“Roses are red, violets are blue, if you break the law, our lights will be too.”
Was the Victorian Police’s message for Valentine’s day. So romantic…
COVID’S MIXED BAG...
So, there’s some good news and some not so good news when it comes to the coronavirus…
UGH. LET’S GO WITH THE TRICKY STUFF FIRST…
• The cluster of cases linked to Melbourne’s Holiday Inn outbreak has risen to 16 as the state’s 7 million residents hit the halfway mark of what’s hoped to be a 5-day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown. How the outbreak started has been subject to an exchange of words between a man who used a nebuliser while in quarantine, and officials who say he was not granted permission to use the machine because of the risk posed by distributing the virus in the air. Which is what seems to have happened…
• Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern yesterday asked Aucklanders to stay home for 3 days while officials get to the bottom of 3 new local cases. She said there’s no clarity where the virus has popped up from, and tracers need some time to work on it. That’s also seen quarantine-free travel from NZ to Oz suspended.
• And to top things off, it looks like the UK variant of COVID, which is the strain at the centre of the Melbourne outbreak, could be 30-70% more transmissible – and 30-70% more deadly. That’s the latest official word on the mutation which is being closely tracked by the UK Government.
AND THE GOOD NEWS?
Australia will take delivery of 80,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of this week – and maybe as soon as tomorrow. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said it puts us on track to get the immunisation program up and running by the end of the month with older and frontline Aussies receiving the first jabs. It’s the only vaccine to have received Aussie regulatory approval at this point, and officials yesterday said it’s a difficult logistics exercise with the precious medicine requiring cold storage of -60C to -80C. Ice ice baby… And NSW hit a milestone yesterday – 28 days with no cases of community transmission of the virus. That’s the longest stretch the state’s gone without recording a locally acquired case since the pandemic began.
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TRUMP GOES 2 FOR 2
The US Senate yesterday acquitted former president Donald Trump of inciting insurrection when his supporters attacked the Capitol on 6 January in violent scenes. Seven Republicans did what Aussies would describe as ‘cross the floor’ – they voted with Democrats in support of Trump’s conviction making it the most bipartisan margin favouring conviction in history. Still, the 57-43 vote for impeachment fell short of the two-thirds (67 votes) required to convict. Calling it a “witch hunt”, Trump said it’s not over for him or the 74 million Americans who voted his way in November. Former supporter/senior Republican Mitch McConnell also said things aren’t done – but he pointed to possible future legal proceedings against Trump. President Joe Biden said the “sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile.”
BIG TECH EN ROUTE FOR A MEDIA CODE
New week, new priorities for our federal pollies who return to Canberra for the year’s first sitting fortnight. First cab off the rank is the Morrison Government’s proposed media bargaining code that would see Facebook and Google pay for Aussie news content after a Senate committee gave the plan a tick of approval on Friday. That will see the mega tech companies lob in their last-minute pitches for change today… Labor has also taken issue with the government’s rollout of COVID vaccinations – it wants more details and wants things to move more quickly. Also on the agenda: industrial relations. Labor leader Anthony Albanese and the unions are stepping up their campaign against changes proposed by Team Morrison. Things will get more intense on that front when the legislation is debated in March.
JAPAN TREMOR ON DELAY
Hand up if you’re routinely late? Sure, you know it’s not great behaviour, but showing up a decade behind time? Now, that’s just rude, and in Japan’s case terrifying… An aftershock of the devastating 2011 quake struck on Saturday night. The weekend’s quake triggered power outages for more than 950,000 households, and more than 100 people were injured. Thankfully, no deaths or major structural damage was reported, and no tsunami warning was issued. The 2011 quake was a whopping 9.0 magnitude, and experts say it’s not surprising to have a big aftershock 10 years later. That was Japan’s strongest recorded earthquake that led to a tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s meltdown. The 10th anniversary of the triple disaster is on 11 March.
RIDING THE CRYPTOCURRENCY WAVE
Bitcoin is so hot right now… Its value has surged in recent months, hitting US$48,900 yesterday – not far off its all-time high-value mark. Last week, quirky entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company Tesla said it had scooped up US$1.5 billion in the currency as an alternative to holding its cash in traditional currencies. And major credit card company Mastercard and America’s oldest bank BNY Mellon are also on board… But it’s not all motivated by wealth accumulation with top tweeter Jack Dorsey and music industry mover and shaker Jay Z announcing a bitcoin development fund. No, they aren’t helping young bitcoins to be their best selves… It’s a philanthropic venture to benefit good causes in Africa and India – and it’s built on an initial investment of 500 bitcoin (worth about US$24 million).
BUSINESS END OF THE OZ OPEN
And it’s a much quieter affair too with crowds sent home on Friday night to start their 5-day lockdown. Ash Barty is the only Aussie still in the singles draw with our women’s world #1 up against American Shelby Rogers tonight. And Dylan Alcott yesterday kicked off his quest for a 7th Australian Open quad singles title with a win – he’s straight into the semis today. Meanwhile, a joyous doubles partnership between Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis came to an end with a second-round loss yesterday. Australia still has a couple of men’s teams in the doubles – John Peers/Michael Venus and John Patrick Smith/Matthew Ebden play their third-round matches today. Outside the Aussies, Novak Djokovic became the second man to rack up 300 grand slam match wins last night. The win put him into the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glover are to star in a reboot of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s Mr & Mrs Smith. There’s so much in that sentence we’ll need to let it percolate a bit…
And whether it’s video conferencing or streaming the latest hit show, your eyes could be suffering from ‘lockdown strain’… Here are some tips to keep them as fresh as a Waller-Bridge/Glover collab. You’re welcome.
SQUIZ THE DAY
7.00pm (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis – Ash Barty v Shelby Rogers – Melbourne
Federal Parliament resumes – Canberra
Caps on international arrivals landing in NSW, Queensland and WA lifted
Singles Awareness Day
Series 2 of Staged – the delightful iso-series from Michael Sheen and David Tennant (or is it David Tennant and Michael Sheen?) – hits ABC iView today
A birthday for Simpsons creator Matt Groening (1954), Megan Thee Stallion (1995), and YouTube (2005)
• the birthdays of the ‘father of science’ Galileo Galilei (1564), and woman’s suffrage leader Susan B Anthony (1820)
• the production of the wartime propaganda poster “We Can Do It!” featuring Rosie the Riveter (1943)
• the first draft of the complete human genome is published in Nature (2001)
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