The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Tuesday September 14.

NSW curve flattening, say experts.

Leading epidemiologists have expressed optimism that NSW has flattened the curve of COVID-19 cases after 11 weeks in lockdown and rising vaccination rates.

Speaking to the ABC, Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University noted that the reproduction number — that is, how many people on average an infected person will pass the virus on to — has held steady at 1 in recent days, down from the 1.3 seen for much of the state's Delta outbreak.

"I think we’ve got a really good sign that we are now seeing this curve flatten," Prof Bennett said.

The state has seen a downward trend of cases for the first time since the Delta outbreak began in mid-June. NSW health authorities reported 1257 cases on Monday, down from a high of almost 1600.

Epidemiologist Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia was also confident the curve was flattening, but told ABC Radio National this does not mean case numbers have peaked.

"I'm seeing the rate in growth of cases slowing right down. So it has all the sign of a peak, but the numbers are not there to tell me it is a peak and it won't be for a few days yet. But I am very optimistic," Prof Esterman said.

NSW Health's own pandemic modelling predicted cases would peak this week, while hospitalisations would not reach their highest level until mid-October.

With vaccination rates climbing, NSW residents in some areas are already benefiting from eased restrictions.


The NSW-Queensland border bubble is operating again, allowing people in northern NSW who aren't locked down to travel north for essential work, school or medical reasons.

Up to five fully vaccinated adults who live outside the 12 Sydney COVID-19 hotspots areas can gather outdoors within five kilometres of their home.

Vaccinated households that live in the 12 local government areas of concern can gather outdoors for recreation for two hours outside curfew hours and within five kilometres of home.

This no longer applies to Yass Valley Council in the Southern Tablelands which has gone back into lockdown following a positive COVID-19 case, three days after restrictions were eased.

The LGA in the Southern Tablelands returned to lockdown settings for two weeks from 12.01am on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in regional NSW, there are nearly a thousand cases of COVID-19 in the state's west with authorities particularly concerned about the town of Walgett.

No freedom plans for the unvaccinated in NSW.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian denied the unvaccinated would have their freedoms restored at 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage in NSW, squashing claims made by her deputy, John Barilaro.

The Premier recently announced once the state hits its 70 per cent target, due in roughly mid-October, that the fully vaccinated will have several freedoms restored allowing for household visits, gatherings and hospitality.

Speaking on 2GB radio on Monday, Barilaro claimed that government would then lift further restrictions, including for the unvaccinated, once the state hit 80 per cent fully vaccinated "three to four weeks" later.

The Premier shut down this claim later on Monday.

"I don't want people to think they can sit back and let everybody else do the hard work [getting vaccinated]," she said

However, the Premier couldn't provide further information on when restrictions may lift for those without the jab.

"We have not yet put out our plans for 80 per cent, we’re still formalising them," she told 

"Government might say it's up to business to decide whether or not they accept unvaccinated patrons … but we have not come to those conclusions yet."

According to the most recent available data, 78.5 per cent of the over-16 population has received a first dose COVID-19 vaccine, and 46.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.


Victorian school probed over COVID-19 outbreak.

A Melbourne school at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak will be questioned amid claims it was operating at full capacity despite tough lockdown restrictions.

Authorities are investigating the outbreak at Fitzroy Community School in Fitzroy North. 

The Department of Health on Monday night said 29 students and staff had contracted the virus, while there were 82 close contacts associated with the outbreak. 

There are about 60 students enrolled at the school, which describes itself as an "independent, alternative primary school".

Only children of permitted workers and those who are vulnerable are currently allowed to attend school in Melbourne, but the school had been inviting all parents to send their children to class.

The school has been closed for deep cleaning, and it is believed the school will not reopen until all staff complete their 14-day quarantine. 

Victoria recorded 473 new COVID-19 cases on Monday — the highest daily tally of the state's latest outbreak — bringing the total number of active infections to 3507.

All but 38 of the new infections reside in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs, which are subject to a three-week vaccination blitz.

Health Minister Martin Foley said 87 per cent of active cases were aged under 50, with 585 aged under 19.

"This continues to be a pandemic of the young and the unvaccinated," he told reporters on Monday.


Mr Foley said 89 per cent of the 157 Victorians fighting COVID-19 in hospital were unvaccinated, while 11 per cent had received one dose.

ACT to learn path out of lockdown.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is set to reveal Canberra's path out of lockdown after warning the easing of restrictions will be slow and steady.

The number of people in the community while infectious remains a concern, with 10 of Monday's 13 new cases not in quarantine the whole time.

"If we've got too many people even unknowingly infectious in the community and too much activity, then you're on a pathway to where Sydney finds itself now," Chief Minister Barr told reporters. 

Canberra's lockdown, already extended twice, is currently scheduled to run until midnight on Friday.

The next steps to ease restrictions will be unveiled during Mr Barr's daily coronavirus update on Tuesday.

Mr Barr has repeatedly warned people to expect a difficult spring and not to expect drastic changes when lockdown does end. 

He has also put businesses on notice, saying those found to repeatedly flout public health orders could be shut down. 

The problem mostly centred around mask wearing in hospitality venues. 

Meanwhile, the ACT is due to achieve a 50 per cent vaccination rate for over-12s this week.


It comes as children aged between 12 and 15 can be booked in for a Pfizer jab at government clinics from next Monday.

Woman stabbed by stranger on QLD beach.

Police have arrested a teenage boy after a young woman was repeatedly stabbed as she sunbaked alone on a north Queensland beach.

The 23-year-old suffered wounds all over her body as she lay on Blacks Beach at Mackay about noon on Monday.

"She was approached by a male and stabbed multiple times to her head, neck, arms and legs," Detective Inspector Tom Armitt told reporters on Monday.

"That male person has then ... run away."

The woman sought help from workers at a nearby construction site.

"She said: 'Help me, help me, I’ve been stabbed. I don’t want to die. Please, I don’t want to die,'" witness Gavin Odgaard told 7NEWS.

She was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

A 16-year-old boy was taken into custody a short time later and charged with acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm.

Detective Inspector Tom Armitt told reporters on Monday that it appeared to be a "random attack”.

"She states that she did not know who the male was. There was no prior interaction, and she has not seen him before," he said.

"It’s a disgraceful act, and it’s something that we’re treating very seriously."


QLD parliament to debate voluntary assisted dying law.

The Queensland government won't make any last-minute changes to its proposed voluntary-assisted dying law.

Instead, it will work with faith-based care providers who object to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to draw up clinical guidelines to protect them from taking part in the system.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles will lead a parliamentary debate on Tuesday on the proposed law, which would allow terminally ill people to end their lives.

He will tell them a set of clear clinical guidelines will provide certainty for faith-based providers and other objectors.

"The government is not proposing amendments and I urge members not to support amendments," Mr Miles will tell parliament.

"However, faith-based institutions deliver services that are valued by Queenslanders.

"Mater and St Vincent's, in particular, are respected and important contributors to our health system and society.

"We respect and acknowledge their faith and the concerns they have raised.

"In recognition of these concerns and the valued place of these institutions in our society the government wants to provide further comfort to them regarding how the law will apply in practice in their institutions during the implementation phase."

Under the VAD bill, people seeking help to die must have either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within a year and it must be causing "intolerable" suffering.

People must also be assessed by two doctors, having made three separate requests for help to die.

Faith-based providers will not be obligated to administer euthanasia drugs.

However, they would have to allow independent doctors to help patients end their lives if they were unable to be moved to other facilities.

Catholic providers like St Vincent's Health and Mater Health are concerned staff could witness premature deaths.

Providers also warned that outside doctors wouldn't have to give forewarning before entering their premises to help end the lives of their patients.

But Mr Miles said clinical guidelines will set out how staff cannot be forced to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process.


It will set out how patients can be safely transferred to other facilities and detail how external doctors should engage objecting providers before entering their premises.

The guidelines would also set out how to afford patients privacy and limit any impacts on other residents.

The major parties have granted their MPs conscience votes on the bill.

The bill needs a majority of 47 votes in Queensland's 93-seat parliament to pass into law. There is no upper house in Queensland.

Mr Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman support the proposed law.

Another 39 MPs support the bill, including three Liberal National Party MPs, two Greens and independent Sandy Bolton.

However, 13 LNP MPs including Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki and three Katter's Australian Party MPs will oppose the bill.

Another 22 MPs, including Opposition Leader David Crisafulli and Treasurer Cameron Dick, are yet to publicly reveal their stance.

UN raises $1bn for Afghanistan, with conditions attached.

A United Nations-hosted international aid conference for Afghanistan raised more than $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) in aid for the suffering population, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says.

But the pledges were paired with demands that the Taliban, now in charge of the country, take steps to respect human rights.


It was the first donor conference since the militant Islamist movement took power in August. Many states made it clear in Geneva on Monday that they were not attaching any conditions to their short-term humanitarian support.

However, further cooperation with the Taliban regime will depend on their treatment of foreign aid workers, women, children and minorities.

"I think this is also something that gives the international community leverage," Guterres said.

The United Nations had estimated that Afghanistan needs more than $US600 million ($A815 million) up to the end of the year to avoid malnutrition and a collapse in public services. Food scarcity has worsened dramatically since the Taliban takeover of the country last month.

The Taliban on Monday called on the international community to cooperate with them in order to help the people of Afghanistan.

"The world should cooperate with us," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told dpa. "Security has been maintained in the country and the people are in economic trouble; food is scarce, medicine is scarce."

Guterres convened the meeting, telling the more than 40 ministers attending the event in person, and many more online, that "the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline."

The UN estimates that there are already food shortages in 93 per cent of the country's homes.


According to UN authorities, basic services in Afghanistan are on the verge of collapse since international troops withdrew from Afghanistan after a 20-year deployment there. Humanitarian aid is intended to maintain medical services, water supply and sanitation facilities.

In addition, protection measures for children and women, emergency shelters and schools are to be financed.

Around the world:

— Indonesia's elite counter-terrorism squad has arrested Abu Rusdan, a convicted militant and suspected leader Jemaah Islamiyah — the al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for the Bali bombing of 2002.

— Olympic champion Simone Biles will be one of several renowned gymnasts who will testify before a US Senate panel this week, as it explores how the FBI botched its investigation into disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

— Seventy-five children who were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria's northwestern Zamfara State have been released after their abductors came under pressure from a military crackdown, a state official says. Gunmen took the students from the village of Kaya on September 1, the latest in a spate of mass kidnappings from schools across the region.

— With AAP.

Feature image: 7 News, Getty, Facebook/Meaghan Scanlon MP.

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