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The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday July 29.

Sydney records 239 new COVID-19 cases.

Greater Sydney has recorded 239 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, the highest daily number since the pandemic began last year.

Nearly 111,000 tests were completed in the past 24 hours, which is also a daily record.

"Things are likely to get worse before they get better," the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned Sydneysiders on Thursday. 

There are also new restrictions for the eight LGAs that have been identified as high-risk. They are: Parramatta, Georges River, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown.

For two million residents who live in these LGAs, they now must: 

  • Wear a mask whenever they leave their household. It doesn't matter where they're going. 
  • Not travel more than 5km from home, this includes for shopping, exercise or take part in a "singles bubble".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sets a new target for vaccinations. 

Scott Morrison has raised expectations lockdowns will not be needed next year if all Australians are offered coronavirus vaccines.

The prime minister believes all people who want a jab will have the chance to receive one by the end of the year, barring unforeseen circumstances.

"I would expect by Christmas we will be seeing a very different Australia to what we're seeing now," he told reporters in Canberra.

People queue up at the New South Wales Health mass vaccination hub in Homebush. Image: Getty. 

Around 17 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated, leaving the nation well behind similar countries five months into the rollout.

But Mr Morrison is increasingly confident as vaccination administrations reach around one million doses a week.

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"Lockdowns become a thing of the past when you're at that level."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously said 80 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated before we can 'return to normal'. 

Australia wins three Gold medals in one day. 

Australia matched its best one-day haul at the Olympics, winning three Gold medals in one hour on Wednesday. 

Lucy Stephan, Rosie Popa, Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre started the spree when they narrowly held off the Netherlands in a thrilling women's coxless fours victory in Tokyo.

Next up it was Jack Hargreaves, Alex Purnell, Alex Hill and Spencer Turrin who followed in the Oarsome Foursome's footsteps to win back the men's coxless fours title in a chaotic finish.

Gold medalists Lucy Stephan, Rosemary Popa, Jessica Morrison and Annabelle Mcintyre of Team Australia pose with their medals during the medal ceremony for the Women's Four Final. Image: Getty.

Almost an hour after Australia's first gold of the day, swimming star  Ariarne Titmus powered through a field including American rival Katie Ledecky to add the 200m freestyle gold to the 400m gold she won on Monday.

 Gold MedalistAriarne Titmus of Australia during the medals ceremony of the 200m freestyle final on day five of the swimming competition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Image: Getty. 

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It is the fifth time Australia has won three gold medals on a single Olympic day and the first since Beijing 2008.

The hat-trick of medals took Australia to fifth on the gold medal tally.

Australia also added two bronze medals in the men's and women's quad sculls, plus a bronze in the men's 4x200-metre freestyle relay and bronze for Rohan Dennis in the cycling time trial.

The seven medals in total wasn't quite a record - Australia won nine (two gold, five silver and two bronze) on the middle Saturday of Sydney 2000.

Greater Sydney prepares for another month of lockdown. 

 Digital Covid-19 warning signs in the Lane Cove National Park on July 27, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Image: Getty. 

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Millions of people in Greater Sydney and beyond will remain in lockdown for another four weeks as NSW recorded another 177 locally acquired COVID-19 infections, the highest since this outbreak of the delta variant began. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the lockdown will be extended until at least August 28 for Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

"I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality," she said on Wednesday. 

The extra time would allow more people to get vaccinated, particularly in areas most affected by the current outbreak.

"We really need people to do the right thing at all times," she said. 

"Do not let your guard down."

In NSW, 30.4 per cent of the population has now received their first dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Some 13.1 per cent of the population - 1.07 million residents - have received two doses.

Government increases disaster support payments.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has increased the disaster support payment for NSW residents whose work has been impacted by the extended lockdown. Image: Getty. 

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The federal government has announced coronavirus disaster support payments will be raised from $600 to $750 for people who lose more than 20 hour work because of lockdowns.

Welfare recipients, who had previously been excluded, can access $200 payments if they lose eight hours' work.

People who lose between eight and 20 hours will receive $450, up from $375 a week.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil said the government had been dragged kicking and screaming into increasing disaster payments.

"For many workers living in New South Wales who lost their livelihoods more than a month ago, it's come far too late," she said.

"It's also too late for workers in Victoria and South Australia affected by earlier lockdowns."

NSW recorded 177 new local cases on Wednesday, the highest during the current outbreak.

NSW police get 15,000 tips from community over protest.

A strike force investigating an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney is working through 15,000 tips as police warn they will quash any attempt at a repeat protest from last Saturday.

Officers have charged 60 people who attended the demonstration, with a further 148 copping fines.

As lockdown sceptics mull another protest this Saturday, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said police would show up in high numbers.

"Police have well and truly planned for any eventuality ... should there be a protest this weekend, there will be sufficient numbers to take appropriate action right across the board," he said.

"We will not tolerate those types of actions." 

That includes proactively stopping people from coming into the city. He also warned that police had intelligence officers in social media groups being used to organise the rally.

If people were not arrested on the day, police would hunt them down after any protest, he said.

"Just assume when you're involved in this sort of illegal activity that puts your health at risk, one of your mates is going to dob you in," Police Minister David Elliott said. 

Amid the Olympics, Tokyo sets another virus record.

Tokyo metropolitan government reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, an increase on yesterday and the highest number of infections recorded so far for the city. Image: Getty. 

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Tokyo has reported 3177 new coronavirus cases, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3000 for the first time just days after the start of the Olympics.

The new cases on Wednesday exceeded the earlier record of 2848 set the previous day.

Tokyo has been under a fourth state of emergency since July 12 ahead of the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and concern that they could further worsen the outbreak.

Experts say Tokyo's surge is being propelled by the new, more contagious Delta variant of the virus.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday noted that the majority of the elderly have been fully vaccinated and infections among them have largely decreased, while the mostly unvaccinated younger people are now dominating the new cases.

"Younger people's activity holds the key (to slowing the infections), and we need your cooperation," Koike said.

"Please make sure to avoid non-essential outings and observe basic anti-infection measures, and I would like younger people to get vaccinated."

As of Tuesday, 25.5 per cent of the Japanese population had been fully vaccinated. The percentage of the elderly who are fully vaccinated is 68.2 per cent, or 36 million people.

- With AAP. 

Feature image: Getty.