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Australia Will Reopen Borders To Vaccinated International Travelers 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week that Australia will open its borders up fully for vaccinated international travelers starting later this month. The decision was made after Prime Minister Morrison met with the government’s national security committee. 

“The National Security Committee and Cabinet has decided today that Australia will reopen our borders to all remaining visa holders on the 21st of February,” Morrison said.

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Australia has remained mostly closed since early 2020 when the pandemic began. Through travel program collaborations with New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, they’ve been able to slowly start reopening their borders for vaccinated travelers. 

As it currently stands, citizens, permanent residents and their families, as well as international students, backpackers, and migrant workers are allowed to enter the country if they can provide proof of two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. Tourists will have to abide by the same rules as well. 

“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it. State-based caps on quarantine will continue and those caps will still be determined by state and territory governments,” Morrison explained. 

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Morrison went on to explain how visa requirements are different from the vaccination requirements being put in place for entry into the nation: “Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated and I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message I think to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia.”

Morrison also explained that one of the biggest goals with the reopening it to help the travel industry recover within the country: “I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that, and over the next two weeks they’ll get the opportunity both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia.”

Currently about 80% of eligible adults in Australia are fully vaccinated, a majority of which occurred after Tourism Australia released an ad campaign titled “Our Best Shot For Travel” across all online and physical news platforms to encourage citizens to get their inoculations so they could return to some level of normalcy when it comes to traveling. 

As of February 7th, Australia has over 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which there were also around 4,200 deaths. 

Australia’s Prime Minister Says International Travelers Won’t Be Welcome Until At Least 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined plans for lifting some of Australia’s toughest Covid-19 this week. Part of this outline stated that foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back until at least 2022. The country will instead be prioritizing the return of skilled migrants and students by reopening external borders when they reach a certain rate of vaccination.  

Morrison’s benchmark for reopening will be once 80% of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated. He also announced plans to allow vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas in November; citizens haven’t been able to leave since March 2020. 

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Australia has been reporting the lowest level of immigration since World War II due to these strict travel restrictions. Australian universities and businesses have been struggling to cope with the lack of international students and tourists who typically support these institutions financially. 

Australia’s travel restrictions, however, has allowed life to return to a fairly normal place due to the lack of infection. As of right now some of its biggest cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, are currently experiencing shutdowns due to minor outbreaks. These shutdowns are what has helped keep Australia’s rate of infection low. 

The difficulty with restricting citizens from international travel is that half of Australia’s population was born overseas, or has at least one immigrant parent. Morrison said the priority will be to get migrants and international students back before tourists, but did not specify when he thinks those groups will be allowed back. 

Before the pandemic, the Australian Tourism Export Council made 33 billion American dollars in a year. That sort of revenue could help Australia’s recovery efforts immensely, which is why the Council is hoping international visitors will be able to return by March. 

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As of right now, however, the lack of specificity in the plan to reopen borders has many workers within Australia’s tourism/travel industry worried. 

“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan. Even if they’re not the first priority, we’d like to see how this is going to be worked out. There are many businesses that are just hanging on,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

Morrison said that the “government would work toward a complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” but did not give a clear timeline as to when that will happen. Any international travelers that are able to travel into Australia currently must quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. 

Australia is currently battling outbreaks of Covid-19 and its variants while rushing to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible. It’s initial vaccine rollout was slow, but is starting to gain some momentum now.

Australia And New Zealand Rethinking ‘Covid Zero Strategy’ Amid Spreading Of Delta Variant 

Australia and New Zealand are rethinking their current Covid-19 strategies due to a surge in new cases caused by the spreading of the Delta variant. Initially both countries had strategies implemented that would bring the total number of cases down to zero before any type of social gatherings would be allowed, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently claimed that he believes it’s unlikely his country will ever return to zero cases. 

“Australia’s focus needs to shift to hospitalization rates rather than case numbers. The highly infectious nature of delta raised some pretty big questions about New Zealand’s approach of eliminating the disease,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

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In the beginning of the pandemic both Australia and New Zealand were advocates for the Covid Zero strategy. This meant that both nations closed their borders and implemented local guidelines to focus more on slowing down community-level transmission without having to worry about international visitors. 

This strategy was extremely successful, and prevented massive waves of new infections and deaths, like we saw here in the US. However, the spreading of the new delta variant has challenged this strategy greatly. In fact, Australia recently reported its highest number of daily infections for a second day straight. New Zealand is currently under the strictest lockdown measure that they’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“With a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it, that does change the game a bit. With our Level Four lockdown, we are very well placed to be able to run it to ground, but we have to be prepared for the fact that we can’t do that every time there is one of these.”

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Hipkins explained that the Covid Zero strategy had worked wonderfully pre-delta, but now it’s looking like a less adequate way to combat the new variant. The spreading of this variant also has to do with the vaccination rates in both nations. 

In both New Zealand and Australia less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. Australia’s Morrison claims vaccination rates need to reach 70-80% of the eligible population before restrictions are lifted again. 

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Morrison said rising cases “need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon as we can.”

“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently laid out a plan that would ease lockdown restrictions as the government speeds up its vaccination rollout. Their goal is to reopen their borders by 2022.

Australia’s Covid-19 Delta Outbreak Worsening Despite Lockdown Measures 

Sydney, Australia is already debating extending their current lockdown as Australian health officials continue to report a daily rise in Covid-19 cases. These daily rises are specifically fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that’s been spreading around the world. 

New South Wales state reported 112 new cases of Covid-19 despite the fact that Sydney, the country’s largest city, is currently entering its third week of lockdown. Case numbers have been reaching record highs every day. New infections luckily dropped slightly this Sunday, from 45 to 34. 

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State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the “progress of that figure in coming days would determine whether Sydney’s lockdown would be extended. That’s the number we need to get as close to zero as possible. It is really up to us. The health expert advice will be based on what those numbers look like. I can’t be clearer than that.”

Total infections in this particular outbreak are reaching 700. 63 individuals are currently hospitalized while 18 are in intensive care. 

Lockdown measures in Sydney include school closures, stay-at-home orders, and of course mask mandates and social distancing procedures anywhere essential workers are present. Many small business owners are worried about the economic impact of another lockdown if the government doesn’t provide any economic assistance. 

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Australia was able to previously contain their Covid-19 flare-ups with strict lockdowns, speedy contact tracing efforts, and social distancing rules. The nation has experienced 31,200 cases and 911 deaths since the pandemic began. 

Only 11% of Australia’s adult population of 20.5 million have been fully vaccinated. Critics believe a lack of communication with the public and vaccine shortages in general have led to the outbreak the nation is currently enduring. 

Federal health guidance in Australia currently recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine be restricted to individuals over the age of 60 while the Pfizer vaccine is limited to individuals between the age of 40 and 60. 

In New South Wales, vaccine centers and pharmacies will be able to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 40. The state government also claimed they would be opening a vaccination hub in western Sydney, which is the epicenter of the outbreak.

Sydney Australia

Australian Politician To Pay Twisted Sister $1.2 Million After Copyright Case

Australian politician Clive Palmer has been ordered to pay 1.5 million Australian dollars (about $1.17 million) in damages to famous rock band Twisted Sister after losing a copyright case involving the classic song “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” 

Back in 2019, Palmer used the melody and rhythm of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” in his political advertisements for the United Australia Party. The advertisements featured a vocalist singing along to the song’s melody with the lyrics: “Australia ain’t gonna cop it, no Australia’s not gonna cop it, Aussies not gonna cop it any more.” 

The lyrics obviously are a reference to the original song, which features lead singer Dee Snider singing: “Oh we’re not gonna take it, no we ain’t gonna take it, oh we’re not gonna take it anymore.” 

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Universal Music acquired the publishing rights to the original song from Snider back in 2015. The music group filed a copyright lawsuit against Palmer back in February 2020. During the trial Palmer accused Twisted Sister of “swindling its hit song from a famous Christmas Carol.” This is in reference to the fact that Snider has spoken out in the past about how “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” was a major influence in the writing of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” 

The opening five words in the lyrics for “O Come, All Ye Faithful” have the same melody as the chorus of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and therefore the same melody as the song in the ad, however, the Christmas carol follows a completely different chord progression and is traditionally played in a much different way than the rock classic. 

Palmer’s attorney played a mashup in court of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which was performed by Twisted Sister during a live Christmas concert in Chicago back in 2014. 

Snider said the two songs were “rhythmically different, and that is inspiration not duplication. The songs had to be shoehorned together to create the versions used in his musical and the 2006 cover. It was very difficult.”

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Universal attorney Patrick Flynn explained to the court that Palmer initially balked at paying the original copyright fee of $150,000, which would’ve allowed him to use the song’s melody completely legally. Instead, Palmer offered just $35,000. This week, Federal Court Justice Anna Katzmann ruled that Palmer was guilty of “infringing the copyright of both the musical and literary work of the original track.” 

“Mr. Palmer’s use of [the song] was opportunistic. He saw political and personal advantage in both its notoriety or popularity and the message it conveyed and he thought that he could get away with using it merely by altering some of the words. He was wrong,” Justice Katzmann ruled

Palmer has been ordered to pay 1.5 million in Australian dollars, as well as covering all the legal costs to remove all copies of his song and video from the internet. Snider took to Twitter to celebrate the win: 

“HALLELUJAH!! Just found out that the copyright infringement of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by ‘politician’ Clive Palmer in Australia has been decided MAJORLY in favor of myself as writer and @UMG as publishers! WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ANY MORE!!”

Professional Swimmer

Singer Cody Simpson’s Unexpected Bid To Compete In The 2021 Tokyo Olympics 

Cody Simpson is gearing up to compete at next month’s national championships for swimming in his home country of Australia. The singer will be going up against the nation’s top swimmers before June’s Olympic trials. 

The international singer has always been a competitive swimmer, however, his career as a teen pop icon obviously distracted from that fact. Simpson claims that Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe are among his biggest mentors. His 6.9 million Twitter followers and 3.9 million Instagram followers only recently discovered that one of their favorite performers was also a junior Queensland state champion for swimming. 

According to sources close to Simpson, he began competitively swimming again around five months ago, and has been training non stop in the United States with former Australian Olympian Brett Hawke, who also posted daily updates of Simpson’s progress to his Instagram. 

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Simpson went public with his re-entry into the competitive swimming world back in December, when he revealed to fans his 100 meter butterfly time of 54.7 seconds. That time is below the 56.87 second qualifying mark for the Olympic trials and would have been the 11th fastest time if Simpson competed at the 2019 Australian championships. 

“I just qualified for my first Olympic trials. I’d love to share this personal milestone and let you in on my current journey as an athlete that I’ve kept relatively low key until now. Growing up competing, and then inevitably having to cut my career short as 13-year-old Australian champion when I received an opportunity in music that I couldn’t refuse,”  Simpson wrote on Instagram in December.

Simpson continued to discuss how after years of “touring around the world, releasing albums, performing as a leading man on Broadway, publishing a work of poetry, travelling with and speaking at the United Nations on environmental and oceanic matters, I was fuelled by the silent fire in my stomach to return to swimming.”

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Hawke also recently spoke with the media regarding Simpson’s return, claiming that they “kept it under wraps” for a while so he wouldn’t feel any additional pressure from his millions of fans to succeed. 

“We could’ve said something a little bit earlier but we just didn’t have any swim meets because of Covid … when a swim meet popped up on the radar we thought, ‘let’s go down and have a splash and get off the blocks for the first time … ’ and first swim he gets a qualification for the Olympic trials. It kind of took us all by surprise,” Hawke claimed. 

Hawke then went on to discuss how this is just the beginning for Simpson’s swimming career: “Our goal is to be as fast as we can possibly be this year and just keep building on that. He’s looking at this as a four-year plan, he’s committed to four years. He had a conversation with Michael Phelps, and Michael told him, ‘you can’t do anything in under four years, you’ve got to commit to that’ … so he’s looking at from the age of about 23-27 here, and that’s prime for anybody. I think that’s the best chance he’ll have, to try and make an Olympic team four years from now.”

More Than 18,000 Evacuated In Australia Due To ‘Life-Threatening’ Floods 

More than 18,000 Australian residents have been evacuated in New South Wales (NSW) due to heavy rains and major flooding in the area which is causing some areas of the nation to resemble “island seas,” according to residents. 

The heavy rains have been impacting NSW since last Thursday but the flooding got really severe over the weekend. Images began circulating online of full roads, trees, and houses, completely submerged in water. Up to 38 areas across the state are considered to be natural disaster areas currently and 19 evacuation orders have been issued so far, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian who spoke at a news conference this morning. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, “much of the flooding has hit the mid-north coast, from Hunter Valley near Sydney to Coffs Harbour, but severe weather warnings have also been extended to include districts on the state’s south coast for Tuesday as the rains are forecast to shift. Heavy rainfall is also developing inland in the north of the state Monday, while in the east, life-threatening extensive flooding and heavy rain continues.”

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A severe weather warning has also been issued for Queensland which neighbors NSW.  According to Premier Berejiklian, the homes that were devastated by the 2019/2020 wildfires now have to cope with extreme flooding conditions.

“Communities who were battered by the bushfires are now being battered by the floods and a deep drought prior to that. I don’t know anytime in our state’s history where we’ve had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic. You’ve been through three or four incidents which are life changing on top of each other. It can make you feel like you are at breaking point.”

Some places have seen close to 40 inches of rain in less than a week, and increased rainfall of about 2-4 inches is expected to hit Sydney this whole week. The worst-affected areas so far have seen rainfall that has been up to five times as strong as what the nation normally expects for this time of year. 

Bureau of Meteorology’s Jane Golding said in a news conference that “the huge rainfalls have been driven by two weather systems colliding. A slow moving coastal trough and the approach of another system coming through from the west is pumping down tropical moisture into the state, which is then being whipped up by strong easterly winds.”

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“With this approach of this new system coming from the west which is approaching today, we’re expecting this heavy rain to fall in areas that haven’t seen as much rain over the last few days, and we’re expecting the flood risk to develop in those areas as well,” she explained. 

Justin Robinson is the Bureau of Meteorology’s national flood manager, who recently spoke to the press about his extensive amount of experience with flooding in Australia. 

“I’ve been a flood forecaster for 20 years and this is probably the worst flooding I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a flood watch that covers all the way from the Queensland border down to the Victoria border, along all those coastal rivers.”

The NSW emergency service networks have said many of the areas across the state “resemble an island sea,” and they’re already preparing for the massive clean up effort that will need to be done once all the rain finally subsides. Premier Berejiklian claimed she has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about calling in the military for backup when it comes time to clean and recover.

Facebook To Restore News Sharing Services In Australia 

Facebook announced that it will be restoring all news pages in Australia after the platform and Australian government agreed to certain changes within the media coding that would grant greater control over what appears on the platform from both parties. 

Facebook and the Australian government have been at odds for months now. Initially Australia was attempting to pass legislation that would require Facebook and Google to pay news and media outlets for their content before they’re able to share it across their platforms. “The initial version of the legislation would have allowed media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google — and to enter binding arbitration if the parties couldn’t reach an agreement,” according to reports

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This week the Australian government also released a statement in which they claimed they would “amend the code to include a provision that must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses.” 

Campbell Brown is Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships who recently spoke with the media regarding the new deal. 

“The government has clarified Facebook will retain the ability to decide if news appears on the platform so that we won’t automatically be subject to forced negotiation.” 

Brown continued to explain that the “agreement will allow Facebook to support the publishers they choose to, including small and local publishers. Our company will also be restoring the news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days.” 

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Brown is of course referring to Facebook’s decision last week to remove all news articles and services from the platform, barring Australians from finding or sharing news. This move not only impacted the thousands of media publishers on Facebook, but government agencies and services as well. The removal of media outlets indirectly removed pages for emergency government services and charities, leaving many Australians who are dependent on those services without the ability to access them. 

Facebook’s recent decision to restore the news came after the Australian Senate discussed the recent media laws passed that allowed the platform to take away so many essential services and pages. 

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally, and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook,” Brown explained. 

Google, on the other hand, has already been attempting to surpass the new legislation by partnering with some of Australia’s largest media organizations. All of these deals are currently unconfirmed, but will likely be revealed in the coming weeks.

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Facebook News Ban In Australia Blocks Pages For Fire Services And Charities

Facebook made the sudden decision to block people from sharing the news in Australia, which has led to a multitude of government organization and service group pages to be completely removed from the social media platform.

Female Tennis Player

Serena Williams To Face Naomi Osaka In Australian Open Semi-Finals 

Serena Williams produced a stellar performance at the Australian Open semi-final against Simona Halep this past week, granting her the opportunity to face Naomi Osaka in Thursday’s semi-final. Williams’ intense ball-striking ability and movement throughout the court gave her the edge she needed to carry out a win. 

Williams’ career has been heavily analyzed after the birth of her daughter due to inconsistencies in her performances, however, there’s no denying that Williams is still one of the greatest athletes of all time, and her past games have proven that. When she was facing Halep she began the game with some relatively poor serves, however, by the middle of the game it was clear she got her groove back and was able to win the match with all of her other amazing skills. 

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Williams was able to retrieve more balls and force errors from Halep, proving she was still comfortable on the court. Her strategy was slow, yet steady, as she calmly waited for the right shot to attack her opponent and guarantee herself the win. 

“If there was any criticism of Halep, who committed just four unforced errors in the opening set, it was of her poor serving when she took the lead in the second set. It was her biggest opportunity to cause havoc and she simply offered Williams too many second serves, who immediately broke back from 1-3 to 3-3,” according to sports journalist Tumaini Carayol. 

Carayol explained that “while Halep took control of the points, desperately trying to keep hold of her serve, Williams was reduced to scrambling far being the baseline, living off defensive forehand slices and lunging for every ball. Williams clinched the definitive break not with a nuclear forehand, but after consecutive, breathless 20- and 16-stroke rallies.”

Williams was interviewed after the game and claimed that “movement has always been one of my strengths, and so it’s actually more natural for me to move than for me not. So it was just kind of, like: ‘Oh, that’s how I used to move,’ so it’s pretty good.”

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“I think I was more focused on other things and not focused on something that is actually a strength of mine, has always been a strength of mine, and I had to refocus on that.”

Williams has now reached her 40th grand slam semi-final, and now that she has won six of her last eight games against top 10 opponents, she’s projected for even more success. The fact that she has shown clear improvement in the parts of her game that were lacking this time last year, no ones underestimating the power behind Williams. 

Osaka’s recent 6-2, 6-2 win over Hsieh Su-wei that came after an intense 66-minute match has also made her another competitor to watch closely throughout the rest of these games. 

“It makes me a bit more calm, just knowing that even though my back was severely against the wall I still had opportunities. Even today when I had two match points and she saved them both, normally I feel like I would have panicked but today I was pretty calm,” Osaka explained. Osaka and Williams will be facing off this Thursday at the Australian Open semi-final.