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Morning mail: Sydney lockdown extended, Simone Biles pulls out, salmon nearly roasted alive

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Good morning. Sydney’s Delta variant outbreak means the city’s lockdown has been extended for another month, while criticism of Australia’s vaccine rollout continues. But there’s some hope that younger Australians will drive up vaccination numbers. The champion gymnast Simone Biles prioritises her mental health over Olympic glory. And pressure is rising on the Morrison government’s climate targets as salmon are roasted alive in international heatwaves.

Sydney’s lockdown will be extended for four more weeks but residents in Victoria and South Australia will enjoy more freedom as restrictions ease in both states today. The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce the extension this morning after the state reported a record 172 local cases of Covid on Tuesday. Rapid antigen tests are being considered for some NSW workplaces and year 12 students to allow them to return to the classroom. Berejiklian said vaccinations would be vital if the state was to contain the outbreak: “Vaccination is the key to our freedom,” she said yesterday. “Getting jabs in arms is a key part of our strategy. I want August to be the month where everyone comes forward to get the jab.” But it might not be that easy.

Vaccine access is still the number one barrier for aged care staff seeking inoculations. Major aged care providers have warned that vaccination rates for their home care staff remain as low as 5%, just days after the government conceded it still has no specific plan for vaccinating the workforce. The ongoing supply struggles persist, despite the government’s vaccine advisory group urging the Australian health department to order as many Covid-19 vaccines as possible from different sources last year. The health department secretary, Prof Brendan Murphy, said the government’s procurement strategy was based on advice from the Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group – a group he chairs – as he sought to deflect criticism of the rollout.

The US gymnast Simone Biles last night walked away from the women’s team competition citing mental health concerns. The biggest star at the Tokyo Olympics and the greatest athlete in the sport’s history did not rule out a return to competition in Thursday’s all-round final. When asked what her goal for the Olympics was now, Biles replied: “To focus on my wellbeing. There is more to life than just gymnastics … We’re going to see about Thursday, we’ll take it a day at a time.” Biles said she hoped that speaking out would have an even more seismic effect than winning multiple gold medals.

Australia

European, UK and US diplomats have met three times in Canberra to discuss how to encourage Australia to set stronger targets on climate action. Possible options including outreach to business associations and farming groups were discussed.

The AFP commissioner, Reece Kershaw, will use a speech today to declare decriminalising drug use “will not stop organised crime” and will instead “likely embolden them, make them richer and enable them to buy more guns and pay for more murders”.

The president of a local community group in Angus Taylor’s electorate has expressed disappointment that the minister has brushed off questions related to his portfolio after saying he was “always” happy to engage with constituents on policy.

The Victorian government is considering a plea from builders to include home renovations in financial support packages the next time the state locks down as the national construction industry reels from Covid-19 restrictions.

The world

Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the US Capitol police, Michael Fanone of the Metropolitan police, Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan police and Harry Dunn of the US Capitol police are sworn in to give testimony
Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the US Capitol police, Michael Fanone of the Metropolitan police, Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan police and Harry Dunn of the US Capitol police are sworn in to give testimony. Photograph: Getty Images

Law enforcement officers have described fearing for their lives during the January attack on the US Capitol during the first hearing of the House investigation into the deadly assault. Officers described being crushed by violent pro-Trump rioters, threatened with their own service weapons and being target by racist abuse.

Salmon in the Columbia River were nearly roasted to death when water temperatures rose during the Pacific north-west’s record-shattering heatwave. Red lesions and white fungus on the salmons’ bodies were the result of high water temperatures and stress.

At least 57 people have died after a migrant boat capsized off the Libyan coast, taking the death toll in the central Mediterranean in 2021 to almost 1,000.

Recommended reads

A vial of vaccine
‘My nephews’ proactive enthusiasm to get the jab seemed, for the first time in weeks, to suggest a way out of this mess for all of us.’ Photograph: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

When Kate Hennessy heard that her 18-year-old nephews had received their first AstraZeneca jab, it was like sunshine slicing through the clouds. “Combined with Atagi’s changed advice, as well as the great piles of AZ that are readily available in Australia, their proactive enthusiasm to get the jab seemed, for the first time in weeks, to suggest a way out of this mess for all of us. If these two fairly typical teenagers had got it, maybe more would follow.”

How can you feel less guilty about not wanting to play with your kids? “As much as I love my kids, I’m over playing with them … We are sold an image of motherhood – of a woman who is on the ground with her children, laughing, engaging and having fun,” Saman Shad writes. “I’m sure there are women who do enjoy the mess of creating a mud kitchen or filling a tray full of foam and hiding dinosaurs in it. Perhaps I was once one of them. But now I’m someone who has to fulfil a whole host of other needs.”

In a new column, Internet wormhole, Guardian Australia writers take you to their favourite corner of the web. Today Walter Marsh shows us an inviting – and voyeuristic – YouTube series that takes viewers behind the doors of celebrity homes. “Architectural Digest’s Open Door series and a smattering of similar channels all seek to imbue the concept’s car crash voyeurism with the lofty pretence of caring about design. But of course, much of the appeal lies in gawking.”

Listen

As NSW struggles to contain Australia’s largest outbreak of the Delta variant, Guardian Australia’s medical editor, Melissa Davey, discusses what more can be done to bring down case numbers, and why other states and territories should pay attention to what’s happening there.

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

Round two of the Katie Ledecky v Ariarne Titmus duel in the pool will be a great test of the 20-year-old Australian and her evolution since 2017. If Titmus prevails again she will have a strong claim to taking Ledecky’s crown.

After winning the first Olympic medal awarded in the history of surfing, Australia’s Owen Wright said he felt like he was “walking on a cloud”.

Media roundup

A teacher at the King’s school in Parramatta has been suspended from duties and reported to the police for attending an anti-lockdown protest and posting about it on social media, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Australia’s Antarctic stations will have alcohol consumption halved and home brewing banned in a new drug and alcohol policy to improve health and safety and make life safer for women, according to the Australian.

Coming up

The House of Representatives committee inquiring into mental health and suicide prevention will hold a public hearing via videoconference.

And if you’ve read this far …

An €18,000 bounty has been offered for information about who harpooned a celebrated monk seal in Greece.

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