The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday August 30.

Freedom coming despite record NSW cases.

The NSW government says it will restore freedoms to all fully vaccinated residents once the state hits 70 per cent double-dose coverage - regardless of COVID-19 case numbers.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state could reach 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage within days and at double-dose coverage - roughly in mid-October - a number of freedoms will be restored to the fully vaccinated.

"We will stick to our word," Ms Berejiklian said on Sunday after announcing a record number of cases. 

"No matter what the case numbers are doing - of course we want to see them come down - double-dose 70 per cent in NSW means freedom for those who are (fully) vaccinated.

"It doesn't matter where you live or what your circumstances are."

NSW reported 1218 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, another daily infection record.

It also recorded six deaths in three people in their 80s and three in their 70s, none of whom were fully vaccinated, taking the death toll for the current outbreak to 89. 

NSW Police are treating a fire at a COVID-19 testing clinic in Sydney's west as suspicious, after the facility went up in flames on Saturday night. Anti-COVID and anti-government graffiti was found nearby.


As of Saturday, 66.04 per cent of eligible NSW residents have had at least one vaccine dose and 35.85 per cent are fully vaccinated.

There are now more than 810 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 126 in intensive care and 54 ventilated. Of those 126 in intensive care, only one was fully vaccinated.

At least two western Sydney hospitals - Westmead and Blacktown - have called "code yellows" this week as their caseload climbs.

Fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been detected in the sewage treatment plants in Trangie, Byron Bay, Temora, Cooma and Tamworth, which NSW Health's Jeremy McAnulty said was concerning as there were no known cases in these areas.

There were 25 new cases in the Western NSW health district, bringing the total number of cases in the region during this current outbreak to 510.

There were also two more cases recorded in the Far West health district in Wilcannia, a small town where more than 10 per cent of the predominantly Indigenous population has now tested positive.


Vic extends lockdown as virus cases rise.

Victoria will remain in lockdown after a day of COVID-19 case numbers unseen since the state's second wave last year. 

The state recorded 92 new locally acquired infections, including more than 30 not yet linked to existing outbreaks.

More than a third of Victoria's 778 active cases are people aged 19 and under. 

Premier Daniel Andrews said he did not yet have advice on how long the lockdown imposed on August 5 should be extended, but promised to examine options as soon as the advice was available.

"We see far too many cases today for us to seriously consider opening up later on this week," Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

Despite the figures, he promised there was "still a chance" of the state's case numbers returning to zero.

Sunday's tally is a jump from the previous day's local case figure of 64, and the highest number of new cases recorded since early September 2020, when the state battled the second wave of the virus.

Meanwhile, Mr Andrews said the prime minister had promised him in a conversation on Saturday that NSW would no longer get "preferential treatment" in vaccine distribution.

"We didn't begrudge them getting additional doses, but we're locked down, they're locked down, and the need is just as great here," Mr Andrews said.


ACT's Barr warns of COVID-19 jabs forever.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr believes COVID-19 shots will be needed for the rest of people's lives going on the history of previous pandemics.

Around 64 per cent of Canberrans have had one coronavirus jab and just over 40 per cent have had two, one the best take-ups of the vaccination program in the country.

But Mr Barr believes it will require a continuous program of vaccination beyond hitting 70, 80 or even 95 per cent targets to be fully protected against the virus.

Mr Barr's grim warning came despite the territory posting better news on the infection front on Sunday with just 13 new cases recorded, all of them linked to previous cases.

The territory's lockdown is due to end on Thursday.

COVID plan indispensable for mental health.

The national COVID-19 recovery plan is indispensable at a time when children are suffering mental health issues due to lengthy lockdowns in parts of the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

The national plan aims to start easing restrictions once vaccination rates hit 70 and 80 per cent.

The latest results show just over 57 per cent of Australians above 16 years of age have now had one dose of a coronavirus jab, while more than 34 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses.

While there have been some quibbles among some states in opening internal borders with infection rates remaining high, particularly in NSW, Mr Hunt reiterated the plan needs to be followed.

"Mental health is so critical. Kids need to be at school. Kids need to be able to engage with each other. And that's why the national plan is indispensable," Mr Hunt told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.


"We're providing massive mental health support, but the strongest support is the hope of a clear plan and of being able to see each other."

But Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler believes it will be difficult for states that don't have COVID-19 like Western Australia and Tasmania to fling open their borders once the 70 per cent vaccine target is reached.

"I don't think their people will allow the premiers to do that and I don't think that will be the public health advice that they get from their state chief health officer," Mr Butler told ABC's Insiders program.

Eligibility opens up across Australia for 16-39-year-olds to receive Pfizer.

From today, eligibility will open up across the country for anyone aged 16 to 39 to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Parts of Sydney's eastern suburbs have been granted priority access to the Pfizer vaccine as authorities to try to stop more councils being designated hotspot areas.

Randwick LGA will join the 12 hotspot LGAs in south western and western Sydney in receiving priority access.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine will be offered only to those eligible for the Pfizer vaccine when it is rolled out in Australia next month.

The vaccine is expected to be made available primarily through pharmacies from late September, and will be allocated on a per-capita basis across the states and territories.

Those over the age of 60 will remain eligible only for the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Madison de Rozario wins Australia's first gold on the Paralympics track. 

Madison de Rozario has won Australia's first track and field gold at the Tokyo Games and ended her long quest for a Paralympic title, dominating the final of the T53 800m on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium.

Australia is eighth on the medal tally after day five with eight gold, 15 silver and 13 bronze.

But until Sunday, the 27-year-old had to settle for Paralympic silver.

The four-time Paralympian had won three silver medals and was fifth two days ago in the T54 5000m.

This time, de Rozario executed a perfect race and clocked one minute 45.99 seconds, breaking the Paralympic record.

Also on Sunday night at the track, sprinter Isis Holt won her second Tokyo silver in the T35 200m, with Zhou Xia of China breaking her own world record for the gold.


At the pool, Jake Michel had a near-perfect Games debut when he was narrowly beaten in the final of the SB14 100m breaststroke.

Ellie Cole, Isabella Vincent, Emily Beecroft and Ashleigh McConnell took silver in the 34 points 4x100m freestyle relay behind Italy.

Sam Von Einem won his second straight Games table tennis silver medal, losing 3-2 to world No.1 Hungarian Peter Palos in the Class 11 gold medal match.

But the Steelers' campaign for a third straight Paralympics gold medal ended in disaster with a 60-52 torching from Japan in their bronze medal game.

US drone strike thwarts another Kabul airport bomb attack.

The US has carried out a military strike in Kabul, hitting a vehicle carrying "multiple suicide bombers" from Afghanistan's ISIS-K before they could target the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul's international airport.

U.S. Central Command confirmed the strike and said in a statement that it had no immediate indication it caused any civilian casualties, but was investigating.  

An Afghan official has since said three children were killed in the strike. 

America is winding down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul's international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago. Last week two suicide bombs killed more than 70 people, including US troops. 


More than 1000 civilians are still at the airport preparing to be flown out.

The country's new Taliban rulers are preparing to take control of the airport, but an exact time for the end of the operation is yet to be decided.

President Joe Biden has said he will stick by his deadline to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Tuesday.

Biden has met in solemn privacy with the families of the 13 US troops killed in the suicide attack near the Kabul airport and became the fourth commander in chief to bear witness as the remains of the fallen returned to US soil from Afghanistan.

The dead ranged in age from 20 to 31, and came from California and Massachusetts and states in between.

WA's first space satellite launched.

A West Australian-made satellite has been launched into space for the first time. 

Named after the Noongar word for fireball, Binar-1 was designed and built by 30 undergraduate students and engineers at Perth's Curtin University.

The tiny cube-shaped satellite weighs 1.5kg and is made of 10cm aluminium modules.


The device was meant to be launched on Saturday aboard a SpaceX rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida but bad weather delayed it until Sunday evening, Perth time. 

A small crowd gathered to cheer and countdown to a live broadcast of the launch at Yagan Square in Perth, where it will replay on a digital tower for the next week. 

The rocket is carrying supplies to the International Space Station.

Hurricane Ida blasts ashore in America.

Hurricane Ida has blasted ashore along the Louisiana coast, with the eye of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US arriving near the barrier island of Grand Isle.

The powerful category 4 storm made landfall on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, about 40 miles (64 kilometres) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.


Arriving with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars, Ida preliminarily goes down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States based on wind speed. Based on central pressure it is tied for 9th strongest US landfall.

Hurricane force winds started to strike Grand Isle on Sunday morning. 

Before power was lost on the Louisiana barrier island, a beachfront web camera showed the ocean steadily rising as growing waves churned and palm trees whipped. 

Around the world. 

- The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) says the well-being and mental health of two newly-arrived Afghan athletes are its top priority, and the pair will not be speaking to media during the Paralympic Games.

Zakai Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli arrived in Tokyo on Saturday to compete in the 2020 Paralympics after Khudadadi made a video appeal for help to leave Kabul after the Taliban swept to power.

- Surging demand for vaccines amid New Zealand's latest COVID-19 outbreak means jabs may need to be held back for Kiwis in coming weeks.

Health ministry records show around 400,000 doses were sitting at central warehouses - enough for just under a week's supply at current rates.

- With AAP

Feature image: Lisa Maree Williams-Pool/Adam Pretty/MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES/Getty.

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