Morning mail: businesses buy up rapid tests, Tonga tsunami damage, Djokovic faces French Open bar

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Tuesday: Big orders from state and federal governments and large corporates for rapid tests are contributing to a shortage. Plus: how to care for Covid face masks

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Good morning. Still searching for rapid antigen tests? Orders from big business and governments means less are ending up on the shelves. The extent of the damage in Tonga is becoming clearer. And some tips on how to keep your mask effective.

The shortage of rapid antigen tests for consumers is being exacerbated by state and federal governments and large corporates placing mammoth orders for the self-administered test kits, causing stock to be diverted from online retailers and pharmacies. Australia is currently in the midst of a huge Omicron wave after state and federal governments pivoted from a policy of Covid suppression to one of “living with the virus”, causing a surge in demand for rapid antigen testing kits. The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, denied on Monday the commonwealth was requisitioning supplies of rapid antigen tests, as it can do under the Health Act allows.

Hit by staff shortages and tens of thousands of new Covid cases daily, GPs in Australia remain under-resourced despite “enormous pressure”. A general practitioner in Victoria responsible for triaging Covid-positive patients and referring them to appropriate health services has said Australia “must now have one of the worst Covid responses in the world”, as clinics are overwhelmed. The doctor, who cannot be named due to fear of repercussions from his employer, said: “Australia has utterly squandered any gains we made during the pandemic … We are now seeing the sort of mess and chaos here that we saw in the UK at the start of Covid.”

A body believed to be that of a British woman missing following the tsunami in Tonga, has been found, according to her family. Angela Glover, 50, died after an undersea volcano erupted near the Pacific nation on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore. Her brother, Nick Eleini, said Glover, who ran an animal shelter, had died trying to save her dogs. Australia’s minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, says initial reports suggest no mass casualties in Tonga following the disaster, but Australian police have visited beaches with significant damage and “houses thrown around”. Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage after Tonga was isolated from the rest of the world when Saturday’s eruption blanketed the Pacific Island with ash.


This undated, file photo released by Chongyi Feng shows Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang.(Chongyi Feng via AP, File)
Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang. Photograph: AP

The health of Australian writer and democracy activist Dr Yang Hengjun is failing as he approaches three years imprisoned in China, say friends who fear he may not survive his incarceration. Wednesday marks three years since Yang’s arrest at Guangzhou airport on allegations of espionage on behalf of an unnamed foreign country. He maintains his innocence.

A man who was forced to hand over his phone and passcode to Australian Border Force after returning to Melbourne from holiday has labelled the tactic “an absolute gross violation of privacy”, as tech advocates call for transparency and stronger privacy protections for people’s devices as they enter the country.

Sky News sought to justify misleading Covid commentary that then-host Alan Jones was putting to air, saying it was balanced by coverage of the daily Covid press conferences, in a letter sent to the broadcasting regulator obtained by Guardian Australia.

The federal government has been accused of making a “disgraceful” attempt to cast secrecy over a case relating to Australia’s negotiations with Timor-Leste in the years prior to the controversial bugging operation revealed by Witness K and Bernard Collaery.

The world

Novak Djokovic may not be able to travel to Roland Garros to compete in the 2022 French Open if he is not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Novak Djokovic may not be able to travel to Roland Garros to compete in the 2022 French Open if he is not vaccinated against Covid-19. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic may not be allowed to defend his French Open title in May after the French government ruled that all athletes will have to be vaccinated in order to attend and compete in sporting events in France.

Russia has begun moving troops to Ukraine’s northern neighbour Belarus for joint military exercises, in a move likely to increase fears in the west that Moscow is preparing for an invasion.

The hostage-taking attack on a Texas synagogue has renewed fears of increasing antisemitism in the United States. The incident, which Joe Biden called “an act of terror”, comes as organisations tracking antisemitic violence say it is increasing across the US.

China’s coal production reached record levels last year as the state encouraged miners to ramp up their fossil fuel output to safeguard the country’s energy supplies through the winter gas crisis.

A French court has found the far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour guilty of racist hate speech for a tirade against unaccompanied child migrants. Zemmour drew widespread outrage in September 2020 when he told the CNews channel that child migrants were “thieves, killers, they’re rapists. That’s all they are. We should send them back.”

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Media roundup

Former Tennis Australia president Steve Healy has told the Age, the organisation must consider the current president Jayne Hrdlicka and the board’s future in the wake of the Novak Djokovic saga. Australia’s big offshore oil and gas players face a massive spend to clean up their act, according to WA today, after a federal government clampdown. And the first electric fast charger has been installed on the remote Nullarbor, the ABC reports.

Coming up

The search for nine-year-old girl Charlise Mutten enters its fifth day.

And if you’ve read this far …

Face masks are now a fact of life. But even disposable masks require a few simple care steps to stay effective. Here’s how to care for masks between wears.

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