Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 21 December.
Coronavirus restrictions have tightened across greater Sydney, with 68 cases now linked to the northern beaches cluster. As the state yesterday recorded 30 new cases, premier Gladys Berejiklian reverted to previous restrictions on in-home and public gatherings and urged all resident to wear masks. (Here’s what you need to know about the new rules in New South Wales, and a list of the hotspots.) Other states and territories have introduced border closures and restrictions, Queensland declaring the whole greater Sydney region a hotspot from today, Victoria effectively barring travel from the area, and Western Australia reinstating its hard border. Holiday plans have been thrown into disarray for thousands of families – many separated, others facing Christmas Day in quarantine. In the words of one dad: “It’s 2020 being 2020.”
European countries have reacted to the discovery of a fast-spreading strain of Covid-19 in England by announcing bans on flights carrying passengers from the UK. As the World Health Organisation called on its members in Europe to step up measures, on Sunday Austria, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands announced bans on travel from the UK, with similar plans reportedly being considered by France, Germany and Ireland. Millions of people in London and the south-east began their first full day of a new lockdown as the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the newly identified strain of the virus was “out of control”.
Republican Mitt Romney has made his views on Donald Trump clear, calling the president’s flirtation with declaring martial law in battleground states and appointment of a conspiracy theorist in his attempt to overturn the election “really sad” and “nutty and loopy”. Speaking to CNN on Trump’s refusal to accept the election results and baseless claims of voter fraud, Romney said: “Because the president could right now be writing the last chapter of this administration, with a victory lap with regards to the [Covid-19] vaccine. After all he pushed aggressively to get the vaccine developed and distributed, that’s happening on a quick timeframe. He could be going out and championing this extraordinary success. Instead … this last chapter suggests what he is going to be known for.”
A centre-right thinktank has said the Morrison government should commit to halving emissions from coal-fired electricity this decade, and that the Coalition could drive the change by using some existing policies. A Blueprint Institute report out today says coal-fired power generation is in “permanent decline” and its end is “inevitable”.
Electricity is predicted to be cheaper in 2023, helped by green power and lower gas prices. The Australian Energy Market Commission says households can soon expect to pay $120 less.
Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Doug Anthony died yesterday, aged 90. He served under six prime ministers, starting with Sir Robert Menzies. Current PM Scott Morrison remembered him as “a man with no pretences who was passionate about regional Australia”.
Apologies for the expletives but the results of Guardian Australia’s word of the year poll show you thought 2020 was, well ... very, very bad. In the 6,185 responses we’ve received so far, there’s been one clear standout. Still, it has to be said, the word you’ve picked for 2021 is somewhat more positive.
As US Congress prepares to pass a mammoth Covid relief bill, (the day the Moderna vaccine has been authorised) the president-elect is mulling over punishments for Russia in light of its suspected role in a recent government hack.
Michel Barnier has been told by the European fishing industry that his latest offer to the UK amounts to selling coastal communities “down the river” as negotiators continue to haggle in Brussels over a post-Brexit trade and security deal.
A barber is defending a group trip to Turkey for hair transplants after he and 17 of his clients tested positive to Covid-19. Health authorities are investigating the cluster of infections that has since erupted in their small town in south-west Spain.
A social media star has been dubbed Pakistan’s “Kickstarter Oprah” after her groundbreaking digital talk show in which women talk about taboo issues such as marital rape, cyberbullying and femicide was saved by fans.
“Guides for talking to teenagers range from the useless to the psychopathic. ‘Really listen,’ one reads, ‘control your emotions,’ says another, ‘water daily and place in full sun,’ suggests a third. For boomers, or even the old-at-heart millennials among us, this advice won’t equip you for climbing the mounting fear that talking to younger cousins and nephews at Christmas lunch inspires.” Enter: this helpful guide to what teenagers actually want you to ask them about, courtesy of a recent graduate of the kids’ table.
“Sky News Australia is increasingly pushing conspiracy theories to a global audience online,” writes Jason Wilson, reflecting on the red flags raised in recent reporting. “There’s no indication that the Coalition government has any interest in policing the Sky-to-internet fake news pipeline. The companies that host Sky’s viral far-right disinformation bombs are in cahoots with them. Nothing about this is likely to change in 2021, outside the unlikely event of massive pushback on the channel from an Australian public that hardly knows the channel exists.”
In Prove Me Wrong, Guardian Australia’s new summer series, we argue over whose tastes are right and whose … aren’t. “Endorphin rush? All I get is sweaty and flushed. Cardio is for sickeningly fit people,” argues Alyx Gorman. Ellen Leabeater tries to show her the light, with mixed results.
On 15 March 2019 a man entered the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and shot Temel Atacocugu nine times. That day 51 people were killed, but Temel survived. In this episode of Full Story, reporter Charlotte Graham-McLay follows Temel’s journey – through surgeries, the terrorist’s sentencing and a royal commission – as he tries to recover and rebuild his life.
“We are bitterly disappointed,” said CYCA commodore Noel Cornish last night, less than six days out from the scheduled Boxing Day start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, cancelled for the first time in its history due to coronavirus restrictions.
Richmond footballer Sydney Stack has been arrested and refused bail after allegedly breaching Western Australia’s strict Covid-19 laws.
“Here, in the Year Of Our Increasingly Demented and Perverse Lord 2020, the Indian team just got bowled out for 36. The team organised by the richest board in the world, made up of players trained since birth,” Geoff Lemon wrote this weekend. “This is not to scold cricketers for getting out, but to point out how absurdly unlikely it is that professionals of this era could worsen the efforts of amateurs from a century ago who had never heard of refrigeration and could buy over-the-counter cocaine.”
In the Sydney Morning Herald, biosecurity expert Raina MacIntyre suggests Sydney is facing “a super-spreading disaster”. Certain brokers may have been riding a Covid boom, but a regulator crackdown is looming, reports the Australian. Mike Seccombe writes in the Saturday Paper that while the pandemic “saved” the PM, his real test will be on climate. And the Australian Financial Review reports the Australian government solicitor endorsed Asic chairman James Shipton’s tax advice bill from KPMG worth $118,557 when he relocated from the US.
The final report is due from the inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program.
An inquest continues into the death of Vlado Micetic, shot and killed by a policeman.
And if you’ve read this far …
We asked you to help us create a majestic end of year playlist to see out the bin fire that has been 2020. After nearly 10,000 votes, here it is.
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