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The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday August 3.

Scott Morrison announces $1,500 "pandemic leave". 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a “pandemic leave disaster payment” for Victorian workers who are required to isolate for 14 days and who have no sick leave. 

“They will principally be made to those on short-term visas - those who are not permanent residents or citizens of Australia who otherwise wouldn’t have accessed Commonwealth payments,” Scott Morrison said. 

The Prime Minister said workers will be allowed to access the payment multiple times, if they are required to self-isolate multiple times. 

Scott Morrison announced pandemic leave for Victorians on Monday afternoon. Image: Getty.

The pandemic leave disaster payment is only for people in Victoria, which was declared a state of disaster by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday.  

"This is a disaster payment,” Scott Morrison says. “If another state were to be in a position - and God forbid they were - that there was a disaster of the scale that we’re seeing in Victoria, then a disaster payment of this nature would be entered into."

The extra payment will be in place for as long as the Victorian Government thinks it is necessary.

To apply for the Commonwealth’s pandemic leave disaster payments, you can phone 180 22 66.

All retail store will close in Melbourne, Premier announces. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced retail, some manufacturing and some admin will close under stage four restrictions amid the coronavirus crisis. Those workplaces will close come 11:59pm this Wednesday.

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"The home delivery model will be able to continue in a number of different retail sites but retail will look very different than it has looked and it’s critically important to have many, many people at home rather than at work and moving to and from work each and every day," Andrews explained. 

Meat works will move to two-thirds production, whilst construction will be divided into three parts: large scale government projects (workforce restricted to half of normal capacity), very large commercial building (workforce to be reduced to 25 per cent working) and residential construction (five people permitted per site). 

Businesses that will remain open include supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, news agencies and post offices.

"That means people do not need to be going and buying six weeks worth of groceries," the Premier says. 

It comes as Dan Andrews declared a state of disaster on Sunday and introduced stage four restrictions, including a curfew for all Melburnians. The restrictions will be in place until September 13.  

On Monday, the state recorded 429 cases of coronavirus, plus 13 more people have died in Victoria in the past 24 hours due to the pandemic.  

Watch: Daniel Andrews declares a state of disaster in Victoria. Post continues below. 


Video via Sky News

"Regrettably necessary". Federal govt backs Victorian lockdown.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Victoria's New Zealand-style COVID-19 lockdown is "regrettably necessary", with five million Melburnians awaking from their first night under curfew.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a "state of disaster" featuring tough new restrictions after another surge in infections and seven more deaths, insisting the time for leniency "is over".

The state recorded a further 671 cases on Sunday, while the deaths took its toll to 123 and the nation's to 208.

Upgraded restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne from Sunday evening include allowing only one person per household to shop and only one to exercise for an hour a day. Both activities must be within a 5km radius from their home.

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There will also be an 8pm-5am curfew over the six-week lockdown.

Regional Victoria will go to stage three restrictions from Thursday, which will see restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms close, while schools will return to remote learning across the state.

Mitchell Shire, to Melbourne's north, has been reclassified as a regional municipality meaning it will remain under 'stage three' rules.

"These are big steps but they are necessary," Andrews told reporters.

He said he would announce business restrictions on Monday but assured supermarkets and other essential shops would remain open.

A special meeting of the nation's medical officers informed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior members of government that it backed Victoria's decisions.

"We recognise the further measures announced by the premier are regrettably necessary," Hunt, who is also a Victorian, told reporters.

"We support them with a heavy heart but we do so because they will help save and protect lives in Victoria."

He said the government would provide $7.3 million in additional support for mental health.

The calling of a "state of disaster" will give additional powers to the police to enforce restrictions.

NSW meanwhile updated its mask usage advice after recording 12 new infections on Sunday, recommending they be worn in four specific circumstances.

Both Queensland and Western Australia reported one new coronavirus case apiece, coming from returning overseas travellers.

Meanwhile, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said he would quickly impose stricter rules to separate his state from the growing threat of its eastern counterparts if required.

"We're very concerned about the unfolding situation in Victoria and we're very supportive of further restrictions being put in place in that state," he said.

Melbourne's first night under virus curfew.

Five million Melburnians have spent their first night under a citywide, coronavirus-enforced curfew that will last the next six weeks.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced a suite of tough new COVID-19 regulations designed to limit movement in Melbourne, while foreshadowing more to come for workplaces.

Under 'stage four' rules to run until at least September 13, metro Melbourne has been placed on a nightly 8pm-5am curfew starting from Sunday night, prompting a number of eerily empty photos from normally busy central city spots.

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Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

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"We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever," Andrews said on Sunday.

"It is not an easy decision to make but it is necessary and that’s why I've made it and that's why police will be out in force and you will be stopped and you will be asked and need to demonstrate that you are lawfully out and you are not breaching that curfew."

Masks strongly recommended in NSW.

NSW is strongly recommending people wear masks in high-risk situations, as the state enters a critical phase in the coronavirus battle.

Public-facing workers, worshippers, people living near community clusters and those in enclosed spaces, such as on public transport or in grocery stores, should wear face masks.

"These are recommendations to keep all of us safe," Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Sunday.

"They're recommendations to make sure we keep NSW in the position we are in. I cannot stress enough how critical the next few weeks are."

Image: Getty.

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Elderly people or those suffering underlying health issues should also wear masks.

Despite strongly urging people to wear masks, Ms Berejiklian stopped short of making them compulsory.

"We have been talking about masks for several weeks but obviously the persistent situation in Victoria gives us cause for alarm," Ms Berejiklian said.

NSW recorded 12 new virus cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday from almost 22,500 tests.

One case had no known source, with NSW Health's Dr Jeremy McAnulty revealing seven cases in the prior week were not linked to known cases.

Eight people with the virus are in intensive care.

An 83-year-old man connected to the Crossroads Hotel cluster in southwestern Sydney died at the weekend, taking the NSW death toll to 52 and the nationwide tally past 200.

It was the first coronavirus-related death in NSW since late May.

The NSW outbreak has moved north to the Hunter region, with NSW Health urging anyone who visited Newcastle venues Hotel Jesmond between 7.30pm and 9.30pm on July 29, or Wallsend Diggers between 7.30pm and 9.30pm on July 30, to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

NSW Health on Sunday confirmed a person with coronavirus attended the Advance Early Learning Centre in Merrylands, in western Sydney, between July 27 and 29, prompting the childcare centre to close for cleaning.

The Thai Rock Wetherill Park cluster is nearing 100 cases, while the cluster in east suburban Potts Point has reached 24.

National coordination needed for disasters.

Image: Getty.

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The bushfires royal commission is set to hear how a lack of national coordination has hampered swift disaster recovery and left some communities waiting months for much needed help.

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel will give evidence at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements on Monday as it focuses on national coordination of decision making and resource sharing.

The inquiry has already heard how a lack of data sharing and national coordination slowed distribution of charitable funding, while also re-traumatising bushfire victims by forcing them to repeat their stories for each scrap of aide.

Held over four days in Canberra, the commission will also examine the ongoing COVID-19 response and measures which could be adapted to future natural disasters.

SpaceX astronauts splash down after voyage.

US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX's new Crew Dragon, have splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The pair return after a two-month voyage that was NASA's first crewed mission from home soil in nine years.

Behnken and Hurley left the station on Saturday and returned home to land in the waves off Florida's Pensacola coast on schedule following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon "Endeavour". 

The successful splashdown was a final key test of whether Elon Musk's spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit - a feat no private company has ever accomplished before.

"On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX," SpaceX mission control said upon splashdown.

For the return sequence, on-board thrusters and two sets of parachutes worked autonomously to slow the acorn-shaped capsule, bringing Behnken and Hurley's speed of 28,000kph in orbit down to 560kph upon atmospheric re-entry, and eventually 25kph at splashdown.

During re-entry to Earth's atmosphere, the capsule's outer shell withstood temperatures as high as 1,927 degrees while Behnken and Hurley, wearing SpaceX's white flight suits strapped inside the cabin, experienced 30 degrees.

The crew will spend up to an hour floating inside the capsule before joint recovery teams from SpaceX and NASA retrieve them for a helicopter trip ashore.

There the duo will undergo medical checks ahead of a flight to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Around the world.

- At least 40 crew and passengers on a luxury Norweigan cruise liner have contracted COVID-19 with authorities now trying to trace passengers from two voyages. The Hurtigruten line was the first cruise company to return to sailing following the pandemic.

- The United States is in a new phase of the coronavirus outbreak with infections "extraordinarily widespread" in rural areas as well as cities, White House coronavirus experts said on Sunday. The country is nearing five million cases and 160,000 deaths.

-  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday President Donald Trump "will take action in the coming days" on Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing national security risks. Trump told reporters on Friday he would ban the video sharing app from operating in the US, though it was not immediately clear exactly how a ban would come into place.

-With AAP.

Feature image: Getty.

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