A glimpse of where the pandemic might be headed

Dr Sikhulile Moyo was analysing COVID-19 samples in his lab in Botswana last week when he noticed they looked startlingly different from others. Within days, the world was ablaze with the news that the coronavirus had a new variant of concern, which appears to be driving a dramatic surge in South Africa, providing a glimpse of where the pandemic might be headed.
New cases in South Africa have burgeoned from about 200 a day in mid-November to more than 11,500 on Thursday. In the week since Omicron was discovered to be present in the country's most populous province, Gauteng, infections have surged 300 per cent, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Friday.
The variant has also now spread to all of the other eight provinces, he added. Even with the rapid increase, infections are still below the 25,000 daily new cases that South Africa reported in the previous surge in June and July.
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Little is known about the new ..

One in 100 infected with coronavirus, German health minister says

Germany's health minister said Friday that more than one per cent of the population — almost a million people — are currently infected with the coronavirus, and called on citizens to get vaccinated if they haven't done so yet.
The country confirmed 74,352 new daily COVID-19 cases and 390 additional deaths, figures published by the federal disease control agency showed. According to the Robert Koch Institute's calculations, some 925,800 people in Germany are considered actively infected with the virus.
Health Minister Jens Spahn noted that the number of unvaccinated residents who are infected and seriously ill is much higher than their share of the overall population.
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“If all German adults were vaccinated, we wouldn't be in this difficult situation,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Spahn spoke a day after federal and state leaders announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people, prevent..

Man charged with alleged road rage incident

Footage has been released of a man armed with a hammer smashing the windscreen of an Armaguard van in a road rage attack at a Melbourne shopping centre.
Police swarmed Newmarket Plaza in Flemington following the incident at about 1.05pm on Friday.
Investigators believe a white cash logistics vehicle was driving along Racecourse Road and went to turn into the shopping centre car park when a red hatchback nearly collided with the van.
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Police said a hammer-wielding man then approached the van and remonstrated with the driver, before smashing his side window and front windscreen with the weapon.
The cash logistics driver was forced to draw his gun, while the man returned to the boot of his red hatchback and then fled the scene.
Police said the legally-issued gun was not fired.
Shoppers and onlookers watched on in horror, but the driver and the passenger inside the van were not physically injured in the attack.

What you need to know about tensions rising on Ukraine’s border with Russia

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are at their highest in years, with reports of a Russian troop build-up near Russia's borders with Ukraine fuelling fears over Moscow's intentions.
Ukraine warns Russia is trying to destabilise the country ahead of any planned military invasion. Western powers have repeatedly warned Russia in recent weeks against further aggressive moves against Ukraine.
The Kremlin denies it is planning to attack and argues that NATO support for Ukraine —including increased weapons supplies and military training — constitutes a growing threat on Russia's western flank.
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The picture is complicated — but here's a breakdown of what we know.
What's the current situation on the border?The United States and NATO have in recent weeks described the movements and concentrations of troops in and around Ukraine as “unusual.”
Last month, satellite photos revealed Russian hardware — inclu..

WHO says measures used against Delta should work for Omicron

Measures used to counter the Delta variant should remain the foundation for fighting the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of the new Omicron version of the virus, World Health Organisation officials said Friday, while acknowledging that the travel restrictions imposed by some countries may buy time.
While about three dozen countries worldwide have reported Omicron infections, including India on Thursday, the numbers so far are small outside of South Africa, which is facing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and where the new variant may be becoming dominant.
Still, much remains unclear about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, or whether it can evade vaccine protection.
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“Border control can delay the virus coming in and buy time. But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Dr. Takeshi ..

Ukraine says Russia amassed over 94,000 troops at border

Ukraine's defence minister estimates that Russia has amassed more than 94,000 troops near their borders and said there is a probability of a “large-scale escalation” in late January.
Ukrainian and Western officials recently voiced alarm about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, saying they feared it could herald an invasion. Moscow has denied planning to invade and accused Ukraine and its Western backers of fabricating claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told lawmakers Friday that the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated to be 94,300.
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“Our intelligence service analyses all scenarios, including the worst ones. It notes that a probability of a large-scale escalation on the part of Russia exists. The most probable time when (Russia) will be ready for the escalation is end of January,” Reznikov said…

WWII sailor’s cap discovered under train station after 70 years

A WWII sailor's hat has been discovered beneath a Brisbane train station's ticket office, and returned to the sailor's family after 70 years.
Shornecliffe Station is over 100 years, old, with Queensland Rail bringing in archaeologists to analyse the site during extensive renovations.
The sailor's hat, confirmed to have belonged to a WWII navy sailor, was among the finds.
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A historian then assisted Queensland Rail in finding the cap's owner, who was later confirmed to be Ernest Hodgess, who has since passed away.
The sailor's hat was then returned to Mr Hodgess' family, who were brought to tears at the return of the heirloom.
Jamie Hodgess, Ernest's son, is a retired sailor, the second in three generations to serve in the Australian Defence Force.
“It's amazing because inside my cap is 'Hodgess JM',” Jamie said.
“To see his name, 'Hodgess EJ', insid..

Electricity boxes explode on Queensland suburban streets

An electricity box has exploded on a suburban street in Queensland, sparking concern for residents.
Video footage shows the electric box going up in flames, shooting blue sparks while the sound of fireworks blared on the Gold Coast.
Pacific Pines residents awoke to find the blaze in their front yards around 4am, when the Energex pillar box exploded.
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Firefighters put it out with a dry chemical extinguisher before Energex arrived.
The same thing happened a few weeks ago just metres from a Sunshine Coast home.
A neighbour passing by alerted the family — a mother with her two daughters — just metres away.
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“One of the neighbours was running into the houses through the gates to help them be aware of it because there was a lot of black smoke billowing out,” a neighbour said.
“They were quite worried and quite relieved when fire and Energex turned up and resolved the..

William Tyrrell’s foster parents leave Sydney as search for remains enters day 19

William Tyrrell's foster parents have left Sydney for the Mid North Coast, as police spent a 19th straight day searching for the missing boy's remains.
The couple has spent this week in the quiet town of Crescent Head, spotted out and about strolling along the coastline.
Their trip north comes a fortnight after the foster mother was identified as the lone person of interest in the toddler's 2014 disappearance.
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No charges have been laid as police investigate a new theory William fell from the balcony of a Kendall home before his body was moved.
9News asked the woman about this line of inquiry, but she declined to answer any questions.
Just an hour south of Crescent Head at Kendall, dozens of officers have spent a 19th day searching bushland for the child's remains or any traces of the two-piece Spider-Man suit he's believed to have been wearing when he vanished.
Persistent rain has added complications to the operation. A f..

New technology hastens blood clot discoveries to prevent strokes

Stroke researchers are looking to deploy new technology to give them a detailed view of blood clots to help hasten discoveries.
The macroscope is a larger version of a microscope and will enable researchers to see how clots develop and break down in real-time.
“This is really exciting because we haven't been able to do this before,” Dr Jessica Maclean, from the Heart Research Institute, said.
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“We get to see how clots form, how they change over time and how treatments work,” she said.
Blood clots account for 85 per cent of all strokes, which affect 55,000 Australians each year.
Researchers are on the search for more effective treatments, as the standard clot-busting drug is safe for only 10 per cent of patients.
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“Finding something that can break down the whole clot can prevent it from re-forming and also not cause damage to the brain is really important,”..