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The Loop: True size of Australia’s Omicron wave, State of Origin (for budgets), and world’s biggest fish found

Hi there, it’s Tuesday, June 21. Here’s what you need to get going today.

Australia’s first COVID-19 omicron wave was probably double what was actually recorded. Here’s the lowdown:

  • A study looked for COVID-19 antibodies in 5,185 samples taken from blood donors between late February and early March this year
  • They estimated that, by the end of February 2022, at least 17 per cent of Australian adults — that’s around 3.4 million people — had been infected, and that the vast majority occurred during the Omicron wave (and that’s about double the official stats)
  • is it still happening? Possibly, but researchers expect to have a better sense of this in the coming weeks when a second round of blood specimens comes in
  • Last December, Australia went from recording fewer than 1,500 cases per day to more than 100,000in the space of one month — here’s how that looked:

One thing you’ll be hearing about today: It’s State of Origin (for budgets)

Any tackles will be purely financial as both queensland and New South Wales throw down their budgets. Here’s what we know so far:

  • First up, the series leaders — I mean queensland: It’s Treasurer Cameron Dick’s third budget, and we already know there’s $3.5 billion for rail projects over the next four years, and $750 million for a stand-alone cancer hospital in Brisbane
  • But he’s remaining tight-lipped about any expected hikes to the coal royalty rate
  • During December’s mid-year budget update, net debt was forecast to reach $35 billion by 2024-25
  • And the Blues (aka New South Wales) budget is reportedly set to return to surplus in three years — a government source has told the ABC that’s expected in the 2024-25 financial year
  • treasurer Matt Kean’s first budget also makes NSW the first australian state to offer first home buyers the choice to pay up front stamp duty or opt into an annual property tax
  • And there’s $12 billion to tackle female inequality (in areas such as childcare, preschool, and public and workplace safety), a public sector pay rise, and an extra $4.5 billion dollars on healthcare.

News while you snoozed

Let’s get you up to speed.

  • Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will dissolve its parliament — triggering the country’s fifth election cycle in less than four years. Mr Bennett has struggled to keep his unruly coalition of eight parties together, since it took office a year ago
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s move will bring on the fifth election in three years.(Reuters: Jack Guez/Pool)
  • The Australian Patients Association has warned long delays for mental health care are putting lives at risk. Their survey found 59 per cent of people seeking mental health support have been waiting more than three months for care. The Association’s CEO Dr Stephen Mason says more needs to be done:

The news Australia is searching for

  • Fatima Payman: She’s claimed WA’s sixth Senate seat and will make history as the first Muslim woman who wears a hijab to sit in Australia’s Parliament
Senator Payman wears a hijab and smiles at the camera
Senator Fatima Payman described Australia as the “land of opportunities” after claiming the sixth WA Senate seat. (ABC News: James Carmody)
  • Shortest day of the year: Yep that’s happening today — Hobart will get just nine hours of sun today. Curious about how people make the most of it? We’ve done this up for you (and yes, it includes some very happy capybaras).
A capybara sits in a hot bath surrounded by yuzu fruits.
Capybaras also love yuzu baths (apparently).(Supplied: Izu Shaboten Zoo)

One more thing: A *really* big fish

This catch stunned researchers — and probably the fisherman who reeled it in.

A giant stingray on a tarp as a man puts his hand in the water
He’s a big one — this is the 300kg stingray.(AP: Wonders of the Mekong/Chhut Chheana)

It’s the world’s largest recorded freshwater fishto giant stingray caught in Cambodia’s Mekong River.

The stats? It’s just under 300kg and 4 meters long (the previous record was a 293kg giant catfish).

Scientists working on a research program there caught a post-midnight call — and were amazed with what they saw.

Here’s Wonders of the Mekong leader Zeb Hogan:

“The fact that the fish can still get this big is a hopeful sign for the Mekong River.”

That’s it for now

We’ll be back later on with more.


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