By Sophie Meixner

All in-person visits to Victorian prisons to recommence

All in-person personal visits to Victorian prisons will recommence from this Saturday, March 6.

Virtual visits via Zoom bookings remain available.

The Victorian government says all policies and processes to protect staff and prisoners from coronavirus are informed by infection control experts and consistent with advice from the relevant state and federal authorities, including the latest advice from the Chief Health Officer.

    There are currently no active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Victorian prison system.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Japan embarks on random and targeted testing


    Last week, about 600 people were tested for the coronavirus in the city of Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo — the Japanese government’s first attempt at systematic random and targeted testing that it hopes will prevent a new wave of infections.

    Concerned by highly transmissible variants of the virus and asymptomatic spread, Japan revised its pandemic strategy in early February.

    However, many health experts argue the updated strategy still falls far short of what is needed, especially given that inoculations have only just started and vaccine supplies are limited.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Queensland Health issues tweet defending the state’s vaccine rollout

    I haven’t seen a tweet quite like this from a public health body before.

    It comes after the decision to extend hotel quarantine for another five days for passengers on an international flight who arrived in Queensland last month, after the Russian variant of coronavirus was detected in several positive cases.




    By Sophie Meixner

    Brazil hospitals and morgues at capacity

    COVID-19 patient Wellington Bernardo dos Santos, 46, thanks health workers after being discharged from the Luziania field hospital, a suburb of Brasilia, Brazil. Photo: AP

    As more hospitals across Brazil reach the level of rationing care, state health officials continue calling for stricter lockdown measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

    Brazilian health authorities announced Tuesday a new daily record of 1,641 deaths from COVID-19.

    Hospitals in the southern city of Porto Alegre have warned that the city’s intensive care units are at capacity, and it’s only projected to get worse. 

    So far, only 3.8% of the Brazilian population has been vaccinated.

    State capitals such as Rio, Salvador, and Porto Alegre are among the cities that have been forced to temporarily suspend immunisation due to lack of vaccines.

    Local media reported that Moinhos de Vento hospital in Porto Alegre, the largest private medical centre in the city, is placing patients outside the main building due to overcrowded wards.

    They reported that public and private hospitals have had to rent refrigerated containers because the morgues are overflowing.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Joe Biden wants teachers considered essential workers for vaccination purposes

    US President Joe Biden says he wants teachers prioritised as essential workers, as he announced the country will have secured enough COVID-19 vaccines for the entire adult population by May. 

    President Biden has ordered the states to prioritise vaccinations for teachers by the end of March, so schools can re-open safely.

    “Let’s treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is,” he said.

    “And that means getting essential workers who provide that service, educators, school staff, childcare workers: get them vaccinated immediately, they’re essential workers.”

    Biden’s drive to get educators vaccinated more quickly comes amid a political controversy that has pitted parents pushing for schools to reopen against the teachers unions who say the risks are still too great.

    Jennifer Becker, right, Science Teacher at the Sinaloa Middle School, talks to one of her students in Novato, California. The school just reopened on Monday for in-person learning. Photo: AP

    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Biden’s announcement was “great news for everyone who wants in-school learning.”

    Biden said over 30 states had already taken steps to ensure educators were vaccinated and that he was using the full authority of the federal government to direct the remaining states to follow suit.

    “My challenge is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” he said, noting that parents were exiting the labor market in “astonishing numbers” to help their children learn remotely.

    To meet that goal, Biden said the federal pharmacy program would prioritise the vaccination of pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 educators and staff, as well as childcare workers.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Victoria afternoon COVID update

    This is the fifth day in a row that Victoria has recorded no new cases of COVID-19.

    There are eight active cases in Victoria, made up of eight locally acquired cases, a decrease of one since yesterday.

    A total of 1,622 COVID-19 vaccination doses were administered yesterday at hospital vaccination hubs across Victoria.

    This brings the total number of vaccine doses administered in Victoria since the program started on Monday 22 February to 6,676.

    By Sophie Meixner

    SA’s property boom continues despite dire COVID-19 predictions

    South Australia’s property price boom continues with a run-down home in Adelaide’s inner south-east been being sold for three quarters of a million dollars more than the asking price.

    The dilapidated cottage at Glenunga has propped up walls and was advertised for three weeks at around $1.3 million, before being sold at auction for $2.05 million.

    Real Estate Institute of South Australia’s Adrian Kelly says the market is in a far better place than what was being predicted when COVID-19 first hit. 

    “We’re seeing records being broken all over the place, but we weren’t expecting this 12 months ago — we were staring down the barrel of 20 to 30 per cent value reductions in housing and that obviously hasn’t occurred,” he said.

    By Sophie Meixner

    By Sophie Meixner

    Victorian government orders hotel quarantine staff audit after hiring perjurer Nelly Yoa


    The Victorian government has ordered a staffing review after a self-promoting perjurer, who was yesterday convicted of assault, was hired to work in the state’s hotel quarantine system.

    Nelly Yoa rose to prominence in 2018 and 2019 over a series of discredited public claims, from being a South Sudanese youth mentor, to trialling with top-level soccer clubs, to having Usain Bolt attend the birth of one of his children.

    The 32-year-old faced the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to unlawful assault and was fined $3,000 over an incident in 2019.

    He had previously been found guilty of perjury and making a false statement to police.

    In Parliament, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien questioned the state government on how it could justify employing a convicted criminal to manage highly sensitive personal information of Victorians.

    Government Services Minister Danny Pearson said the man was employed by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) and did some training, but did not work a shift.

    Mr Pearson said he had requested the CQV commissioner Emma Cassar conduct an audit of staff police checks “to ensure there are no outstanding checks on existing individuals”.

    “Significant criminal history precludes a person from being employed by CQV,” he said.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Australian infectious diseases expert gives character reference for man guilty of deception charges

    ABC News

    One of Australia’s pre-eminent scientists who has helped steer the nation through the coronavirus pandemic has told a court that one of her former teachers was an “outstanding” educator, even though he faked his qualifications for decades.

    Neil Lennie, 72, has pleaded guilty to four deception charges in the County Court of Victoria after investigators uncovered his scam at some of Melbourne’s most prestigious schools, including Mount Scopus Memorial College, Haileybury College and Caulfield Grammar School.

    Between 1976 and 2000, Mr Lennie swindled the schools into thinking that he was a qualified teacher, before eventually taking the job of headmaster at Caulfield Grammar.

    But in a pre-sentence hearing today, the County Court heard that the 72-year-old was well-loved by his former students, who now know the truth.

    Among them is Sharon Lewin, a leading infectious diseases expert and the director of the Doherty Institute, who credited Mr Lennie with instilling in her an “enduring love of science” in a character reference.

    ABC News

    Professor Lewin knew Mr Lennie between 1977 and 1979 while she was a student at Mount Scopus Memorial College.

    “I remember him very clearly telling me that I was capable of doing anything in life and to shoot for the stars,” she said.

    She said he was “one of the most outstanding teachers I had ever had”.

    “As a young woman in the 1970s, I now understand that this kind of encouragement for women in science was most unusual,” she said.

    Professor Lewin said that she had been asked on many occasions to reflect on teachers or mentors, and had always named Mr Lennie as someone who had a “profound impact” on her career.

    “He not only provided me with knowledge to ultimately be the top student in the state of Victoria in physics with a perfect score, but he instilled in me a lifelong love of learning and of science … I couldn’t think of a greater gift from a teacher,” she said.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Two cases in hotel quarantine in the ACT

    Two returned travellers from the most recent repatriation flight to Canberra have returned a weak positive test result to Covid-19.

    One is a man in his 40s and the other is an unrelated teenage boy. 

    Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says the risk to the other passengers on the flight is very low.

    By Sophie Meixner

    Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has won a top award for women’s leadership in the state


    By Sophie Meixner

    Brazil records highest daily coronavirus death toll since pandemic began

    Darila Tavares, 92, gets a shot of China’s Sinovac Corona Vac vaccine for COVID-19 at her home, as part of a program for seniors who can not leave their homes in Marica, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. AP

    The Brazilian Health Ministry says it’s registered 1,641 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the pandemic began.

    In a week where scientists and health workers have been sounding alarm bells over the deteriorating situation in Brazil, these numbers perhaps come as no surprise.

    Now at its worst point the pandemic in some parts of Brazil hospitals have run out of intensive care beds, some patients even being moved to different states to be able to receive treatment.

    The capital Brasilia is in lockdown and a curfew has been introduced in the state of Sao Paulo. But the country’s health secretaries earlier this week called for tougher measures to be introduced across Brazil to avoid a wider collapse of the health system.

    By Sophie Meixner

    A QR Code system will be mandatory in Canberra businesses and venues from Saturday

    If you run a business in Canberra, these fact cards provided by the ACT Government may be helpful for you.


    By Sophie Meixner

    Research suggests previous COVID cases could be vulnerable to Brazilian strain

    Research from the Brazilian city of Manaus suggests people who have previously had COVID-19 could be vulnerable to re-infection with a new variant of the disease.

    The researchers found between 25 and 61 per cent of people in the city who’ve had the virus are still at risk of catching the Brazilian strain, known as P1.

    By Sophie Meixner

    WA Police want to ‘refine’ hard border after state election with permanent stop-and-search powers

    ABC News

    Western Australia’s Police Commissioner wants new legislation to give officers greater powers to stop and search vehicles at the state’s border.

    Chris Dawson said this morning that he would like to see police retain greater powers at the state’s border checkpoints, because one of the “unintended but wonderful outcomes” of the COVID-19 pandemic was that crime had halved.

    “The reason is because we have stopped about half the drugs coming in. The hard borders have been extremely successful,” Mr Dawson told Perth radio station 6PR.

    “We know that putting in a hard border has been able to suppress COVID-19.

    “But what it has also done is … we are getting much better at finding the trucks that are bringing drugs in.”

    By Sophie Meixner

    Hello for the afternoon!

    Sophie here to take you through on the COVID blog until close. 

    Just a reminder that this blog is for COVID news. I’m well aware there may be other big news happening this afternoon but unless it’s got a coronavirus angle this blog isn’t going to be covering it. But the ABC will be, so stay tuned to the website and News Channel for the latest. 

    By Nicholas McElroy

    That’s all from me today folks

    But the blog lives on. Sophie has all your afternoon COVID-19 updates sorted. 

    Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

    By Nicholas McElroy