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The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday August 24.

Victoria records lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in seven weeks.

Victoria has recorded 116 new cases of COVID-19, marking their lowest numbers in seven weeks in a promising sign that the second wave is past the peak. 

Victoria also recorded 15 more deaths in the past 24 hours, the Department of Health and Human services confirmed on Monday. 

The news comes as the state has passed the halfway mark of their stage four lockdown.  

On Sunday, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that although the daily case numbers were 'jumping around,' he was confident that the spread was under control and the seven-day average was experiencing a downward trajectory.

“We’re not going to see 300 and 400 (new COVID-19 cases) again in Victoria under my watch, at least,” he told reporters.

"Australia has picked the right vaccine," says Dr Anthony Fauci.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious diseases expert, believes Australia has picked the right vaccine candidate to protect against coronavirus.

There are three candidates for the vaccine currently in advanced phase three trials including the UK's Oxford University trial, which the Australian government has put in a presumptive order for.

"The candidate that comes out of the UK is now being tested by the British in Brazil and in South Africa. The proof in the pudding, obviously, is going to be what the result of the trial is. But those kinds of inklings makes us have some aspirational hope that by the time we get to the end of the year, we'll have a vaccine," Dr Fauci told 60 Minutes in his only Australian interview.

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Dr Fauci added that "we're gonna get out of this. We're gonna end this, guaranteed," assuring that nobody was cutting corners with the vaccine development. 

"Even though it looks like it's very, very fast, the speed of it is only because of the advances in technology. If you just look and say, 'Well, wait a minute. You said this usually takes a few years, and now you did it in a year or less. Did you sacrifice anything that would be troublesome?' And the answer, quite frankly, is no."

500 Australian deaths, as federal parliament resumes.

Federal politicians will return to parliament for the first time in 10 weeks for a sitting fortnight, although some will take part remotely.

Finance Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann said the parliament will be operating in a COVID-safe way, allowing members and senators to participate via a video link-up for the first time in history.

The two-week sitting that was due to start on August 4 was cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

Senator Cormann said the priority for this sitting fortnight will be to pass legislation to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the enhanced JobSeeker dole payment.

The national COVID-19 death toll has topped 500, with many new fatalities again coming from the aged care sector in virus-hit Victoria.

A further 11 deaths in Victorian aged care facilities were reported on Sunday out of a total of 17.


Federal Labor will keep the heat on the Morrison government over its handling of the aged care sector during the coronavirus pandemic when parliament resumes today.

"At every test for the federal government they've failed when it comes to aged care," Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.

"It's a clear federal government responsibility.There's no shared responsibility for aged care despite Scott Morrison's spin - it's their job."

Brett Sutton: Vic numbers "jumping around" but on a downward trajectory.

Halfway through lockdown, Victoria's chief health officer has defiantly declared he won't let the state's hard-fought COVID-19 gains slip.

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Brett Sutton said although the daily case numbers were "jumping around", he expects they are on a downward trajectory.

Victoria recorded a second consecutive day of fresh coronavirus cases below 200 on Saturday, prompting Professor Sutton to predict numbers could dip below 150 next week.

He was still upbeat after 208 new cases on Sunday.

Brett Sutton is confident Victoria is on a downward trajectory. Image: Getty. 

"We're not going to see 300 and 400 (cases) again in Victoria under my watch, at least," he told reporters. "We're applying a strategy that is driving cases down."

With 3920 so-called mystery cases, Prof Sutton warned restrictions would not be lifted in full until community transmission is eradicated.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the weekend's bad weather was an "absolute blessing" and hoped it meant more people stayed at home.

Production of Channel Nine's Millionaire Hotseat and Channel Ten's The Masked Singer has closed down in Victoria, amid a COVID-19 outbreak at the studios in Docklands, Melbourne.

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READ: The Masked Singer was hours from filming its finale. Then a dancer tested positive for COVID-19.

Brisbane COVID-19 cluster expected to grow with a baby among the latest infections.

A COVID-19 health alert has been issued for 40 locations across Queensland as an outbreak at Brisbane's Youth Detention Centre grows to nine.

A centre worker was diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, with two new cases recorded on Sunday - a woman in her 30s and a baby.

The cases are the first locally acquired transmissions in the state in more than a month. 

You can see a full list of venues included in the contract tracing health alert here.

The premier on Saturday capped indoor and outdoor gatherings without a COVID-safe plan in Queensland's southeast to 10 people and announced a 30-person limit on gatherings elsewhere in the state.

Aged care homes and disability accommodation services in the southeast went into immediate lockdown.

"I know there are disappointed people out there," Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday.

"We have to put public health and community health first."

700,000 Australians who lost their job during COVID have regained work. 

New federal government data shows the national unemployment rate is now below 10 percent, down from nearly 15 percent in April. 

1.3 million Australians lost their jobs in the height of the pandemic, but now almost 700,000 have regained work.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said while the figures are a cause for optimism, the lockdown in Victoria and ongoing border closures will probably reverse this progress.

Most of the jobs regained were in NSW, doubling and tripling the figures in Victoria and Queensland. 

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Trump criticised by sister in recordings.

President Donald Trump's older sister, a former federal judge, has sharply criticised him in a series of recordings, at one point saying the president "has no principles".

Maryanne Trump Barry was secretly recorded by her niece, Mary Trump, who has released a book denouncing the president, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.

Mary Trump said she made the recordings in 2018 and 2019.

In one, Barry, 83, says she heard a 2018 interview with her brother on Fox News in which he suggested he would put her on the border to oversee cases of immigrant children separated from their parents.

"His base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this," Barry says.

At another point she says: "His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God."

She adds: "I'm talking too freely but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit."

The president has frequently spoken highly of his sister; the recordings are the first time a family member, outside of Mary Trump, has been critical of him.

As snow causes road closures in NSW, WA records its hottest August temperature ever.

It has been another weekend of extreme weather, Western Australia reached temperatures of 40.7 degrees, which if validated, will be Australia's highest August temperature on record.

Parts of New South Wales and Victoria have spent the weekend covered in snow, with hundreds of people driving from the coast out to Oberon and the NSW Blue Mountains to see it.

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Yesterday was predicted to be the "coldest day" of the year for the Snowy Mountains, Canberra and Orange, and the chilliest winter for those areas in five years.

Victoria recorded its wettest day in more than two decades, with multiple flood warnings in place, including the Yarra River.

Snow in Batlow, NSW, on Sunday. Image: Supplied. 

Around the world.

- France reported 4897 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours over the weekend, the highest daily level since the two month lockdown in May.

- Christchurch mosque killer Brenton Tarrant will today face the families of his 51 victims and 40 survivors as he fronts court for his sentencing hearing.

- TikTok plans to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's executive order.

- With AAP

Feature image: Getty/Bradley Kanaris/Supplied.

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