End-of-day summary

And with that, we come to the end of today’s live blog. Here’s what went down today:

  • NSW recorded eight new cases today, from 42,000 tests, with seven of those linked to the northern beaches cluster. Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced Sydney will stick to a 10-visitor rule for Christmas, but children under 12 will be exempt from the cap. People who live in the northern section of the northern beaches will be allowed five guests to their house between 24 and 26 December, but only if the guests live in this same region; while people in the southern part of northern beaches will be allowed to host 10 visitors over the same Christmas period.
  • 7,000 people who had been in NSW were tested in Victoria yesterday, after a single positive case turned up in a returning traveller from NSW.
  • South Australia’s Parafield cluster was declared “closed” today after the state marked four weeks since the last coronavirus case linked to the outbreak went into quarantine.
  • A Qantas worker tested positive today as well, having returned to Australia on a reparation flight from Paris, before flying on a domestic flight into Sydney from Darwin.
  • Labor leader Anthony Albanese today called for the government to accelerate the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, saying the TGA will approve it by January, when he thinks the rollout should begin. But health minister Greg Hunt called the push “irresponsible”.
  • The Australian Medical Association called on the NSW government to cancel the NYE fireworks to “discourage crowds and avoid any confusion in its public messaging”.

It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow, and hopefully that will continue to bring good news on the northern beaches outbreak. But in the meantime, if you are planning interstate travel, please check out our summarised border restrictions and list of hotspots.

Updated

Some travellers who have been in Sydney’s hotel quarantine system have told the Guardian they felt secure, but others have said they were “shocked” by some of the processes.

Some spoke of “environmental complacency” in the system, while others spoke about how “lax” the airport process was.

You can read more on the experiences in hotel quarantine here:

Updated

The Law Council of Australia has developed an action plan to tackle sexual harassment among lawyers and judges.

AAP has the story:

The Law Council of Australia is calling for the creation of an independent body to hear complaints about judges as part of its push to reduce sexual harassment in the legal profession.

The peak body outlines its recommendations in its new National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Australian Legal Profession, published on Wednesday.

A number of surveys indicate that sexual harassment is rife among lawyers.

The issue became the focus of attention earlier in 2020 when former High Court justice Dyson Heydon was found by the court’s own independent inquiry to have sexually harassed six young female associates.

The Law Council has previously called for the establishment of a Federal Judicial Commission to receive and respond to complaints about judges’ conduct.

The National Action Plan says an independent body could deal with allegations of sexual harassment.

“It is imperative that this matter be addressed at every level to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the profession and public confidence in the legal system as a whole,” the plan states.

The Law Council is also calling for the Sexual Discrimination Act to be changed so that harassment by judges is included, as well as other relationships in the legal profession like harassment between barristers or between witnesses and lawyers.

The plan also pledges to drive cultural change in the legal industry.

The council will develop a national model policy and guidelines for legal workplaces to use, try to work towards more consistent complaints processes for handling harassment allegations, and updates rules for solicitors so sexual harassment that is not professional misconduct can be punished.

It is also backing in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s recommendations in its March Respect@work report, the result of an inquiry launched in response to the #MeToo movement.

In particular, it has echoed the commission’s calls for training programs for judges and tribunal members on sexual harassment, a change to the law so that employees have a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment, and the establishment of a national Workplace Sexual Harassment Council to improve prevention of and responses to sexual harassment.

The Law Council said the plan heralds the start of a united and coordinated process to address the problem of harassment.

Council President Pauline Wright said sexual harassment in the legal profession was “unacceptable”.

Updated

In a true Christmas miracle Australia’s grumpiest “demonic” cat has found a home for Christmas.

After being returned to the RSPCA four times in the last seven years the team at SA RSPCA say they are hoping Wilma will be his last owner.

Chester had been known to bite, scratch and terrorise neighbours, with his previous owner saying he was like “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. But staff at the shelter said he was one of their favourites, promising that he was actually very affectionate and that he never drew blood with his “love bites”.

The happiest possible news! Chester has found a home for Christmas! Let hope new owner Wilma’s neighbours don’t scare easily pic.twitter.com/Dp7b4AMtLe

— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) December 23, 2020

Wilma said she decided to adopt Chester after seeing his story on the news last night.

“I’ve been wanting another cat for a while and I just thought he looked cute. There’s just me, no other animals, and I’m retired so I’m home a lot. He’s been following me around the house and he sat up behind my head on the recliner. It’s only day one, but he’s already looking pretty relaxed here and I’m just letting him mosey about and giving him a treat now and then.

You can read Chester’s full story below:

Updated

Labor’s Julian Hill has released a statement that feels like it was more about the clever title than much else.

👏🏾 Congratulations 👏🏾 Scotty 👏🏾 #ScottyFromMarketing #ScottyLuvsTrump pic.twitter.com/hjhkOWl6nj

— Julian Hill MP (@JulianHillMP) December 23, 2020

It comes after the PM was awarded a prestigious US military decoration for “leadership in addressing global challenges” yesterday.

Updated

Victorian officials have said they’ve made some changes to the Covid checkpoints at the border to minimise delays.

Cross border commissioner Luke Wilson says the changes have eased traffic conditions at multiple checkpoints.

There’s been some rearrangements on some of the checkpoints over the last couple of days as police have responded to the traffic volumes and also the mix of traffic, including some overnight to try to get that traffic flowing more smoothly and quickly, but still maintaining the requirements for the checkpoint operations.

Updated

NT health minister Natasha Fyles also commented on the Qantas worker who tested positive, saying health authorities do not believe he was infectious whilst in Darwin.

The man had stayed in hotel isolation for the duration of his stay, after arriving on a repatriation flight from Paris. Fyles said it she was seeking clarity on the case and on whether aircrews are permitted to travel after entering the territory.

In terms of the flight crew, that is an operational matter for Qantas but it is of course upholding the strictest health standards, so I will need to have more information around what this situation is and make sure I have the full facts before I make comment.

A Qantas plane carrying repatriated Australians lands at Darwin airport, Australia.
A Qantas plane carrying repatriated Australians lands at Darwin airport, Australia. Photograph: Charlie Bliss/EPA

Updated

The Northern Territory has revoked its categorisation of New South Wales region Illawarra as a coronavirus hotspot.

Health minister Natasha Fyles made the announcement this afternoon following an emergency cabinet meeting, saying the decision was made because there were no cases from the northern beaches there.

This is based on the evidence that they’ve had no cases from the northern beaches coronavirus cluster. I know people are anxiously awaiting other local government areas, but the advice from our chief health officer Hugh Heggie ... is that it is safe to remove that hotspot declaration for the Illawarra Shire local government area. The others will remain in place.

People from the region in quarantine at Howard Springs will be able to leave today.

Illawarra, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and greater metropolitan Sydney were declared hotspots on Sunday, 20 December.

Updated

Victoria is reminding people from greater Sydney, the Central Coast or the northern beaches to not attempt to enter Victoria, just in case you might have forgotten.

If you have been in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, or Sydney's Northern Beaches since Dec 11 please do not attempt to enter Victoria. Only people who have exclusively visited or travelled through other parts of NSW can apply for a Border Crossing Permit to enter Vic. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/bad8irfvqn

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) December 23, 2020

As soon as it’s safe to open back up to NSW, we will. For now, we’re making sure Victoria can stay safe and stay open.

For more information on the NSW outbreak and a map of locations in each zone, visit: https://t.co/sDimRWNc6F (2/2)#COVID19Vic #COVID19nsw

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) December 23, 2020

Updated

Claremont killer Bradley Robert Edwards sentenced to life in prison

Claremont killer Bradley Robert Edwards has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 40 years.

Edwards showed no emotion in the supreme court of WA on Wednesday after receiving his sentence, which was greeted with applause in the public gallery including family members of his victims.

Members of the public queue at the supreme court of Western Australia in Perth, Wednesday, 23 December 2020.
Members of the public queue at the supreme court of Western Australia in Perth, Wednesday, 23 December 2020. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

The 52-year-old was convicted in September of abducting and killing childcare worker Jane Rimmer, 23, and solicitor Ciara Glennon, 27, in 1996 and 1997.

He was acquitted of the 1996 murder of 18-year-old secretary Sarah Spiers.

All three women disappeared after a night out with friends in Claremont, with the bodies of Rimmer and Glennon discovered in bushland weeks after they were killed.

Spiers’ body has never been found but Justice Stephen Hall said the confessed rapist’s propensity for violent abductions made it likely that he also killed Spiers.

Edwards pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial to sexually assaulting two young women in 1988 and 1995.

Justice Hall described Edwards as a dangerous predator who had sought out vulnerable young women and attacked them for his own gratification.

Updated

The ACT’s border restrictions on those arriving from NSW will remain until after Christmas, with health authorities indicating they may not be relaxed until next year.

Acting ACT health minister Chris Steel told the ABC he understood the challenges people were facing, but that the risk was just too great.

I know that this will be disappointing news for many people who wanted to see family and friends over the Christmas period. The reality is the virus and the pandemic are far from over, and the virus still poses a risk to the Canberra community.

We’ve been through this earlier this year and, once again, Canberrans are responding incredibly well to health directions that we’ve put in place.

The current restrictions mean all travellers who have been in Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains or Wollongong must isolate themselves for 14 days if they enter the ACT.

Updated

Greg Hunt labels Albanese's push for faster vaccine rollout 'irresponsible'

Health minister Greg Hunt has criticised opposition leader Anthony Albanese for pushing for a faster vaccine rollout.

Hunt said the government will work to ensure the “safety, delivery and proper assessment” of the vaccine isn’t “compromised”.

Minister for health Greg Hunt.
Minister for health Greg Hunt. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The single greatest risk to the vaccine program is any concern that the vaccines have been rushed for political reasons. Yet that is exactly the deeply concerning and irresponsible path Mr Albanese has chosen. We will, by contrast, continue to follow the advice of the best medical experts and regulators in the world.

Hunt says the government will be sticking to its guns, reiterating the Therapeutic Goods Administration won’t be rushed, and that the vaccine is on course to be made available by early 2021.

Hunt goes on to point out that other countries that have begun vaccinating against the virus have only done so in a very limited capacity, under emergency use authorisations.

It comes after Albanese called for the vaccine rollout to be brought forward in light of the outbreak on the northern beaches in Sydney.

Updated

Stranded Australians are pleading for help after Singapore and Hong Kong banned flights from the UK due to the new strain of Covid-19 spreading there.

Australia’s high commission in the UK said on its Facebook page it was working to find alternatives routes home for “a significant number” of stranded Australians in the UK.

Minister for foreign affairs Marise Payne.
Minister for foreign affairs Marise Payne. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

We are absolutely aware of the disruption these measures have caused, and we understand the significant numbers of people it has impacted — our team will be providing support.

Foreign minister Marise Payne also released a statement addressing the issue, saying the government will consider “further facilitated flights” for the stranded Australians.

Our global diplomatic network is assisting Australians who have been affected by flight restrictions put in place by Singapore and Hong Kong in response to the new Covid-19 strain in the United Kingdom. This includes help to rebook on alternative flights, including Australian government facilitated flights.

Singapore Airlines has said people who had been in the UK in the past two weeks would not be allowed to travel through Singapore.

Updated

A professor of epidemiology has called NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision on restrictions “a bit emotive” and “don’t make any sense from an outbreak management perspective”.

Prof Mary-Louise McLaws spoke to Sky News earlier today, and said she understood why Berejiklian hasn’t implemented stricter restrictions over the Christmas break, but thought more was needed.

The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas, and you’re giving it three days to potentially spread. And if this had been any other time, we would be under restrictions. There is still the potential they could have further clustering.

A shopper walks past Christmas decoration outside David Jones in Sydney.
A shopper walks past Christmas decoration outside David Jones in Sydney. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

Police have charged a Perth man with inciting a terror act.

AAP has the story:

A Perth man has been charged with terror offences over allegations he was inciting a politically motivated terror attack overseas.

Counter-terror police began investigating the 52-year-old in February after coming across an online video-sharing account calling for politically motivated violence overseas.

His home was first raided in April when officers seized electronic devices. A second search on Tuesday resulted in four terror charges being laid against the man.

He’s due to face Perth magistrates court on Wednesday.

It’s alleged he was intending to incite politically motivated acts in a foreign country.

WA’s counter terrorism and emergency response commander Pryce Scanlan called for vigilance around online content advocating for terrorist acts.

“We have seen the devastating impacts that such online radicalisation and incitement can result in,” he said.

Updated

Qantas medical director Dr Ian Hosegood has released a statement on the cabin crew member who tested positive, saying Qantas is working with authorities to work out how he contracted the virus.

Qantas ground staff in Brisbane, Australia.
Qantas ground staff in Brisbane, Australia. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

He travelled as a passenger on a domestic flight from Darwin back to Sydney on Friday and has been in self-isolation at home since. This was in line with government approved protocols. Since then the protocols have changed and operating crew won’t be travelling on normal domestic flights after operating international repatriation flights.

Hosegood said the crew member didn’t have symptoms when operating the repatriation flight from Paris, or when travelling domestic, and was wearing a mask on both flights.

He also said Qantas was also not aware of any compliance breach to the safety protocols for airline crews in France.

The crew member worked on the QF176 Paris-Darwin repatriation flight, before flying to Sydney on Friday and isolating at home, where he developed symptoms.

Authorities are racing to work out how he caught the virus, and where.

Updated

The ACT has reported another day of zero new cases in the past 24 hours, with only one active case in the capital.

The UK is having a difficult lead up to Christmas, and I think it is probably best encapsulated by this footage:

Oh my god pic.twitter.com/NrZM9UOxnu

— Jamie Dickinson (@jamielewis016) December 22, 2020

The footage is of lorry’s parked at Dover, waiting for the border with France to open.

The Department for Transport in the UK has announced the border will reopen to those who’ve tested negative, sparking a mass testing program for the drivers.

You can read more on the story here:

Updated

The number of Covid infections in Antartica has risen to 58, after a Chilean base reported 36 cases yesterday.

The health minister for the Biobio region in Chile reported 21 new infections involving some aboard a supply vessel that had serviced their Bernardo O’Higgins base between 27 November and 10 December.

Another case was reported in Las Estrellas’ village in Antarctica, where civilian personnel who work at Chile’s Lieutenant Rodolfo Marsh Martin Air Force Base live.

The continent had, until yesterday, been the only place on Earth that was Covid-free.

The Antarctic Glacial Sea next to the Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme military base in Antarctica.
The Antarctic Glacial Sea next to the Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme military base in Antarctica. Photograph: Chilean Army HANDOUT/EPA

Updated

Australia's trade surplus drops amid ongoing tensions with China

Australia’s trade surplus has dropped heavily due to ongoing trade tensions with China.

AAP has the story:

Australia’s trade surplus for goods has dropped to its lowest level in more than two years after China stopped buying a range of exports.

Australian wine at a supermarket in Hangzhou, China.
Australian wine at a supermarket in Hangzhou, China. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The goods trade surplus for November was $1.9bn after exports rose just one per cent, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures published on Wednesday.

The surplus was $4.7bn in October.

China’s decision to stop buying Australian coal caused a slump of eight per cent, or $254m, in exports of the commodity.

The Chinese government has put tariffs on $20bn worth of Australian exports including barley, beef, cotton, seafood, timber and wine.

The action follows Australia’s calls for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, believed to have started in the Chinese province of Wuhan.

Updated

And in Queensland now, the state has registered one new positive case, acquired overseas and currently in hotel quarantine.

Coronavirus (#COVID19) case update 23/12.

New case acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine.

Detailed information about COVID-19 cases in Queensland can be found here: https://t.co/kapyXpSIAP pic.twitter.com/yC04lhUqZT

— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) December 23, 2020

South Australia's Parafield cluster declared "closed"

South Australia’s Parafield cluster has been declared “closed” by health authorities after the state marked four weeks since the last coronavirus case linked to the outbreak went into quarantine.

South Australian chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier.
South Australian chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

The cluster initially forced the state into a short lockdown, after health authorities linked positive cases to a cleaner and a security guard at the Peppers medi-hotel, as well as the Woodville Pizza Bar.

Thirty-three people tested positive as a result of the outbreak. There were zero new locally acquired cases today.

Prof Nicola Spurrier, the states chief public health officer, welcomed the opportunity to close the outbreak.

The hard work of every South Australian, getting tested, keeping washing your hands, following all instructions, and a big thank you to my team in CDCB for doing all the fantastic contact tracing and SAPOL for their ongoing work with enforcement during this pandemic.

Updated

NSW Health has updated it’s venues of concern again.

Anyone who attended the following venues is considered a close contact and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether a negative result is received:

NSW minister for health Brad Hazzard and NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant provide a Covid update in Sydney, Wednesday, 23 December 2020.
NSW minister for health Brad Hazzard and NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant provide a Covid update in Sydney, Wednesday, 23 December 2020. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
  • Auburn: Rosnay Golf Club Bistro, 5 Weymouth Avenue Auburn NSW 2144, Sunday 20 December, 11.15am to 12.15pm
  • Berowra: Anytime Fitness Berowra, 25-29 Turner Road, Berowra NSW 2081, Wednesday 16 December, 5.30am-6.30am, Thursday 17 December 5.30am-6.30am
  • Cronulla: Cronulla RSL Club, 38R Gerrale Street, Cronulla NSW 2230, Wednesday 16 December 5pm to closing.
  • Gordon: USA Nails & Footspa, 788A Pacific Highway, Gordon NSW 2072, Friday 18 December 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Anyone there during this time, for at least an hour, is considered a close contact. Anyone there for less than an hour is considered a casual contact.
  • Kings Park: Anytime Fitness Kings Park, 1/152 Sunnyholt Rd, Kings Park NSW 2148, Friday 18 December 9.30am-11.45am
  • Kirribilli: Kirribilli Club, 11 Harbourview Crescent, Lavender Bay, NSW 2060, Monday 14 December 12pm-3pm
  • Lane Cove: Hair by Erika, The Village Shopping Centre, Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, NSW 2066, Friday 11 December 2:30pm-4:30pm
  • Milsons Point: Kirribilli Hotel Milsons Point, 35-37 Broughton St, Milsons Point NSW, Thursday 17 December 12.45pm-3pm
  • Mona Vale: Coffee Brothers Mona Vale, 1/54-56 Darley St, Mona Vale NSW, Saturday 12 December 12pm-1pm
  • Narrabeen: The Sands, 1260 Pittwater Road, Narrabeen, Tuesday 15 December 6pm- 8pm
  • Newport: Rusti Fig, 3/363 Barrenjoey Road, Newport, Saturday 12 December 9am to 10:30am
  • Newport: ChaRice Noodle Bar, 2/331-335 Barrenjoey Rd, Newport, Wednesday 16 December 1pm-2.30pm
  • Newport: Lovat Restaurant, 316-324 Barrenjoey Road, Newport, Tuesday 15 December 6.30pm-8.30pm
  • North Narrabeen: Motorserve Narrabeen Car Servicing, 1408-1410 Pittwater Rd, North Narrabeen, Friday 18 December 10.30am to 12pm. Anyone there during this time, for at least an hour, is considered a close contact. Anyone there for less than an hour is considered a casual contact.
  • Palm Beach: Pronto Creative Foods, 1095 Barrenjoey Rd, Palm Beach, Wednesday 16 December 7.30am-8.30am
    Thursday 17 December 7.30am-8.30am
  • Penrith: Penrith RSL Club, 8 Tindale Street, Penrith, Sunday 13 December 1pm to 6pm
Cars line up for a coronavirus drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney.
Cars line up for a coronavirus drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Anyone who attended the following venues is a casual contact who must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received:

  • Newport: Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, 16 Mitala St, Newport, Wednesday 16 December 4.30pm-6pm
  • Mona Vale: Dan Murphy Mona Vale, 25-29 Park St, Mona Vale NSW 2103, Thursday 17 December 5pm-5.10pm
  • Mosman: Scoop Wholefoods, 14 Spit Rd, Mosman NSW 2088, Wednesday 16 December, All day, Thursday 17 December, All day

Anyone who attended the following venues is a casual contact who should monitor for symptoms and immediately get tested and isolate if they appear:

  • Avoca Beach: Avoca Beach Hotel, Saltwater Bistro, 326-360 Avoca Dr Avoca Beach, Sunday 20 December 7:30pm-8:30pm
  • Bayview: Rowland Reserve Dog Park, Pittwater Road, Bayview, Wednesday 16 December 4pm-5pm and Thursday 17 December 4pm-5pm,
  • Belrose: Bunnings Belrose, Austlink Park Niangala Cl, Belrose, Thursday 17 December, 4pm-5pm
  • Hornsby: Aura Threading and Beauty Hornsby, Westfield Hornsby, Shop 2067, L 2/236 Pacific Hwy, Hornsby, Thursday 17 December 10am-1.20pm.
  • Hornsby: Cotton On, Westfield Hornsby 236 Pacific Hwy Hornsby, Thursday 17 December 10am-10.20am
  • Hornsby: Kmart, Westfield Hornsby 236 Pacific Hwy Hornsby, Thursday 17 December 6.30pm-7pm
  • Mona Vale: Bayview Golf Club, 1825 Pittwater Rd, Mona Vale, Monday 7 December 11.45am-12.45pm, Tuesday 8 December 11.45am-12.45pm, Friday 11 December 11.45am-12.45pm
  • Mona Vale: Woolworths, 25/29 Park St, Mona Vale, Saturday 12 December 1pm-1:30pm
  • Mona Vale: Harris Farm, Pittwater Place Centre, 35/10 Park St, Mona Vale, Sunday 13 December 1pm-3pm
  • North Ryde: Macquarie Shopping Centre, Cnr Herring Rd &, Waterloo Rd, North Ryde, Sunday 13 December 11am-1pm
  • North Sydney: Mr Green & Co North Sydney, 1/66 Berry Street, North Sydney, Wednesday 16 December 1pm-2pm
  • Palm Beach: Pronto Creative Foods, 1095 Barrenjoey Rd, Palm Beach, Wednesday 16 December 7.30am-8.30am Thursday 17 December 7.30am-8.30am
  • Stanhope Gardens: Coles, Stanhope Village Shopping Centre, Stanhope Pkwy and Sentry Dr Stanhope Gardens, Saturday 19 December 7am-3.30pm, Sunday 20 December 7am-2pm
  • Sydney: Results Laser Clinic Sydney, Shop H16, Hunter Connection Hunter St, Sydney, Wednesday 16 December 12.30pm-1pm
  • Waitara: Jim’s Cellars, 65 Edgeworth David Ave, Waitara, Thursday 17 December 7.15pm-7.30pm
  • Warriewood: Warriewood Square, 12 Jackson Road, Warriewood, Tuesday 8 December 12:30-2:15pm, Tuesday 15 December 3.30pm-4.30pm, Wednesday 16 December 11am-12.15pm, Thursday 17 December 11am-3pm
Medical workers administer tests at the Bondi Beach drive-through coronavirus disease centre.
Medical workers administer tests at the Bondi Beach drive-through coronavirus disease centre. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

NSW Health has also updated the times on the following venues:

  • Brookvale: Westfield Warringah Mall, 145 Condamine St Brookvale, Saturday 19 December1.30pm-2.30pm not 10am-1pm as previously reported
  • Hornsby: Aura Threading & Beauty, Westfield Hornsby Shop 2067, L2 236 Pacific Hwy Hornsby, Thursday 17 December 10.25am to 11am
  • Mona Vale: Bayview Golf Club, 1825 Pittwater Rd, Mona Vale, Monday 7 December 11.30am-3pm, Tuesday 8 December 2.25pm-5.30pm, Friday 11 December 11.45am to 12.45pm
  • Warriewood: KFC Mona Vale, 1B Ponderosa Pde, Warriewood, Friday, 18 December 12pm-1pm

Updated

The Australian Medical Association has called on the NSW government to cancel the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

In a statement, the AMA welcomed the caution being exercised by the government, but said it needed to “seriously consider” cancelling the annual NYE fireworks to “discourage crowds and avoid any confusion in its public messaging”.

The NYE fireworks in Sydney, 1 January 2020.
The NYE fireworks in Sydney, 1 January 2020. Photograph: City Of Sydney Mick Tsikas/AAP

The federal AMA president, Dr Omar Khorshid, said the outbreak could not have come at a “worse time” and he called on the government to make the difficult decision.

We all need to be extra vigilant during this holiday period to the stop the spread of Covid-19, especially as at this time of year when people travel, attend events, and spend time in close proximity with family and friends.

We must be prepared to tighten general restrictions even further if we continue to see evidence of the virus spreading in areas outside of the northern beaches.

The AMA said that current restrictions should remain in place until zero community transmission was achieved.

The AMA NSW president, Dr Danielle McMullen, also called on the government to mandate indoor mask usage in areas of known community transmission in Sydney.

This was accepted by the Victorian community and there is no reason why NSW should not follow this lead. Masks work, particularly when people cannot physically distance.

Updated

I can’t believe I have to say (write?) this, but there is a text message scam making the rounds asking for donations to confirm positive Covid test results.

.@NSWHealth is aware of #COVID19 scam text messages asking for donations or confirming positive COVID-19 test results. NSW Health is also aware of a scam asking for donations for @BreastScreenNSW. BreastScreen NSW is a part of NSW Health. pic.twitter.com/t47e0lyaGD

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 22, 2020

Apparently the scammers have also roped Breast Screen NSW into their scheme.

NSW Health does not ask for donations nor notify people of a positive test result by text message. If you test positive, you will receive a phone call from a health official likely on a private number.

If you have received the text, make sure you call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Updated

Qld premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hits back at Berejiklian

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said it’s “a bit rich” for NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to criticise states and territories for closing their borders to NSW.

At a presser today, Palaszczuk said Queensland closed the border based on independent health advice, and bristled at the suggestion she was to blame for any Christmas chaos.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

If there hadn’t been the cluster outbreak in the northern beaches, no one would have had to take these measures and everybody would have been seeing their family and friends over this Christmas/New Year period. But it’s a bit rich for New South Wales to start blaming Queensland and Victoria and whichever other state and territory she wants to blame.

Although Palaszczuk said she wished NSW the best, she added her state did not want their “lifestyle compromised at this point in time”.

More than 100 people attempted to cross the border yesterday and were turned away, after the premier decided on a hard border on Monday.

Updated

So, we begin with the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, who is calling for a faster, larger rollout of the Covid vaccine.

Coronavirus vaccines stored over dry ice.
Coronavirus vaccines stored over dry ice. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Albanese told ABC News Breakfast said it made “no sense” to delay the rollout until March if the Therapeutic Goods Administration will approve the vaccine in January.

January is seen as the earliest we can get it, after Australia decided against granting emergency approval, as has happened in the US and the UK.

Prof Allen Cheng, chair of the independent advisory committee on vaccines, spoke to the Guardian and said the March date isn’t set in stone.

There are also implementation issues – the distribution chain, training of staff who will be giving the vaccine, working out where the distribution points will be, making sure we have the safety systems in place to pick up and assess any side effects.

You can read more on the story from my colleagues here:

Updated

Thanks Naaman, and good afternoon everyone. It is of course, another busy day, so let’s get stuck in.

With that, I’ll be handing over to my colleague Mostafa Rachwani, who will bring you the news over the rest of the day. Have a merry eve of Christmas Eve folks.

AAP report that there will likely not be any changes to the crowd size of Sunday night’s A-League season opener between Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC at Bankwest Stadium.

Crowds at Sydney’s major stadiums were brought back to 100% seated capacity earlier this month, before the Covid-19 outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Simon Cox (C) plays the ball watched by Dylan McGowan and Ziggy Gordon (R) during a Western Sydney Wanderers A-League training session in Sydney.
Simon Cox (C) plays the ball watched by Dylan McGowan and Ziggy Gordon (R) during a Western Sydney Wanderers A-League training session in Sydney. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

That rule allowed Bankwest to return its capacity to 30,000.

That has not yet been formally changed, despite a number of restrictions being implemented across greater Sydney.

The A-League was yet to receive any information of changes as of Wednesday lunchtime.

Even if the capacity was reduced to 50%, it’s understood it would not impact on the expected crowd of about 10,000.

Ticket sales have not been paused.

Updated

And a summary of virus news:

  • NSW recorded eight new cases since 8pm last night.
  • Seven were “directly linked” to the northern beaches cluster, and one was a household contact of a healthcare worker who was diagnosed yesterday. That health worker had transported Covid-positive returned travellers.
A health officer conducts a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney.
A health officer conducts a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • However, the chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, revealed that that health worker was also linked to the northern beaches cluster. Genomic sequencing showed her strain did not match the patients she transported – instead, it was related to the northern beaches.
  • That link as yet is unclear – so for now, the healthcare worker and her household contact are still unknown cases.
  • A Qantas worker has tested positive. They returned from overseas, arrived in Darwin and then caught a domestic flight to Sydney on 18 December.
  • And while all current NSW cases are linked to the northern beaches, there are confirmed cases who live in western Sydney and the central coast.

Updated

Here is a mini summary of that information-packed NSW press conference today.

Essentially – restrictions will slightly ease over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but then will (mostly) return on 27 December.

A shopper walks past Christmas decoration outside a David Jones in Sydney.
A shopper walks past Christmas decoration outside a David Jones in Sydney. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/EPA

For greater Sydney:

  • Households will still be limited to 10 visitors – but over Christmas, children under 12 will not be counted in that total
  • From 27 December, children will be counted in the total
  • And that has to be the same 10 people, not different groups of 10

The northern beaches will be split into two zones – north and south of the Narrabeen bridge.

For the north zone:

  • The lockdown continues and the general stay-at-home order still applies
  • But, over Christmas, a house will be able to have five visitors, as long as they are also from the same northern zone
  • This will stop from 27 December

For the south zone:

  • You can have 10 visitors from 24-26 December
  • Residents cannot leave the southern zone of the northern beaches
  • But your visitors can come in from other parts of greater Sydney
  • These relaxations might continue past 27 December – that decision will be made on Boxing Day

Updated

As my Canberra colleague Paul Karp mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, told the ABC this morning that Australia should be seeking to roll out the Covid vaccine sooner than March, given the government says it may be approved by the drugs regulator by January.

I asked the chair of the independent Advisory Committee on Vaccines, Prof Allen Cheng, this morning about Albanese’s comments. The committee will be reviewing the vaccine data along with the drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Cheng told me:

Deputy chief health officer Prof Allen Cheng.
Deputy chief health officer Prof Allen Cheng. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Probably the first thing to say is that the March date isn’t cast in stone.

In terms of regulation, there are three main issues – efficacy (does it work?), safety (both known and unknown risks) and quality. The last is actually one of the more difficult issues and actually takes the longest to work through – are the manufacturing controls adequate at each of the factories in which the vaccine is being produced? Is there the same dose of vaccine in each vial and each batch? What controls are there to make sure nothing else gets in (ie contamination)? How long can the vaccine be stored in the freezer, once taken out of the freezer and once made up?

There are also implementation issues – the distribution chain (obviously a bit more difficult coming from the factories in the northern hemisphere into a southern summer), training of staff who will be giving the vaccine, working out where the distribution points will be, making sure we have the safety systems in place to pick up and assess any side effects.

Obviously there are many people actively working on all these questions across all levels of government and we’re building on existing immunisation programs.

But just as a comparison, we distribute roughly 18m doses of flu vaccine between April and August each year, with a known supply schedule and established infrastructure. For a Covid vaccine, we’ll need to administer 40 or 50m doses of a vaccine as quickly as possible, where we will need to give two doses, with an uncertain supply schedule, difficult cold chain requirements, vaccines of different types and using new vaccines where we will want to monitor any side effect that occurs.

Updated

Confirmed cases in western Sydney and central coast

Some further detail from NSW Health on the latest cases today.

At least two people who live outside of the northern beaches have tested positive.

“NSW health is aware of a Covid-19 positive case on the Central Coast, as well as a case from western Sydney who visited Avoca while infectious last weekend.”

Sewage testing on the Central Coast has also shown traces of the virus at a treatment plant in Kincumber serving the Gosford area on Monday 21 December.

Updated

35 people from Sydney in hotel quarantine in Victoria

Victoria’s Covid testing chief, Jeroen Weimar, says there are now 35 people who were forced into hotel quarantine in Victoria because they flew in from the “red zone” of Sydney without the right permits.

Some of those people are returning Victorians.

“That’s 35 people in total who have been detained over the last five days, returning without the appropriate exemptions from the red zone,” he says.

“There were two in the early hours this morning who arrived at the airport from Sydney.

“We are catching people at our end. Every flight is met by the authorised officers.”

An almost deserted terminal at the Sydney domestic airport on Tuesday. Travel restriction have been put in place for Sydney residents to prevent them from from travelling interstate.
An almost deserted terminal at the Sydney domestic airport on Tuesday. Travel restriction have been put in place for Sydney residents to prevent them from from travelling interstate. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

Updated

Chant clarifies again that the person in hotel quarantine, whose strain is currently the closest match to the northern beaches cluster, is not necessarily the source.

A reporter just referred to the person as “patient zero”.

“I’ve been very clear that it may not be at all related to that traveller,” she says.

The person has not left hotel quarantine since they arrived, and no close contacts of them have tested positive.

“I’ve been very open that that is one match that we’ve found in the genome sequencing but there are lots of unknowns,” Chant says. “There may be other people that have come in to the country through whatever means that may have the same strain.”

She says that the example of the healthcare worker – who everybody assumed contracted the virus from patients – is proof that you cannot assume how the spread works.

Updated

Chant is asked whether the Qantas worker was tested when they arrived in Darwin.

She does not say whether they were, and says further details will come from the Northern Territory health department.

“We’ll be working with our colleagues in the Northern Territory health department,” she says.

To be clear, in New South Wales ... even though pilots and other flight crew are allowed to isolate, self-isolate in their homes, in New South Wales, they are required to have a swab.

They can only on-fly or move anywhere in an empty plane. The crew need to be transported on an empty plane – not a domestic plane.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

Chant is sharing more information on that health worker who transported travellers.

It really is a surprise that her strain was linked to the northern beaches – not to the travellers she was transporting.

“Let me tell you,” Chant says. “We would have probably predicted that ... this transport worker acquired it through transporting an infectious patient.

“And I think that I said to you at the time – we’ve got to keep an open mind.”

She says this “highlights the fact of how important that genome sequencing is”.

We would have been pursuing one line of inquiry and this really narrows the line of inquiry.

The strain in the US returned travellers is very different from this strain [that she has].

Updated

Berejiklian is asked why residents of greater Sydney are allowed to enter the southern part of the northern beaches.

A reporters asks her: “They could come from all over Sydney, go to someone’s house on the southern part of the northern beaches and then, after Christmas Day, go back to all the other suburbs and potentially be infectious. What’s the logic behind that?”

Berejiklian:

Remember there are not hospitality events and other things in the southern zone of the northern beaches.

We thought about the logic of this to a large extent and we came to the conclusion that we want to reduce the chance of a venue outside of the northern beaches having a case which then spreads.

That’s why we’ve done what we have. We want to keep an open mind but, again, many people may decide not to enter the northern beaches.

Some parts of Sydney, if you look at some of the cases around Turramurra and Erskineville pub and other places, some of those areas are as risky as the southern part of the northern beaches which is why we’ve made this assessment.”

People at Manly Beach on Wednesday.
People at Manly Beach on Wednesday. Photograph: Lee Hulsman/Getty Images

Updated

New Year's Eve decision to be made after Christmas

And from the premier’s official press release:

Decisions on New Year’s Eve and upcoming sporting events will be made after this Christmas period.”

Updated

Health minister Brad Hazzard, who is a northern beaches resident, says that even though restrictions are eased, people should still consider gatherings.

He says people over 70, for example, should reconsider.

“It does come down to the individuals in the end to make their own decisions on whether they’re going to have people come into their homes,” he says.

“I would say that anybody who is over the age of about 70, or anyone with other health issues or co-morbidities, should think seriously about whether or not they have people into their homes.

“If they do, try and do it outside in the fresh air, perhaps on a balcony, perhaps outside somewhere, so that you minimise the risks.”

Qantas worker who tested positive took domestic flight

Some more detail on that new announcement of a Qantas worker who has tested positive.

Chant said that he person flew from Darwin to Sydney on 18 December.

The worker “returned from overseas and flown in through Darwin”.

“And the person has flown on a domestic flight. That was a Qantas flight departing Darwin to Sydney on 18 December.

“This news has just come through so we don’t have the flight details and any other details, but we wanted to advise you of that.”

Chant is now speaking on other sites of potential exposure outside the northern beaches.

Covid infection has been confirmed in a person who ate at the Paddington Alimentari and I encourage all diners there from 17 to 19 December to remain in isolation, get tested again if symptoms arise for any and for takeaway customers to get tested should the slightest of symptoms develop.

That was previously designated a hotspot yesterday.

Updated

Health worker who tested positive linked to northern beaches cluster, not returned travellers

Chief health officer Kerry Chant is speaking now.

In a surprising announcement, she says that a new case yesterday, who was a health worker who transported returned travellers, is actually linked to the northern beaches cluster – not to international travellers.

“This person did not acquire infection through transporting patients on 14 December, in fact genome sequencing shows it is linked to the Avalon cluster.

“We do not know how this is linked to the Avalon cluster.”

“Sequencing of the virus shows it is linked ... to some particular people within the Avalon cluster and we’re trying to investigate the missing links of how that transmission occurred.”

It had been assumed by NSW Health that the woman contracted the disease through work.

One new case reported today is the woman’s partner – who contracted it from her in their household.

There has also been a case in a Qantas staff member who returned from overseas and flew in through Darwin. The person also flew on a domestic flight.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

NSW Covid-19 restrictions for December 24, 25 and 26 @GuardianAus pic.twitter.com/2HfZsfEaa8

— Elias Visontay (@EliasVisontay) December 23, 2020

Berejiklian stresses that these slight relaxations are just for Christmas.

Most of the restrictions will return on 27 December.

For greater Sydney, that means the 10-visitor rule (where children count towards the 10) will continue on 27 December – it has not lifted.

For the northern zone of the northern beaches, they will return to lockdown on 27 December, with no visitors.

“What you have today is what you will have on 27 December,” she says.

The southern part of the northern beaches however, could have a long-term easing of restrictions after Boxing Day.

Berejiklian says this will be decided on Boxing Day, depending on what happens in the southern northern beaches.

Updated

10 visitors allowed in southern part of northern beaches for Christmas

For the southern part of the northern beaches, “people who might live in Manly or Dee Why”, they can have 10 visitors from 24-26 December.

But people cannot leave their area.

You can have other people come in from the region or other parts of greater Sydney. But you can’t leave. We don’t want people from the northern beaches mingling in other parts of Sydney at this stage but you can welcome people in.”

Updated

Lockdown continues in half of northern beaches, but visitor bubbles allowed

Berejiklian has announced what is effectively a “bubble” system – just for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day – for one half of the northern beaches.

For people north of the Narrabeen Bridge and east of the Bahar Temple at Mona Vale roads, “you are still in lockdown”, she says.

But the one exception is that from 24-26 December, you can have five people into your home but they must be people from within that region.

Updated

Sydney to keep 10-visitor rule for Christmas

The current restrictions for greater Sydney will stay the same over Christmas – which is that you can only have 10 visitors to your home.

However, premier Gladys Berejiklian says there is one “small tweak”, which is children under 12 are not counted.

That applies for December 24, 25 and 26.

“Can I stress, you cannot have different groups of 10 people during the day. It’s one group of 10 and you have to stick that group of 10, plus kids under 12.

“But come 27 December for greater Sydney, we go back to just 10 per household full stop,” Berejiklian says.

“Every other restriction remains in place but for that addition over the Christmas period,” she says.

Updated

NSW records eight new cases

New South Wales has recorded new cases since 8pm last night, premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced.

That was from 42,000 tests, just shy of the record 44,000 yesterday.

Seven of those are directly linked to the northern beaches cluster.

Updated

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Kerry Chant have just walked into parliament, both wearing masks.

Reporters are gathered here at the NSW parliament ahead of today’s case announcement.

Updated

We’re five minutes away from the 11am press conference.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be appearing with health minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant.

A reminder, yesterday’s new case total was 8, and 15 the day before that, and 30 the day before that.

So far there have not been new cases not linked to the northern beaches cluster – or not linked to people who transported returned travellers.

But there is evidence of spread at sites outside the northern beaches – for example, at the Rose of Australia pub in Erskineville, an office in the CBD and at a hair salon in Turramurra.

Updated

As we wait for the 11am announcement, all eyes are on NSW, where premier Gladys Berejiklian will decide what will happen to restrictions over Christmas.

Currently, the restrictions are in force until midnight tonight, and could be either extended, rolled back or modified.

The current restrictions are:

Greater Sydney:

  • Household gatherings will be limited to 10 visitors
  • A cap of 300 people will apply for hospitality venues and places of worship.
  • Singing and chanting and dancing at indoor venues will not be allowed. (Dancefloors excepted for weddings.)
  • People in the greater Sydney area and the Central Coast, Illawarra-Shoalhaven, and Nepean Blue Mountains, are also asked not to visit aged care facilities, unless it is critical.

Northern beaches:

  • All residents or people in short-term accommodation to stay at home.
  • People are also not permitted to enter the northern beaches LGA without a lawful reason.
  • Hospitality venues and function centres will close for the duration of the order, with the exception of takeaway from hospitality venues. Gyms and places of worship will also close.
  • A resident of the northern beaches may not participate in a public gathering involving more than two people, unless for permitted reasons such as attending work.
  • Acceptable reasons for leaving home include: shopping for food and other essential goods and services, travel for work purposes if working from home is not possible, travel to or from a school or educational institution, exercise, medical care, carer’s responsibilities or compassionate needs.
  • Other acceptable reasons for leaving home include accessing childcare, providing care or emergency assistance and to escape a risk of harm.
People exercise on Manly’s beachfront on Wednesday morning.
People exercise on Manly’s beachfront on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Lee Hulsman/Getty Images

Updated

Double-demerit points will come into force in NSW from midnight tonight, lasting until 3 January.

The extra demerits apply to speeding, seatbelt, mobile phone and motorcycle helmet offences, and police are targeting speeding as well as drink, drug, dangerous and distracted driving, AAP report.

Watch this recap of 2020 in video, prepared by my colleague Becca Leaver.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian will speak at 11am on the state’s latest cases and any potential changes to restrictions.

7,000 Victorians tested who had visited Sydney

Victoria’s testing commander Jeroen Weimar has just told ABC Radio Melbourne that 7,000 people were tested in the state yesterday who had been in greater Sydney or the Central Coast – all with negative results.

But he also added that he “would not be surprised” if the family of the 15-year-old girl who contracted the virus in NSW – Victoria’s current only interstate-acquired case – would soon test positive.

“We’re really pleased that we’ve seen such a strong response over the last few days – 23,000 tests yesterday is a fantastic reaction by the Victorian community,” he said.

“This virus can cause trouble and obviously [I’m] delighted that we don’t have any more positive cases.

Weimar said about 7,000 tests were people who had visited the greater Sydney area, including the northern beaches, and the Central Coast.

“I would not be surprised if other members of the household do turn positive, but if they’re isolating effectively and we’ve got lots of people there to ensure that we support them to do just that, then the virus should not go any further,” he said.

Updated

Labor calls for January vaccine rollout

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has made a significant intervention in the political debate by arguing the government should accelerate the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
He told ABC News Breakfast:

Well, the problem here is ... that the federal government is saying that the TGA – the appropriate body which Labor supports and supports being able to do its work without interference – will make a decision with regard to the Pfizer vaccine in January, but the rollout won’t commence until March under the agreement that the federal government has.

That makes no sense.

If the approval is made in January, it should be rolled out in January as a matter of urgency. And also there’s only been provision made for 10 million doses – quite clearly we’re going to need more than that. And so we need more vaccines, more quickly.”

Albanese noted that US president-elect Joe Biden received the jab on national TV yesterday – which gives an indication of what a potent political message this could be for Labor, as Australians will no doubt see many famous figures receiving the vaccine in coming weeks.

Albanese also argued that the world’s “best practice” is to have as many vaccine deals as possible (six) but Australia only has three, after the UQ vaccine project was shut down.

As my colleague Melissa Davey has written in this handy explainer, Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt has justified the March rollout date by arguing that Australia has far fewer cases than countries that are fast-tracking it like the US, which has suffered hundreds of thousands of coronavirus deaths.

Updated

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has called for the federal government to fast-track the vaccine and roll it out in January rather than March.

We’ll be bringing you more detail on that soon, but he said earlier today:

If the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] approves the vaccine in January, it just seems to me incredibly complacent for the government to say, no, we will sit around for another couple of months before it is available.

Surely, we should be making it available as soon as possible. We had president-elect Biden take the vaccine on national TV in the United States just yesterday.

Once the TGA approves a vaccine, like any other drug, then what they’re saying, the professional body, is it is ready to go. If it is ready to go, let’s roll it out.”

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Victoria records zero new local cases

Victoria has recorded no new local cases of Covid-19 today, with no spread yet among the contacts of 15-year old girl who returned from the northern beaches.

Yesterday, the state reported that the girl had acquired the disease in NSW, and then returned home to Melbourne.

Today, the state has reported one new case of coronavirus – but it is in hotel quarantine.

There were 22,956 test results processed yesterday. The girl’s family has so far tested negative, and Victoria health said that there were no known exposure sites in Victoria.

The new overseas-acquired case brings the total active infections in hotel quarantine to 10.

Yesterday there were 0 new local cases & 0 lives lost. 0 new cases were acquired interstate, 1 international. There are 10 active cases in quarantine or self-isolation. 22,956 test results were received. https://t.co/2vKbgKHFvv #COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/TCX7fLYDzD

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) December 22, 2020

.@NSWHealth is aware of #COVID19 scam text messages asking for donations or confirming positive COVID-19 test results. NSW Health is also aware of a scam asking for donations for @BreastScreenNSW. BreastScreen NSW is a part of NSW Health. pic.twitter.com/t47e0lyaGD

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 22, 2020

Under a new bill to be introduced by the government, internet service providers, social media companies and other online platforms would need to remove severely abusive or bullying content within 24 hours – or be blocked.

Currently, takedown notices for image-based abuse, cyber-abuse, cyberbullying and seriously harmful online content needs to be actioned within 48 hours.

Under the Coalition’s bill, if a website or app ignores takedown notices for content such as child sexual abuse material, the e-safety commissioner will require search engines and app stores to block access to those services.

Updated

Suicide rate drops in NSW during pandemic

The number of lives lost to suicide in NSW has unexpectedly fallen by a “remarkable” 5% this year, AAP reports.

NSW government data reveals 807 people took their own lives in the 12 months to November – 46 fewer than in 2019.

It’s the most significant reduction in suicide numbers in NSW in a decade, Lifeline Australia Chairman John Brogden says.

“These are the most remarkable figures of the Covid- 19 pandemic,” he said. “This is a moment to celebrate life.”

Nationally, calls to Lifeline’s helpline rose by 20% over the year, equivalent to about 3,000 calls a day.

“Hundreds of thousands of Australians reached out for help to Lifeline and other mental health services and got the help they needed when they needed it and stopped short of suicide,” Brogden said.

“People have asked for help and got it when they needed it. As a result, we have seen a drop in the number of suicides in NSW.

“I hope this is a turning point for mental health in Australia.”

Brogden urged Australians to keep connecting with each other, especially over the holiday period.

“If you think someone may be struggling, please continue to reach out to them to offer support.”

Updated

Union to take Qantas to high court over sick leave entitlements

Unions say they’re going to take Qantas to the high court over sick leave entitlements after losing at the full court of the federal court.

Qantas stripped workers who it stood down during the pandemic of sick leave and other entitlements – something unions say meant some had to take a redundancy package in order to pay their bills.

It’s one of several stoushes between unions and Qantas that have erupted during the Covid crisis: unions recently lost another legal case, over how jobkeeper should be paid.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn is running the high court challenge on behalf of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

Updated

And in Queensland, tourism businesses in regional areas have reported losing up to 85% of summer bookings in a day, after state borders closed to greater Sydney residents.

Australians returning from overseas have described weaknesses in Sydney’s hotel quarantine system which they fear could contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

Kashi Somers, who returned to Sydney from New York City in early November, said the driver of her bus, and also defence force personnel in the airport, were not wearing masks, or wearing them incorrectly.

Read more here:

South Australia coronavirus cluster to be officially eliminated

In good news, South Australia’s worst coronavirus cluster could officially be declared eliminated today.

AAP reports that if no new cases are reported on Wednesday, the Parafield cluster will be considered busted, after the passing of 28 days, or two incubation cycles, since the last infection.

It began when a security guard at one of the city’s quarantine hotels unwittingly picked up the virus from a returned traveller last month. It quickly grew to 33 cases before being contained, partly through a three-day state-wide lockdown.

South Australia is also on track to enjoy a Covid-normal Christmas with low-level restrictions and no plans to impose more measures despite continuing concern over the growing cluster in Sydney.

SA has only three active infections, all returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Updated

Meanwhile, the search for the primary case of the northern beaches cluster is still unknown.

New venues listed by NSW health

Overnight, NSW health released another list of potential exposure sites, including some in the east, south and north, and one bus route.

The new sites are below, for a full list see here.

Anyone who attended the following venues at the following times is considered a close contact, and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether a negative result is received:

  • Paddington: Paddington Alimentari, 2 Hopetoun St,, Thursday 17 December 5.30am-6pm, Friday, 18 December 5.30am-6pm, Saturday, 18 December 5.30am-6pm
  • St Leonards: Charlie & Franks, IBM Plaza, Shop 1, 601 Pacific Highway, St Leonards, Wednesday 16 December 9am-10am
  • Mona Vale: Fitness First Mona Vale, Pittwater Place Shopping Centre, 10 Park St, Thursday 17 December 11.30am-1pm

Route B1-2 bus:

  • Monday, 14 December, departing Wynyard Station Stand B, 5.47pm, arriving Warriewood BLine, Pittwater Rd, 6.40pm
  • Tuesday, 15 December, departing Warriewood BLine, Pittwater Rd, 6.39am, arriving Wynyard Station Stand M, 7.29am
  • Tuesday, 15 December, departing Wynyard Station Stand B 6.28pm, arriving Warriewood BLine, Pittwater Rd, 6.21pm
  • Wednesday, 16 December, departing Warriewood BLine Pittwater Rd 6.53am, arriving Wynyard Station Stand M, 7.41am
  • Wednesday, 16 December, departing Wynyard Station Stand B 4.31pm, arriving Warriewood BLine, Pittwater Rd, 5.25pm

Anyone who attended the following venues at the following times is a casual contact who must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received:

  • Mona Vale: Scoop Wholefoods, Shop 6, 10 Park Street, Mona Vale, Wednesday 16 December, All day, Thursday, 17 December, all day, Friday 18 December, All day
  • Mosman: Scoop Wholefoods,14 Spit Road, Mosman, Thursday 17 December, 8am-10am
  • Paddington: Paddington London Hotel, 85 Underwood St, Thursday 17 December, 8.15pm-9.30pm
  • Warriewood: Brooke Withers Swim School, 6/2 Daydream St, Warriewood, Wednesday 16 December 2pm-3.30pm
  • Warriewood: Warriewood Valley Playground Rocket Park, Casuarina Dr, Thursday 17 December 10.15am-12.30pm

Anyone who attended the following venues at the following times is a casual contact who should monitor for symptoms and immediately get tested and isolate if they appear:

  • Avalon Beach: Woolworths, 74 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach, Saturday, 12 December, 12-12.15pm
  • Belrose: Fresh Delights Café, Belrose Super Centre, 4-6 Niangala Close, Belrose Thursday, 17 December 9am-10am
  • Bondi Junction: Westfield Bondi Junction, 500 Oxford St, Saturday, 19 December 10am-1pm
  • Brookvale: Westfield Warringah Mall 145 Condamine St, Brookvale, Saturday, 19 December 10am-1pm
  • Cronulla: Woolworths Metro, 84-86 Cronulla St, Cronulla Sunday, 13 December 11am-12pm
  • Davidson: Davidson Pizzeria, 42-6 Yindela St, Davidson Friday, 18 December 6.15-6.45pm
  • Turramurra: Coles 1 Ray St, Turramurra, Thursday, 17 December 10am-10.30am, Friday, 18 December, 10.30am-11am

Updated

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus today. It’s Naaman Zhou here with you.

Sydney residents will find out today whether they will spend Christmas under Covid restrictions. The NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised a decision today on whether restrictions, which are due to expire at midnight tonight, will go into Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and even potentially the new year.

Yesterday she said it was an “hour by hour” decision, even as Sydney recorded encouragingly low numbers of new cases. Only eight cases were recorded yesterday, out of a record 44,000 tests, with seven linked to the existing northern beaches cluster and one in a health worker who worked near returned travellers.

But there are still fears of greater spread, and a growing number of potential exposure sites, now spread across Sydney’s CBD, north, east and south as well as regional NSW.

Currently, residents of the northern beaches must stay at home unless for essential business, while residents of greater Sydney are limited to 10 visitors in their home and recommended not to visit aged care facilities.

Stay with us for all the latest.

Updated

Contributors

Mostafa Rachwani (now) and Naaman Zhou (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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Morrison rules out Covid-19 pay cuts for ministers or senior public servants – as it happened
South Australia launches testing blitz; federal and state disagreement about students attending school. This blog is now closed

Lisa Cox, Luke Henriques-Gomes and Amy Remeikis

15, Apr, 2020 @10:22 AM

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Australia news live: Victoria and NSW report no new locally acquired cases
Push for Queensland to open borders as Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand border closure will remain in place. This blog is now closed

Elias Visontay (now) and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

05, Nov, 2020 @8:07 AM

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Coronavirus Australia latest: 21 May at a glance
A summary of the major developments in the coronavirus outbreak across Australia

Josh Taylor

21, May, 2020 @10:46 AM