China’s Wang Qiang on Friday, torpedoing her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown.

Williams, 38, was the bookies’ favourite to win an eighth title at Melbourne Park but she came unstuck against a determined Wang, who took only one game off the American last time they met.

The 6-4, 6/7 (2/7), 7-5 upset means Williams, whose last Major win was at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant, has fallen short at eight Grand Slams since returning from having a baby in 2018.

READ ALSO: Victor Moses Signs For Inter Milan On Loan

“I think my team always believed I can do it,” said 27th seed Wang, who lost 6-1, 6-0 to Williams in last year’s US Open quarter-finals.

“After last time I did really hard work on and off-court, I believed I could do it.”

Her reward is a clash with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who upset Williams’ close friend Caroline Wozniacki, sending the Dane into retirement.

Williams, seeded eight, started slowly against the fast, positive Wang, and she was three break points down in the ninth game when Wang punched away a forehand to grab the break.

Serving for the set, Wang won a full-blooded rally to bring up set point and then sealed it to go one set up — a far cry from their last meeting in New York.

Williams came out firing for the second set but her chances plunged when she was broken to go 3-2 down, and it looked all over when she let Wang off the hook on breakpoint in the eighth.

However, Wang wobbled when she was serving for the match and Williams won a titanic 24-shot rally to break the Chinese player for the first time, raising her arms in triumph.

Williams staved off more break points before dominating the tie-breaker, where she benefited from another net cord and a Hawk-Eye review before levelling the match with a service winner.

In the tense final set, both players held firm but Wang pounced when Williams was serving to stay in it, converting her third match point as the American netted.

Wang received a torrent of criticism from Chinese fans after her capitulation to Williams in the last eight at Flushing Meadows.

The 28-year-old from Tianjin has now achieved her deepest Australian Open run, after reaching the third round last year — a prelude to her best Major performance, at the US Open.

AFP

Australia’s Cardinal Pell Loses Child Sex Abuse Appeal

 

 

Disgraced Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal against child sex abuse convictions Wednesday, prompting relief from those who fought to bring one of the Catholic Church’s most powerful men to justice.

Once the Vatican’s third-ranking official, Pell had been trying to overturn the verdicts and six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

The high-profile case pitted the powerful 78-year-old — who previously helped elect Popes, ran the Vatican’s finances and was involved in the church’s response to child sex abuse claims — against a single surviving former choirboy.

Pell, dressed in a dark suit, occasionally bowed his head as Chief Justice Anne Ferguson dismissed his arguments and described his victim as “very compelling” and someone who “was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”

The ruling prompted cheers to ripple into the courtroom from a large crowd gathered outside, and produced emotional statements from victims, their families and advocacy groups.

The now-adult victim — who cannot be named for legal reasons — said the “stressful” four-year legal fight had taken him “to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from.”

Dismissing vocal media critics, the man said the death of his friend, the second choirboy, from a drug overdose had prompted him to break his silence.

“After attending the funeral of my childhood friend… I felt a responsibility to come forward,” he said in a statement read by his lawyer.

“I am not an advocate. You wouldn’t know my name. I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors.”

A lawyer for the father of the second victim said he felt “a weight had been lifted.”

“He feels that justice has been delivered today. He has a real sense of relief that George Pell is behind bars tonight,” Lisa Flynn told AFP.

Following the ruling, Pell — who will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months — maintained his innocence and said he was now considering a second and final appeal.

“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today,” said a statement issued through the church.

“His legal team will thoroughly examine the judgement in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court.”

‘Done their job’

Pell’s lawyers now have 28 days to consider further legal steps.

They had raised 13 objections to his convictions, casting doubt on everything from the physical possibility of Pell removing his robes to carry out the act, to the credibility of the main witness.

The case was unusual in that it relied heavily on the closed-door testimony of the sole surviving victim.

The three judges unanimously dismissed two so-called “fallback” arguments for Pell related to alleged procedural errors during his trial.

His lawyers argued they should have been allowed to show an animated reconstruction of peoples’ movements in the cathedral on the days of the assaults.

They also took issue with the fact that Pell was not arraigned in the presence of the jury. The process was completed via video link so the large pool of potential jurors was able to watch.

Ferguson said that despite these complaints the judges “decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offence charged.”

Following Wednesday’s ruling Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed sympathy for the victims.

He said the “courts had done their job” and indicated Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia honour.

During Pell’s trial under a court-ordered veil of secrecy, the Vatican gradually removed him from top Church bodies with little explanation.

Shortly after his conviction, Pell was removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals that are effectively the Pope’s cabinet and inner circle of advisers.

The Vatican dropped him as the Church’s finance chief and opened its own probe into his actions after his conviction was made public in February.

Federer, Djokovic Win Big In Melbourne

Switzerland’s Roger Federer reacts after beating Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in their men’s singles first round match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2018.
PETER PARKS / AFP

Flawless Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic stamped their mark on the Australian Open on Tuesday with focused former champion Maria Sharapova also successfully negotiating the first round after her drug ban.

Defending champion Federer, rated as the favourite to win his 20th Grand Slam title, made his entrance on Rod Laver Arena with a sizzling 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 lesson for Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene.

The second-seeded Swiss, who is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, was in total control.

“I was thinking a lot about what happened at the tournament last year because it was my favourite tournament of the whole season,” said the 36-year-old, who beat Rafael Nadal in 2017 final.

“I’m hoping for it to go well again.”

Twelve-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic has been out of action for six months with an elbow injury, but he too looked the goods in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of American Donald Young.

Gunning for a seventh Australian Open title, he was glad to be back at the coal face, having missed the competitive edge.

“I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have,” he told the cheering crowd afterwards.

“I played perfect tennis in the first couple of sets and Donald came back in the third set.”

Former Melbourne champion Stan Wawrinka also successfully returned from half a year on the sidelines after knee surgery, having only decided he was fit to play at the weekend.

With the temperatures heating up, he was pushed to four sets by Ricardas Berankis before prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) in a tough workout he said was “proud” to come through.

World number one Simona Halep booked her place in round two, avoiding the first round exit that befell her in the past two years. But she made a meal of it against local hope Destanee Aiava.

Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before the top seed ran out a battling 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 winner.

Third seeded Garbine Muguruza, with heavy strapping on her injured right thigh, made her tournament bow with a laboured 6-3, 6-3 win over French wildcard Jessika Ponchet.

– ‘Really meaningful’ –

Sharapova, still working her way back from a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium in Australia in 2016, showed glimpses of the tennis that made her a five-time major winner.

The 2008 Melbourne Park champion, now ranked 48, beat Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 in her first Australian Open match in two years.

“I cherish these moments. I love it here,” said the Russian, who returned from her drugs ban in April last year.

“It’s been a couple of years and I wanted it to be really meaningful to me.”

Fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber, who won the tournament in 2016, was also impressive in dismissing Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4.

“2017, I have said goodbye already, I am not looking back,” she said after a forgettable last season that saw her relinquish the number one spot and slide down the rankings.

She is now on a 10-match win streak after a perfect early season.

Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth seed Caroline Garcia also progressed, in contrast to the other side of the draw that saw Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe crash out on Monday.

American woes continued with Madison Brengle sent packing by British ninth seed Johanna Konta.

Young gun Alexander Zverev, seeded four, Belgian seventh seed David Goffin, and dark horse Tomas Berdych were among men to make the second round.

But Canada’s Milos Raonic, who has made at least the last eight over the past three years in Melbourne, was bundled out by 86th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko in four sets.

It was his earliest Grand Slam exit in seven years as he fights back from a wrist injury.

AFP

Hamilton Expects Serious Battle For 2017 F1 Championship

Formula One, Lewis Hamilton, F1 ChampionshipLewis Hamilton is expecting “a serious battle” for the 2017 Formula One Championship in the wake of Ferrari’s “spectacular” form in pre-season testing.

Ferrari finished top of the time-sheets for eight days of running in Barcelona with Kimi Raikkonen’s benchmark over half a second ahead of Mercedes’ best.

Ferrari also set the pace on all four of Pirelli’s fastest compounds and afterwards, Hamilton described their pace as spectacular and expects more from them when the season starts.

The 2017 Formula One Season will start on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.

Federer Celebrates Australian Open Victory

Roger Federer,The Australian Open champion, Roger Federer, has celebrated his ‘fairy-tale’ victory and his 18th Grand Slam title at the men’s Australian Tennis Open championship trophy in Melbourne.

The 35-year-old stayed at Melbourne Park until the early hours of Monday before returning to his hotel.

In an interview, the Champion said:

“It was a long night, but a lot of fun. Everybody was in such a good mood — it was a special day, a special couple of weeks.

“We celebrated in a great way, being silly, having fun, chatting about everything. All the stress went away.

Federer has climbed to 10th in the rankings after his win and says it was his self-belief when he had been trailing 3-1 in the final set that had helped him to victory.

He has won his first Grand Slam title in five years on Sunday, defeating Rafael Nadal in a five-set final, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Australian Open: Nadal, Raonic Qualify For Last 16

Milos Raonic , Rafael Nadal, Australian OpenFormer champion Rafael Nadal has beaten Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The 30-year-old, who won the title in 2009, overcame his opponent in a gripping contest to qualify for the last 16 stage of the competition in Melbourne.

He came through 4-6 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 in four hours and six minutes on Saturday.

Nadal, will play France’s Gael Monfils, who also beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.

Canada’s Milos Raonic has also cruised to the next round with a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3 win over France’s Gilles Simon.

Australian Open: Serena Williams Through To Fourth Round

Serena Williams, Australian OpenSerena Williams has beaten fellow American Nicole Gibbs to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The world number two won 6-1 6-3 in 63 minutes on Saturday.

She is chasing a 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The 35-year-old six-time champion will play Czech’s Barbora Strycova, who also beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2 7-5.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova came through a dramatic match to beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-3.

She goes on to face Britain’s Johanna Konta, who trashed Caroline Wozniaki 6-3 6-1.

Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni also advanced to the last 16 for the first time with a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.