Oceania

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand bought enough Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for entire population
New Zealand bought enough Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for entire population
Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reported that New Zealand has purchased enough of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate its entire population. The government has signed an advanced purchases agreement with the vaccine manufacturer for an additional 8.5 million doses. Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine will be the country's primary vaccine.

Whilst the Pfizer vaccine does need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, this challenge is offset by only having to deal with one vaccine, rather than multiple vaccines with multiple protocols. It will simplify our vaccine roll out," Arden said.

Regional News • Oceania
Starting June 2021, period products will be free in New Zealand schools
Starting June 2021, period products will be free in New Zealand schools
Credit: unsplash.com / Natracare

New Zealand schools across the country will be stocked with free period products from June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced at Fairfield College in Hamilton on Thursday.

”There’s lots of barriers that shouldn’t exist for our young people,” Ardern said. “And one of the things stopping our young people from going to school is an issue called period poverty. One in 12 of our students possibly miss school because they don’t have access to period products. That’s just not right and not in a country like New Zealand.”

Regional News • Oceania
Ardern: recent COVID-19 cases were B117 Covid-19 variant

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that genomic sequencing showed that the recent three Covid-19 cases were the variant B117, the more potent variant first detected in the UK, resulting in an Auckland-wide lockdown.

The Ministry of Healthy announced it was investigating the Auckland cases, prioritising "close contacts and casual plus contacts to be tested so we can understand any risk in the community."

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand locks down Auckland over new Covid-19 cases
Auckland Skyline
Auckland Skyline Credit: Pedro Szekely (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in Auckland after three unexplained cases of coronavirus were discovered.

The country had successfully stamped out community spread, after closing its international borders and implementing strict social distancing rules early on in the pandemic.

Regional News • Oceania
Google threatens to shut down search in Australia if digital news code goes ahead
Google logo
Google logo Credit: Google

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia and Facebook has threatened to remove news from its feed for all Australian users if a code forcing the companies to negotiate payments to news media companies goes ahead.

The move would mean the 19 million Australians Google users would no longer be able to use Google Search.

At a Senate hearing in Canberra on Friday, Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva said the draft legislation "remains unworkable," and would be "breaking" the way millions of users searched for content online.

Regional News • Oceania
Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021
Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021
Credit: Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

The Australian government's chief medical adviser, Brendan Murphy, has told ABC TV that lifting substantial border restrictions is not expected in 2021, despite an early start to the vaccination campaign. Australia's borders have been closed to travellers since March 2020 to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

"I think that we'll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions – even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus," Professor Murphy said.

"And it's likely that quarantine will continue for some time. One of the things about this virus is that the rule book has been made up as we go."

Regional News • Oceania
2 cases of new UK Covid-19 strain detected in Australia
2 cases of new UK Covid-19 strain detected in Australia
Credit: unsplash/Fusion Medical Animation

Two travellers from the United Kingdom were found to be infected with the newly detected UK Covid-19 strain after arriving in New South Wales, Australia. The two individuals have been placed in hotel quarantine.

Regional News • Oceania
Two-way Travel Bubble between New Zealand and Australia
Two-way Travel Bubble between New Zealand and Australia
Credit: unsplash/Will Waters

New Zealand agreed Monday on a two-way travel bubble with Australia, allowing quarantine-free travel between the two nations in the first quarter of 2021.

“It is our intention to name a date ... in the New Year once remaining details are locked down,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington.

Regional News • Oceania
Repression of demonstrations against the sale of a nickel plant in New Caledonia
Repression of demonstrations against the sale of a nickel plant in New Caledonia
Credit: By Barsamuphe - Own work / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

Employees of the Southern Nickel plant demonstrated in Noumea after the violent evacuation of the plant on Thursday. During several intrusion attempts, the police had to fire their weapons to protect access to this Seveso classified industrial site.

The announcement of the sale of the plant by the Brazilian company Vale caused the anger of the separatists who have been fighting for decades against the plundering of the gigantic mining resources of New Caledonia which is a French overseas collectivity.

Regional News • Oceania
Western Sydney man arrested after INTERPOL involvement

A 31-year-old Cambridge Park man will face Court today, 7 December 2020, after allegedly posting threatening and intimidating posts on social medial. NSW Police, acting on information received from INTERPOL also charged the man with possession of a replica assault rifles when members of the Nepean Police Area Command raided his address in the small Western Sydney suburb.

Police took possession of two AR-15 gel-blasters with ammunition which will be forensically examined. There is no suggestion they are linked to any other criminal activity at this time.

The man was formally charged with four counts of 'use carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence' and two counts of 'possess unauthorised firearm' at Penrith Police Station and will face Penrith Local Court later today after being granted bail on strict conditions.

Regional News • Oceania
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
Credit: unsplash.com / Road Trip with Raj

A hotel worker in Sydney has tested positive for coronavirus. She was employed by two hotels in Darling Harbour, one of which is a quarantine hotel for returned international travellers.

It is the first case of COVID-19 in the state for 26 days.

New South Wales Health is asking anyone who worked at the hotels on these dates to get tested and self-isolate.

It is unclear how other states will respond to the announcement, with New South Wales open to all states besides Western Australia, which was due to ease restrictions on the 8th of December.

Regional News • Oceania
Qantas lays off 2,000 more employees
Qantas lays off 2,000 more employees
Credit: Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281) / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

All of Qantas' ground handling staff will be outsourced, laying off 2,000 employees to save the company more than $100 million a year.

Around 8,500 positions have been ditched by Qantas since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

The Transport Workers' Union criticized the move by Qantas, despite a bid by the 2,000 workers to keep their jobs.

“This is a dark day as Qantas management rejects a thorough and competitive bid by its highly skilled and dedicated workers to keep their own jobs,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

Regional News • Oceania
Records broken as heatwave sweeps Australia
Records broken as heatwave sweeps Australia
Credit: unsplash.com / April Pethybridge

Sydneysiders sweated through the past 24 hours - including last night, as the record was broken for hottest November night since 1967, staying above 25.4°C (77.2°F) all evening.

Temperatures yesterday reached 47.2°C (117°F) in Marree, South Australia. Every state across the country besides Tasmania passed 40°C (104°F).

Today, temperatures are forecast to reach up to 42°C (107.6°F) in parts of Sydney.

Regional News • Oceania
Victoria "eliminates" coronavirus after recording 28 days with no new cases
Victoria "eliminates" coronavirus after recording 28 days with no new cases
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Daniel Andrews

It has been 28 days since Victoria, Australia last recorded a local case of COVID-19 - classified by epidemiologists as the virus being eliminated.

"That is something all Victorians should be fundamentally proud of," said Premier Daniel Andrews, after the state's residents endured 112 days of lockdown.

The state also has no local cases currently.

At the peak of its second wave in August, Victoria was recording up to 687 cases a day.

Regional News • Oceania
Australian hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert released from Iran prison
Australian hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert released from Iran prison
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian who has been imprisoned in Iran for two years, has been freed.

She says she has nothing but love for the people of Iran.

Iranian authorities released Dr. Moore-Gilbert on Wednesday night in an alledged prisoner swap and is on her way back to Australia.

Regional News • Oceania
Queensland borders to open to NSW and Victoria from start of December
Queensland borders to open to NSW and Victoria from start of December
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Annastacia Palaszczuk

Queensland will open its borders to Victoria on December 1 after the state recorded 26 days with no new coronavirus cases, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced today.

Ms Palaszczuk announced yesterday that Queensland would also open up to all of New South Wales on the same date.

No decision has been made about when Queensland will open borders to South Australia. Parts of the state were declared a hotspot following a coronavirus cluster outbreak last week.

Regional News • Oceania
South Australia to enter "circuit breaker" lockdown after coronavirus cluster grows
South Australia to enter "circuit breaker" lockdown after coronavirus cluster grows
Credit: unsplash.com / Marcus Wallis

South Australia will begin a six-day lockdown from midnight on Wednesday night to prevent the further spread of a coronavirus cluster.

It's set to be the harshest lockdown implemented anywhere in Australia, with the closure of schools, universities, cafes, pubs, takeaway shops and restaurants.

The cluster originated at a hotel quarantine, with a worker spreading the virus to family members.

There have been 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state after Australia had recorded over a week with no local cases.

Regional News • Oceania
Australia hits a week with no local COVID-19 cases
Australia hits a week with no local COVID-19 cases
Credit: unsplash.com / Dan Freeman

It has been seven days since Australia last recorded a local coronavirus case.

With the last recorded case originating in New South Wales a week ago, the country is on track to open most borders by Christmas.

Comparatively, it has been 224 days since the Northern Territory last had an active local case.

Regional News • Oceania
Expert evaluation: Australia could be COVID-free in weeks
Expert evaluation: Australia could be COVID-free in weeks
Credit: unsplash.com / Kate Trifo

Coronavirus could "die out" in Australia in weeks if New South Wales and Victoria continue with low infection numbers, experts believe.

Victoria has recorded eight days straight with no new cases, and all of New South Wales' recent infections have been tracked from known sources.

However, Australia had also managed to flatten the curve in May, before cases escalated again.

Regional News • Oceania
Government of New Zealand Sworn In
Government of New Zealand Sworn In
Credit: Foundations World Economic Forum / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The ministers of the new government for New Zealand and the now second-term prime minister Jacinda Ardern have been sworn in. During a ceremony at Wellington's Government House, they took their oaths of office in English and Maori.

Prime Minister Ardern stated that "There are significant challenges for us to overcome together, but I am confident we have the team to do it and it is great to be officially able to now crack on with it".

Regional News • Oceania
Nanaia Mahuta named New Zealand's first Indigenous female foreign minister
Nanaia Mahuta named New Zealand's first Indigenous female foreign minister
Credit: New Zealand Labour Party., / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Nanaia Mahuta will be New Zealand's foreign affairs minister, the first woman and the first Indigenous woman to take that job. Jacinda Ardern promoted Mahuta, who has served as the country's first female member of parliament to wear a moko kauae, a traditional tattoo on her chin, for the past four years.

"I'm privileged to be able to lead the conversation in the foreign space," so Mahuta.

"This is a cabinet and an executive that is based on merit that also happens to be incredibly diverse and I am proud of that," Ardern said Monday.

Regional News • Oceania
13-year-old attacked by shark off East Australian coast
13-year-old attacked by shark off East Australian coast
Credit: unsplash.com / Jack Bassingthwaighte

A 13-year-old boy has been bitten by a shark at Town Beach in Port Macquarie, off the New South Wales coast in Australia.

He was taken to Port Macquarie Base Hospital where he is currently in a stable condition.

Town Beach has been closed, after the fourth shark attack on the Mid North Coast since April.

Regional News • Oceania
Annastacia Palaszczuk retains leadership in Queensland election
Annastacia Palaszczuk
Annastacia Palaszczuk Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Labour will retain a majority government in Queensland after Annastacia Palaszczuk claimed victory in the state election.

With votes currently counted, Labor will take at least 47 of the state's 93 seats. The party may claim as many as 51.

With the Greens taking 2 seats, the Liberal National Party may be left with as few as 35 seats, 3 fewer than it went into the election with.

Regional News • Oceania
Australia records zero local Coronavirus cases for the first time since June
Australia records zero local Coronavirus cases for the first time since June
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

With Victoria recording zero cases today, and the rest of the country reporting only cases from returned travellers, Australia has recorded no locally transmitted COVID-19 infections for the first time since the 9th of June 2020.

Health Minister Greg Hunt shared the good news at a press conference today.

Mr Hunt said the country was on track to open its international borders in time for Christmas.

Regional News • Oceania
NSW records five locally transmitted Covid-19 cases; 17 New Zealand travellers entered Melbourne despite state's lockdown

New South Wales reports seven new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, five of which were locally transmitted.

Premier Daniel Andrews expressed frustration with the Australian Border Force and Kingsford Smith Airport during a press conference over a technicality that allowed 17 travellers from New Zealand to enter Victoria despite the state's lockdown. The identity of the travellers has yet to be determined.

Regional News • Oceania
Jacinda Ardern's party scores a landslide win in New Zealand's election
Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern Credit: Nevada Halbert (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won a second term after a landslide victory in the country's general election. Preliminary results show that Ardern's centre-left Labour Party has won 49% of the vote.

Saturday's result means the Labour Party is projected to win 64 out of 120 parliamentary seats, and be the first party in 24 years with a clear majority.

Regional News • Oceania
Legalizing of marijuana and euthanasia to be voted on in New Zealand
Legalizing of marijuana and euthanasia to be voted on in New Zealand
Credit: unsplash.com / Arnaud Jaegers

The citizens of New Zealand are set to vote on two social issues during the national elections that are set to happen on Sunday.

They can decide if recreational marijuana and euthanasia should be legalized in the country. Recent polls indicate that the outcome of the marijuana referendum remains uncertain while the euthanasia referendum is likely to pass.

Regional News • Oceania
Māori party wants to change New Zealand name to Aotearoa
New Zealand Maori rowing ceremonial coreography
New Zealand Maori rowing ceremonial coreography Credit: Jorge Royan (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

New Zealand's Māori Party stated Monday the country should be renamed "Aotearoa" by 2026, to better reflect the country's indigenous culture. Rawiri Waititi, a candidate Waiariki on next months' election was "a bold move towards making Te Reo Māori a language for all of Aotearoa".

Aotearoa means 'the land of white cloud' in the nation's indigenous language, also known as te reo.

Both English and Māori are official languages in New Zealand. The Maoris are the largest ethnic minatory, representing 16.5 per cent of the population.

Regional News • Oceania
Rio Tinto CEO resigns after the destruction of ancient aboriginal caves
Jean-Sébastien Jacques
Jean-Sébastien Jacques Credit: Rio Tinto

Jean-Sébastien Jacques has resigned as the CEO of Rio Tinto after the company destroyed a 46,000-year-old sacred aboriginal site in Australia. Jacques will leave once his successor is chosen or at the end of March 2021, whichever comes first.

The company also announced the departure of the head of the iron ore business, Chris Salisbury, and the group expand for corporate relations, Simone Niven.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson released a statement saying: "We are determined to ensure that the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation."

Regional News • Oceania
Melbourne lockdown extended by two weeks
Empty Swanston Street during Friday morning, Melbourne
Empty Swanston Street during Friday morning, Melbourne Credit: Philip Mallis from Melbourne / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Despite dropping daily numbers of COVID-19 infections, Melbourne will remain in a "Stage 4" lockdown until at least September 28.

“I apologise for the circumstances we find ourselves in; I apologise for the reality we find ourselves in,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Sunday. “Pretending it’s over because we want it to be, that is not something I will do.”