The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday September 10.

Queensland border rules slammed as "loopy", as terminally ill father is denied chance to say goodbye to his four children.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has described Queensland's tough border stance as "loopy", as the story of a father-of-four who is dying of terminal cancer highlights a lack of compassion.

Mark Keans, 39, is battling cancer from his hospital bed in Brisbane and has been told it is unlikely he will survive past Christmas.

Despite pleas from his family to allow them to cross the NSW-Queensland border to say their goodbyes, the Queensland government has ruled just one of Keans' four young children will be allowed to enter the state.

"Just let us see our son, that's all we ask. We just want to see him," Kean's father, Bruce Langvorne, told 9News.

He told the Today show on Thursday morning it was impossible to pick one child to visit their father.


On Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she too had been impacted by the closed border.

"My uncle was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I couldn't go and visit him in the hospital," she said in parliament.

Her comments enraged NSW politicians, with Health Minister Hazzard slamming Palaszczuk.

"I can only express my supreme anger at the Queensland premier's decision, which in my view ... is nothing more than base, loopy politics," Mr Hazzard said.

"I'm appalled by what's going on up there."

On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the Today show she did begrudge her Queensland colleague's stance.

She had previously called on more compassion.

"You have to look at this issue from a compassionate perspective, a human perspective and appreciate that people with medical challenges, with compassionate reasons, or just to get to work, need to be considered," she said last week.

NSW reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the cluster linked to Concord and Liverpool hospitals to 12, including eight healthcare workers.


Seven cases were linked to a known case or cluster, one has no known source and one is a returned overseas traveller in hotel quarantine.

NSW Health is treating 88 COVID-19 cases, including six in intensive care, three of whom are being ventilated.

Daniel Andrews insists his roadmap is the only way out of Victoria's second wave.

Premier Daniel Andrews insists his roadmap is the only path out of Victoria's second wave of COVID-19 as he continues to cop flak over the plan.

There is no set date yet for when regional restrictions will ease, while Melbourne will remain under a curfew until at least October 26.

"If anger and frustration were like a vaccine against this virus, then we would all be in a much better position," Mr Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.

"The notion that I have chosen this way to go and there were 50 other options I could have chosen, that's not in any way accurate."

As Wednesday lived up to its "spike day" billing with 76 new cases and 11 deaths, the premier again said restrictions could be eased quicker — depending on case numbers.

That would allow footpaths and parks to be transformed in the coming months to open-air dining and drinking areas, mitigating the risk of business outbreaks.

"You will see roads and laneways closed," Mr Andrews said.

"You'll see parks that will become a centre of not just passive (recreation), but you'll see people drinking and dining in those parks."


The 14-day new case averages for Melbourne (74.5) and regional Victoria (five) are critical barometers for the roadmap strategy, and both numbers continue to fall.

Of the 11 latest deaths, nine were linked to aged care. They took the state toll to 694 and the national figure to 781.

AstraZeneca vaccine trial 'to resume next week'.

AstraZeneca has suspended global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness in a participant in Britain, casting doubt on prospects for an early roll-out.

The vaccine to combat COVID-19, which Britain's AstraZeneca is developing with the University of Oxford, has been described by the World Health Organisation as probably the world's leading candidate and the furthest developed.

However, AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it had paused trials, including late-stage ones, to allow an independent committee to review safety data, and it was working to minimise any potential impact on the timeline.

The stakes are high because AstraZeneca, Britain's largest drug maker by market value, has already agreed to supply close to three billion doses to governments across the globe.

Most countries will contribute financially to developing the vaccine, even if the trial fails.

Britain's medical regulator said it is urgently reviewing information available to determine whether trials can restart as quickly as possible.

A New York Times report citing a person familiar with the situation said a participant based in the UK was found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections.


Whether this was directly linked to AstraZeneca's vaccine remains unclear, it said.

The Financial Times quoted people associated with the trial as saying it could resume early next week, after the study's independent data monitoring board has investigated.

The British trial began in May with more than 12,000 participants, from 5 years old to over 70.

Fear of COVID-19 mental health hit.

It's not just clinical cases of COVID-19 that will prove fatal for Australians — the pandemic's mental health fallout is likely to bring a wave of further deaths.

Leading psychiatrist and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry reports there has been an upswing in mental health cases and their severity since the virus hit.

"What we're seeing, from what my colleagues tell me on the frontline, is about a 20 per cent increase in people presenting," Prof McGorry said.

"Often in quite acute and complex presentations now, too, so there's definitely an increase in severity.

"All the surveys of the population show a very substantial rise in distress, which we know translates into a surge for need for care as well."


Devastatingly, Prof McGorry warned the nation's first economic recession in three decades will be "the most powerful driver of suicide".

"The suicide increase is probably projected over the coming months and years, rather than immediately," he said.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, Prof McGorry said it's not too late to reduce the potentially deadly impacts of coronavirus pressures.

He appealed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Daniel Andrews, premier of the hardest-hit coronavirus state Victoria, to grasp the enormity of the mental health system's shortfalls.


Recently announced $60m and $32m mental health packages from state and federal governments are akin to "firing a hose into a raging bushfire", the executive director of youth mental health group Orygen said.

"They and the whole public are starting to understand this has been a very big sleeping giant, and it's been woken up by the pandemic," Prof McGorry said.

"We've got to build the right infrastructure for the 21st century."

That includes making Beyond Blue and other mental health support centres more digital-friendly to help stem the tide of the current surge, he said.

Anyone needing support is urged to contact beyondblue (1800 22 4636) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Aussie's alcohol and cannabis use on the rise.

Two in five Australians have been drinking more alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study shows.

The Global Drug Survey COVID-19 Special Edition results released on Wednesday showed cannabis use has also increased.

Two in five Australian survey respondents reported drinking more alcohol since February, while about half of the cannabis-users surveyed said they increased their consumption over the same period.

About half of both samples said they were partaking in their vices alone more often than before the pandemic.

"Drinkers who reported having a diagnosed mental health condition were more likely to report increasing their drinking compared to February, before COVID-19 restrictions," co-lead researcher Dr Monica Barratt from RMIT University said in a statement.


However, the survey also showed two in five Australians were also drinking less, and MDMA and cocaine use had decreased.

The decrease in illegal party drug consumption was largely attributed to the lack of access to settings like nightclubs, festivals and parties.

Over 55,000 people were surveyed across the globe, with the Australian trends fitting with larger international trends.

Beijing accuses Australia of harassing Chinese journalists.

The Chinese government has accused Australia of "blatant irrational behaviour", harassment and violation of the rights of its journalists by searching and seizing items from the homes of four Chinese state media reporters.

The revelation of the Australian raids in late June is the latest barb in a deteriorating relationship between the two major trading partners, coming just a day after two Australian journalists flew home from China with the help of consular officials.

The flight of the two Australian journalists from Beijing and Shanghai after they were questioned by China's state security ministry gained international attention.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Australian officials cited a possible violation of the country's foreign interference laws for their raids in June, but had not provided a "reasonable explanation" for the searches.

"The Australian government's behaviour ... blatantly violates the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese journalists there and caused severe harm to the physical and mental health of the journalists and their families," Zhao said in a daily briefing.


"We ask Australia to immediately stop such blatant irrational behaviours, stop harassing and oppressing Chinese personnel in Australia under whatever pretext."

Zhao said officials seized laptops, cellphones, and a child's toy tablet from the homes of reporters from outlets including state news agency Xinhua and the China News Service.

A spokesman for Australia's Attorney General Christian Porter declined to comment on "operational matters" when asked about an earlier report on the Australian raids by Xinhua, but added that authorities "take issues of foreign interference very seriously."

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) also declined to comment on the Xinhua report, in line with usual practice.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra said it had provided consular support to journalists, in response to a question about the raids.

Australia has a tense diplomatic relationship with China, which worsened this year after Beijing vowed trade reprisals and said it was angered by Australia's call for an international inquiry into the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two Australian journalists who arrived home from China on Tuesday had been questioned in the case of Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist for Chinese state television who was detained in China three weeks ago.

Chinese officials confirmed on Tuesday she was being held on suspicion of illegal activities that endanger China's security.


New emissions record despite lockdowns: UN.

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere hit a record high this year, a United Nations report shows as an economic slowdown amid the coronavirus pandemic had little long-term effect.

The sharp, but short, dip in emissions earlier this year represented only a blip in the build-up of climate-warming carbon dioxide.


While daily emissions fell in April by 17 per cent relative to the previous year, those levels were still on a par with 2006 emissions — underlining how much global emissions have grown over the last 15 years.

And by early June, as factories and offices reopened, emissions were back up to within 5 per cent of 2019 levels, according to the report by several UN agencies.

Even if 2020 emissions are lower than last year's output by up to 7 per cent, as expected, what is released will still contribute to the long-term concentration built up since the beginning of the industrial era.

As CO2 levels have increased, global temperatures have also risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists say a temperature rise beyond 1.5 or 2 degrees will lead to far worse impacts from climate change across the world, including droughts, stronger storms and extreme sea level rise.

Around the world.

- The latest American political poll, conducted by Reuters/Ipsos, shows Democrat Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 12 percentage points.

- Europe is continuing to deal with a rise in COVID-19 cases, with Portugal and the Netherlands both reporting the highest case numbers since April, France dealing with the virus spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country and Germany advising against trips to a number of destinations including Prague, Geneva, Dubrovnik and Corsica.

- A Norwegian politician has nominated US President Donald Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. 


- A book by Bob Woodward, the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal, quoted Donald Trump as telling Woodward about COVID-19's deadliness in February, and saying he "wanted to always play it down" in March. 

- With AAP.

Feature image: Nine/Getty.

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