The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday August 17.

Victoria records their deadliest day yet from COVID-19.

Victoria has reported 25 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, marking their deadliest day yet since the coronavirus pandemic began. It brings the state total to 334 and the national toll to 421. 

The state, currently in stage four lockdown, reported 282 new cases as the Victorian outbreak continues to show signs of easing. 

The grim new milestone came as residents at an inner-suburban Melbourne special accommodation facility were being moved to hospitals because of a virus outbreak. The Hambleton House is a 34-bed facility for residents with mental health problems or behavioural issues. Security staff have been stationed outside because of concerns residents were walking nearby streets without face masks. 


Meanwhile, Victorian officials are working to better understand COVID-19 infection rates among the state's health workforce as more public sector nurses are deployed in aged care homes to cope with rising cases. Premier Daniel Andrews says details should be released early this week to answer some fundamental questions in relation to health staff. 

A Victorian surfer has been fined for travelling 140km, as his state recorded another 16 deaths. 

Victoria reported another 16 deaths from the virus on Sunday, as the government extended the state of emergency until September 13.

Eleven were linked to nursing homes and there were now 2075 active infections in aged care.

Premier Daniel Andrews said while he could not guarantee there would be no more outbreaks across other sites, the situation had improved.

Overall, Victoria reported another 279 virus infections across the state on Sunday, taking the total number of active infections to 7671.

243 fines were handed out in just 24 hours over the weekend. Melbournians under stage four restrictions pictured above exercising in Albert Park. Image: Darrian Traynor.  

The numbers continued the downward trend in the seven-day average, suggesting the worst of the second wave had passed.


A surfer who drove more than 140km in search of better waves is among the latest group of Victorians fined for breaching quarantine rules.

Police said the man living in Torquay had travelled to surf at Castle Cove because there were "no waves on the east side".

Victoria Police on Sunday said 243 fines had been handed to individuals in the past 24 hours for breaching the Chief Health Officer's directions.

They included 84 curfew breaches, 30 at vehicle checkpoints and 28 for failing to wear a face covering without a valid reason.

Two men had travelled from Bayswater to Bonnie Doon to collect clothes, while four people caught driving in Wyndham during curfew hours said they were going to buy cigarettes.


NSW recording low infections, but cases with an "unknown source" still a cause for concern. 

NSW has recorded one death and its lowest number of coronavirus cases in more than a month but the state continues to be plagued by community transmissions from an unknown source.

A man in his 80s has become NSW's latest virus fatality, with just five new cases recorded to 8pm Saturday.

Three of the five are connected to the Tangara School for Girls cluster, which has so far been linked to 25 cases in total in Sydney's northwest.


Investigations are ongoing into the two other cases, including a man in his 40s, from western Sydney, and a close contact of the man. The source of infection is currently unknown.

A student has tested positive at Sydney Girls High School, which will close for deep cleaning. Her case will be counted in the figures released on Monday.

In another case to be included in Monday's figures, Parramatta Local Court was cleaned as a precaution on Sunday after a security contractor tested positive to COVID-19.

NSW Police fined a party bus operator $5000 over the weekend, after he allegedly breached coronavirus health orders, driving 43 passengers from Penrith to Sydney CBD.

To date, there are 378 cases where the source infection has not been identified.

Government optimistic of 2021 vaccine.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is cautiously optimistic that a vaccine to conquer the coronavirus will be available next year.


Mr Hunt says the government is close to striking a deal which would permit the production of a vaccine in Australia, but was unable to provide the names of the companies involved due to contractual reasons.

"We are in advanced negotiations with a range of different companies with regards to a vaccine," Mr Hunt told Sky News' Sunday Agenda.

"I am now on the basis of our best advice genuinely more optimistic, I think the work is moving closer to a vaccine.'

He said very significant progress is being made around the world to produce a vaccine.

"All our advice has been 2021 is the most likely anything that occur," he said.

"Before then, then that would be an outstanding result, not just for Australia but for the world."


Frontline doctors warned the government about hotel quarantine but were ignored.

A Four Corners investigation is reporting that the Australian Medical Association wrote to Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on April 15, recommending a range of infection control measures.

The emails were sent after frontline medical staff working with quarantined Australians voiced their concerns. But the department didn't respond to the recommendations. 

Four Corners, which will air in full at 08.30pm tonight, has obtained photographs and video of security guards asleep in the halls of a Melbourne hotel while on duty. 


Another guard has told the program he was only given one mask per 12 hour shift, and felt unsafe when guests without face masks were escorted past him in the hotel's corridors.

Auckland coronavirus cluster at 49 cases.

Auckland's COVID-19 cluster is yet to trend down, with New Zealand health authorities announcing 12 fresh community cases of the virus on Sunday.

The upswing from Saturday's seven cases means the total cases in the community outbreak, NZ's first after 102 virus-free days, stands at 49.

A 13th case is an overseas traveller in quarantine.

Jacinda Ardern's government is still trying to work out how the Auckland cluster started. Image: Hagen Hopkins/Getty.

There's still no concrete understanding of how the virus spread to Auckland, as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discuss possible links between their regions.


Ms Ardern placed Auckland into lockdown last Wednesday in an attempt to subdue the virus' spread.

The Auckland branch of freight business Americold has been identified as a possible source, given an employee there showed the earliest onset date symptoms.

SA reopens freight route to Middle East.

Tonnes of South Australian meat, seafood and other produce will be exported to the Middle East with the resumption of flights from Adelaide to Doha.

The twice-weekly flights by Qatar Airways will provide access for local producers to key markets in both the Middle East and Europe.

Qatar Airways will be flying into Adelaide twice a week under a new agreement. Image: Elman Omic/Anadolu Agency/Getty.

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the flights would also open another pathway home for Australians returning from overseas.


SA Trade Minister Stephen Patterson said restoring freight routes would also help protect local jobs.

Exporters using the service will be eligible to apply for grant assistance under the federal government's $350 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM).

Australia entering "snowiest week" of the season.

Rain and strong winds are forecast for parts of Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales today.

An estimated 400-800mm of powder is expected at the country's snow resorts, with meteorologists calling it southeastern Australia's snowiest week of the season so far.

Snow to near sea level is forecast for Tasmania and is expected as far north as northern New South Wales.


Around the world.

- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows accepts that Kamala Harris is eligible to serve as vice-president, rejecting a false conspiracy theory promoted by President Donald Trump.

- The US reported 47,913 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, with the Centre for Disease Control warning Americans they could be headed for the worst autumn, "from a public health perspective, we've ever had."

- Japan's Kei Nishikori has confirmed he's tested positive for COVID-19 while in Florida - just two weeks ahead of the US Open.

- With AAP

Feature image: Getty.