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Covid-19 News Updates


ACT to remain in lockdown but click & collect services to restart from midnight

ACT to remain in lockdown but click & collect services to restart from midnight

Small retailers in the Australian Capital Territory will be permitted to operate local delivery and click & collect services from midnight tonight, but the Territory will remain in lockdown after 21 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported.

The ACT’s Chief Minister Andrew Barr outlined the changes for small retailers, which will be in place until at least Thursday, 2 September.

The new public health directions will allow small retail businesses to have a maximum of two people at the premises to operate local contactless delivery services or a click & collect service.

To counterbalance this, some of the large essential businesses will also be required to move to a similar contactless delivery or click & collect service, including hardware, pet supply and office supply stores.

“These stores will of course remain open for Canberrans to access the essential items they need, but that access will be via contactless means,” Barr said.

“These small amendments to the public health directions allow a small amount of additional activity at a small business level that counterbalance that with addressing what has been a major issue of the most checked-in places in Canberra in the last two weeks.”

Barr also mentioned the ACT Government has been engaging with the construction industry to develop strict COVID-safe arrangements to enable a staged reopening of the sector from 3 September.

“Subject to the public health situation not deteriorating over the next week, the Government is targeting a gradual re-commencement of construction from Friday, the third of September,” Barr said.

“This gradual recommencement would start with civil construction, new roads and suburban infrastructure for example. It would also include the manufacturing, fabrication, testing and equipment supply that will enable construction projects to recommence.”

Of the ACT’s 21 new COVID-19 cases, 15 are linked to known outbreaks and six are still under investigation.

11 people are currently hospitalised with COVID-19, and one person remains in intensive care in a critical condition.

Updated at 12.11pm AEST on 27 August 2021.

"Dancing is back": QLD to lift restrictions today

"Dancing is back": QLD to lift restrictions today

After 20 days of no known COVID-19 cases active in the community, Queenslanders will have more freedoms from 4pm today including 100 per cent capacity at stadiums, permission to dance, and relaxed density limits of one person per two square metres at hospitality venues.

There are now just 30 active cases in the Sunshine State, where 48.25 per cent of eligible people have received their first vaccine dose and 29.45 per cent have had two doses.  This compares to 62 per cent of the population having received their first jab in locked-down NSW.

QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said people would be allowed to have up to 100 visitors in their homes, and 200 people would be able to attend weddings or funerals.

"For the young people, dancing is back," she said, although dancing will be allowed for all ages.

"Stadiums can have 100 per cent capacity, but patrons must wear a mask going in. They must wear a mask seated unless they're having a drink or they're eating at their seat.

"Indoor events like theatres, university lectures, can have 100 per cent capacity, and of course community sport is well and truly back."

However, the Premier noted masks would still be really important.

"Of course, if you're outside that's not a problem, but of course going into cafes and restaurants you need to wear your mask. You must also check in," she said.

"Our high school students will also still need to wear these masks, but what I'm going to do is we will review these mask requirements every two weeks.

"This is an added protection for us. I really want to make sure that we're doing everything we can in case we do get that outbreak. We do know it's on our doorstep in New South Wales, that there are still flights that come in."

Deputy Premier Steven Miles also revealed encouraging signs towards improving the lot of QLD-NSW border communities whose lives have been upended by the limits on movement.

"We do though acknowledge that the border restrictions have an impact - a disproportionate impact - on those that live on the border," he said.

"I'm really pleased to report that we've had an approach from the Deputy Premier of NSW to work with them to collaborate on border arrangements so that we can reduce the impacts of them on their community.

"You'll recall that not long ago the Premier wrote to the Premier of NSW and asked for that collaboration. At that stage it was declined, however we certainly welcome this change of heart."

He said both governments would work together to to put in place whatever measures they can to keep the border safe but also minimise impacts to the extent that it is possible.

Deputy Premier Miles also welcomed the news that the Commonwealth Government has appointed a contractor to construct its national quarantine facility at Pinkenba.

"This is welcome progress and we certainly look forward to them finally constructing this facility," he said.

Updated at 12:03pm AEST on 27 August 2021.

 

Pfizer bookings for children aged 12 to 15 opening from 13 September

Pfizer bookings for children aged 12 to 15 opening from 13 September

Following updated advice from Australia’s immunisation advisory group, the Federal Government has announced children aged 12 to 15 will be able to book an appointment for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from 13 September.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only jab recommended for use in Australia for this age group by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after it expanded its advice this morning.

In a statement released today, ATAGI says the benefits of offering COVID-19 vaccination to all younger adolescents outweigh the known or potential risks of the jab.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today said ATAGI’s latest advice gives the Government confidence to expand vaccine eligibility from 13 September.

“We’ll allow that to commence, and then on the 13th of September people will be able to make those bookings,” Morrison said.

“Principally I’ll see that happening through the GP network, and that provides the opportunity for family vaccinations - for the family to go along together across those age groups.”

ATAGI recently recommended vaccination using Pfizer for adolescents with specific medical conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those in remote communities, but today’s decision expands it to the balance of the population.

The Group says there is high-level evidence indicating strong immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in adolescents from clinical trials of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna).

In results of an ongoing phase III Comirnaty trial with over 2,000 participants aged 12-15 years, vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 from seven days after dose two was 100 per cent.

After dose one and before dose two, there were three COVID-19 cases (within 11 days after dose one) among Comirnaty recipients compared with 12 cases in the placebo group resulting in vaccine efficacy of 75 per cent.

“Vaccinating adolescents is anticipated to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospitalisations and deaths due to COVID-19, and other complications such as Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) and long COVID-19,” ATAGI said.

“Although the severity of COVID-19 is less in adolescents (with approximately 4-7 per cent experiencing severe outcomes) compared with adults, adolescents appear to have infection rates similar to adults.

“The SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant of Concern (VoC) has demonstrated increased transmissibility across all age groups and is associated with an increased risk of developing COVID-19 for adolescents in the absence of vaccination. Potential new VoCs may also pose a greater risk to non-immune children and adolescents in the future.”

In addition, ATAGI anticipates vaccinating adolescents will contribute to a reduction in SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the broader population.

“Once a large proportion of adults are vaccinated, susceptible children and adolescents will account for a higher proportion of continued infections in the community contributing to transmission. This has been seen in countries such as Israel and the USA,” ATAGI said.

“While there is some uncertainty regarding the relative contribution by adolescents to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the wider community, studies published in 2020 exploring SARS-CoV-2 spread within family clusters have reported children as index cases in about 4 per cent of households.”

ATAGI says other benefits of vaccination include reduced disruption to education by preventing transmission and outbreaks in schools, as well as less disruption to sports and other organised activities.

NSW reports 882 new COVID-19 cases

The announcement comes as NSW today reported 882 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which more than 80 per cent were in Western and Southwestern Sydney.

Two more deaths were also recorded - both men with underlying health conditions who had received one vaccine dose.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the announcement from the Federal Government about expanding Pfizer eligibility to 12 to 15-year-olds.

"We're really looking forward to transitioning children back to face-to-face learning,” Berejiklian said.

“We know what a difficult time this is, and we thank everybody - all the community groups and stakeholders who have been working with Education and Health to ensure the safety of our students, teaching staff and parents during this difficult time.”

NSW Health authorities also reported there are more cases than they would like to see in the LGA of Camden and the rest of the Penrith LGA where tighter restrictions are not already in place.

"There could be a chance that those areas could be designated local government areas of concern," Berejiklian said.

Currently there are 12 Penrith suburbs - Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair, and St Mary’s - that are listed as areas of concern.

“We're just asking everybody in Camden, and the rest of the Penrith local government area just to be extra careful, just to continue to do the right thing, make sure you come forward and get vaccinated to ensure that you can continue the way you are in the foreseeable future," the Premier said.

Meanwhile, Victoria today reported 79 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which at least 19 were in quarantine during their infectious period.

The State also announced today that it will implement a new departing hotel quarantine permit for those who completed hotel quarantine interstate, with a requirement they be tested on day 17 and a strong recommendation for testing on day 21.

Updated at 11.22am AEST on 27 August 2021.

Regional NSW lockdown extended until 10 September as state records 1,029 COVID-19 cases

Regional NSW lockdown extended until 10 September as state records 1,029 COVID-19 cases

Regional New South Wales will remain in lockdown until at least Friday, 10 September due to concerns over the continuous rise of case numbers in the state's west.

However, those living in NSW can look forward to restrictions being eased slightly from the middle of next month as the state’s vaccine roll-out has been progressing well under the circumstances.

Today's announcements from Premier Gladys Berejiklian comes after NSW reported a new daily record of case numbers today, with 1,029 infections reported in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Three more deaths were also reported, bringing the number of deaths related to this latest COVID-19 outbreak in the state to 79.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the Western Health District was on a “knife’s edge” today, with the region reporting 35 new cases.

“We’re sitting on a knife’s edge - it’s a tinder box ready to explode,” the Deputy Premier said.

“I do apologise for those communities that don’t have any cases today, but I put it this way: the reason you may not have cases is because of the restrictions in place.

“Now is the time to stay united.”

Barilaro said he was particularly concerned about a case in the country town of Parkes.

“The case in Parkes concerns us because we can’t identify the source,” Barilaro said.

NSW Health's ongoing sewage surveillance program has recently detected fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 at the sewage treatment plants in Tamworth, Merimbula, Cooma and Brewarrina. These detections are a concern as there are no known cases in these areas.

Premier offers a slice of hope for vaccinated population

After NSW achieved 6 million jabs earlier this week, the state’s Premier has offered vaccinated citizens a sign of things to come with restrictions to ease somewhat in mid-September.

From 13 September, households and families in the local government areas (LGAs) of concern will be permitted to leave the house for an hour of recreation, on top of the hour of exercise already permitted.

Families will be allowed to sit in the park for one hour, so long as all of the adults in the group are vaccinated.

Similarly, in areas outside of the LGAs of concern (the rest of Greater Sydney and regional NSW), five people will be allowed to gather outdoors as long as all are vaccinated from 13 September.

The changes to the lockdown restrictions will not impact any of the other rules currently in place, meaning the 5km radius travel rule still applies.

“We know that people coming together is what people miss the most,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“And whilst there are various options that we looked at, that was the option that met the mental health needs and wellbeing of our community but also provided the lowest risk setting.”

Berejiklian reiterated that once the state hits the 70 per cent mark of its population fully vaccinated, which could come as early as mid-October, she will be in a position to ease restrictions further.

“We’re asking industry to dust off their COVID safety plans, get the QR codes in check,” she said.

“We’re also working on an app in New South Wales that will allow you to sign into the venue but also have proof of your vax all in one, to make it as simple as possible.”

Updated at 11.44am AEST on 26 August 2021.

QLD to go ahead with Toowoomba quarantine facility modelled on Howard Springs

QLD to go ahead with Toowoomba quarantine facility modelled on Howard Springs

The Queensland Government has today announced a partnership with the Wagner Corporation to build a 1,000-bed quarantine facility adjacent to the Toowoomba airport, with expectations 500 beds should be operational by the end of 2021.

Modelled on the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, the cabin-style accommodation is aimed at alleviating a hotel quarantine system that is currently stretched and not fit-for-purpose.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the facility in Wellcamp, Toowoomba will have 1,000-bed capacity by the first quarter of next year.

"This is a commitment by the Wagner family working with the Queensland Government to say to the people of Queensland 'we want to keep you safe', and the best way to keep you safe and to keep Delta out of Queensland is to build, as quickly as possible, a regional quarantine facility," she says.

The announcement follows the news last week that the Federal Government would proceed with a purpose-built quarantine facility in the Brisbane suburb of Pinkenba, which is expected to be ready by mid-2022.

"The Queensland Government will continue to work collaboratively to progress the Commonwealth’s Pinkenba facility, but we need more options to get returning Australians home safer," says Deputy Premier Steven Miles.

"Following countless leaks from the nation’s hotel quarantine system, it’s clear there is an urgent need for alternative facilities in Australia.

Miles highlights the facility will be built at a greenfield location that is ready for construction.

"In fact early works are underway as we speak, and it is adjacent to an airport. It will be the first facility after Howard springs to be completed and be accommodating returning travelers," Miles says.

He says there will be a mix of single, double and family accommodation in cabin style with balconies, and importantly, no hallways adjoining rooms which have been vectors for virus transmission.

"COVID-positive patients who require hospital care will be treated in one of the five COVID hospitals that we currently use that we currently transfer people to," Miles says.

"By funding this facility ourselves and building this facility ourselves, we can ensure that it replaces current hotel quarantine usage that will allow us to take travellers who are currently within the cap and put them into this facility, reducing the need for hotel quarantine."

The facility will be built by the Wagner Corporation with accommodation modules to be manufactured in Queensland. Once the facility is up and running it will be operated by the state government, which has a one-year lease with options that can be extended to two or three years.

"When you consider that the last lockdown alone cost more than $1 billion in economic impact and compensation, you can see just what fantastic value it will be if we can avoid just one lockdown, let alone  more with this new facility," Miles says.

"The work has started now. It's time for the politics to end, the facility will be built."

John Wagner has thanked the Queensland Government for having the confidence in his family to go ahead with the facility, and for keeping the state's residents safe.

"As the landlord of this facility to the Queensland Government we are working through the final design criteria to make sure we have the best fit-for-purpose regional  accommodation facility for return travellers that there is in country or in fact the world," he says.

"This is going to be a great economic boost for Toowoomba. It will create a lot of local employment. Our local producers, just by the fact that we have to produce 3,000 meals a day, will really benefit from this and it will help get Queensland out of COVID and on the road to economic recovery, which we desperately need."

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath also points to the ongoing need for quarantine measures even once vaccine targets have been reached, in line with the Doherty Institute's findings that have formed the basis for discussions around the loosening of measures.

"Their own report says we will need to keep some public health measures in place - test, trace, isolate and quarantine. So even with high vaccination rates, we must continue these public health measures, which means we will continue to need quarantine facilities and we will need to make sure they're purpose built and they're keeping our community safe."

Updated at 11am AEST on 26 August 2021.

Further rent relief for Victorian commercial tenants secured

Further rent relief for Victorian commercial tenants secured

Further relief for commercial tenants struggling with rent payments in Victoria is on its way after the State Government finalised new regulations as part of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme.

The Scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with an annual turnover of less than $50 million that have experienced a loss in turnover of more than 30 per cent during the pandemic.

Eligibility for rent relief has also been broadened, with tenants now able to choose three consecutive months between 1 April and 30 September 2021 to compare to their turnover in the same three months in 2019.

Eligible SMEs will get financial relief in the form of a proportionate reduction in rent. For example, a business with a turnover of 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels can only be charged 40 per cent of its rent. Of the balance, at least half must be waived, with the remainder to be deferred.

The Victorian Small Business Commissioner will support tenants and landlords with information to negotiate an agreement and free mediation for those who need assistance.

The scheme will apply retrospectively from 28 July 2021 and will run until 15 January 2022.

Landlords found to be doing the right thing by tenants will not be left out in the cold either; land tax relief of up to 25 per cent will be provided by the Victorian Government, in addition to any previous relief, with the support worth up to $100 million.

Further, small landlords who can demonstrate acute hardship will be eligible to apply for payments as part of a $20 million hardship fund.

“We know businesses are doing it tough – that’s why it’s important that we continue to back them with practical measures, including rent relief,” Victorian Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford said.

“We want everyone to get a fair outcome – the Victorian Small Business Commission will provide free support to businesses to help them negotiate an agreement with landlords, if they’re unable to reach agreement themselves.”

Further information about the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme can be found at vsbc.vic.gov.au.

Updated at 2.27pm AEST on 25 August 2021.

Federal SME Recovery Loan Scheme expanded

Federal SME Recovery Loan Scheme expanded

More small and medium businesses (SMEs) will be able to receive funds under the Federal Government’s ‘SME Recovery Loan Scheme’ following changes to eligibility criteria announced today.

The Federal Government says, in recognition of the ongoing economic impacts caused by COVID-19 restrictions, requirements will be removed for SMEs to have received JobKeeper during the March quarter of 2021 or to have been a flood-affected business in order to be eligible under the Scheme.

As with the existing scheme, SMEs who are dealing with the economic impacts of the coronavirus with a turnover of less than $250 million will be able to access loans of up to $5 million over a term of up to 10 years.

In addition:

  • The Government guarantee will be 80 per cent of the loan amount.
  • Lenders are allowed to offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months.
  • Loans can be used for a broad range of business purposes, including to support investment.
  • Loans may be used to refinance any pre-existing debt of an eligible borrower, including those from the SME Guarantee Scheme.
  • Loans can be either unsecured or secured (excluding residential property).

The loans will be available through participating lenders until 31 December 2021.

More information about the SME Recovery Loan Scheme can be accessed via the Federal Treasury website.

Updated at 2.23pm AEST on 25 August 2021.

WA reopens to SA, introduces hard border with New Zealand

WA reopens to SA, introduces hard border with New Zealand

Western Australia’s border arrangements with South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand will be adjusted from midnight tonight (AWST) following the latest COVID-19 updates in Australia and across the ditch.

The changes will see WA reopen to SA entirely and a hard border imposed with New Zealand, reflecting the ever-changing COVID-19 situation.

South Australia will transition from 'low risk' to 'very low risk'. Under the 'very low risk' settings, safe travel is permitted into WA subject to the following conditions:

  • completion of a G2G Pass declaration, stipulating the traveller does not have any COVID-19 symptoms and which jurisdictions they have visited in the previous 14 days;
  • all Perth Airport arrivals to undergo a health screening and temperature test;
  • travellers to be prepared to take a COVID-19 test, if deemed necessary by a health clinician (voluntary asymptomatic testing also available); and
  • land arrivals to be met at the border checkpoint for a health screening and to have their G2G Pass declaration checked.   

"In promising news, after 34 days of no community cases, safe travel from South Australia is now permitted after tough lockdown measures enabled them to crush its local outbreak,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

With New Zealand’s COVID-19 outbreak now reaching 148 cases, WA will impose a hard border with the country, elevating it from ‘low risk’ to ‘medium risk’.

As such, travel from New Zealand will no longer be permitted except for approved travellers.

Approved travellers arriving in Western Australia from New Zealand must:

  • self-quarantine in a suitable premise for 14 days;
  • present for an initial COVID-19 test within 48 hours;
  • present for a COVID-19 test if any symptoms develop during quarantine; and
  • present for a COVID-19 test on day 12 after arrival in WA (if still in WA).    

"With growing case numbers in New Zealand, WA will be putting in place a hard border with New Zealand from midnight tonight,” McGowan said.

"The various outbreaks in Australia and in New Zealand are heartbreaking and our thoughts are with everyone impacted."

Also from midnight, Queensland will transition from 'medium risk' to 'low risk'. This means travel is permitted from Queensland with the following strict conditions: 

  • present for a COVID-19 test on arrival (within 48 hours) and on day 12;
  • self-quarantine for 14 days in a suitable premise;
  • complete a G2G Pass declaration prior to arrival, stipulating they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and which jurisdictions they have visited in the previous 14 days;
  • land arrivals to be met at the border checkpoint for a health screening and to have their G2G Pass declaration checked before proceeding to their self-quarantine. 

As previously announced, from midnight tonight New South Wales will be elevated to 'extreme risk'. Under the new 'extreme risk' category, travel from New South Wales to Western Australia will not be permitted.

"Western Australia's border controls have been our best defence in eliminating COVID-19 within our community, protecting our health and our economy,” WA Health Minister Roger Cook said.

"We need to stay vigilant with outbreaks growing as the deadly Delta strain continues to wreak havoc.

"It's so important that we continue to listen to the health advice. Please stay home if you're unwell, get tested if you develop symptoms and get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're eligible."

Updated at 2.06pm AEST on 25 August 2021.

NSW reports 919 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases

NSW reports 919 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 case numbers in New South Wales have hit a new daily record today, with the state reporting 919 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Of the new cases, 178 are linked to a known case or cluster while the remaining 741 are under investigation.

106 were in isolation throughout their infectious period and 18 were in isolation for part of their infectious period. 37 cases were infectious in the community, and the isolation status of 758 cases remains under investigation.

This takes active case numbers in NSW to around 12,000.

Health authorities today reported the deaths of two people who had COVID-19 - a woman in her 30s who died in her Western Sydney home and a man in his 80s who acquired his infection at the Greenwood Aged Care facility in Normanhurst.

This brings the state’s number of COVID-related deaths to 76 since 16 June 2021, and the number of lives lost due to the virus in NSW to 132 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state’s vaccine rollout has been progressing well, with more than 45,000 vaccines administrated in the 24 hours to 8pm last night by NSW Health. The total number of vaccines administered in NSW is now 6,143,824.

NSW Health's ongoing sewage surveillance program has recently detected fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 at the sewage treatment plants in Bateau Bay, Toukley and Merimbula, which serve around 39,000, 29,000 and 15,500 people respectively.

Meanwhile Victoria today reported 45 local cases. 36 are linked to current outbreaks and 17 have been in quarantine throughout their infectious period.

The ACT has confirmed its lockdown will still last until at least 2 September after nine new cases were reported today, of which all but one are linked to current cases or clusters.

Of the cases in the Territory, 48 per cent are aged 18 to 44, and 38 per cent are aged zero to 18.

Updated at 11.31am AEST on 25 August 2021.

QLD relocation spike prompts two-week pause on interstate hotel quarantine arrivals

QLD relocation spike prompts two-week pause on interstate hotel quarantine arrivals

"We are scrambling for hotels, and this has got to stop. It's too much pressure so we have to put a pause," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

After recording no new COVID-19 cases overnight and declassifying the cases of two truck drivers whose status was under investigation, the Queensland Government is now taking steps to slow down the influx of Australians from locked-down areas relocating to the Sunshine State.

"Starting from noon today we are pausing arrivals into hotel quarantine for a period of two weeks," the Premier said.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said this meant anyone who is not already on a flight at midday will not be able to arrive in Queensland on a right of entry pass, although people with exemptions including compassionate or end-of-life reasons, or to attend funerals, will still have rooms made available.

"We are seeing a lot of people wanting to relocate to Queensland. We understand that, it’s a beautiful state, why wouldn’t you want to live here? But we just need a pause on that," D'Ath said.

"About 85 per cent of the people who have come under right of entry passes over the last two weeks of domestic travel are simply relocating to Queensland.

"Everybody who's got a right of entry pass who is a Queensland resident or is seeking to relocate will need to reapply for their pass, and over the next fortnight we will then issue passes but we will be allocating a time period that people will be able to arrive in Queensland."

The Premier said as of yesterday there were 5,114 people in hotel quarantine in Queensland across 22 hotels.

"That's a lot of people – 3,257 are domestic arrivals, 1,857 are from overseas," she said.

"Between August the 9th and 20th, 2,750 people got border passes to relocate to Queensland. That includes 1,983 people in just one week.

"International arrivals are sometimes double and we don't find out until the day, and we often don't know from day to day, how many people are coming into Queensland from other states – they just turn up."

There are currently 37 active cases in Queensland and the number of people still in home quarantine has been reduced to 762.

Updated at 10:41am AEST on 25 August 2021.

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