UK exceeds 100k daily COVID-19 cases

Britain has reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time since widespread testing was introduced.

There were 106,122 cases reported on Wednesday compared with 90,629 on Tuesday.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has driven a surge in cases in the last seven days, with the total rising by 643,219, or 59 per cent, according to government data.

Many industries are struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolate, and hospitals have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.

The British government said on Wednesday it was reducing the COVID-19 self-isolation period to seven days from 10 days for people in England who get a negative result on a lateral flow test two days in a row.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday ruled out new restrictions before Christmas, saying that there was uncertainty about the severity of Omicron and hospitalisation rates.

However, he did not rule out further measures after the holiday if the situation deteriorated.

There were 195 patients hospitalised with Omicron up to Tuesday and 18 deaths of people with the variant, according to separate data.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in hospital was 8008, slightly up in the last seven days but still far below the levels of more than 38,000 in January.

There were 140 deaths within 28 days of a positive case, down from 172 the previous day.

© RAW 2021

AFL club Sydney hit by COVID outbreak

Several Sydney Swans players have tested positive for COVID-19 in what is the biggest outbreak to hit an AFL club.

As NSW broke a national record with 3057 new cases on Tuesday, the Swans confirmed multiple members of their football department had tested positive for COVID-19 while on leave.

“All affected players and staff are double vaccinated and all report to be in good health,” the Swans noted in a statement.

“The club’s primary concern is for the health and safety of all players, staff and their families.”

Every Sydney player returned negative COVID-19 test results before their final training session of the year on December 15.

Players are due to return to training on January 6, meaning the practical impact of the cases is likely to be relatively small compared to if it occurred mid-season.

But the size of the outbreak could force the AFL to re-think its COVID-19 plans and protocols for players and club staff ahead of the 2022 season, which begins in March.

The news comes as Australia and England cricketers prepare to enjoy Christmas with their families despite biosecurity concerns over the Ashes series amid the national surge of cases.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley confirmed he would stick to his pre-series promise of balancing safety with player welfare as several Australian players returned home to families.

They will regroup in Melbourne on Thursday to ramp up preparations for Sunday’s Boxing Day Test, where Australia can wrap up the Ashes.

Players from both sides will be placed under stricter conditions in Melbourne and Sydney, including a ban on dining indoors at restaurants.

A Christmas Day tradition in Melbourne when Australian players and staff enjoy lunch with their families will continue.

“Everyone will be looking forward to coming together with families on Christmas Day in Melbourne,” Hockley told SEN on Tuesday.

“The players, family members, staff and match officials are all part of the overall cohort.

“They are all part of level-four restrictions. There has just been a latest group of England families arrive in Melbourne.”

Pat Cummins’s absence from the second Test after becoming a close contact prompted questions about further restrictions.

Hockley has stressed the need to be vigilant, with two tours called off globally in recent months as a result of COVID-19 cases within playing groups.

The AFL and cricket were not the only major sporting codes facing COVID-19 challenges on Tuesday.

Canberra are believed have also learned of further cases within their NRL group, after two staff members tested positive last week forcing their entire squad to isolate.

The Raiders will not comment on the current number of cases, but will monitor and assess their situation before returning to training on January 5.

Fellow NRL clubs Newcastle, Wests Tigers and South Sydney have also had pre-season training disrupted in recent weeks because of COVID-19 cases.

Western United A-League Men captain Alessandro Diamanti had been due to attend a joint press conference with Melbourne Victory skipper Josh Brillante.

But United pulled out of the joint media opportunity out of caution after they had three positive COVID-19 cases among their playing group last week.

Macarthur FC, Sydney FC and Newcastle’s ALM squads have also had players test positive in recent weeks, along with a Jets A-League Women player.

Perth Glory are in hotel quarantine in Brisbane after a positive case in their playing ranks.

© AAP 2021

Three injured in alleged Gold Coast stabbing

Three people have been injured after an alleged stabbing at a home in Ormeau.

Emergency Services were called to the home on Dahlia Crescent at around 9.40pm on Monday night.

Paramedics including Critical Care and the High Acuity Response Unit assessed three males at the scene.

A man in his 30s was suffering head and chest injuries.

A man in his 40s had suffered a leg injury while a man in his 20s was suffering head and back injuries.

All three men were transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital in stable conditions.

A Police spokesperson says the men are all known to each other but no complaint has been received.

Sixth death in Hillcrest school tragedy

An 11-year-old boy has become the sixth fatality of Devonport’s Hillcrest Primary School tragedy.

Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine says Chace Harrison died in hospital on Sunday afternoon.

His death follows those of 11-year-old Addison Stewart and 12-year-olds Zane Mellor, Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones and Peter Dodt.

A gust of wind sent a jumping castle being played on by nine children in total 10 metres into the air during year-end celebrations at the school on Thursday.

Two children remain in a critical condition in Royal Hobart Hospital and one other is in recovery at home.

“It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm a sixth child has lost his life following the tragedy,” Mr Hine told reporters in Hobart.

“An 11-year-old boy died this afternoon, his name is Chace Harrison. Our thoughts continue to be with his family and all other families and loved ones of the children involved.”

The state’s top cop said the investigation into the incident in conjunction with WorkSafe Tasmania was ongoing and would be for some time.

“We are working tirelessly with all parties concerned to ensure the extensive investigation is completed as a matter of priority for the coroner,” he said.

“Their priority will be to interview all witnesses, gather and analyse forensic evidence at all in biomedical aspects including weather patterns and conditions of the time of this incident.”

Given the magnitude of what happened and the need to speak to a large number of traumatised children within a short period of time, Tasmanian detectives have accepted an offer of help from NSW police.

Four forensic child interviewers will travel to the island state from Sydney over the coming days.

“I am certain all Tasmanians share with me a deep sadness and heartache that young Chace Harrison, another child involved in this terrible tragedy, has now passed away,” Premier Peter Gutwein said.

“I know that our community, which is so connected, will be deeply saddened, for the family involved and indeed all the families of the now six children who have lost their lives.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday an extra $800,000 will also be made available to fund trauma counselling for those impacted.

Some $250,000 will go to first responders involved in the aftermath of the accident and $550,000 to the broader community.

More than a million dollars has also been raised in the community to support those mourning the tragedy.

© AAP 2021

Qld women charged over alleged COVID-19 vaccine fraud

TWO Queensland women have been charged after they were allegedly involved in vaccine fraud earlier this month.

According to police, a 28-year-old North Lakes woman paid a 20-year-old woman cash to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on her behalf.

The alleged incident happened at Kippa-Ring on December 10.

The women have been charged with one count each of attempted fraud and fraud by COVID-19 Task Force Sierra Linnet detectives.

They’ve both been granted police bail and will appear in Redcliffe Magistrates Court on January 4.