New blood clots recorded in Australia

Five new cases of rare blood clotting linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reported in Australia.

The nation’s drug regulator on Thursday reported that clotting and low platelets had been identified in a 74-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman in Victoria, a 66-year-old man in Queensland, a 64-year-old woman in Western Australia and a 70-year-old man in Tasmania.

Therapeutic Goods Administration head John Skerritt said this took the total number of cases with clotting and low platelets to 11, with a further three cases under investigation.

“We have received 163 reports of blood clot disorders for people who had had AstraZeneca vaccine a few days or a couple of weeks beforehand,” Professor Skerritt said of the rollout.

He warned that blood clotting was quite a common cause of serious illness and death in Australia.

Professor Skerritt said more than 15,000 adverse event reports had been made since the rollout began, but that did not mean the vaccines were less safe than others.

For every thousand doses of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine administered, authorities received between six and seven reports of adverse events on average.

“It might sound funny but we are actually encouraged by the fact because we want consumers to report adverse effects to us,” he said.

“Overwhelmingly, these reports are of the sorts of things that are associated with any vaccination generally – fever, joint pain, muscle, muscle soreness, tiredness, maybe nausea and vomiting.”

He said adverse events were more common after the first dose of AstraZeneca and after the second dose of Pfizer.

Of 54 cases of an allergic reaction after inoculation, 16 were found to be genuine.

“All of those people have recovered,” Professor Skerritt said.

“They were often treated with adrenaline by their healthcare facility.

“There is a warning with the vaccines that if you’ve had this sort of reaction to similar sorts of products, or vaccines, before don’t get vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.”

He said of the five people hospitalised last week after having a COVID-19 vaccine, four had now gone home.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday announced the number of vaccine doses given to GP clinics would triple from next week.

About 3000 clinics will now receive between 150-200 doses a week to ramp up inoculation in people aged over 50.

Commodore Eric Young, who is co-ordinating the vaccine distribution process, said an additional 130,000 Pfizer doses would be allocated to states and territories, doubling their current allocation.

“Next week will see a 157 per cent increase in the vaccines distributed across the country,” Mr Young said.

“That will be our biggest week of distribution by far, aiming to have more than 850,000 doses of the vaccine distributed across the country.”

More than half a million vaccine doses were distributed this week to almost 3000 sites.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration this week ticked off on 351,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine that arrived in Australia earlier this week.

A further 736,000 doses of the domestic manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine were also released.

More than 77,000 vaccines were administered on Wednesday, with almost 2.5 million jabs now in arms.

At least 1800 of aged care facilities nationwide have now received their first dose.

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SA jumps first hurdle to legalise euthanasia

After 17 attempts, euthanasia is one step closer to being legalised in South Australia after a bill passed the upper house overnight.

After six hours of deliberating, the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Bill was passed in the chamber at 11.30pm on Wednesday.

There have been 17 attempts in more than 25 years to pass a euthanasia bill. None of them made it past the Legislative Council until now, making it the first time in the state’s history that a law of its kind was passed in a chamber of parliament.

The votes for the bill massively outweighed those against, 14-7.

The proposed law will now be introduced in the lower house for another vote.

If passed, South Australia will be the fourth state to pass legislation to allow voluntary assisted dyingbehind Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Under the proposed bill, voluntary assisted dying can be accessed by people who are over the age of 18, have lived in SA for at least one year and have been diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition and are expected to die within weeks or months.

During Wednesday night’s discussion, the bill was also amended to ensure that doctors could not treat patients who were family members or benefit from the death.

Kyam Maher, who proposed the bill, said it was a “monumental day” for the “dying with dignity” bill to pass the upper house, and he looked forward to the further debate in the lower house.

“It was quite an emotional debate in the couple of weeks we have been considering this bill,” he said.

“Members of parliament are just like anyone else, we’re formed on our experiences, what we’ve seen and lived … the debate was very respectful and many members talked about their own personal experiences.

“Three-and-a-half years ago watching my mother suffer from the end stages of pancreatic cancer shifted me from merely being supportive to someone who made a commitment that I needed to do everything in my power to make this a reality.”

Mr Maher said the difference between the most recent bill and the past 16 was the state wouldn’t be the first to pass the legislation.

He said he expected the vote in the lower house to be close and was feeling nervous about the result.

“This is a conscious vote so every MP in the House of Assembly will decide how they vote based on their views and life experiences, so I think it will be close but I’m looking forward to this progressing.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Susan Close said South Australians expected the parliament to make a final decision as quickly as possible, which could be as soon as a few weeks.

“We don’t know how that vote will go, but we do know that over 80 per cent of people in SA are looking forward to this legislation passing,” she said.

“There is a high expectation that people have a right to control their final moments when they are in their darkest times and that parliamentarians don’t stand in their way.”

Premier Steven Marshall said he believed it was in the parliament’s interest to swiftly deal with the matter and was looking into how it could be advanced.

“I know the debate last night in the Legislative Council was respectful. I hope that is the exact same arrangement we have in the House of Assembly,” he said.

“It’s my intention to bring that legislation to the House of Assembly as quickly as we can.”

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NSW Covid restrictions for Sydney after 2 new cases, Gladys Berejiklian confirms

A range of new safety measures will be put back in place across greater Sydney after the state posted another two new locally acquired infections on Thursday.

Residents will be required to adhere to the following public health guidelines from 5pm on Thursday until 12am on Monday:

  • No more than 20 people allowed inside a home.
  • No singing or dancing in indoor venues, including places of worship and entertainment venues – the exception is weddings.
  • No drinking while standing up at indoor venues.
  • Masks will be compulsory at all indoor venues.
  • Only two visitors allowed in aged care facilities.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the measures would only apply to people in the greater Sydney area – from Central Coast, greater Sydney down to Illawarra.

She said it was “business as usual” for anyone outside those areas.

She urged people to “be sensible” in a bid to control the outbreak currently plaguing Sydney.

“Maintain your good social distancing. Make sure you avoid large events if you’re vulnerable and make sure you exhibit good hand hygiene and most importantly make sure, if you have the mildest of symptoms, you come forward and get tested,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“What is really critical to all of us in New South Wales is to make sure that we’re on alert.”

A reporter then quizzed Ms Berejiklian after she urged people to “avoid large events”, questioning why six scheduled NRL games had not been cancelled in light of the outbreak.

To which the Premier replied: “They’re outdoor events. They should go ahead. Outdoor events are low risk. We’re doing this in relation to indoor gatherings which are higher risk.

“I’m happy for people to criticise me or question what we do. But the strongest message we send is business as usual for businesses. From time to time we’ll ask them to wear a mask.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. What happens if tomorrow we find 20 cases? People say we haven’t gone hard enough.”

A Sydney man in his 50s tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, triggering the urgent response from health officials.

It was initially unclear where the man from Sydney’s eastern suburbs might have contracted the virus, with officials saying he hadn’t travelled overseas recently.

But on Thursday authorities said they discovered how he became infected, but worried there was a “missing link” who was also positive.

The news came after the wife of the man tested positive to the virus as well.

The couple were the first two confirmed local cases of coronavirus in NSW in more than a month.

Genome analysis revealed the likely source of the man’s infection was a person who arrived from the US and attended special health accommodation after testing positive upon arrival in Australia.

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Targa Tasmania 2022 should go ahead despite three deaths: Peter Lavac

The annual Targa Tasmania car rally should continue despite three tragic fatalities at this year’s event, Sydney’s “Lambo barrister” Peter Lavac says.

The former Hong Kong crown prosecutor and racing enthusiast, who made headlines recently for his battle with Transport NSW over his “offensive” number plates, took part in last month’s six-day race in his 2016 Lamborghini Huracan.

Shane Navin, 68, Leigh Mundy, 68, and Dennis Neagle, 59, died in two separate crashes in the space of 24 hours in the final stages of the race, leaving 620 fellow competitors in mourning and raising questions about the future of the iconic event.

But Mr Lavac said he would “absolutely” do the event again “in a heartbeat if it was starting next week”.

“This rally must not be cancelled in any way, shape or form,” he said.

“I know the greenies and the lefties and the PC mob are going to be screaming and whingeing that it should be axed, but this is not what the three brave men would want. It would be disrespectful to their memory.”

Mr Lavac held a gathering over the weekend to mark the end of the race, where guests observed a minute’s silence to pay tribute to the three men.

A minute’s silence was similarly observed at the Saturday night banquet and trophy ceremony marking the end of the race.

“That was a really poignant moment – the three men who died tragically, they died doing what they loved,” he said.

“You have to bear in mind that all of us who took part in this event knew what we signed up for, and every race car driver knows that when he gets behind the wheel of a high-powered racing car he puts his life on the line.”

Mr Lavac paid tribute to his navigator, Dean Whittaker, for his “great courage and bravery”.

He said he only had one “tricky moment” coming down a hill at high speed when Mr Whittaker accidentally called out “hard left instead of hard right”.

“I knew we were in trouble when the spectators started to scatter in all directions,” he said.

“I had to virtually stand on the brake. After that we got a black marker pen and I marked ‘L’ on Dean’s left hand and ‘R’ on his right hand, and we had no further problems after that. We had a good laugh about it.”

Mr Lavac added that Mr Whittaker had “nerves of steel and balls of iron”.

“Because there’s no f***ing way on earth I could sit in a passenger seat for six days and put my hands in the life of another person,” he said. “Dean did it without flinching.”

Competitors wore black armbands and attached strips of black tape to their headlights going into the final day of the race out of respect for Mr Navin, who died the previous day when his 1979 Mazda RX-7 rolled in wet weather on Mount Arrowsmith.

But then news came of a second fatal crash, with Mr Mundy and his co-driver Mr Neagle being killed after their 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS came off the road at Cygnet in what one witness said was “like an explosion”.

Mr Lavac said there had been an “ominous sign” on the first day of the event, which was plagued by wet weather throughout, when seven-time winners Jason and John White’s battery caught fire.

They crashed out of the event the next day after their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme hit a stream of water on the road and aquaplaned into an embankment, bursting into flames.

Organisers downgraded the stages to touring just after midday on the Friday, leaving Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey as the overall winners in their 2016 Dodge Viper.

“It’s not the feeling we thought we’d get as we had been working 30 years for this,” Mr Maguire said. “I also want to offer my condolences to the family and friends of the people we have lost yesterday and today.”

There have now been five fatalities in the Targa’s 29-year history – the most recent before this year’s event occurred in 2013.

In a statement last week, the Navin family said Shane loved competing in tarmac rally events and that Targa Tasmania was his favourite.

“He was very excited to drive the newly refitted car in this event,” the family said.

“He loved the strategy and the camaraderie of the sport, it was never about the win. We say thank you to Targa Australia, the volunteers, emergency services and all the other competitors for their support during this difficult time. It is a tragedy for our family but he died doing something he loved. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other families who also lost loved ones at this event.”

In a statement after the second crash, Targa Australia chief executive Mark Perry said it had been a “devastating few days for the Targa family”.

“Today our thoughts and deepest condolences go to Leigh and Dennis’ family and friends,” Mr Perry said.

“Both loved Targa and we knew them so well, which makes their passing so difficult for everyone in our community. They will be sorely missed by us all.”

Targa added that as it was now a coronial matter, it would not be making any further statements.

The day after the conclusion of the race, Motorsport Australia announced the formation of a special investigatory tribunal into the three fatalities.

The tribunal will investigate “all aspects of the incidents and provide recommendations to the Motorsport Australia Board”.

“The tribunal will be led by Garry Connelly AM, and also include a number of key motorsport safety personnel, including competitors, team owners and medical and safety experts,” Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca said in a statement.

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air quality poor as flights, ferries, motorway stall

Several ferry services were temporarily cancelled, a flight turned around mid-air and outdoor workers were encouraged to drop the tools, as a blanket of smoke haze wreaked havoc in Sydney.

Passengers on-board a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Sydney were told the weather was not suitable to land in the Harbour City on all runways.

The conditions and a lack of fuel forced the plane to turn back around to Melbourne after it travelled as far as Canberra.

The smoke haze came after NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) used a break in the weather to carry out hazard reduction burns.

Controlled burns have taken place on the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Sutherland Shire.

Department of Primary Industries has issued a statement on Monday morning classifying the air quality as “poor”.

It caused the F3 Parramatta River, F4 Pyrmont Bay and F8 Cockatoo Island ferries to stop running temporarily.

“Make alternative travel arrangements and consider catching a train or regular bus instead,” Sydney Ferries posted on Twitter.

However, the services were restored just before 10am.

The smoke is expected to clear later on Monday morning, but it could hang around in Sydney’s western suburbs longer.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned that road conditions will be dangerous, and motorists are advised to take extreme care.

“Fog developed in the western suburbs, and it’s currently making its way east and moving over the eastern suburbs, so expecting driving conditions to be a little bit hazardous,” meteorologist James Taylor said.

“When we get cool air and clear sky, it‘s good for trapping smoke down close to the surface, it’s also very good conditions for fog formation.”

The RFS said in a statement it had postponed some controlled burning operations while the smoke cleared.

“Light winds and an overnight inversion has resulted in smoke settling in low-lying residential areas. Smoke is forecast to then begin to lift and clear across the morning as the day begins to warm up,” it said.

“Strategies have been put in place to reduce the impact of smoke on the community, including the postponement of a number of planned burns and a reduction in area burnt for others.

“Hazard reduction burning is strategically planned to minimise the potential impact of smoke on public health; however, some members of the community may need to take action to mitigate the risks of smoke from hazard reduction burning by planning ahead.”

The Electrical Trades Union urged caution for its members working on the tools.

In a statement, ETU NSW secretary Allen Hicks said workers had rights to stop work if the air quality was unsafe.

“In large swathes of Sydney today, air quality is a threat to the health of people working outdoors. Those workers need to know if their employer can’t protect them from smoke exposure they have the right to stop work,” he said.

“Smoke from hazard reduction burns can badly irritate the eyes and throat. Bushfire smoke also contains particles which can affect lung health, particularly for people who already suffer from conditions such as asthma or emphysema.

“These particles can place extra stress on the heart – leading to increased risk of heart attack. “We have informed our members that they should protect their health and stop work if they are concerned about exposure to hazard reduction smoke in their workplace. We are actively monitoring this situation.”

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Key moments from campaign as state heads to polls

Tasmanians have been heading to the polls on Saturday for a state election where the campaign has been littered with bizarre moments for many candidates.

Liberal candidate Adam Brooks, of the north-western seat of Braddon, is fending off allegations he created a fake profile to catfish a woman into a months-long online relationship on a dating app.

The ABC reported on Friday that Victorian authorities are investigating claims Mr Brooks created a fake driver’s licence with the name Terry Brooks, an alias he was allegedly using to pretend to be a Melbourne-based engineer named Terry.

A woman claimed to the broadcaster that she had exchanged messages with the politician from June 2019 to March 2020 after connecting on OkCupid.

She claimed they met in person in Sydney four times — with Mr Brooks allegedly pretending to be Terry the whole time.

He denies the fake profiles are his and Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein has stood by him as a candidate.

Meanwhile, the Premier created a stir earlier in the campaign by revealing he had a bicep tattoo of a black panther when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr Gutwein took to TikTok to explain that he got the ink in his youth to commemorate his first martial arts black belt.

Labor leader Rebecca White had her own viral moment when she clapped back to a tweet from ABC election analyst Antony Green, who said her pregnancy, and due date close to the election date, could complicate Labor’s campaign.

“I’m not sure why?” she replied.

“Plenty of pregnant women continue to work. I’m no different and I can assure everyone that as far as I’m concerned it’s game on!”

Her snappy response prompted a flood of approving commentary on social media, with more than 750 retweets and 4500 likes.

Independent candidate Sue Hickey used her parliamentary privilege in March the year to slam Tasmanian federal politician Eric Abetz, claiming he had “slut-shamed” Brittany Higgins — the woman who helped ignite a national movement after she bravely went public with an allegation she had been raped inside Parliament House.

Ms Hickey was formerly a Liberal Party member but made her statements shortly after announcing she would run in the 2021 election as an independent, after the Premier told her she wouldn’t be re-endorsed by the party.

Mr Abetz categorically denies making the comments and hit back that Ms Hickey’s timing was suspect.

Ms Hickey alleged he said: “As for that Higgins girl, anybody so disgustingly drunk who would sleep with anybody could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of the nation at risk.

Ms Hickey said she “accepted” they were “deeply held views by the senator”.

“However they are not endorsed by our wider community, who view this judgment as slut-shaming,” she said.

“My immediate thoughts were — what if this girl’s drink had been spiked?

“And even if she was drunk, wouldn’t a caring man make sure she got home safely?

“No one, no matter how drunk or what they wear or where they walk at night, deserves to be sexually assaulted.”

Polls close in Tasmania at 6pm with counting to begin from then.

The incumbent Liberal Party has campaigned on its performance leading the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, where it’s strict border policies were popular with locals.

Labor, meanwhile, has pitched promises on education and health to voters.

The Greens, lead by Cassy O’Connor, have campaigned on house prices, protecting nature, and more government transparency.

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John Howard says Australia avoided the ‘American path’ on guns

Australia avoided going down “the American path” by imposing strict gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, John Howard says.

The former prime minister made the comments on the 25th anniversary of the massacre when a lone gunmen killed 35 people in Tasmania just weeks into Mr Howard’s prime ministership.

Mr Howard responded within 12 days, striking the National Firearms Agreement that outlawed semiautomatic weapons and implemented a gun buyback scheme.

The reforms have been cited as a model for the US, where gun control remains a vexed issue despite regular mass shootings.

But Mr Howard said the Australian population demanded decisive action after the Port Arthur shooting, then the world’s worst committed by a lone perpetrator.

RELATED: Major parties slammed for ‘striking failure’ on gun law loopholes

“People were scared. They didn’t want us to go down the American path,” he told ABC radio.

“There’s a different history of big countries and I’m not being critical of the Americans. They have to work that issue out themselves.

“But the truth is that people wanted the government to do something to make them safer, and we were able to do that.”

The former prime minister said the proposal was met with resistance by some within his cabinet, but he was determined to spend political capital.

“I just thought to myself, ‘I’ve just been elected’. I’d only been in office for a few weeks. I had a huge majority. If I couldn’t do something then I wasn’t really up to the job,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Howard faced a backlash from regional voters, and the former prime minister said support from the National Party was vital in driving the reforms through.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the measures had “served to keep Australia safe” after a “heinous and cowardly” attack.

“It still seems like only yesterday our hearts were shattered on that terrible Sunday,” he said in a statement.

“Today we remember and send our love to all those who still bear the scars of that terrible day.”

Gun licences have almost halved since 1997, though the number of guns in Australia has risen. A national firearms registry has also failed to eventuate despite being touted at the time.

Mr Howard conceded those facts “potentially worry me” but said a larger number of guns in fewer hands did not increase the chance of a mass shooting.

Recounting the morning of the massacre, Mr Howard said he initially struggled to comprehend the scale of the disaster as it unfolded.

“It was one of those things that just rocked the country to its core. We couldn’t comprehend that something like this should happen in Australia and certainly … in quiet little Tasmania,” he said.

“The country was just reeling for days and weeks afterwards.”

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