The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Friday July 31.

Victoria records 627 cases, eight deaths on Friday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says eight more Victorians have died of COVID-19, with the state recording more than 620 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Two men in their 50s, two men in their 70s, three men in their 80s, and one woman in her 70s have died. Four of the eight deaths are linked to aged care.

It brings Victoria's death toll to 112, and total number of cases to 10,577. 

There are currently 349 cases in hospital and 37 in ICU.

Aged care facilities hold 928 active cases, and 1030 healthcare workers are active cases, Andrews said.

Andrews announced Australian Defence Force members will now door knock on every confirmed case. He said as many as a quarter of positive cases were not at home when door knocked on Thursday.

"Disappointingly I have to inform you that there were more than 130 unsuccessful visits, so around one in four people could not be found at home," he said.

More 100 cases have been referred to police, he said.

"It is simply unacceptable for you to have this virus and not be at home."

Andrews said it was clear the case numbers were still "far too high" given the state's three weeks of lockdown. He would not be announcing any new restrictions today, but data from the halfway point of Melbourne's six-week lockdown is being analysed and he could not rule out further restrictions in the coming days.


"We could not open up with these numbers, we could not open up with significantly less than these numbers," he said.

"That analysis will determine what the next steps we take are, and I thought it was appropriate to let Victorians know. 

"That data will let us know what we need to do to drive these numbers down further."

Meanwhile, NSW recorded 21 new infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.

Two of those cases are returned travellers in managed hotel quarantine.

Queensland have announced one new case, a person who dined at Matong Sein in Sunnybank on July 23.

Anyone who was there on that day and feels unwell should get tested.

Woolworths "strongly encourages" face coverings in stores.

Woolworths shoppers in New South Wales, the ACT and parts of Queensland are being "strongly encouraged" to wear face coverings while shopping.

From Monday, Woolworths' advice for staff and customers at all of its NSW and ACT stores is to wear a face covering. 

It doesn't just apply to Woolworths supermarkets, but also Dan Murphys, Big W, BWS and ALH Group hotels also.

"Just given where things are at [with the COVID-19 pandemic], we feel that we need to role model what is the right behaviour," Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said on ABC's AM program.

He confirmed masks will not be a mandatory requirement of entry, but customers without one will be asked to follow other measures, such as using hand sanitiser at the front of stores and observing 1.5 metre social distancing from other customers and staff.


While the advice refers to all of NSW and the ACT, at this stage it applies only to Queensland hotspots. In a statement, Woolworths said the Queensland supermarkets affected include:

  • Brookwater
  • Browns Plains
  • Browns Plains Westpoint  
  • Chatswood Hills 
  • Park Ridge
  • Springfield
  • Springwood
  • Sunnybank  

Restrictions tighten in regional Victoria.

Restrictions have tightened in parts of regional Victoria to contain the spread of coronavirus, as the state's death toll continues to rise.

A man aged in his 50s from the town of Portland in the state's west died on Thursday but his death was added to Friday's toll.

"We pass on our condolences to his family and friends," the Department of Health said in a statement.

Victoria recorded 723 new cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths on Thursday - both national records.

Ten of the deaths were linked to aged care facilities, with some 913 active cases and the bulk of deaths linked to the sector.

The Australian reported grim details of victims left in their beds for several hours after their deaths, with facilities struggling to control the spike in infections.

Senior doctors told the publication a number of deceased patients were left in their beds for about six hours at Epping Gardens nursing home - a claim backed up by another senior health source who has been providing assistance at the facility.


The Australian Defence Force has been called into the facility, which has been linked to 90 COVID-19 infections and six deaths, after the number of staff caring for residents plummeted to a ratio of one to 13.

More outbreaks have also emerged in regional Victoria where there are now 255 active cases, with 159 in six areas around Geelong.

From Friday, residents of Greater Geelong, Colac Otway, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains and the Borough of Queenscliffe are banned from having visitors in their homes to help contain the spread.


"We have low numbers in regional Victoria, and we want to jealously guard that," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to stay open in those areas, as will the rest of regional Victoria.

From Monday, masks or face coverings will also be mandatory right across the state.

Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, north of the city, are midway through a six-week lockdown, which could be extended.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the current measures were not creating the desired results.

"We have now been in this lockdown now for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for. And as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary," Morrison said on Thursday.

"They will have an impact on the economy - we understand that. But, equally, not containing these outbreaks will have that effect also. And so it’s important that we continue to work together to get on top of this and to take whatever actions are necessary."

Women to face Queensland court over Victoria trip.

Three women will face a Brisbane court for allegedly lying on their border declaration forms after a trip to Victoria amid a wave of new COVID-19 cases.

Police allege Diana Lasu, 21, and Olivia Muranga, 19, plus another 21-year-old, travelled interstate and deliberately misled authorities when crossing back into the Sunshine State.


The women are now in quarantine. Two of them have tested positive for the coronavirus, along with a sister of one of the women, marking the first case of community transmission in Queensland since May.

Queensland health authorities said the women had tested positive after returning from a trip to Melbourne on July 21, but had continued about their business within the community for eight days.

They have each been charged with fraud and providing false or misleading documents under the Public Health Act.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said in a press conference on Thursday, one of the women had not been co-operating in an initial decision that may have cost contact tracers hours of valuable time.

Police were forced to use mobile phone data and bank transactions to get a full picture of the group's movements, the Courier Mail reported. 

Police say all three women are now co-operating with them and Queensland Health officials, and are due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 28.

The ABC has reported police are investigating whether the women were coached by an organised crime syndicate.

A criminal investigation unrelated and not connected to their alleged travel to Victoria is also underway.


The state recorded an additional three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

One man in his 20s who recently returned from the United States is in hotel quarantine, while a couple who ate at The Apollo restaurant in Sydney's Potts Point - where there has been a small outbreak - have gone into isolation.

None are connected to the three young women.

Three more Sydney venues exposed to virus.

Three more venues have been added to the list of Sydney pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes attended by people with the coronavirus.

Harpoon and Hotel Harry in Surry Hills, Matinee Coffee in Marrickville and Tan Viet in Cabramatta have all been closed for cleaning as contact tracing continues.

A positive case, the same person who attended the Apollo Restaurant in Potts Point, went to the Surry Hills pub on July 26.

A person with the coronavirus went to the Marrickville cafe on July 26 and 27, while another was at the Cabramatta restaurant on July 23.


Anyone who visited the above venues is urged to self-isolate and get tested.

Fitness First in St Leonard's was closed on Thursday after a positive case attended the club on Monday, July 27, between 9am and 10.30am. 

The above positive case then visited Woolworths Crows Nest on Sydney's lower north shore between 10.30am and 11am.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced hygiene marshals will be required at NSW gyms from Saturday to ensure equipment is cleaned, hand sanitiser is available and social distancing is maintained. All gyms will also need to register a COVID-safe plan.


Meanwhile, an inmate at Parklead jail has tested positive. He went into custody on Sunday and had been isolated, as he had recently visited Victoria.

The uptick in Sydney cases has prompted Queensland to ban all Greater Sydney residents from entering the state from Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Australian Border Force has denied a report that one of its officers allowed cruise ship passengers to disembark in Sydney in the mistaken belief they had tested negative to COVID-19.

The ABC's 7.30 program on Thursday claimed a senior ABF officer allowed 2700 people off the Ruby Princess, thinking they were clear of the coronavirus when they had only tested negative to the common flu.


In a statement, the ABF said its responsibility does not include preventing the disembarkation of passengers or crew for health reasons.

"Any misinterpretation by ABF officers of test results did not make a difference as to whether passengers were cleared to disembark the Ruby Princess," the statement said.

"Human health is not the responsibility of the ABF."

The Ruby Princess, which docked at Sydney's Circular Quay on March 19, has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 coronavirus-related deaths across Australia.

Public hearings of an inquiry into the incident have concluded, with Commissioner Bret Walker SC to report back to the NSW government by mid-August.

Human rights review into Australian gymnastics abuse.

A human rights watchdog will investigate cases of mental and physical abuse in Australian gymnastics.

At least 20 former gymnasts, including Olympians and Commonwealth Games medal winners, have recently told of a toxic culture within the sport.

Gymnasts have used social media platforms to detail fat-shaming and other forms of physical and mental abuse during their careers.

The outpourings prompted Gymnastics Australia to ask the Australian Human Rights Commission to examine the sport's culture and practices.

"Over the last couple of weeks athletes have shared their personal experiences ... many of those experiences are, quite simply, not acceptable," Gymnastics Australia chief executive officer Kitty Chiller said on Thursday.


"They reinforce the need for more to be done to change the culture of gymnastics."

Chiller said the human rights commission would review all aspects of the sport.

"The commission's independence ensures the integrity of the review and the commitment made by everyone at Gymnastics Australia to genuinely listen and learn from our athletes and the gymnastics community," she said.

"It also provides confidence to those who have more to contribute or who have not yet spoken that their experiences will be heard by an independent team of professionals.

"The review will build an understanding of the culture of gymnastics in Australia and any barriers there may be in reporting behaviours that go against what we stand for - zero tolerance of any form of abuse."

The review, due to be completed by March next year, was welcomed by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

"Committing to an independent review of policies, practices and governance structures sends a strong signal to the gymnastics community and indeed the broader sporting community of their (Gymnastics Australia) commitment," AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said.

NASA launches Mars rover.


NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on a $US2.4 billion ($A3.4 billion) mission to search for traces of potential past life on the planet.

The next-generation robotic rover - a car-sized, six-wheeled vehicle carrying seven scientific instruments - is also scheduled to deploy a mini-helicopter on Mars and try out equipment for future human missions there.

Its arrival at Mars is planned for February 18 at the site of an ancient river delta.

This marked NASA's ninth journey to the Martian surface.


Scientists have long debated whether Mars - once a much more hospitable place than it is today - ever harboured life.

Water is considered a key ingredient for life, and Mars billions of years ago had lots of it on the surface before the planet became a harsh and desolate outpost.

This was the third launch from Earth to Mars this month, following probes sent by the United Arab Emirates and China.

Around the world.

- UK scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunising about 300 people, including some over 75, with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far. It is hoped there will be enough data from the trial to start inoculating several thousand people in October.

- Republican and Democrat lawmakers have rejected President Donald Trump's suggestion to delay the November 3 presidential election, which the US Constitution does not give him the right to do.

- Talks of a Trans-Tasman bubble have been slowed as community transmission continues in Australia, but if you've been looking at New Zealand with envy as Kiwis get on with life as normal, a new series of videos from Tourism New Zealand - PLAY NZ - will give you a chance to do with same by experiencing first-person views of various tourism highlights of New Zealand.

-With AAP.

Feature image: Getty/AAP.