The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday November 8.

'Needle spiking' part of investigation into Astroworld deaths.

A crush of fans pushing toward the stage during rap star Travis Scott's Astroworld music festival in Houston has killed at least eight people and injured dozens more.

City Police Chief Troy Finner said his department has opened a criminal investigation by homicide and narcotics detectives following unconfirmed reports someone in the audience "was injecting other people with drugs".

The disaster unfolded around 9.30pm local time on Friday during the headline performance by Scott, a Grammy-nominated singer and producer, following what police and members of the crowd described as an escalation of unruly behaviour.

As some in the sold-out audience of about 50,000 surged toward the stage, people began to fall unconscious, some apparently suffering cardiac arrest or other medical issues, officials told reporters outside the venue. 

Minutes later the chaos was declared a "mass casualty incident".

"It happened all at once. It seemed like it just happened ... over the course of just a few minutes," said Houston Police's Larry Satterwhite, who was at the front of the event when the situation began.

Satterwhite said he immediately met with promoters and they agreed to halt the show. Officials said the concert was brought to an end by 10.10pm.

Finner said among the "narratives" under review by police were reports suggesting "some individual was injecting other people with drugs".

Read more on 'needle spiking' here.

One report involved a security officer "who felt a prick in his neck" as he was trying to restrain or grab someone and then fell unconscious, only to be revived with a dose of the opioid antidote NARCAN, Finner said, citing an account from medical personnel who treated the officer.


The victims range in age from 14 to 27. 

More NSW school and dining freedoms kick in for vaccinated.

Double-jabbed NSW residents can now gather in bigger numbers while school kids will be allowed assemblies and excursions on the first day of expanded freedoms under the state's revised COVID-19 road map.

From Monday, NSW businesses will move to density restrictions of one person for every two square metres and fully vaccinated diners can book without number limits.

As many as 1000 people can gather outdoors while stadiums, racecourses, theme parks, zoos, cinemas and theatres can operate at 100 per cent of their fixed-seated capacity.


NSW is on the brink of hitting 90 per cent full vaccination of people aged 16 and over, with 89.8 per cent now double-dosed.

School children will be able to enjoy music classes, excursions and assemblies from Monday while teachers who aren't fully vaccinated will be suspended.

It was revealed at a budget estimates hearing in NSW Parliament last week that about 4900 teachers had not yet advised the Education Department of their vaccination status.

The ABC reports a school in Mullumbimby will today lose a third of its staff who have not met the vaccination deadline, with casual teachers being brought in to fill the gaps.

All unvaccinated NSW residents will have to wait until December 15 or when the state reaches a 95 per cent double-vaccination rate to enjoy greater freedoms.

Hundreds of protesters largely dressed in white came together to oppose vaccine mandates on Sunday in Parramatta, Wollongong, Coolangatta and on the Central Coast as part of "Reclaim The Line" rallies.

Another 244 local COVID-19 cases were reported in NSW on Sunday along with one death, an unvaccinated man in his 60s from Albury who died at Melbourne's Box Hill Hospital.

New Qld virus alerts in Cairns, Toowoomba, as woman fined.

North Queensland is on coronavirus alert as authorities investigate potential exposure sites linked to a woman who flew from Cairns to Darwin and later tested positive for COVID-19.


The 21-year-old woman, who was revealed as the source of the Northern Territory's COVID-19 cluster, had spent time in Melbourne, where NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said she "almost certainly" contracted the coronavirus before spending time in Adelaide and Cairns.

Queensland Health on Sunday listed six contact-tracing alerts for a Jetstar flight from Adelaide to Cairns on October 25 and sites in Cairns and Mission Beach on October 25, 27 and 29, including the Cairns Domestic Airport and Cairns Central Shopping Centre.

All are listed as casual or low-risk contacts.

The woman arrived in Darwin from Queensland on October 29. Mr Gunner said she had been fined for lying on her border entry form.

The territory's three-person cluster sparked a three-day lockdown for the town of Katherine and restrictions for Greater Darwin.

Health officials are also looking into another COVID-19 scare in the state's southeast, with Toowoomba Hospital "keeping visitors to a minimum" as it probes a possible exposure linked to the recent Goondiwindi cluster.

Four people have tested positive in Goondiwindi on the state border. They had recently visited the northern NSW town of Moree, which has been battling a COVID-19 outbreak.

Queensland reported no locally acquired virus cases on Sunday.

Industry hails Melbourne's $44 million recovery package.

Tourism and business industry groups have hailed a plan to coax visitors back into downtown Melbourne with meal rebates up to $150 as part of a $44 million recovery package.


The Victorian government and City of Melbourne will jointly fund initiatives to bring the city centre back to life after its sixth COVID-19 lockdown, including a $5 million midweek dining rebate scheme.

From November 15, diners can get up to $150 off their bills at food-serving restaurants, cafes and bars in the city between Monday and Thursday.

More than 200,000 rebates will be up for grabs, with refunds finalised within five business days of diners making a claim.

Another $10.4 million will be dished out to help businesses trade outdoors and at night, $15.7 million to boost the city's events calendar, $14 million to revitalise public areas and $3.6 million for an enhanced business concierge service.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the $44 million package, part of a wider $200 million city revitalisation fund, was designed to help Melbourne recapture its vibrant food, wine and coffee culture.

"It's all about recovering what we lost," he told reporters on Sunday.

Victoria on Sunday recorded 1173 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths.

GPs, pharmacies join COVID booster program.

Coronavirus booster vaccinations will be available from GPs and pharmacies from Monday for those who had their second jab six months ago.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said two doses are highly effective in preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19, but some studies have shown that immunity does tend to wane over time.

"For those people 18 and up who had a vaccine at least six months ago we encourage you to make an appointment and get your booster dose," Dr Bennett told reporters on Sunday.


"There is plenty of vaccine for all of us to get our booster."

Australia passed a major milestone over the weekend of having 80 per cent of the national population aged 16 and over fully vaccinated.

But Dr Bennett is urging everyone to get on board and be vaccinated.

"COVID will be in the community in each and every area of Australia over time as we open up," she warned.

"Everyone will be at risk of being exposed to COVID. The best way to protect yourself against diseases is to get vaccinated."

Police think candle fire might've killed twin girls near Byron Bay.

Neighbours have left flowers at the entrance to a northern NSW property where twin girls died following a house fire thought to have started after a candle was left burning.

Police and ambulance paramedics performed CPR on the four-year-old sisters but they were unable to be revived.

Emergency services were called to the single-storey residence on Mafeking Road in the hamlet of Goonengarry, west of Byron Bay, just after 4am on Sunday after reports two children were suffering from smoke inhalation.

Chief Inspector Mick Dempsey said the girls had been asleep as the fire started.

"They were found to be unresponsive," he told Seven News.

"CPR was performed by police and ambulance personnel but unfortunately the two children could not be revived and they have since passed away."


A woman was also being treated for shock.

Insp Dempsey said a number of adults were outside the premises, in the vicinity of the house, as the drama unfolded.

There was limited damage to the structure of the premises. However there was some evidence of smoke having filled the bedroom, he added.

Detectives will work with fire investigators to determine the cause of the blaze but say initial reports suggest to them that a candle may have been left burning inside the home.

Wife of shark attack victim mourns "wonderful father."

The wife of a shark attack victim who is yet to be found has described her husband as a "lovely man" and a "wonderful father".

Paul Millachip, 57, is believed to have been taken by a shark while swimming at a beach in North Fremantle in Perth on Saturday morning.

"Rest in peace Paul," his wife said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon.

"He died doing what he enjoyed doing the most, which was exercising."

She thanked authorities for "being extremely thorough" and the witnesses who helped explain what had happened. 

Mr Millachip was last seen swimming at Port Beach, as he did regularly, on Saturday morning.

Two teenagers on a boat saw what they believed was a shark attack and called emergency services.

Police said there was an extensive marine search for the father of two, which would be suspended on Sunday afternoon.


The search turned up a pair of goggles believed to belong to Mr Millachip. 

New clue in missing Victorian campers case.

The Age and 60 Minutes are reporting that Victorian police are looking for the driver of a dark-blue four-wheel drive seen leaving a remote Wonnangatta Valley campsite on the day Carol Clay and Russell Hill vanished.

Investigators have told the broadcaster and publication they've ruled out a theory that the campers might have staged their disappearance and instead suspected they were murdered.

Aged in their 70s, the secret couple has been missing since March 20.

Mr Hill's daughters have told 60 Minutes they knew nothing about his relationship with Ms Clay. Their mother is grieving not just his disappearance, but the loss of her relationship.

The blue Nissan was captured on roadside cameras driving on The Great Alpine Road and matches the description of a car seen parked near Mr Hill and Ms Clay’s campsite on the day they vanished. It was heard leaving the area about midnight. 

Around the world.

- Australian Madison de Rozario has won the women's wheelchair race in the New York marathon, holding off past champions Tatyana McFadden and Manuela Schar for her first Big Apple victory.

- Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has survived an assassination attempt with armed drones that targeted his residence.

- With AAP

Feature image: Rick Kern/Getty/NSW Health/Facebook.

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