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Australia The Loop: Who can get free rapid tests, meat shortages continue, Barty and Alcott through, and Grace Tame engaged

00:14  24 january  2022
00:14  24 january  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

Disability services hit by COVID furloughs as cases rise in sector

  Disability services hit by COVID furloughs as cases rise in sector A union has called for urgent support for disability workers, including paid isolation leave, priority booster vaccinations and access to rapid tests.While she would normally be catching up with friends for coffee, attending appointments such as personal training sessions and working in her job proofing easy-read English documents, her support worker has been on furlough after being identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus and then testing positive.

Good morning, it's Monday, January 24. Here's what you need to get going today.

One thing to know right now: The RATs are free (for some of us) but you'll have to find one...

Here's the lowdown:

  • More than 6 million Australians will have access to free rapid antigen tests from today, but pharmacists fear widespread supply shortages mean they will struggle to meet the demand.
  • Who can get a free one? Pensioners, veterans and low-income earners are among those allowed up to 10 free tests in a three-month period.
  • But the RATs are selling out as soon as they show up. And Chris Freeman, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, says stores are putting on extra staff just to take the calls:

"They're reporting that they're receiving at least four calls per minute in relation to getting access to these rapid antigen tests."

Australia's rapid antigen test shortage may worsen as China's Lunar New Year holiday looms

  Australia's rapid antigen test shortage may worsen as China's Lunar New Year holiday looms Some logistics companies will temporarily close for the Lunar New Year holiday on February 1, but many manufacturers vow to work through to meet demand.The Lunar New Year holiday falls on February 1, and is typically the world's largest annual migration of people, although Beijing urged people to stay home last year and may do so again in light of Omicron outbreaks.

"The demand is extreme and pharmacists are being pushed to the limit with this at the moment."

One thing you’ll be hearing about today: There's a meat shortage for Australia Day

  • You'll have seen it already (or not seen it) — the supermarket meat aisles are pretty bare right now, as Omicron infections hit meat processing.
  • But in this piece for The Conversation, labour market experts argue the crisis was "entirely predictable."

These conditions were well-documented and understood. This current crisis should have been foreseeable, even allowing for the Omicron variant.

  • So what are "these conditions"? A couple of things:
    • Low temperatures and low humidity inside these facilities increases viral transmission;
    • Poor air quality increases the prevalence of respiratory disorders;
    • Hectic and physically demanding work (while being close together);
    • Few workers are employed as permanent employees (affecting sick leave benefits).
  • They say it's not too late for Australia to make some changes — like paying sub-contractors and casual workers the same wages as direct staff.

News while you snoozed

Let's get you up to speed.

Barty was pressed ...

 Barty was pressed ... © supplied by Sports.co.uk Tennis - Open d'Australia (F): Barty, Badosa and Azarenka pressed, Bencic at the Ashleigh Barty carpet is not decided to leave too much forces on the court . After completing his first round in less than an hour, the world number 1 spent only 54 minutes in the Rod Wash Arena during his duel against the Italian qualified Lucia Bronzetti. With two of his three converted Break balls, the Australian quickly led five games to nothing in the first round.

  • The back-to-school plans are in for NSW and Victoria (including two tests for students and teachers each week for the first month of term, plus masks) but schools *won’t* be closing when cases arise — NSW’s Education Minister says teachers who are close contacts won't be forced back into the classroom (and we’re expecting to hear from Queensland and the ACT today on their back-to school plans).

  • A nightclub fire in Cameroon has killed 17 and injured eight, after explosions were set off by cooking gas. It comes as the nation hosts the month-long African Football Cup of Nations tournament, which has attracted thousands of fans and tourists.

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says it's too soon to impose sanctions on Russia, amid concerns Moscow may invade Ukraine. Talks have failed so far to prevent thousands of Russian troops massing on its neighbour's border

The news Australia is searching for

  • Ash Barty: She's through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the fourth straight year, after disposing of 20-year-old American Anna Anisimova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. Next up? that's 21st seed American Jessica Pegula.
  • Dylan Alcott: He's started his farewell appearance at the Open, with a come-from-behind performance against Dutch rival Niels Vink. Alcott won 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinal match. But the post-match interview (where he shows a bit of love for the fans) is worth a watch:

One more thing: Grace Tame is engaged

Yep, the Australian of the Year is getting married to partner Max Heerey (she joked after this: "we'll wear helmets at the wedding too don't worry"):

Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' Collaborator Ellen Foley Looks Back on His Legacy (Exclusive)

  Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' Collaborator Ellen Foley Looks Back on His Legacy (Exclusive) ET chats with Ellen Foley about collaborating with the late singer and reflects on his legacy.The legendary rock star, whose real name was Marvin Lee Aday, died Thursday at the age of 74. Foley, who was one of Meat Loaf's longtime collaborators and worked with him on the hit single "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," reflects on their friendship and looks back at his legacy.

And as Ms Tame's 12 months in the role comes to a close this week, Sexual Assault Support Service in her hometown of Hobart says they saw a massive spike in referrals this year, as a result of her advocacy.

So far this financial year, the service is averaging 84 new referrals each month. In 2020/21, referrals rose from 553 to 832 — a more than 50 per cent increase.

Here's Jill Maxwell, their CEO:

"That's one of the biggest increases we've had in over 30 years of service.

"We had a lot of people saying that as a result of Grace speaking out they felt like it was OK to reach out to a service like ours and seek some support."

That's it for now

We'll be back later on with more of the good stuff.

ABC/wires

‘Make more here': Industry pitches plan to manufacture millions of rapid tests .
Australia could make more than two million rapid antigen tests each week with a small outlay on new production lines, the industry says.Warning of a long-term shortage of the COVID-19 tests, industry executives estimate every $20 million investment could add another two million units to local manufacturing when employers and households are struggling to find imported kits.

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