news

The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Wednesday September 1.

Vic roadmap out of lockdown to be unveiled as outbreak claims two lives.

Changes to Victoria's latest coronavirus lockdown are set to be announced after the state reported its latest outbreak has claimed the lives of two women.

Late on Tuesday the health department revealed the women, aged in their 40s and 60s, died at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

They are the first COVID-related deaths recorded in Victoria since November 30 last year, and will take the state's overall toll to 822 when officially tallied on Wednesday.

As the state struggles to drive down the now-deadly Delta variant outbreak, Premier Daniel Andrews will on Wednesday unveil a roadmap out of the state's sixth lockdown.

The government is expected to detail "modest" changes and the number of COVID-19 cases the state can "live with" until 80 per cent of eligible Victorian adults are double vaccinated.

"If we can't achieve zero, despite our best efforts, how many cases can we tolerate? It will need to be a low number," Mr Andrews said on Tuesday, as the state reported 76 new coronavirus cases.

The changes could include ending a ban on the use of playgrounds, lifting the COVID-19 curfew in Melbourne and increasing the 5km current on travel from homes.

"Use September to get ready," says Berejiklian.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging businesses and families to use this month to get ready as the state creeps closer to the 70 per cent vaccination rate needed to begin reopening.

"My message strongly during September will be to get ready," she told reporters on Monday.

"If you're a business, make sure your employees are vaccinated.

"If you're a citizen make sure yourself, your families, loved ones and friends are vaccinated.

ADVERTISEMENT

"That's our ticket to freedom."

The state recorded 1164 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as well as three deaths. 

They were a woman in her 50s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s, all from Sydney.

It takes the death toll for the current NSW outbreak to 96.

It comes as NSW surpasses two-thirds first-dose vaccination coverage for eligible residents. 

The government will restore freedoms to the fully vaccinated at 70 per cent double-dose coverage.

But in the meantime, the number of returning Australians allowed to fly in to Sydney Airport each week will be halved to 750 to allow health staff to be diverted back to the state's hospital system.

ADVERTISEMENT

More than 870 people are hospitalised with COVID-19 across the state, with 143 in intensive care and almost 60 of those people ventilated.

But the toll of the outbreak on the state's health care system is not due to peak until October.

Meanwhile, almost 80 anti-lockdown protests across NSW were broken up by police on Tuesday, with more than 150 people arrested and just under 600 fines handed out.

Three officers suffered minor injuries following interactions with protesters at Lismore, Murwillumbah and Raymond Terrace.

ADVERTISEMENT

Separate attempts to arrange a truck blockade failed to eventuate.

Canberra's lockdown extended by two weeks.

Canberra's lockdown has been extended until mid-September as the ACT's coronavirus outbreak continues to grow.

The second two-week lockdown extension follows concern about mystery cases, people infectious in the community and the situation in NSW.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has repeatedly warned restrictions cannot ease significantly until at least 80 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated.

To soften the blow of another two weeks of lockdown until September 17, the government is relaxing some restrictions including allowing small weddings, funerals and outdoor gatherings.

"We are bending the curve down and are getting on top of the outbreak," Mr Barr told reporters.

"However, it is a slow process and it will take more time."

Of Tuesday's 13 new cases, seven were linked and four had been in quarantine throughout their infectious period.

Christmas border closures "up to states", despite Morrison's goal. 

Scott Morrison has conceded opening Australia's internal borders will be up to state governments despite making Christmas a key goal.

The prime minister has been pushing premiers and chief ministers to allow families to be reunited at the end of the year as part of a national agreement.

There remains ongoing tensions with state and territory governments over the plan to reduce restrictions when 70 and 80 per cent of the over-16 population is vaccinated.

ADVERTISEMENT

National cabinet's deal is silent on internal border closures, but WA Premier Mark McGowan has signalled he won't abandon his hardline stance towards states with high virus cases.

Mr Morrison said he expected leaders to ensure the country reconnected safely when high vaccination rates were reached.

"Ultimately, everything is a state matter," he told reporters in Canberra.

"But, I know that there was agreement to the national plan, which wants to see Australians come together, and we want to do that safely."

An alliance of 80 major employers including the big four banks, Qantas, mining giant BHP, major supermarkets and energy companies have called for the national plan to be maintained.

A YouGov survey, published in The Australian, has found that 45 per cent of people support the right of all employers to demand their workers be vaccinated, while 24 per cent support it only for public-facing jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT

Two in three people supported a vaccine passport to gain entry to sport venues, cinemas, nightclubs and restaurants. Just one in five people opposed such a move.

Meantime, the Morrison government has clinched a dose-swap deal with Singapore for 500,000 Pfizer shots to be distributed next week.

No need for COVID booster shots yet.

There's no evidence COVID-19 booster shots are needed yet in Australia, an infectious diseases expert says.

The Czech Republic said this week it would offer booster shots to anyone vaccinated at least eight months earlier, joining a growing list of countries stepping up measures to curb the spread of the Delta variant.

Media reports out of Israel suggest the more infectious Delta strain is leading to cases of re-infection, but it is unclear whether this is the result of waning antibodies from vaccinations which began in that country in December 2020.

Australian National University's Professor Peter Collignon said he was aware of the situation in Israel, but it was still unclear how antibody levels dropped over time.

"The evidence is not there that we need (boosters) yet," he told AAP on Tuesday.

"I think we need more data."

He said the overwhelming evidence to date was people being admitted to hospital tended to be unvaccinated.

Turner wins gold, de Rozario takes bronze in Tokyo.

Australia's James Turner has lived up to his top billing, winning the men's T36 400m final at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

Madi de Rozario backed up from her 800m gold medal to take bronze late on Tuesday night in the T54 1500m, while Jarryd Clifford also claimed bronze in the T13 1500.

Already the world record holder, Canberra-based Turner set a Paralympics record en route to his gold medal.

ADVERTISEMENT

He struggled in the humidity post race, collapsing briefly after doing some media interviews but was back on his feet before long.

"I've got a headache and it hurt but it's all worth it," Turner told Seven.

In the last event on Tuesday's track and field program, de Rozario was boxed in with one lap to go.

But the T53 800m gold medallist came around the outside in pouring rain and was closing on second-placed Swiss Manuela Schaer at the finish.

EU reaches 70 percent jab target.

The European Commission says 70 per cent of the European Union's adult population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, hitting a target it set at the beginning of the year.

The announcement marks an important milestone in the EU vaccination strategy after a slow start, but it also masks big differences among EU countries, with some nations being well above the 70 per cent goal while others in the poorer eastern region of the bloc are far behind.

Malta has fully vaccinated over 90 per cent of its adult population.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ireland and Portugal have also immunised more than 80 per cent of their adult population, and France is above 70 per cent, according to ECDC figures, which usually are updated slightly later than information at disposal of the EU Commission.

In the east, Bulgaria has fully vaccinated just one fifth of its adult population, and Romania about 30 per cent of adults. Croatia, Latvia, Slovenia and Slovakia have immunised about half of those aged above 18.

Taliban supporters hold mock US funeral.

Taliban supporters paraded coffins draped with American and NATO flags in the eastern city of Khost - part of celebrations across the country following the withdrawal of the last US troops.

The mock funeral on Tuesday, in which coffins covered in French and British flags were also carried along the street through a large crowd, marked the end of a 20-year war and a hasty and humiliating exit for Washington and its NATO allies.

Some of the crowd held guns aloft, while others waved Taliban flags or snapped the procession on mobile phones.

ADVERTISEMENT

"August 31 is our formal Freedom Day. On this day, American occupying forces and NATO forces fled the country," Taliban official Qari Saeed Khosti told local television station Zhman TV during its coverage of the event.

Other images shared online on Tuesday showed Taliban members walking through Kabul airport in US-supplied fatigues, some brandishing gleaming rifles and others trying out state-of-the-art night vision goggles or sizing up US helicopters.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US military was not concerned by the images as the helicopters and equipment were "unusable". 

Around the world. 

- China has barred online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays and limited their play to just three hours most weekends, marking a significant escalation of restrictions on the country's massive gaming industry.

- A Texas state law that bans abortion after as early as six weeks into the pregnancy could provide the roadmap for other states to pass extreme abortion restrictions without having to wait for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

- Scientist Alar Karis is to be Estonia's next president, after he was backed by two-thirds of lawmakers in the small Baltic nation's parliament. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Darrian Traynor/Sam Barnes/Sportsfile/Brook Mitchell/Getty.

Want a cheeky $50? Tell us what you think
MMSurvey