Australia news LIVE: Omicron COVID-19 cases grow in NSW as exposure sites listed in Sydney, Central Coast; marathon Victorian pandemic bill debate continues

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Key posts

  • Coles, Aldi among NSW’s Omicron exposure sites
  • Victorian pandemic bill debate runs all night
  • Three-day home quarantine for international arrivals continues in face of Omicron strain
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Melbourne emergency nurse, mother of three dies of COVID-19

An emergency department nurse and mother of three has died from COVID-19 in Melbourne, in what the nurses union believes is the first COVID-19 fatality of a Victorian hospital worker.

Gillian “Jill” Dempsey, who worked the night shift at Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully, died at Box Hill Hospital’s intensive care unit on Sunday afternoon.

A WorkSafe spokesman said yesterday evening that the health and safety regulator was “making inquiries” regarding the death.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said it was the union’s understanding that Ms Dempsey contracted the virus at work.

“It has hit people very hard, and it’s been very, very difficult. It’s still very raw. She was seen to be very much loved by her colleagues, very experienced and it’s been very hard to take.”

Read the full story here.

Coles, Aldi among NSW’s Omicron exposure sites

As mentioned earlier this morning, there are several new coronavirus exposure sites in NSW after a Central Coast woman tested positive to the Omicron variant.

This means she is likely the fifth person in Australia to be infected with the new variant. As Mary Ward reported yesterday, the woman arrived in Sydney last week on Qatar Airlines flight QR908 from Doha. Anyone who was on last Thursday’s flight is considered a close contact and must immediately get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate for 14 days.

The woman visited Parramatta Westfield on Friday.Credit:Getty

Meanwhile, anyone who attended the following western Sydney and NSW Central Coast venues is considered a casual contact.

This means they must immediately get tested for coronavirus and isolate until a negative result is received:

  • Coles Top Ryde last Friday from 9.30am to 10.45am AEDT;
  • Target at Parramatta Westfield from 10.45am to 11am, H&M in the same shopping centre from 11am to 11.15am, the Athlete’s Foot, too, from 11.15am to 11.30am, JD Sports from 11.15am to 12pm, and Rebel Sport from noon to 12.45pm;
  • North Wyong IGA on Friday from 6.15pm to 7pm;
  • Wyong Pizza Hut on Friday from 7pm to 7.15pm;
  • North Wyong KFC on Friday from 7.15pm to 7.30pm;
  • Wadalba Woolworths on Friday from 7.30pm to 8.15pm; and
  • Toukley Aldi last Saturday from 4.45pm to 5.45pm.

Victorian pandemic bill debate runs all night

The Victorian Parliament’s upper house has sat all night for a marathon debate on the Andrews government’s pandemic bill, continuing past dawn, more than 15 hours after it began.

Despite clinching a last-minute deal with Rod Barton of the Transport Matters Party, who pushed for significant concessions, a final vote still appeared distant by around 6.25am AEDT (when the upper house was limping through only the 12th of all 58 clauses).

“Sorry, can we have some decorum? I know it’s getting to be… now I can no longer say very late, I’m saying very early,” state Liberal MP Wendy Lovell, the Deputy President of the Legislative Council, said at about 5.45am.

Debate on the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 had started yesterday at 3.05pm after the state opposition failed in its attempt to delay the draft legislation.

Under existing laws, which expire on December 15, the Chief Health Officer of the day makes binding health orders under a state of emergency. The government bill transfers those powers to the premier and health minister of the day (as is the case in places such as NSW).

Some are worried that the bill gives politicians too much power. Others say it will make those responsible for issuing public health orders more accountable (because people can vote against them at the ballot box, unlike with unelected bureaucrats).

Three-day home quarantine for international arrivals continues in face of Omicron strain

Vaccinated international arrivals will still have to quarantine for 72 hours after they arrive in Australia, but states have decided not to increase the requirements, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Omicron variant will not spook the nation into bringing back lockdowns.

NSW, Victoria and the ACT are continuing the 72-hour isolation requirement for all vaccinated arrivals, except those coming from eight southern African countries (who must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days). The decision comes after national cabinet heard advice from Chief Health Officer Professor Paul Kelly yesterday afternoon that there was no need to extend quarantine arrangements.

Scott Morrison says Australians should not fear future lockdowns over the new coronavirus variant.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Australia on Monday night announced a two-week pause to a planned reopening to international students, skilled workers and some other visa-holders, due to concerns about the Omicron coronavirus strain.

“We need to make calm decisions, not get spooked by this,” Mr Morrison said yesterday afternoon. “I can assure you that the Commonwealth is not [considering lockdowns], and I don’t believe states are from the conversations I’ve had with them.”

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Wednesday, December 1. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know.

  • NSW shoppers have been asked to self-isolate until receiving a negative coronavirus test if they’ve been to an Omicron exposure site. A NSW woman, believed to be the fifth person in Australia infected with the new coronavirus variant, visited a number of retail stores in western Sydney while infectious. Anyone who has been to those venues is considered a casual contact. Yesterday, the NSW and Victorian premiers announced that – in addition to isolating for 72 hours – overseas arrivals must return a negative test and get tested on day six in order to be released into the community. NSW has also increased its non-compliance fines. The state reported 179 cases of COVID-19 yesterday and three deaths.
  • In Victoria, politicians in the state’s upper house have been debating new pandemic laws all night. The Andrews government has the numbers to pass the legislation, which will give the premier and health minister of the day to declare a pandemic and issue health orders (instead of the chief health officer, as is currently the case). But the parliamentary debate looks set to continue well into today. Meanwhile, human remains have been found in the search for campers who went missing in the Victorian high country. And a nurse has died after contracting COVID-19. It is believed she caught the virus at work. Victoria reported 918 new cases of coronavirus yesterday and six deaths.
  • In federal politics, the PM has vowed Australia won’t go back into lockdowns. National cabinet agreed that Australia must learn to live with the virus, including new variants. The PM says we’re going to “stay safely open” and people shouldn’t worry about Christmas being impacted.
  • Parts of Queensland are grappling with heavy rain and flood waters this morning. The whole town of Inglewood (about a four-hour drive west of the Gold Coast) was evacuated overnight. The Gold Coast has received more than 60 millimetres of rain over the past 24 hours and more than 300 calls to the State Emergency Service across all of Queensland. Despite the rain set to ease in the coming hours, flood warnings remain in place across several parts of the state.
  • Elsewhere, the ACT recorded six cases of COVID-19 yesterday. There were no new cases reported in the Northern Territory.
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