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Fugitive pair arrested in outback

An extensive air and ground search in South Australia’s remote Far North has led to the arrest of wanted Queensland man Alex Blake and his girlfriend by STAR force officers.

The couple was arrested without incident at a remote property near Beltana just after midnight following an extensive ground and air search of the far north region of South Australia involving country patrols, and the police helicopter.

They were located in a stolen Toyota Hilux Utility which was found at a property south east of Leigh Creek and east of Beltana in the northern Flinders Ranges.

The arrest ends a two-day manhunt, which began on Monday afternoon when the pair illegally crossed into South Australia in a white Toyota Hilux ute that was stolen from a Queensland address on Sunday.

Following reported sightings earlier in the week in Innamincka and Hawker, police received reports of the Toyota Hilux utility travelling south along Belton Road at Carrieton just after 1pm yesterday.

Numerous patrols made their way to the area along with a police aircraft.

Police then spotted the utility travelling north along R M Williams Way near Craddock around 3.45pm before it turned right onto Flinders Ranges Way.

Patrols followed the utility at a distance as it headed through Hawker and towards Parachilna along the Outback Highway.

The police aircraft followed the utility from the air as it continued along the Outback Highway towards Leigh Creek where it turned onto Old Beltana Road and headed north before turning onto Warraweena Station.  The vehicle then stopped in scrub.

The 28-year-old man and the 30-year-old  both from Queensland have been taken to Port Augusta Police Station where they will be interviewed and charged with, border breach, acts to endanger life, driving to evade police and petrol thefts. They will appear later today before the Port Augusta Magistrates Court.

Queensland Police are likely to extradite the man back to Queensland once the SA charges have been dealt with.

Virus-free SA looks to next stage of restriction easing

South Australia’s transition committee will be under pressure to outline a plan for further easing of COVID-19 restrictions when it meets tomorrow after the state was declared virus-free.

The state cleared its last active coronavirus case yesterday, taking its run without a new infection to 10 days.

The last case to be resolved was that of a local nurse who had volunteered to travel to Victoria to work in that state’s aged care sector.

She had been diagnosed on August 23 and went into quarantine despite showing no symptoms of the virus as the time.

Still considered an active infection on Tuesday, Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday afternoon the “brave” woman was now clear of the disease.

But Marshall said the state could still not afford to become complacent.

SA enjoyed a five-week run from May 26 to June 29 with no new cases, only to have a cluster of new infections pop up at an adult learning college.

Tasmania also was declared COVID-19 free yesterday as new daily cases in Victoria remain under 100.

Victoria recorded 90 new cases and six deaths yesterday. There were 17 new cases in NSW and 2 in Queensland.

Adelaide University climbs rankings in tough times

The University of Adelaide has maintained its position as South Australia’s leading university in the latest world university rankings released overnight.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2021 has seen the university improve its position by two places to be now ranked 118th in the world.

Flinders University maintained its position listed in the 251-300 bracket while UniSA slumped to the 300-350 bracket from its position in the high 200s in the 2020 rankings.

The top 12 unis were all in the UK or US with Oxford University in England claiming the top spot.

University of Melbourne was the highest-ranked Australian university at No. 31.

University of Sydney (51), Australian National University (59), The University of Queensland (62), Monash University (64) and UNSW Sydney (67) also appeared in the top 100.

Rankings aside, it has been a tough year for the University of Adelaide, which has lost its Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen following a three-month investigation into allegations of improper conduct. Chancellor Kevin Scarce also resigned when the scandal broke in April.

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Brooks said the global ranking was positive news for South Australia at a challenging time for higher education globally.

“There is no doubt this has been a tough year for the higher education sector, but also specifically for the University of Adelaide and for our wider community,” he said.

“But this latest ranking demonstrates that we are held in high regard nationally and internationally.”

The University of Adelaide was listed as having 21,054 students with 30.7 per cent coming from overseas.

Flinders University had 17,167 enrolments with 25.4 per cent international students while 20 per cent of UniSA’s 20,930 students were from overseas.

Qld premier rejects Grand Final virus spread claims

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has rejected claims the AFL grand final could lead to a further spread of COVID-19 in the southeast of the state.

Brisbane’s Gabba was awarded hosting rights on Wednesday for the showpiece event on October 24 over Perth’s Optus Stadium and the Adelaide Oval.

Adelaide Oval has been placed on standby to host the grand final, should a COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland impact the planned Gabba game.

Palaszczuk shrugged off suggestions the Brisbane Cricket Ground would be packed with spectators causing a “significant spread” of the virus through the community.

“It’s contained,” she said, referring to two recent clusters linked to various Queensland Corrective Services facilities in southwest Brisbane.

The premier said the AFL’s decision to award the hosting rights to Brisbane was an endorsement of her government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

“This is a historic day – it’s a historic day for the AFL, it’s a historic day for Queensland,” she said

A crowd of 30,000 is expected to attend the grand final, which will also be played as a night match for the first time.

Leaked draft outlines end to Victorian lockdown

The Victorian government could lift a nightly curfew on Melbourne at the end of this month, according to a leaked draft of a two-stage plan to ease the state out of its coronavirus lockdown.

The draft, published on Thursday by the Herald Sun, shows that from September 14, a range of small concessions could be made for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

These include allowing libraries to open and expanding the time for exercise outside the home to two hours a day, from one hour now.

Two people or a household will be able to meet outdoors for social interaction and single persons or single-parent households will be allowed to have a visitor to their home.

Then, from September 28, the current 8pm to 5am curfew in Melbourne will be lifted and the phased return of primary and secondary students to schools will begin, the leaked draft says.

Premier Daniel Andrews is preparing to announce the government’s plan for a pathway out of the current lockdown on Sunday, when he releases separate roadmaps for Melbourne and regional Victoria which are under stage four and stage three restrictions, respectively.

He’s also expected to include detail on what will happen to the retail and hospitality sectors in Melbourne, which have been shut down for weeks.

On Wednesday, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the need for mandatory mask-wearing could remain in Melbourne and regional Victoria beyond the scheduled end of the current lockdown on September 13.

“I think we’ll see masks for the next month in one form or another,” he said. “It may not be all settings at all times.”

European infection wave approaches March heights

Coronavirus cases in Europe are back to levels recorded in March when the outbreak began its peak phase there, the head of the European Union’s public health agency says.

New infections are also continuing to rise in India and South Korea.

“The virus has not been sleeping over the (northern) summer. It did not take vacation,” Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

“We are almost back to numbers that we have seen in March.”

Ammon said this week’s data showed that across Europe there were 46 cases per 100,000 people.

The increase in cases was due in part to more testing, she said.

Infections in March in Europe began growing steadily to about 40 per 100,000 people at the end of the month, according to ECDC data, and kept increasing to about 70 per 100,000 by the end of April.

Ammon said new cases also concern largely younger people, a new pattern that had resulted in stable hospitalisation numbers as the illness is more serious for older people who were hit hard in March and April.

However, Ammon said hospitalisations were now growing again, signalling spikes in cases also among the elderly.

The data – which concern the 27 EU countries as well as Britain, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – varied greatly between states from 2 to 176 per 100,000 people.

Daily new COVID-19 infections in France have neared an all-time high and the number of people hospitalised in intensive care units with the disease has grown at its fastest pace in almost two months.

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There were 7017 new confirmed coronavirus cases in France on Wednesday, just below the March 31 peak of 7578 and only the third time since the beginning of the outbreak that the daily tally has stood above 7000.

Meanwhile, India on Wednesday reported 78,357 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s tally to more than 3.7 million reported cases since the pandemic began.

The climb comes as the government eases pandemic restrictions to help the battered economy.

The health ministry on Wednesday reported 1045 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 66,333.

India has been reporting the most new daily cases in the world for more than three weeks.

It has also increased its testing capacity – to nearly 100,000 per day – but experts say it is not enough.

South Korea has recorded a triple-digit jump in reported coronavirus infections for the 20th straight day, prompting authorities to impose tough distancing rules.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday the 267 new cases took the country’s tally since the pandemic began to 20,449 reported infections with 326 deaths.

Globally, more than 25.85 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 857,201​ have died.

Former Italian PM Berlusconi has coronavirus

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently in isolation at home, his staff say.

Berlusconi, 83, will continue working from his house in Arcore, near Milan, the statement said, and will contribute to the electoral campaigns of candidates from his Forza Italia party at local elections scheduled for September.

The three-time PM and media tycoon had been recently pictured with an old friend, businessman Flavio Briatore, who was hospitalised after testing positive to COVID-19 last month.

Berlusconi had tested negative at the time.

– with AAP and Reuters

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