Australia news LIVE: Southbank apartment COVID cluster grows in Melbourne; Ben Roberts-Smith trial continues

Australia news LIVE: Southbank apartment COVID cluster grows in Melbourne; Ben Roberts-Smith trial continues

June 15, 2021

For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.

Key posts

  • Today’s headlines at a glance
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US coronavirus death toll hits 600,000

There are two key pieces of coronavirus news out of the United States this morning.

The US coronavirus death toll has surpassed 600,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The number of lives lost is greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee. It is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.

People crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, as the state turns a page on the pandemic. Credit:AP

And a new study of blood specimens collected from 24,000 Americans found evidence that COVID-19 was likely present in the US as early as Christmas Eve 2019.

Read our latest coverage here.

Victorian government weighs lifting outdoor mask rule, regional travel ban

The travel ban between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne could be lifted this week along with the requirement to wear masks outdoors after senior state government ministers met on Tuesday evening to consider easing coronavirus restrictions.

Under the plan to be thrashed out with Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s team, eight senior cabinet ministers led by acting Premier James Merlino discussed moving Melbourne to the same settings as regional Victoria from 11.59pm on Thursday.

Three weeks into a “circuit breaker” lockdown, businesses are crying out for the regional travel ban to be lifted.Credit:Getty

Read the full story here.

Today’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage. It’s Wednesday, June 16. I’m Broede Carmody.

Here’s what you need to know before we jump into the latest headlines:

  • Australia and the UK have marked a new era in international relations after agreeing to a historic free trade deal. The age limit for Australians applying for working holiday visas will be increased to 35 and tariffs on Australian lamb are set to be phased out.
  • A Tamil asylum-seeker family has been reunited in Perth. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says the family of four, who have spent the last two years on Christmas Island, can stay on the Australian mainland while they await the outcome of their legal battle to remain in the country.
  • Hundreds of residents in a Melbourne townhouse complex are anxiously waiting the results of coronavirus tests to see if a COVID-19 outbreak at their inner-city building has spread. Two cases were detected yesterday. It comes as Melbourne prepares for restrictions to be further eased come Friday.
  • In Sydney, NSW health authorities are investigating the possible spread of COVID-19 in the state’s hotel quarantine system. Returned travellers staying in adjacent rooms have tested positive to the same Alpha coronavirus variant.
  • Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial continues today. Yesterday, the court was told the former special forces soldier hired a private investigator to follow a woman with whom he had been having a relationship to check whether she had an abortion because he suspected she was lying about being pregnant.
  • In Tasmania, popular winter festival Dark Mofo kicks-off in Hobart today. However, the festival’s future is uncertain after a string of controversies and Melburnians being barred from travelling to the island due to coronavirus restrictions.
  • And US President Joe Biden has touched down in Geneva ahead of high-stakes talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
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