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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Thursday April 2.

Australian COVID-19 death toll rises to 24.

A Melbourne woman in her 60s has become the 24th Australian death which has been attributed to COVID-19.

Professor Brett Sutton, the Chief Health Officer of Victoria, confirmed her passing in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. This also marks the sixth death from the state, after a woman in her early 70s also died from the virus.

The woman is believed to have been a cancer patient and passed away at The Alfred Hospital, where two other patients in the haematology and oncology ward also died due to coronavirus-related complications.

NSW confirms 90 days of new rules.

New South Wales, which currently has the most cases of coronavirus in Australia, says the current social distancing restrictions will stay in place in the state for 90 days.

“There was a good question yesterday about when is the turn off period for these health orders. It is 90 days. I certainly won’t be seeking an extension,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told the Today Show.

“Hopefully people will have gotten the message by then and we won’t be talking about the powers, we will just be talking about what does it look like coming out of this,” he added.

Victoria has had a change of heart with their latest social distancing measures, now no longer forcing a ban that kept couples living apart separated.

Australian deaths rise to 23.

An 85-year-old man passed away in the Darling Downs Health Service in Toowoomba overnight, Queensland’s health minister Steven Miles confirmed.

It brings the national death toll to 23, after two further recent deaths.

Today Victoria recorded its fifth death after a woman in her 70s died in hospital, and on Wednesday a 67-year-old woman died in Orange, in the New South Wales Central West, bringing the state’s death toll to 10.

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The grandmother was another Ruby Princess cruise victim, and 9News reports she was on a reunion holiday with old work colleagues.

21st victim corona
The woman's name has not yet been released. Image: Nine.

In the UK the death toll has surpassed 2,300, recording 563 deaths in the last 24 hours alone, and in France it's above 4000.

Italy has added another 727 fatalities to its death toll of 13, 155.

America's death toll has surpassed 4,600, with the prediction that the epicentre of New York will peak at the end of April with a high death rate continuing through to July.

The current COVID-19 figures.

Stranded Aussies in Nepal finally on their way home.

222 Australians and 28 New Zealanders will arrive in Brisbane today from Nepal.

The Nepalese government went into lockdown on March 7 with little warning - halting flights, ordering vehicles off the roads, and shutting down all businesses.

Similar flights have been sent into the country in recent days to rescue stranded German, French and US citizens.

Nepal has confirmed five cases of coronavirus.

Prince Charles thanks healthcare workers after beating COVID-19.

The heir to the throne has released a video on social media after testing positive to the coronavirus.

Prince Charles came out of self-isolation on Monday, after suffering mild symptoms.

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"Having recently gone through the process of contracting the coronavirus, luckily with relatively mild symptoms, I now find myself on the other side of the illness but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation," the 71-year-old said from Clarence House.

"This is a strange and frustrating and often distressing experience," he said. "When the presence of family and friends is no longer possible and the normal structures of life are suddenly removed."

"At such an unprecedented time in all our lives my wife and I are thinking particularly of those who have lost loved ones in such difficult and abnormal circumstances."

"And of those having to endure sickness, isolation and loneliness," said the Prince, paying particular attention to older citizens.

He paid tribute the network of 'selfless assistance' helping those more vulnerable in the community, as well as the 'remarkable'  and 'marvellous' doctors and nurses as they "battle heroically to save lives".

CSIRO testing possible COVID-19 vaccines.

Australia's national science agency has begun testing potential coronavirus vaccines in what has been described as a critical milestone in the global fight against COVID-19.

CSIRO scientists are performing the first stage of testing for two vaccine candidates at the agency's high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong.

The pre-clinical trials, which are expected to take three months, will use animal subjects to test whether the potential vaccines from the University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are safe and effective.

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We've been warned the virus won't be truly beaten without a vaccine, and this testing is being called a 'very significant' milestone.

"Usually it takes one to two years to do this and we have apparently done it in eight weeks, so that's actually really good," health and biosecurity director Dr Rob Grenfell told AAP.

Dr Grenfell feels very optimistic about the fight against COVID-19 but said a vaccine was still a way off, with suggestions it could be 18 months.

"The scientific ingenuity that we're using, the global collaboration and co-operation is astounding," he said.

"We've seen some momentous science across many avenues of the vaccine development pathway globally, so yes, I'm optimistic.

"At the moment, the best thing that we can all do is to maintain our social distancing and self-quarantining to minimise the spread whilst we're waiting for effective drugs and vaccines."

More cancellations in sport and art.

Wimbledon has become the latest sporting event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

While the decision had looked inevitable for some time, since the virtual shutdown of world sport and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Wimbledon had been one of the few events not to have been officially cancelled or postponed.

But after emergency talks between the various stakeholders over the last few days, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced yesterday that it was impossible for the grass court Grand Slam, scheduled for June 29-July 12, to take place.

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It will instead be staged from June 28 to July 11, 2021. This is the first time the event has been cancelled since WWII.

In the arts world, the Edinburgh festivals are the latest to be scrapped.

The Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Art Festival, the International Book Festival, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo have all been cancelled.

Organisers will be working towards the 2021 versions of the events instead.

Pen pals to keep the elderly occupied.

Elderly residents confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic could soon find a message of hope in their letterbox - and potentially make new friends.

Older Australians are at greater risk of developing mental health issues due to fear of the disease, limited social activities and potentially going weeks without seeing family or friends.

Sydney aged and disability care provider Your Side is trying to prevent that, by pulling together a network of pen-pals to keep them company.

Senior woman in wheelchair,rear view
To help our country's elderly, you can become a pen pal. Image: Getty.

"We all remember the joy of going to the letterbox and getting a letter and hearing a person's story and then sitting down and writing back," said chief executive Danielle Ballantine.

"It's a familiar process, and it's one that brings joy."

For some, it could be the only social contact they have for months as governments and citizens grapple with the pandemic.

People wanting to become a pen-pal can email [email protected]

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Free Harry Potter to keep us all sane.

British author JK Rowling is hoping her much-loved Harry Potter series will work its magic on bored children stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first book in the series, will be available for free worldwide as an ebook and audiobook throughout April as part of an initiative to help parents, carers and teachers entertain housebound children.

The audiobook will be available in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese, with the version performed by British actor Stephen Fry accessible in North America for the first time.

A new online hub, Harry Potter At Home, will be aimed at younger children and launched on WizardingWorld.com, the official website for fans of Harry Potter and the spin-off film series Fantastic Beasts.

Each week "Wizarding Wednesdays" and an email newsletter will provide creative activities, quizzes and ideas.

- With AAP

Feature image: Twitter/Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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