Australia news LIVE: NSW, Victoria COVID-19 cases grow; Dominic Perrottet, Rob Stokes to challenge for NSW Liberal leadership

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Dominic Perrottet ‘no extremist’, says NSW Deputy Premier as other MPs disagree

Outgoing Deputy Premier John Barilaro insists Dominic Perrottet’s faith has seen him unfairly portrayed as ultraconservative and says he has matured as a leader during his years as Treasurer.

Mr Perrottet is the frontrunner to replace Gladys Berejiklian, but Attorney-General Mark Speakman warned a conference call of moderate Liberal MPs on Monday night that the Treasurer would be the “most conservative Premier the state has had since World War II”.

Still the favourite: Dominic Perrottet outside his Beecroft home on Monday.Credit:Nick Moir

Mr Perrottet will face a leadership ballot against Planning Minister Rob Stokes today to decide the next premier of NSW after Ms Berejiklian’s shock resignation on Friday. He will nominate for the position with Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres as his deputy.

Mr Stokes yesterday insisted he was still a strong candidate for the job, committing to address a lack of gender diversity by promoting more women to cabinet if he is chosen for the top job.

Read the full story here.

Victoria’s contact tracing to be scaled back as vaccination rate rises

Victorian contact tracers will stop trying to track down casual contacts of known COVID-19 cases within days as the virus becomes more widespread in the community.

As Victoria recorded 1377 new coronavirus cases and four deaths on Monday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the listing of tier-2 sites, which are lower-risk locations visited by a COVID-positive person, will be “progressively” scaled back.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton announces a scaling back of tier-2 exposure sitesCredit:Jason South

“We have had to focus our efforts on where we get most bang for our buck,” he said.

As Victoria hit its fifth consecutive day of more than 1000 cases in the community, Professor Sutton said the highest-risk sites, which are usually deemed tier 1, would still be published online and businesses would be contacted.

Read more about the situation in Victoria here.

Australia buys COVID treatment pills ahead of approval for new medicine

Australia will buy 300,000 courses of an experimental antiviral pill in anticipation of the drug regulator approving it as a coronavirus treatment early next year.

Molnupiravir could be taken by people with mild or moderate COVID-19 as a five-day course to treat the virus. The most recent data from clinical trials showed it halved the risk of hospitalisation or death.

Australia has placed an order for Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill ahead of it receiving regulatory approval.Credit:AP

It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, meaning it can be used in the community rather than just at hospitals or medical facilities, and could be used as a targeted intervention in high-risk locations and rural areas.

While it won’t be considered for registration by the Therapeutic Goods Administration until later this year, the government has struck a supply deal with makers Merck Sharp & Dohme to deliver the medicine if it is approved.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the clinical data coming from the trials was very good, and he had been in contact with Merck’s Australian chief executive over the end of last week and the weekend about the deal.

But he cautioned that vaccination remained the most important and safest way for Australians to protect themselves during the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.

I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of today’s biggest stories as they unfold.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • NSW’s new premier and deputy premier will be confirmed in just hours. It comes as Liberals debate whether frontrunner Dominic Perrottet would be the “most conservative premier the state has had since World War II”. Planning Minister Rob Stokes insists he will run against Mr Perrottet despite the Treasurer expected to win easily. Outgoing premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation on Friday, while Deputy Premier John Barilaro revealed he was also retiring from politics yesterday. This means whoever succeeds at the 10am party room meeting will have to contend with two byelections as well as NSW’s path out of lockdown. Yesterday, the state recorded 623 new cases of COVID-19 and six deaths. That’s the lowest tally of daily cases since August 17.
  • Victorian year 12 students are back in school for the first time in two months. The VCE’s General Achievement Test will be held today (the test is used to help indicate a student’s performance in end-of-year exams). However, 33 students will not sit the test after testing positive to coronavirus. The state’s construction industry is also back this morning, with COVID marshalls in place and every worker needing to have at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. It comes as Victoria plans to scale back its contract tracing system off the back of higher vaccination rates. Yesterday, Victoria recorded 1377 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.
  • Australia has placed an order for hundreds of thousands of experimental COVID-19 pills. Data from clinical trials suggests the pills, which unlike vaccines do not need to be refrigerated, halve the risk of hospitalisation or death. However, Australia’s drug regulator is not expected to approve the pills until early next year. Health Minister Greg Hunt says vaccines remain the most important and safest way for Australians to protect themselves against COVID-19. It’s likely the pills, if approved, will be used as an additional layer of protection for people in high-risk locations.
  • The ACT recorded 28 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and three deaths (there were an additional two deaths recorded after the reportig period, so those will appear in today’s numbers). Queensland recorded one new local case – a vaccinated woman – but her close contacts have so far tested negative and the state hasn’t been sent into lockdown. South Australian authorities have announced density limits and caps on home gatherings in the Mount Gambier, Wattle Range and Grant local government areas after a woman who lived on the SA-Victorian border returned a positive coronavirus test. And it’s been revealed a teenager who tested positive to COVID-19 while in quarantine in Tasmania visited a Launceston supermarket.
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