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Cleo Smith: Missing 4-year-old found alive in Australia

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bbc– A four-year-old girl missing for 18 days in a remote part of Western Australia has been found alive and well in a locked house, police have said.

Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent at a campsite near the town of Carnarvon on 16 October, triggering a massive search.

A 36-year-old man is in custody and being questioned by detectives.

Police smashed their way into a home in Carnarvon in the early hours of Wednesday, following forensic clues.

“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch from WA Police said in a statement.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said ‘My name is Cleo’.”

The girl has been reunited with her parents, who had made desperate pleas for Cleo’s return.

“Our family is whole again,” her mother, Ellie Smith, wrote on Instagram.

Police footage of Cleo’s rescue showed her “smiling” and “as well as we could expect in the circumstances”, said Commissioner Chris Dawson, who added she was receiving medical care.

Authorities say the man in custody has no connection to the Smith family. No charges have been laid.

The house where Cleo was found is about six minutes’ drive from her family home in Carnarvon, which has about 5,000 residents.

Australian PM Scott Morrison tweeted it was “wonderful, relieving news”. Commissioner Dawson said: “I think Australia is rejoicing.”

“To find a little girl – a vulnerable little girl – after 18 days. You know, obviously people think the worst, but importantly hope was never lost,” the commissioner added.

What is known so far?

Cleo’s family were on the first night of their holiday at the Quobba Blowholes camping ground when she went missing between 01:30 and 06:00 on 16 October.

The remote site in Macleod is about 900km (560 miles) north of Perth, and is a local attraction on the state’s Coral Coast – known for its windswept ocean scenery, sea caves and lagoons.

Cleo had been sleeping on an air mattress next to her younger sister’s cot. When her mother, who had been sleeping in the second room of the tent, got up in the morning, Cleo was gone and the tent door was open.

Police said this raised fears of an abduction. Ms Smith was adamant Cleo could not have left the tent on her own.

A taskforce of 100 officers were sent in from the state capital, Perth, to join a massive air, land and sea search. Reconnaissance planes were used to comb sparsely populated areas.

Authorities offered a A$1m ($750,000; £540,000) reward for information on Cleo’s whereabouts.

The case drew international attention, and there were reports that bounty hunters had travelled to the region once the cash reward had been offered.

Deputy Commissioner Blanch said they scoured thousands of pieces of information looking for a “needle in a haystack”.

“Late last night they found that needle that led them to that address and rescued Cleo,” he told Network Seven.

Police said it involved information about a car, but would not elaborate.

ABC News reported a man who lived at the house had been recently spotted by a neighbour buying nappies.

“We didn’t click who… he was buying them for,” the neighbour was quoted as saying.

News that Cleo has been found sparked a sense of huge relief in the local community.

“For 18 days we’ve been filled with anxiety and concern,” Carnarvon Shire president Eddie Smith told Australia’s 2GB radio.

Deputy Commissioner Blanch told 6PR radio that it had been “incredible to see seasoned detectives openly crying with relief”.

Police said they did not expect the reward to be claimed.

Australia

Novak Djokovic: Judge orders immediate release of tennis star

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The judge hearing Novak Djokovic’s challenge to an order by the Australian government revoking his entry visa has dramatically overturned the decision.

Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the release of the tennis star from detention.

However, there has been no sign of the Serbian player since the verdict. And Immigration Minister Alex Hawke can still cancel his visa on new grounds.

The 34-year-old flew into Melbourne last week, hoping to defend his Australian Open title.

The government acknowledged in court that Djokovic was not given enough time to respond following the notification to cancel his visa.

The player was told he would have until 08:30 local time last Thursday to make comments about the visa cancellation under section 116 of the Australian Migration Act, but the Border Force made the final decision shortly after 07:40.

The Judge said Djokovic could have had more time to make a submission about why his visa should not be withdrawn if authorities had stuck to the original time.

“We all play by the same rules,” Judge Kelly said. “Stated in other terms: those rules were not observed.”

The trial began on Monday morning after delays caused by technical issues with a live stream of proceedings.

Lawyers for Djokovic argued that the 20-time Grand Slam winner entered the country on the understanding that his exemption from restrictions requiring travellers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 was valid.

Nick Wood told the court that the exemption had been granted to the player by two separate medical boards following a recent coronavirus infection and that he had presented all the necessary medical evidence to officials.

“He had done absolutely everything. He had engaged with everything that was required of him by Tennis Australia,” Mr Wood said.

Judge Kelly appeared to agree with Mr Wood’s argument and told government lawyers that he felt “agitated” by what he had heard so far.

“What more could this man have done?” he asked.

Where is Djokovic?

It is not clear. The judge’s order specified that the tennis star should be released from immigration detention within 30 minutes of the ruling.

Djokovic’s family and Serbian officials have said their hero has been arrested, but there is no evidence of that having happened.

Djokovic’s lawyers have also argued that his treatment by Australian Border Force officers after his arrival was “manifestly unjust”.

After being approached by officials at the airport, he asked to wait until the morning to hear from his team before deciding whether to leave the country. This was initially agreed to by officials.

He then went to sleep, but was woken up around 06:00 by officers who allegedly pressured him to respond “because it was better for him if they made the decision right away”.

Government lawyer Christopher Tran argued that Djokovic’s recent Covid infection did not qualify him for an exemption from travel rules, and denied there was any unfairness or unreasonableness in the decision.

Though Djokovic has not spoken publicly about his vaccination status, in his interview with border officials he confirms he is not vaccinated.

He told the interviewer that he tested positive for Covid twice – in June 2020 and on 16 December 2021. Copies of his positive PCR tests were provided to the interviewer – one was issued on the 16 December 2021, a day before Djokovic appeared at public events without a mask.

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NSW COVID-19 hospitalisations pass 1,000 as cases continue to balloon across Australia

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sbs– New South Wales has recorded another 18,278 COVID-19 cases and two deaths as the state’s outbreak continues to surge.

Sunday’s case numbers are slightly lower than Saturday’s 22,577.

The state recorded two deaths from the virus, while 1,066 people are hospitalised, up from 901 on Saturday. There are 83 in intensive care.

At the peak of the Delta outbreak, on 21 September, there were 1,266 people hospitalised with infections, and 244 in intensive care.

Testing numbers to 8pm on the first day of 2022 were down to 90,019, a drop from 119,278 on New Year’s Eve.

The high case numbers come as Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to focus on hospitalisation and intensive care numbers rather than the daily case total.

Despite comprising about six per cent of the population, unvaccinated people make up the majority of those in intensive care, Health Minister Brad Hazzard says.

To ensure hospital systems can cope, asymptomatic health workers who are in isolation due to being a close contact of a positive case will be permitted to leave isolation in “exceptional circumstances”, NSW Health announced on Friday night.

Victoria posts 7,172 cases, extreme heat closes testing sites

The first day of 2022 hasn’t been kind to 7,172 Victorians, the state’s latest residents to contract COVID-19.

A further three virus-related deaths have also been recorded for 1 January.

However the number of Victorian coronavirus patients in hospital care remains relatively stable at 472, up 19 on Saturday’s figure and 48 beyond the seven-day average.

Of them, 52 are classified as active ICU cases and 22 are in need of ventilation.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s daily update said on Sunday community sampling had revealed 76 per cent of all samples collected over the Christmas period were the Omicron variant. Further testing to confirm this is being undertaken over the next week.

In total, Victoria is managing 31,461 active COVID-19 cases.

Health authorities says virus testers managed to process 48,252 results in the 24 hours to Saturday evening.

The state is 93 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone aged 12 and over.

Some 7,442 infections were reported on Saturday, another pandemic record. There were 51 actively infectious patients in intensive care and 21 ventilated.

Extreme heat caused the closure of eight of the state’s testing sites on Saturday.

Queensland records 3,587 new cases

Queensland has added 3,587 infections to its COVID-19 caseload as a new indoor mask mandate comes into effect across the state.

Some 16,688 Queenslanders now have the virus. However, hospital numbers remain low with 112 patients in care, five of them in ICUs and none requiring ventilation.

Health authorities say testers processed almost 34,000 results in the 24 hours to 7pm on Saturday.

Queensland is 86.60 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone 16 and over.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says despite a jump of more than 1,300 cases in a day, he’s not surprised. In part, the increase is related to a change in reporting protocols which saw case figures taken from a 12-hour window on Friday.

“This number is probably a bit smaller than we had expected,” he said in Brisbane on Sunday of the latest figures.

“It probably (also) relates to testing over the holiday period and so it will not be a surprise at all that in the next couple of days we see a significant increase in cases as more samples are tested and more people come forward.”

Dr Gerrard said what experts were now seeing with the virus was that it was “a vastly different disease” to that which was spreading in the community last year and prior to vaccination.

“With a degree of contagiousness of this virus, we are going to be seeing very large numbers of cases, even though the severity is clearly going to be less,” he said.

“We are going to see very large numbers of cases and a small proportion of a very large number (who fall ill) is still a large number.”

Masks were declared compulsory in “virtually all indoor spaces” in Queensland from 1am on Sunday.

Previously masks were only required indoors at supermarkets, shops, on public transport and ride share as well as airports and planes, cinemas and theatres in Queensland.

They now need to be worn at workplaces unless unsafe to do so, pubs, clubs and cafes unless when seated, indoor stadiums and sport arenas, libraries, hair dressers and nail salons, and medical centre waiting areas.

Queenslanders were also urged to return to work-from-home arrangements where possible.

SA hospitalisations ‘very much within capacity’

South Australia, meanwhile, recorded 2,298 COVID-19 cases on New Years Day from 21,140 tests.

The newest caseload is up from 2,108, while hospitalisations have also risen by 11.

There are currently 82 people in hospital, Premier Steven Marshall said on Sunday, a number which he said was “still very much within our current capacity”.

Seven people are in ICU.

“We see a lot of admissions but also a lot of people are leaving hospital on a daily basis after their conditions have stabilised,” Mr Marshall told reporters on Sunday.

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Double demerits: Police crackdown on speeding, mobile phones, seatbelt and helmet offences over Christmas period

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skynews– The countdown to Christmas is on – and motorists driving over the holiday season are at risk of copping further punishments if they break road rules.

Police, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command will be patrolling roads for all driving offences, with double demerits applied in NSW, ACT, WA and QLD.

For example, drivers in NSW and the ACT caught using their phones will be hit with a $349 fine ($464 in a school zone) and 10 demerit points.

Police will also be cracking down on the Four Ds – drink, drug, dangerous and distracted driving – to reduce injuries and fatalities on roads.

NSW and ACT

Double demerit points will be applied from December 24 to January 4 for speeding, mobile phone, seatbelt and motorcycle helmet offences.

Police Minister Paul Toole acknowledges it is a busy time of the year but urges motorists to plan ahead and be patient.

“For many, it will be the first time they’ve hit the road since COVID restrictions eased, so please plan ahead, take your time and be patient,” he said.

“No one wants to get a fine or worse still, lose their licence at Christmas, but we make no apologies for taking a tough stance so everyone can be reunited with their loved ones safely.”

Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Glinn, is calling on the public to report any dangerous driving incidents to Crime Stoppers.

“Keeping the public safe is our top priority – and we’re asking for you to help us protect yourselves, loved ones and the community on NSW roads,” he said.

“If you see or know anyone who is drink, drug, dangerous or distracted driving, please report it to Crime Stoppers and we will investigate.

“Our message to motorists breaking the law is clear: someone is watching you now and you will get caught.”

Western Australia

Double demerit points will be applied in WA from December 24 to January 9.

During holiday periods and long weekends, the following offences are subject to Double Demerits:

  • Speeding
  • Drink or drug driving
  • Failing to wear a seatbelt and child restraint
  • Running a red light
  • Illegal use of a mobile phone while driving
  • Drive a motor vehicle fitted with a device designed to evade detection by a speed camera (14 points during double demerits period)
  • Drive a motor vehicle in a manner to evade detection by a speed camera (14 points during double demerits period)

Queensland

Sunshine State residents are subject to double demerits over repeated offences, no matter what time of year it is.

Double demerit points are applied for certain second or subsequent offences committed within one year of the previous offence.

This includes:

  • offences for speeding more than 20km/h over the speed limit
  • mobile phone offences
  • driver seatbelt offences
  • motorcycle helmet offences.

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