Australia Begins

Australia begins disposal of over 350 dead whales after ending rescue mission – CBS News

Australian wildlife officials began disposing of hundreds of dead whales on Saturday following one of the largest-ever mass stranding events globally. They have officially ended rescue efforts, believing there are no more survivors. 

Conservation experts and trained volunteers were able to save 108 of the approximately 470 long-finned pilot whales spotted on a remote sandbank in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour on Monday. Rescuers have spent the last five days performing dangerous rescue missions amid unpredictable conditions to save as many animals as they could.

Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Dr. Kris Carlyon said in a statement that rescuers did a terrific job saving the whales. “We only had one whale restrand overnight, which is a good result given 20 whales were released yesterday,” Carlyon said.

Rescuers attempt to save a whale on a beach in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania on September 25, 2020.

MELL CHUN/AFP via Getty Images

“Every whale saved is an incredible outcome given the complicated conditions and is testament to the tireless and skilful work that the response team are undertaking,” Peter Gutwein, Tasmania’s premier, said in a statement. “At times like these, Tasmanians come together to respond as quickly and compassionately as possible.”

Rob Buck, Incident Controller and Parks and Wildlife Service manager, said officials have so far disposed of 15 whales at sea in order to test the disposal method. He expects it to take several days to complete the task depending on the wind, tide and other conditions. 

The bodies of the whales are being separated into pods and enclosed with water booms, in an attempt to keep them in one place, isolated from sharks and other marine life. 

“Collection and disposal is being undertaken with the assistance of aquaculture companies whose equipment and expertise on the harbour is essential for a timely and effective outcome,” Buck said.

In total, rescuers saved 108 of 470 beached long-finned pilot whales in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour.

Matthew Newton for the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment

“We know it’s hard for people to watch from afar and thank the community for allowing our teams to focus on the critical work required for the response,” Buck said.

Officials expect the highly social whales that were rescued to eventually “regroup” and recover from the traumatic event. 

While mass whale strandings occur relatively often in Tasmania, such a large group has not been seen in the area for more than a decade. The causes remain unknown — however, some researchers have suggested the whales may have gone off track after feeding close to the shoreline or by following one or two whales that strayed.

Officials said it’s possible that whales will be found in surrounding areas in the coming days, and asked locals to report sightings. 

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Australia expects

Australia expects to receive AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine within months – Reuters Australia

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia expects to receive its first batches of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, as the number of new daily infections in the country’s virus hotspot fell to a 10-week low.

Morrison said his government has struck a deal with CSL Ltd (CSL.AX) to manufacture two vaccines – one developed by rival AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Oxford University, and another developed in CSL’s own labs with the University of Queensland.

“Australia needs some hope,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “Today, we take another significant step to protect the health of Australians against the coronavirus pandemic.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said scientists leading the development of both vaccines have advised that recent evidence suggests both will offer “multi-year protection”.

Morrison said CSL is expected to deliver 3.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is currently undergoing late-stage clinical trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, in January and February next year.

AstraZeneca’s candidate, AZD1222, is viewed as a frontrunner in the global race to deliver an effective vaccine to combat the virus.

Australia had announced in August that it planned to buy AZD1222, along with an agreement of intent from CSL to manufacture it. That plan was thrown into some doubt when CSL announced shortly afterward that it would prioritise the manufacture of its own vaccine.

Morrison’s announcement on Monday that Australia would also purchase the CSL drug if trials proved successful appeared to be the culmination of a deal to get both vaccines across the line.

The CSL vaccine is due to begin second stage clinical trials in late 2020, meaning the earliest it could hit the market would be mid-2021.

Should both vaccines pass clinical trials, Australia will spend A$1.7 billion ($1.24 billion) for a total of nearly 85 million doses, Morrison said.

The agreement came as Australia reported its lowest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases since June 26, with 45 infections in the past 24 hours, 41 of which were recorded in Victoria state.

Australia’s second most populous state has been the epicentre of a second wave, and now accounts for about 75% of the country’s 26,320 cases and 90% of its 762 deaths.

The southeastern state on Sunday extended a hard lockdown in its capital Melbourne until Sept. 28 as the daily infection rates had declined more slowly than hoped.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration


The extension of the lockdown in Melbourne is expected to fuel further job losses. The national Treasury Department said the original six-week lockdown had already cost Victoria around 250,000 jobs, or half the total recorded by the state since the pandemic began.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday announced Australia would extend its temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protection rules until the end of this year, barring creditors cannot issue bankruptcy notices to businesses for debts below A$20,000.

Reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Additional reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Stephen Coates and Jane Wardell

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Australia lockdown

Australia: Lockdown reinstated amid second COVID-19 wave – Al Jazeera English

Australia: Lockdown reinstated amid second COVID-19 wave – YouTube

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Australia declares

Australia declares ‘State of Disaster’ in Victoria after coronavirus cases spike continues – Fox News

A “State of Disaster” was declared for the Australian state of Victoria after almost 700 new cases of coronavirus were recorded overnight, according to reports.

The declaration is just one of several measures taken as Australia’s second most populated state grows more concerned over the pandemic situation it faces. All of Melbourne has entered Stage 4 lockdown, which goes into effect from 6 p.m. Sunday.

“If you’ve got that many cases – and they’re not just in metropolitan Melbourne, they’re in regional Victoria as well – if you have that many cases of community transmission you must assume you have even more and on that basis you can no longer be confident that you’ve got a precise understanding of how much virus is there,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said during a press briefing.


“You have to err on the side of caution and go further and harder.”

The lockdown includes a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and only allows for one resident from each household to go shopping within three miles of their homes, according to the Guardian.

Residents also are restricted to one hour of daily exercise with no more than two people together.

Victoria recorded over 700 cases on Thursday of last week, giving rise to alarm within the government. The numbers dipped near the end of the week, with only 397 recorded on Saturday, but the increase to almost 700 again overnight pushed the state government to act.


The new rules will remain in place until at least Sept. 13, and Andrews promised more changes would be coming as well, the BBC reported.

“Today is about a series of changes that relate to how we live our lives,” Andrews added. “Tomorrow I’ll make further announcements about how we work.”

Victoria has found itself at the center of Australia’s pandemic, with its 11,557 cases making up the bulk of Australia’s roughly 17,000 total infections. The state also recorded 123 deaths, again making up over half of the roughly 200 deaths across the country.


The spike in Melbourne has proven to be a major setback in the country’s otherwise positive progress in combating the spread of the virus.

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Australia Virgin

Virgin Australia finds new owner in US private equity firm Bain Capital – CNN

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Virgin Australia has found a new owner.

Administrators for the carrier announced Friday that it had selected Bain Capital, the US private equity firm, to take over the company, two months after its collapse. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Bain won out over Cyrus Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm, which had also submitted a binding offer.
“Several proposals from other interested parties” were also submitted this week, including a proposal by some of the airline’s bondholders, according to the administrators.
Bain Capital says it wants to “protect as many jobs as possible” at Virgin Australia while supporting the airline’s “unique culture.” The airline employs about 10,000 people.
“We are determined to see that Australians have access to competitive, viable aviation services for the long-term,” wrote Mike Murphy, a managing director of Bain Capital, in a statement. He added that Bain will strengthen Virgin’s “regional services” while continuing to offer flights for business and leisure travelers.
The rescue comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hurt global demand for travel. The International Air Transport Authority has estimated that it could take more than three years for international travel to return to pre-crisis levels.
Virgin Australia, Australia’s second biggest airline, filed for voluntary administration in April after failing to receive the government support it had asked for. Earlier that week, billionaire founder Richard Branson had appealed to the national government for assistance, and even said he would offer his Necker Island estate in the Caribbean as collateral. (Virgin’s other major shareholders prior to administration included Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Nanshan Capital Holdings.)
Virgin Australia’s main local competitor, Qantas, is also fighting to stay afloat. Qantas (QABSY), which is Australia’s flagship carrier, announced Thursday that it would slash 6,000 jobs and raise up to 1.9 billion Australian dollars ($1.3 billion) as it took on “the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced.”
While federal authorities in Australia have declined to provide a direct bailout for Virgin Australia, they have stressed the importance of the carrier’s survival.
“We want a competitive aviation market here in Australia. We want to see these two airlines [Virgin Australia and flag carrier Qantas] flying and competing,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters last month.
Virgin Australia’s administrators said Friday that the deal would likely face “minimal” regulatory scrutiny.
Bain has already received preliminary regulatory approval from Australia’s treasurer, and is now proceeding with the airline for its restructuring and eventual sale, administrators said.
— Angus Watson contributed to this report.

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