Coronavirus Australia live update: SA couple rescued in outback after changing travel route due to Covid restrictions

1 week ago

Melissa Davey

Air conditioning has been raised as a possible cause of transmission in the Queensland Grand Chancellor Covid-19 cluster, prompting more questions about the safety of using hotels to quarantine returning travellers.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the air conditioning would be one aspect examined as part of a major investigation into how four travellers, who were all staying on the same floor, a hotel cleaner and her partner became infected.

How did it get transmitted? Was it in the air conditioning? Was it movement? Was it picking up something? We just don’t know those answers yet. The investigation will go through that and we don’t know enough about this particular strain of the virus either, so we are dealing with something that is incredibly complex.

Health authorities are particularly concerned because those infected have the B117 variant of the virus, which was first identified in the UK and is highly transmissible.

Outbreaks in the community linked to hotel quarantine have now occurred in several states including Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, where more than 20,000 cases and 800 deaths have been reported throughout the pandemic.

Hotel quarantine was “of national concern, not just to Queensland, but everywhere else” Palaszczuk said. In the meantime, the Grand Chancellor has been closed and more than 120 people staying there have been moved to other accommodation to restart quarantine.

Updated at 1.54am EST

The Australian Open’s organisers have released a statement about their decision to allow US player Tennys Sandgren to board one of its specially organised charter flights to Melbourne despite testing positive to Covid-19 on Monday.

#AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 14, 2021

The statement essentially reiterates comments made from the tournament’s official Twitter account on Thursday afternoon, saying Sandgren’s infection was historic and that authorities have cleared him as no longer being infectious.

You can read more about the situation in this report from my colleagues Luke Henriques-Gomes and Christopher Knaus:

Police say four people found dead at Melbourne home were mother and children

The four people found dead at a Melbourne home were three children and their mother, Victoria police have confirmed.

Speaking about the discovery at the Tullamarine home, Victoria’s police chief commissioner, Shane Patton, says the situation is “heart-wrenching”.

The body of the mother, who was 42 years old, was found along with the bodies of her seven-year-old-daughter, five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.

The 48-year-old father of the family was at the home when ambulance crews arrived at the Burgess Street home about 12.20pm today.

Police say he is assisting detectives with inquiries and they are not seeking anyone else in relation to the deaths.

Patton says:

These people died in suspicious circumstances.

As to who is culpable for the death of the four people, that is yet to be determined.

But we should not draw conclusions that that male may be culpable for this offending. We’ve got a long way to go before we can understand and appreciate exactly what occurred.

Asked if the deaths had been a murder-suicide, Patton says: “That could possibly be relevant to this particular event.”

Asked if the father is considered a suspect, Patton says it would be “grossly unfair” to “draw any conclusions” about the father’s culpability.

Patton also says he doesn’t expect to be laying charges this evening.

Police say there was no history of violence within the family and there is no further threat to the public from the incident.

Updated at 1.04am EST

Couple rescued in outback after changing travel route due to Covid restrictions

The Flying Doctor is urging Australians to take extra precautions when driving in outback areas after the rescue of a couple from Adelaide who drove through remote South Australia because their planned route was changed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The engaged couple had planned to drive from Cairns home to Adelaide through New South Wales, but opted to drive through remote South Australia after a hard border was reintroduced to stop coronavirus spread from NSW.

Jose, 29, and Nicky, 32, were travelling with their puppy when their Toyota RAV4 became stuck in sand on 3 January.

They abandoned their car and, without phone reception, walked more than 40km while scrawling “SOS” in the dirt.

casey briggs (@CaseyBriggs)

grim pic.twitter.com/2I7bz5Ia8F

January 14, 2021

At one point, Jose resorted to drinking his own urine.

The pair spent two days without food or water until Craig, a remote worker from Santos, found them at a satellite station after seeing their SOS notes in the roadside. Their dog Loki also survived.

Craig says he only takes the road once every six weeks, and the pair were 25km from the nearest town, Innamincka.

Jose says:

It was so hot, and we were scared, I thought we were going to die.

My phone said SOS only, and I kept trying over and over again to call for help, but the call wouldn’t go through.

We had a little food left but we couldn’t eat it because we had no saliva and couldn’t swallow.

They said they “hardly spoke” to each other because their mouths were so dry.

Updated at 12.40am EST

What we've learned so far today

Updated at 11.59pm EST

Western Australia records no new locally-acquired cases

Western Australia has recorded no new locally-acquired cases of Covid-19.

However, the WA Department of Health has reported two new cases of Covid-19 – both returned international travellers who tested positive while in hotel quarantine in Perth.

Updated at 11.50pm EST

Four recent travellers to South Australia may have quarantined at Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel, now shut down over a Covid-19 scare, AAP reports.

SA Health says two people who were at the hotel and later travelled to South Australia are no longer in the state.

It says checks are still being made to confirm if two more people from the hotel had recently arrived in SA via Victoria.

The information comes after the Grand Chancellor was shut down when six people linked to the quarantine facility tested positive for the more contagious UK coronavirus variant.

A cleaner and her partner, who are among the six, were contagious while in the community and triggered a three-day lockdown in Brisbane last weekend.

South Australia’s chief health officer, Nicola Spurrier, says if any people who stayed at the Grand Chancellor are found to be in SA, they will be required to return to quarantine.

South Australia reported no new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, leaving the state with 11 active infections, all returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel has been shut as a quarantine hotel after six people staying there contracted the UK Covid variant
Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel has been shut as a quarantine hotel after six people staying there contracted the UK Covid variant. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Updated at 11.27pm EST

Christopher Knaus

The decision to push ahead with the Australian Open has angered Australians still stuck abroad.

News about the remarkable effort going into hosting the tournament – including charter flights for staff and players and extra resources for hotel quarantine – is not going down well in Facebook groups like Aussie’s Abandoned Abroad, where users share horror stories about cancelled flights, family turmoil, stress and heartbreak.

The Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne is one of the three hotels being used for quarantine of players and staff competing in the Australian Open.
The Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne is one of the three hotels being used for quarantine of players and staff competing in the Australian Open. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

One user described the stress of repeated flight cancellations as he attempts to return to Australia before his daughter gives birth to twins.

Luckily 1,200 tennis players and staff flying in for the Oz Open!!

Another user posted a link to a news article about Victoria’s quarantine plans for the tournament, saying only:

I have no words ....(Or at least none I’d be willing to post here).

Others wondered how it was that Tennis Australia was able to manage charter flights to bring players and staff to Melbourne from all over the world for quarantine, when the federal government could not.

Tennis Australia could manage to organise 15 charter flights in such a short time from around the world but the Aust Govt can’t? Mind boggling! or it’s about money?

Updated at 11.15pm EST

Four people found dead in Melbourne home

Four people have been found dead at a home in Melbourne’s northwest, AAP reports.

A man is assisting homicide detectives, while a crime scene has been set up at the Tullamarine property.

Police say there is no ongoing threat to the community.

The exact circumstances around the incident are under investigation and we will provide more information when it’s appropriate to do so.

Elisabeth Moss (@Elisabeth_Moss9)

Police are currently at a property in Tullamarine following reports four people have been found deceased. @9NewsMelb pic.twitter.com/TYeoFhb7bt

January 14, 2021

Updated at 10.34pm EST

Covid-positive tennis player allowed to board Australian Open charter flight

The Australian Open’s organisers are scrambling to defend their decision to allow American tennis player Tennys Sandgren to board one of its charter flights to Melbourne despite testing positive to coronavirus.

US tennis player Tennys Sandgren.
US tennis player Tennys Sandgren. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

Sandgren, who also tested positive to Covid-19 in November and recovered, is understood to have returned a positive result after taking a PCR test on Monday.

Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren)

Covid positive over thanksgiving
Covid positive on monday

Yet pcr tests are the “gold standard”?

Atleast I get to keep my points 😂

January 13, 2021

Sandgren initially tweeted “at least I get to keep my points”, suggesting he had been barred from flying to Melbourne under the organisers strict travel program for players and their entourages.

Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren)

Wait hold on I think they are trying to get me on 15 min after the plane was supposed to depart.. my bags still aren’t checked lol

January 14, 2021

Minutes after tweeting that his plane had left the departure gate at Los Angeles airport without him, the world No 49 said he was on the plane, and praised tournament director Craig Tiley as a “wizard”.

Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren)

Wow I’m on the plane

Maybe I just held my breath too long..

Craig Tiley is a wizard

January 14, 2021

The Australian Open’s official Twitter account has since replied to questions on the social media site, suggesting Sandgren had been allowed on the flight because Monday’s test result had picked up virus still in his system, and that he is not currently infectious.

#AusOpen (@AustralianOpen)

Victorian Government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights.

January 14, 2021

Sandgren’s has previously generated controversy over his Twitter presence, with the player forced to deny he subscribed to alt-right views after tweeting evidence of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy.

Guardian Australia has contacted Tennis Australia for comment.

Updated at 10.32pm EST

Josh Frydenberg condemns US Capitol attack as 'abhorrent' and despicable'

Daniel Hurst

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has described the deadly storming of the US Capitol building last week as an abhorrent, despicable attack on democracy.

Frydenberg was asked today to comment on Donald Trump becoming the first president in US history to be impeached a second time. The sole article of impeachment – which charged the defeated president with “inciting an insurrection” – was backed by 10 House Republicans.

Members of the National Guard outside of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Members of the National Guard outside of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Frydenberg, the deputy Liberal party leader, said it was not for him to provide a running commentary on political and democratic processes in the US – but he was notably stronger in his language than that used by Scott Morrison last week.

What I can say is those images we saw of the riots in Washington DC were abhorrent – it was despicable, it was disgusting. It was condemned by the Morrison government. Those sorts of riots, those violent demonstrations have no place in the United States or here in Australia … That was an attack on America’s democratic institutions and therefore an attack on democracy itself and it was very, very concerning to see.

Australia’s acting prime minister, Michael McCormack, earlier this week touched on Trump’s own role in inciting the violence, describing Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in the presidential election and his inflammatory tweets as “unfortunate”.

But McCormack drew flak for comparing the deadly riots to the Black Lives Matter protest movement and saying “all lives matter”.

Overnight, Human Rights Watch urged the Morrison government to treat the deadly mob assault on the US Capitol as “a wake-up call” and for Australian security agencies to be vigilant in countering the growth of rightwing extremism at home.

The Australian director at Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said: “The Australian government should speak plainly and consistently in condemning the actions of those who undermine democracy, even when it is the president of the United States.”

Updated at 10.15pm EST

Treasurer says some businesses will 'not make it to the other side of the Covid crisis'

Daniel Hurst

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, says some businesses will not make it to the other side of the Covid crisis, as he defends the planned end of the federal government’s jobkeeper wage subsidy at the end of March.

During a visit to a cafe in Torquay, Victoria, today, Frydenberg said the government intended to allow the jobkeeper program to conclude in line with its currently legislated end date. The government also had “no plans to change the major parameters of the jobkeeper program” despite calls for it to continue for harder hit industries.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Frydenberg played down concerns of a fiscal cliff at the end of March, instead pushing a more upbeat message:

As the restrictions are eased, as confidence comes back, as the economic support that we have provided continues to roll through the economy, more people will find jobs, businesses will stay on their feet, and we’ll get through this crisis.

Pressed on whether he expected to see a wave of insolvencies, Frydenberg said:

Well certainly there will be some who have deferred their insolvencies from last year that may go into that position this year, but overall the economy will continue to strengthen even when those temporary emergency measures come off and that insolvency legislation that passed the parliament will be a great support.

Frydenberg said it was “always the case that some businesses would not make it to the other side of the Covid crisis” but the government’s focus had “always been to give every business the best chance of getting to the other side”.

The government has cited figures indicating an additional $200bn is sitting on household and business balance sheets compared to the start of last year. Frydenberg said it was not for him to tell people when or how to spend these savings, but he was “confident that people will spend that money across the economy – that will help generate economic activity”.

Updated at 10.07pm EST

Western Australia’s premier Mark McGowan has thanked kayakers who helped to rescue a man who was bitten by a bull shark in his state earlier today.

Paramedics responded to reports of a shark bite at Point Walter Reservoir, along the Swan River, shortly after 8am (local time) on Thursday.

The man, who was swimming at the time of the bite, was taken to Royal Perth Hospital before 9am, and is understood to have suffered a serious injury to his upper right leg.

McGowan said:

I understand it’s quite a serious bite but we all hope and wish for the very best for the man involved and hope he recovers fully,

We haven’t had an attack by a bull shark in the river for 50 years. The last time someone was killed by a bull shark in the river was 100 years ago. So this is unexpected and surprising.

Updated at 9.53pm EST

Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP)

Advice from the National Incident Centre of zero cases of community transmission Australia-wide today. Sadly there have been almost 750,000 cases & over 16,000 lives lost globally today. It is a deep reminder of what we have achieved as a nation in saving lives & protecting lives

January 14, 2021

Thanks for bringing us the morning’s developments Matilda.

I’m Elias Visontay and I’ll be taking you through the next part of the afternoon.

If you see anything you think I should be aware of, you can contact me via email at elias.visontay@theguardian.com or via Twitter @EliasVisontay.

With that, I might leave you and hand you over into the safe hands of Elias Visontay.

Just a bit more on that shark attack in Perth.

It’s understood that a man has suffered a serious injury to his upper right leg when swimming at a popular spot Point Walter Reservoir, along the Swan River.

Paramedics were called to the scene at 8.05 am this morning and he was treated at the scene including receiving CPR.

He was transported to the Royal Perth Hosptial at 8.49 am as “Priority One”, which means he was in a serious condition.

I’ll bring you an update on his condition as soon as I can.

Updated at 9.05pm EST

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