What we know today, Wednesday March 16


Welcome to your breakfast serving the day’s breaking news from South Australia, domestically and abroad.

No changes to SA COVID restrictions as number of hospitals increases

Police Commissioner and State Co-ordinator Grant Stevens has ruled out any immediate changes to South Australia’s remaining COVID-19 mask mandates and close contact rules, after the state recorded a spike in hospitalizations.

The COVID-ready committee met on Tuesday to consider relaxing South Australia’s mask rules for public transport and indoor public places as well as 14-day quarantine periods for close family contacts .

But Stevens said it was decided to keep the current arrangements in place after signing a series of significant changes last week, including scrapping all indoor densities and home gathering caps and scrapping a long-standing ban on dancing and singing.

“It was decided to monitor the impact of these changes on case numbers and hospitalizations before introducing any further easing of restrictions,” he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

The decision came after SA Health reported three deaths, 2,380 new cases and an increase in hospital numbers on Tuesday.

There are now 129 people hospitalized with the virus, up from 113 yesterday and 88 at the end of last week. Stevens cited the ability of the hospital system to handle cases as one of the most important factors authorities consider when considering whether to ease restrictions.

The number of new cases also rose by more than 300 from Monday, but is below the peak of 2,590 infections reached earlier this month on March 10.

UniSA biostatistician and former WHO epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman has warned that Omicron’s new BA.2 sub-variant is likely to see COVID-19 cases in South Australia double from their current level.

Ambos union reports another death awaiting ambulance

A man in his 50s has died after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance last night when a team should have arrived in 16 minutes, the South Australian Paramedics Union said.

The Ambulance Employees Association said at 11:05 p.m. there were still 20 priority two emergencies – triaged for assistance within 16 minutes – for which there was no ambulance to be dispatched, the ambulance service calling another Opstat White event.

“A man in his 50s tragically passed away tonight waiting for an ambulance,” the union tweeted at 3am.

“The P2 file waited TWO hours. Call from stage, upgraded to a P1.

“SAAS (South Australian Ambulance Service) arrived shortly after (outside the P1 timeframe) and were unable to resuscitate.

“Another life lost. Crews, communications personnel devastated.

It comes just a day after the union reported that a 94-year-old patient died after waiting 56 minutes for an ambulance on Monday and a 20-year-old died the same day after waiting 45 minutes.

The SA Ambulance Service has launched an investigation into the two deaths, after apologizing a week earlier for two other deaths involving people who waited longer for an ambulance to arrive than they were triaged.

Labor expected to win state election: poll

A new opinion poll puts Labor on the verge of a landslide victory in Saturday’s state election, as Prime Minister Steven Marshall and Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas prepare to face off today for the last in-person debate of the campaign.

The Advertiser-YouGov poll released this morning shows Labor clearly ahead of the Liberals by 56% to 44% on a bipartisan preference basis.

Malinauskas leads Marshall as the state’s preferred premier with 45% to 40% support.

That could be enough for the opposition to win up to six seats, well beyond the four it needs to form a minority government with a Labor-aligned independent, and the five it needs to form a majority .

The result, if replicated evenly on Election Day, would see Labor knock out fringe electorates in Newland, King, Adelaide, Elder and endanger first-term Liberal MP Matt Cowdrey in his seat in the western suburb of Colton .

The poll of 835 voters, conducted between March 7 and 13, also showed Labor extending its lead from a Newspoll in February that had the party ahead by six percentage points.

Similarly, an Australia Institute-Dynata poll released early in the election campaign had projected the ALP on 51% of the expected two-party vote statewide, compared to 49% for the government.

Marshall and Malinauskas will square off in the final campaign debate Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., this time answering questions from undecided voters.

European heads of state to visit bombed kyiv

Three European prime ministers are visiting Kyiv, marking the first visits by foreign leaders to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion and a symbol of Ukraine’s success so far in repelling Russia’s onslaught.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland announced plans for the visit, saying they and Slovenian Janez Jansa would meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday. Zelenskyy’s office confirmed the plans.

“The purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the whole European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” said the Czech Prime Minister, adding that the three leaders would present a broad program of support for Ukraine.

Morawiecki’s aide, Michal Dwoczyk, told reporters the delegation crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border and was heading to Kyiv by train, in what the Polish leader called a historic mission.

“It is our duty to be where history is made. Because it’s not about us, it’s about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world without tyranny,” Morawiecki said.

The three leaders will arrive in a city still under bombardment, where around half of the 3.4 million inhabitants have fled and many are sheltering overnight in metro stations. Two powerful explosions rocked the capital before dawn on Tuesday, and emergency services said two people were dead when a building was hit.

Nearly three weeks into a war that Western countries say Moscow thought it would win in days, Europe’s largest invasion force since World War II has been stopped at the gates of kyiv.

Armored columns of Russian forces failed to capture any of Ukraine’s 10 largest cities, despite shelling which reduced some residential areas to rubble.

Welcoming foreign dignitaries to his own capital would be a remarkable symbolic achievement for Zelenskyy, who rejected offers of evacuation at the start of the war, remaining under bombardment to rally his nation with nightly messages from within the city.

In his most confident public statement to date, Zelenskiy called on Russian forces to surrender, saying they and their officers already knew the war was hopeless.

“Russian conscripts! Listen to me very carefully. Russian officers! You have already understood everything: you will not take anything from Ukraine. You will take lives. There’s a lot of you. But your life will also be taken. But why should you die? Why? I know you want to survive,” he said.

New Zealand prepares a new Transtasmanian bubble

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce a new reopening strategy for New Zealand, with preferential treatment for Australia due to start from next month.

The country has maintained strict border policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the border largely closed for two years despite opening a brief Trans-Tasman bubble last year.

However, the arrival of the infectious Omicron variant ended the need for a wall to keep the virus out.

Over the past fortnight, Kiwis in Australia and overseas have been able to return home without quarantine or self-isolation upon arrival.

This will soon extend to foreigners, with at least two New Zealand media reporting that they will be allowed to visit from next month.

Newsroom reports that the border will open to Australians in time for school holidays next month, with other countries to follow.

All travelers to New Zealand must be fully vaccinated.

Australia face a tough bowling task against Pakistan

Australia remain optimistic they can take a 1-0 lead against Pakistan, with the tourists needing eight wickets to win on the final day in Karachi in what is shaping up to be a critical day for nascent captain Pat Cummins.

Pakistan will resume at 2-192 with captain Babar Azam unbeaten on 102 and Abdullah Shafique not out 71, after the Australian captain set the hosts an unlikely 506 to win.

Cummins’ tactics were scrutinized throughout the match at the National Stadium in Karachi, a venue where Australia have never won in the previous eight Tests.

Did Cummins, in his sixth test as skipper, beat too long as Australia’s first innings of 9(Dec)-566 stretched 189 overs and into day three?

Why didn’t he impose the sequel after eclipsing Pakistan for 148?

Will he regret extending Australia’s second innings by 35 minutes on day four, when they already held a huge 489-point lead overnight?

Victory will justify all decisions. But the outcome will likely depend on Wednesday’s final day opener, according to Australian batting coach Michael Di Venuto.

Cummins and his bowling colleagues will start the day with a ball of just two overs.

Australians expect the ball to invert around 20 times, before the leather becomes softer and easier for the batsmen to handle.

“As long as he’s brilliant in the early overs and when the reverse swing comes probably 20 overs…with the harder ball it will be a critical period of play for us,” Di Venuto said after day four.

Di Venuto said Australia remained “absolutely” in a winning position.

“It’s always going to be hard work, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

“But there’s always variable rebound, there’s going to be a bit more cornering… it’s going to be an interesting game day tomorrow and a tough one for us.”

– With AAP and Reuters

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