Covid: Australia woman charged after setting fire

A 31-year-old woman in Australia has been charged with arson after a fire destroyed part of a Covid-19 quarantine hotel in Cairns, Queensland.

It is alleged she lit a fire under a bed in the room she had been sharing with two children on Sunday morning.

More than 160 people were evacuated as fire took hold in the 11-storey Pacific Hotel. No-one was injured.

It came as Australia confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus variant which is prompting new restrictions.

Omicron was first reported by South Africa, and has been classified as “of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) with early evidence suggesting a higher re-infection risk.

The government in Canberra has announced a suspension of flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique. Non-Australians who have been in those countries in the past two weeks are now banned from entering Australia.

Australians have spent 20 months under some of the world’s strictest border rules, in an effort to keep out Covid.

It is not clear whether the new variant will mean a roll-back of some relaxations that began early this month.

  • The lives upended by Australia’s sealed border
  • The Australians who are trapped in the UK

A surge in vaccinations has allowed some Australian states to end their strategy of eliminating all cases.

But unvaccinated travellers are obliged to quarantine for 14 days in hotels in the country

Ms Douglas died before she could formally recant her testimony against Mr Strickland, but her mother, sister and daughter have all testified in court that she picked “the wrong guy”.

Prosecutors in Jackson County began reviewing Mr Strickland’s conviction last November and – under a new Missouri law – filed a motion calling for his immediate exoneration and release.

His first trial in 1979 ended with a hung jury, after one black juror on a 12-member panel held out for his acquittal.

At his second trial, an all-white jury found Mr Strickland guilty of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

Years later, Ms Douglas would recant her lone eyewitness testimony, writing to the Midwest Innocence Project that “things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can”.