The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Wednesday March 17.

New NSW case confirmed as state lifts ban on standing, drinking.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed another case of community transmitted coronavirus.

Another traveller at the Sofitel Wentworth has been confirmed with the virus, with health authorities believing they became infected after arriving at the hotel.

The person is currently quarantined on the 11th floor of the hotel, the same floor where a security guard who tested positive on the weekend worked.

After 12 long months, NSW residents can finally stand at the bar and have a drink today - just in time for St Patrick's Day festivities.

From Wednesday, people in NSW will be permitted to stand and drink at a bar, as promised during the state's last round of restriction-easing in late February.

St Patrick's Day festivities across New South Wales today will resemble pre-COVID times after revelers were given the green light to stand up indoors while in Sydney venues.

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 16, 2021

On Tuesday the NSW premier reiterated her determination to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, saying the AstraZeneca jab is safe and "absolutely critical".

Numerous countries have suspended their AstraZeneca rollout after some recipients developed blood clots, but Gladys Berejiklian is not deterred.

"I have full confidence in the vaccine and I have full confidence in our health experts. I certainly wouldn't have taken it if I hadn't done my homework - which I have - and I feel completely safe," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

UK cop to be tried for Sarah Everard murder.

A British police officer will go on trial in October over the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, whose killing has sparked anger and demands that police, government and society act to stop male violence against women.


Everard, 33, was abducted as she walked home from a friend's house in south London on March 3, with her body later found in woodland around 80km away in southeast England.

Wayne Couzens, 48, a London officer whose role it was to guard diplomatic premises, appeared by video link from prison at the British capital's Old Bailey central criminal court on Tuesday.

A provisional trial date was set for October 25 and he is due to enter a plea in July. Wearing a red T-shirt, Couzens, who police said needed treatment for a head injury while in custody, had a noticeable cut on his forehead.

He made no application for bail.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a meeting on Monday night to discuss what reassurances women could be given. The government promised more money for better street lighting and to pilot schemes where plain clothes officers would visit pubs and clubs to "identify predatory and suspicious offenders".

"Egregious misrepresentation." Parliament discusses women's rally response.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison Morrison said it was an "egregious misrepresentation" he suggested thousands of women who marched for justice should be thankful they were not shot.

He made the comments on Monday while comparing nationwide rallies to violent protests in Myanmar.

"Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country," the prime minister said.


He stood by his comments on Tuesday, saying the ability to protest freely and safely in Australia was a celebration of democracy.

But he was quick to use Question Time to level accusations at Labor for problems within the opposition.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese reminded his colleagues the prime minister's bullet comments were prepared and not off the cuff.

"It's a reminder of the difference between our values and his. It shows his values and his judgment," he told caucus.


Liberal and Nationals MPs also met on Tuesday for their joint party room meeting, where the women's marches were raised.

SA-based MP Nicolle Flint, who recently announced she would leave politics at the next election, told colleagues people across Australia wanted to know how the government would address the issues.

She also pointed the finger at Labor for its treatment of women.

Another member of the government said it should push back against the narrative from Labor that the coalition is anti-women.

The government has committed to take up demands raised as part of the rally's petition, including an inquiry into gendered violence and the full implementation of recommendations from a sexual harassment report.

Read: They're still not listening.

Prince Harry's conversations with dad and brother "not productive."

Prince Harry has spoken with his dad and brother since the Oprah tell-all, but according to Gayle King, "The word I was given was those conversations were not productive. But they are glad that they have at least started a conversation," she told CBS This Morning.

The breakfast TV host also revealed the British Royal Family has not yet spoken to Meghan.

"I think what is still upsetting to them is that the palace keeps saying they want to work it out privately, but yet the false stories are coming out that are disparaging against Meghan still," King said.

"I think it's frustrating for them to see that it's a racial conversation about the Royal Family when all they wanted all along was for the royals to intervene and tell the press to stop with the unfair, inaccurate, false stories that definitely have a racial slant. And until you can acknowledge that, I think it's going to be hard to move forward."


QLD minister reveals historic sexual assaults.

A senior Queensland minister has revealed she was sexually harassed on two occasions, one when she was aged just 13 or 14.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath spoke of the experiences in a Twitter thread on Tuesday, the day after a series of protest marches took place in Australian cities.

"As a 13 or 14-year-old a male family friend (father of two) asked me for a kiss goodbye. I gave him a peck on the cheek. He said no I want you to kiss me like you would kiss your boyfriend," she wrote.

"At 18 a male twice my age came into my workplace and while alone in the office in a back room tried to kiss me. I quickly left the room. I was shocked and shaking. He left without saying a word and so did I (for 32 years). This has to STOP," she continued.

Mrs D'Ath joined the Brisbane rally on Monday alongside Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Christian Porter's AG role tweaked amid ABC lawsuit.

Attorney-General Christian Porter won't be responsible for Federal Court matters when he returns from mental health leave, to prevent any possible conflicts of interest as he chases the ABC for defamation.

Mr Porter is seeking aggravated damages over a story published on February 26 about a historical rape claim. 


Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the attorney-general would not be responsible for all his usual duties when he returns from mental leave on March 31.

Image: Getty.

"In the abundance of caution and to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest that may arise, the attorney-general when he returns will not perform certain functions of his office that may relate to the Federal Court or the ABC," Mr Morrison told parliament on Tuesday.

Labor has raised concerns the defamation action will be used as an excuse for the government to dodge questions about the issue.

Senior opposition MP Tanya Plibersek signalled the court action wouldn't stop calls for a separate investigation into the allegations.

"What really worries me is that this will be used as an excuse for the government not to have an inquiry and to stop answering questions about the Christian Porter matter," she told ABC radio.

Health chiefs reveal personal virus toll.

For better or worse, life has changed irrevocably for Brett Sutton and Jeannette Young over the past 12 months as two of Australia's most recognisable faces during the coronavirus pandemic.

The chief health officers of Victoria and Queensland have revealed the toll the crisis has taken on their personal lives, and their techniques for coping with stress while ruminating on life-altering decisions.

"You get torn apart over this stuff, I continue to," Prof Sutton said in a new episode of the Taking Care podcast released on Tuesday.

"There is no path of least resistance. There are decisions to be made that will affect thousands upon thousands of people and cause harms. You were just trying to find the least worst pathway possible."


Working 16-hour-plus days, Prof Sutton leaned on the support of his family, friends and colleagues, meditated and spoke to a psychologist to try and compartmentalise.

"There was a kind of grief in being with my family but not with my family psychologically,' he said.

"Putting my kids to bed but my mind being elsewhere. I felt awful as a father. I felt like I was with my children, but I was absent for weeks and weeks on end."

Dr Young has been through her own trials, as the target of alleged death threats along with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk amid a wave of criticism over the state's border closure.

Unlike Prof Sutton who came to his role in 2019, she managed Queensland's response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic and already wore psychological scars.

"It nearly killed me, literally. I lost so much weight," said Dr Young, Australia's longest-serving active chief health officer.

"At the start of this pandemic, I realised very early on this was going to be much, much, much worse."

With her microbiologist husband deciding to retire early in order to offer more support, and all their kids now grown up, Dr Young has fared much better.

"Just to have a meal on the table when I get home at night is so important ... 10 years ago I didn't have that," she said. "This time around I get fed, I get looked after and I have someone to debrief with," Dr Young told the podcast.

Testing points to no virus spread in QLD.

Testing efforts for contacts of a Queensland doctor diagnosed with COVID-19 are continuing, but authorities have been reassured by initial negative results. 

The doctor tested positive on Friday after working at Princess Alexandra Hospital and visiting four venues in the city's south on Thursday.

Results for 230 of the 400 people who may have had contact with her have already been received, all of which were negative. 

"That's great news and we're feeling a little bit relieved today," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday.

A lockdown of Brisbane's hospitals, aged care facilities and disability providers has been extended as a precaution, and Ms Palaszczuk is hopeful visitors will be allowed back by the weekend.

O'Brien survives Vic Libs leadership spill.

A bid to overthrow Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien has failed, however his challenger hasn't ruled out trying again in the future. 


A motion to bring on a leadership spill, led by the member for Gembrook Brad Battin, was defeated 22-9 in a party room meeting at state parliament on Tuesday morning. 

"The party is very strongly resolved to keep the current leadership group in place, and that means we can get out and focus on Victorians," Mr O'Brien told reporters after the failed spill.

He said he was shocked to learn of the challenge to his leadership while taking his wife to hospital for an operation on Monday.

"It's funny how life throws curveballs at you sometimes, but it actually is a reminder that there are more important things than politics," Mr O'Brien said. 

"(My wife is) going well and the great news is my party has just re-endorsed the leadership team." 

Prince Philip leaves London hospital.

Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, has left a London hospital after a four-week stay for treatment for an infection and to have a heart procedure.

Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was admitted to the private King Edward VII's Hospital on February 16 after he felt unwell and was given treatment for an unspecified but not COVID-19-related illness.


He was transferred briefly at the start of this month to a specialist cardiac centre at another London hospital, where he underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition.

A Reuters witness said the duke left the King Edward hospital shortly after 10.30am on Tuesday local time.

He was taken to a waiting car in a wheelchair and returned to Windsor Castle to rejoin his wife, waving to those outside as he arrived.

EU regulator stands by AstraZeneca.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) remains convinced of the safety of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, the organisation's chief says.

"A situation like this is not unexpected," executive director Emer Cooke said, referring to several cases of reported blood clots that had reportedly developed following an injection of the drug.

"When you vaccinate millions of people, it's inevitable that you have rare or serious incidences of illnesses that occur after vaccination."


The rate of reported blood clots amongst vaccinated people seemed to broadly mirror the rate in the general population, Cooke explained.

The agency had also received similar numbers from other vaccines from across the world, she said.

At least 17 countries have suspended or delayed using AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after reports of blood clots in people who have received the shot, with Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden and Venezuela the latest to join the list.

From today, six million Aussies will be able to book their first vaccine appointments despite international concerns over the safety of the AstraZeneca jab.

Around the world.

- Australia's international adoption rates are rebounding despite the number of overseas adoptees hitting a record low of 37 children over the past financial year.

- Protesters opposed to Myanmar's military coup are using barricades in their neighbourhoods in a bid to keep security forces out as the death roll rises. 


Feature image: Glenn Hunt/Hollie Adams/Sam Mooy/Getty.

Want to win $50? Take our 5 minute survey now: