Pfizer approved for Australians 12 and over, and everything else you need to know today.

Pfizer approved for all Australians aged 12 and over.

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation for all Australians 12 years and over.

"Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended for all individuals from 12 years of age, extending the current recommendation for those aged 16 years and over," ATAGI said in a statement.

Some children in that age bracket with underlying health conditions were already eligible for the vaccine, but the latest advice expanded the rollout to include the entire cohort.

While Pfizer supplies remain limited, ATAGI recommends the timing of including adolescents needs to be balanced against access to vaccines for priority groups.

Bookings to vaccinate children aged 12-15 will open September 13.

Meanwhile, NSW has made a decision on a return to face-to-face learning. Teachers and students will start a staggered return from October.


Bloodbath at Kabul airport kills more than 70 people. 

Islamic State have claimed responsibility for twin attacks at Kabul airport that have killed more than 70 people and injured twice as many.

Suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of the airport with at least two explosions, causing a bloodbath among civilians and US troops and effectively shutting down the Western airlift of Afghans desperate to flee.

Afghan officials say at least 60 of their civilians were killed and 143 injured in the attacks that took place late on Thursday afternoon.

At last count, 12 US service members are thought to have been killed in the blasts - 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two US officials.

Video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in packed crowds outside the airport.

A watery ditch by the airport fence was filled with blood-soaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

Several Western countries said the airlift of civilians was now effectively over, with the United States having sealed the gates of the airport leaving no way out for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the West through two decades of war.


ISIS have released a picture of one of the suicide bombers, identified as Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri.

Leaders primed for reopening plan showdown.

Australia's leaders will thrash out sticking points with a national reopening plan after a week of federal-state tensions over vaccine coverage and surging infections.

Scott Morrison will on Friday chair a national cabinet meeting with premiers and chief ministers with divisions emerging over the path out of the pandemic.

The prime minister has become increasingly adamant vaccine coverage targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent must trigger new phases of restrictions regardless of case numbers.


The inclusion of children in the thresholds has opened up a fresh front in the battle between leaders.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is already including everyone over 12 in vaccination targets.

WA Premier Mark McGowan raised the issue at last week's national cabinet meeting and expects it to come up again.

"The prime minister was not supportive of that but I think it's something that requires some serious further discussion," he said.

"There's a headlong rush in Sydney to just open everything up and let it rip. That is not my view."

Mr Morrison said the Doherty Institute, which completed the modelling underpinning the reopening plan, had made it clear it was not necessary to include 12- to 15-year-olds in overall targets.

"But it does not mean that they shouldn't be vaccinated. Of course they should be vaccinated," he told parliament.

First freedom step as NSW cases pass 1000.

NSW has crossed the 1000-case mark for daily COVID-19 infections on the same day the government announced its "treat" for the fully vaccinated.

From September 13, up to five fully vaccinated adults can gather outdoors, but only those outside of western Sydney's local government areas of concern. Children - not yet vaccinated - can be included in these groups of five.

In the 12 council areas of concern, households with all adults vaccinated can gather outdoors for recreation, such as picnics - but not with other households.


It comes as NSW reports a record 1029 new local COVID-19 cases - 844 for which the isolation status remains unknown - and four deaths.

Three of the deaths reported on Thursday were unvaccinated - a man in his 30s, a man in his 60s and a man in his 80s. 

NSW Health later reported the death of another man in his 60s, to be included in Friday's numbers, who caught the virus earlier this month while an inpatient at Nepean Hospital.

A two-week extension of the lockdown in regional NSW was also announced, given the number of cases in Dubbo and western NSW.

There are almost 700 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 116 in intensive care beds and 43 ventilated. At least two western Sydney hospitals – Westmead with 121 virus patients and Blacktown with 15 - have called "code yellows" as their caseload climbs.

More than 1500 COVID-19 patients are also being cared for in the community by the Western Sydney Local Health District.

But Health Minister Brad Hazzard has moved to reassure the public the state's healthcare system will cope, on Thursday introducing a new measure hoped to help it do so.

The state will become the first to require health staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health workers must have their first dose of vaccine by September 30 and be fully vaccinated by November 30, or at least have their second appointment booked to continue working.


Relief arrives for COVID-battered Vic town.

Emergency relief has arrived in the COVID-battered Victorian town of Shepparton, as it struggles with almost a third of its population in isolation.

Eighteen of the state's 80 new infections on Thursday are linked to the outbreak in the town, about 180 kilometres north of Melbourne. None were isolating throughout their infectious period.

It brings the total number of cases in Shepparton to 67, though Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp confirmed at least another five or six cases had emerged by Thursday afternoon.

Up to 20,000 residents in the region, which has a population of 65,000, are believed to be self-isolating. 

Food distributors, supermarkets and pharmacies are among businesses forced to reduce operating hours due to staff shortages.

Earlier on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state's deputy emergency management commissioner Deb Abbott, as well as other senior departmental officials, had been sent to Shepparton to co-ordinate relief.

"It is no different to a bushfire or flood. The emergency management architecture will be in place but it will be in the main very, very simple things - taking food to people's doorstep, getting scripts filled," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"The focus is on getting everybody in Shepparton things they need when they need them." 

There are 600 active COVID-19 cases in Victoria, including 36 people in hospital, with 11 in intensive care and eight on ventilators.


Meanwhile, about 200,000 Victorians booked in to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, after eligibility opened up to those aged between 16 and 39. 

On a typical day some 30,000 vaccine bookings are made.

ACT to unveil tweaked COVID restrictions.

The ACT is set to reveal tweaks to Canberra's coronavirus restrictions, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr warning the coming months will be difficult. 

His cabinet has been briefed on changes to restrictions ahead of the end of lockdown scheduled for September 2.

With the changes dependent on next week's case numbers, Mr Barr has sought to temper community expectations.

"(It) will not be a significant easing of restrictions; it will be a gentle step forward and this will remain the case through spring," he told reporters.


"We're not going to be in a position, given our vaccination rates and all that is transpiring around us, to go back to being where we were prior to this outbreak."

Slightly more than 37 per cent of ACT residents aged 12 and older are double-dosed as the territory prepares for the widespread vaccination of under-16s.

Canberra recorded 14 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday as its outbreak, stemming from Sydney, grew to 190. Nine people were in hospital including an unvaccinated woman in her 40s in intensive care.

Australia hits gold pause after big start.

20-year-old Queenslander Katja Dedekind has won bronze in the S13 100m backstroke, one of four medals won by Australia on day two of the Tokyo Games.

While Australia topped the medal tally after day one, it hit a gold pause on Thursday with a silver and three bronze.

The other Australian medal in the pool on Thursday went to Kiera Stephens, who won bronze in the SB9 100m breaststroke.

Also on Thursday, track cyclist Darren Hicks won silver in the C2 individual pursuit after fastest qualifier Ewoud Vromont from Belgium was disqualified.

Hicks was third-fastest in qualifying and originally was riding for the bronze medal, but was elevated to the gold ride-off against French rider Alexandre Leaute.


Australian David Nicholas also had a convincing win in the bronze medal ride-off for the C3 individual pursuit.

After Wednesday's shock loss to Denmark, the Steelers held off a fierce challenge from France to take out their must-win wheelchair rugby clash 50-48.

The Steelers have another big game on Friday against unbeaten Japan, with only the top two in the pool advancing to the semi-finals.

Qantas eyeing overseas flights from Dec.

With Australia's vaccination rollout gaining pace, Qantas says it is time to prepare for a return to some overseas destinations by the end of the year. 

The national carrier expects to resume flights to some low-risk destinations with high vaccination rates from mid-December. These include Singapore, Japan, the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.

Flights to cities with lower vaccination rates - such as Bali, Jakarta, Manila and Johannesburg, will only restart from April 2022.

"I know the prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off – especially with NSW and Victoria in lockdown," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday.


"But the current pace of the vaccine rollout means all Australian states are on track to reach the 80 per cent target by December – which is the trigger for starting to carefully open to some parts of the world."

The issue of quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers visiting or returning to Australia still weighs on the plans, with the government yet to decide on the requirements. 

Qantas says demand levels will be quite low if a 14-day hotel quarantine is mandated. A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel.

No all-male boards in top 200 Aussie companies.

There are no all-male boards in Australia's top 200 companies for the first time since the Australian Securities Exchange was formed in 1987.

Almost 30 ASX company boards have diversified since 2015, the Australian Institute of Company Directors says.

"This is an historical milestone for Australia that should be celebrated," AICD chief executive Angus Armour said on Thursday.

The target was reached earlier this month when the last two all-male mining boards appointed highly qualified women as non-executive directors.


Thirty Per Cent Club Australia chair Nicola Wakefield Evans said women now held 500 ASX 200 board positions.

"When the push for gender diversity on the ASX 200 began, there was a view that Australia did not offer the talent pool of qualified women to achieve the targets we set," she said.

"That myth is well and truly busted."

Around the world. 

- US Capitol Police officers who were attacked and beaten during the Capitol riot have filed a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, his allies and members of far-right extremist groups.

- All 13 parties accused of health and safety breaches prior to the deadly White Island volcanic eruption in New Zealand that killed 47 people, have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Those charged include the owners of the offshore volcano, the Buttle family, tour groups and government agencies. If found guilty, the organisations and individuals could be liable for millions of dollars worth of fines.

- With AAP

Feature image: MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES/Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty.

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