The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Wednesday August 25.

30-year-old mother-of-three identified as Sydney's latest COVID death.

Ianeta Isaako has been named on social media as the woman in her 30s who died at her home in Emerton on Monday with COVID-19. 

She is the 75th death in NSW since the most recent COVID-19 outbreak started in June. Her husband is still in hospital with the virus.

The Daily Telegraph reports the 30-year-old was found unresponsive at her home in western Sydney, about 3pm on Monday just days after she had tested positive to the virus. She could not be resuscitated.

"They were a nice young family, you'd always see them playing out the front with their kids," one neighbour told the publication.

There were no COVID-related deaths reported by NSW Health on Tuesday morning's update, with Isaako's passing to be included in Wednesday's update.

Sydney's 'yellow emergency' as hospital beds fill up.

One of Sydney's largest hospitals has called a "yellow emergency" as it struggles under the weight of growing COVID-19 cases in the city's west.

The Western Sydney Local Health District's executive team sent an email to staff on Tuesday indicating the change in settings at Westmead Hospital.


The email said the hospital was "standing up an emergency operations centre" to grapple with the increase in COVID-19 cases at the facility.

The hospital would immediately reduce ambulance arrivals for COVID-19 patients for a 24-hour period, seek to transfer several critical patients to other Sydney metropolitan hospitals and conduct urgent critical care reviews.

NSW Health data shows almost 4000 COVID-19 cases have been uncovered in the past four weeks in the Western Sydney LHD.

There are currently more than 600 people with COVID-19 in hospital in NSW and 107 in intensive care.

NSW Health says it currently manages about 500 intensive care beds but has a surge capacity of about 2000 when required. The government has repeatedly said the hospital system is coping with the increased workload.


Meanwhile, NSW has crashed through the 60 per cent one-shot vaccination rate and enjoyed a slight dip in daily cases.

But Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has reminded the public "we are here for the long haul" while pressing vaccination equity so vulnerable communities are protected.

The state reported 753 new local COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, down on the three-day average of 824.

Attention on Tuesday turned to the relaxation of some restrictions for vaccinated people after the six millionth jab was administered.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was "deeply grateful" for increasingly vaccination rates and promised to restore some freedoms by week's end to the 2.1 million people who are fully vaccinated.


But she declined to detail what the changes could be, or how they'll be applied.

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter suggested the government consider easing restrictions on outdoor dining or retail in specific areas.

Pfizer-hungry young Vics eye vax bookings.

Young Victorians are expected to flood the state's COVID-19 vaccination website as Pfizer bookings become available for all those aged 16 to 39.

From Wednesday, Pfizer eligibility expands to people aged 16 to 39 across Victoria's 55 vaccination hubs as supply ramps up courtesy of 175,000 Poland-imported doses.

Premier Daniel Andrews said more than 830,000 vaccination bookings over the next four weeks will be made available from 7am on Wednesday, including 450,000 first-dose Pfizer appointments.

Users reported the state's vaccination booking system momentarily crashed after the announcement, but then came back online.

Those aged 18 to 39 who have already made a first dose AstraZeneca appointment will be given the option to instead receive the Pfizer jab, while 16- to 17-year-olds will strictly receive the latter. 

Victoria recorded 50 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, of which 39 were infectious in the community and 10 are yet to be linked.

Seven of the new infections live in Shepparton, about 180 kilometres north of Melbourne, bringing the total outbreak there to 44 cases. That cluster has been genomically linked to an earlier outbreak in the Melbourne suburb of Glenroy.


Vaccine target leaves potential for spread.

A leading epidemiologist says lockdowns and other health measures will still be needed once Australia gets beyond a 70 per cent COVID-19 vaccination rate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned ongoing lockdowns will cause more harm than benefit when the 70 per cent vaccination benchmark set out in the national plan is reached.

He insists high case numbers will not derail a national plan despite some states warning Doherty Institute modelling needs more work.

Under the agreement, lockdowns will be less likely at 70 per cent and become highly targeted at 80 per cent.

Mr Morrison said negative economic and mental health impacts would outweigh benefits when 70 and 80 per cent immunisation coverage is reached.

"That's the advice, that's the basis for the plan. We've all signed up to it, we need to get on with it," he told the Seven Network.

Epidemiologist Mary Louise McLaws said even at 70 per cent of over-16s being vaccinated, it still left 4.8 million under-16s and 6.2 million unvaccinated adults spreading the virus in the community.

She said even at an 80 per cent rate there would be nine million unvaccinated Australians.

The Doherty Institute will provide updated advice to national cabinet on Friday.

In a statement, the Doherty Institute said opening up at hundreds of cases nationally a day would be possible at 70 per cent vaccination coverage.


"However, we will need vigilant public health interventions with higher case loads," it said.

ACT COVID-19 outbreak grows to 167 cases.

Canberra's coronavirus outbreak has grown to 167 cases, with hospital and disability support workers among the latest infections.

An unvaccinated woman aged in her 40s is in intensive care requiring breathing support, while three other patients remain in hospital.

A University of Canberra Hospital worker involved in food preparation was among 30 new cases reported on Tuesday.

The risk of infection to clinical staff and patients is considered to be low, but more than a dozen food preparation workers are in quarantine.

An outbreak in the ACT's disability sector has grown to 17, with two additional support workers infected.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was too early to determine whether Canberra's three-week lockdown would extend beyond September 2.

So far, the ACT has fully vaccinated 37.57 per cent of people aged 16 and over - ahead of all other states and territories.

Qld records two new local COVID-19 cases.

Queensland has recorded two new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in truck drivers as the premier calls for modelling on reopening her state.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the cases were picked up after 8378 tests in the past 24 hours to 6.30am on Tuesday.

The two truck drivers initially tested positive in NSW, with authorities there alerting Queensland Health.

Later tests of the pair in Queensland returned negative results.


Ms Palaszczuk said both drivers stayed in their homes on the Sunshine Coast and in Somerset and visited few venues.

However, they stopped in St George and Balonne while on the job in southern Queensland.

"We will get the exposure sites up but we aren't overly concerned about these two," the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young is reasonably confident the cases present a low-risk to the community.

Police intercepted 1000 vehicles at the NSW border overnight and turned back 199, including 17 essential workers who were unvaccinated.

120 extra soldiers are being sent to the border to guard key checkpoints.

Afghanistan's first female Paralympics athlete quietly rescued by Australia.

A group of female Afghan athletes have been rescued by Australia, including Zakia Khudadadi, who was supposed to be Afghanistan's first female athlete competing in the Paralympic Games. 

In a video plea from Afghanistan Zakia told the world "I have been imprisoned inside the house … I cannot go outside the house without confidence or security... please help."

Olympian Nikki Dryden, now a human rights lawyer and founder of Lex Athleta answered the plea, teaming up with the director of Human Rights for All, Alison Battisson, whose speciality is helping refugees detained in Australia.


Together, they identified a group of 50 most at-risk athletes and their dependants that needed help and worked with the Swiss-based Centre for Sport and Human Rights to call on governments to support in any way they could. 

Dryden was tasked with communicating with the athletes while Battisson worked on their visa applications. 

Dryden also reached out to Craig Foster, who previously spearheaded a campaign to free former Bahraini footballer, Hakeem al-Araibi, back in 2018 and 2019. 

Within just three days, the Australian government agreed to accept the athletes. 

After chaotic and terrifying scenes at the airport, 50 Afghan athletes and dependants were able to be rescued thanks to the unbelievable efforts of key players in Australia and on the ground in Afghanistan.

Paralympics take flight at Tokyo opening.

The long awaited Tokyo Paralympics have finally taken flight with an aeroplane-themed opening ceremony, precisely 364 days later than planned and 17 months since being postponed due to COVID-19.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday were among those present for a landmark moment organisers and many athletes feared may never happen.

"Many thought it impossible but thanks to the efforts of many the most transformative event on earth is about to begin," International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons said ahead of 12 days of action.


"We Have Wings" was the theme of the lengthy ceremony and emblazoned on the floor of an almost-empty Olympic Stadium which had been transformed into a "Para Airport".

Selected dignitaries, volunteers and members of the media were the extent of the scant audience, a stark reminder of the ongoing pandemic and rising cases of COVID-19 in the host country which have cast a shadow over the event.

Seven of the 22 Paralympic sports are set to feature when the action gets underway on Wednesday.

Harassment claims levelled at Tas Labor MP.

Embattled former Tasmanian Labor opposition leader David O'Byrne has been accused by a fellow member of parliament of sexually harassing several women.

Independent Kristie Johnston made the fresh claims under parliamentary privilege on Tuesday, a day after Mr O'Byrne defied calls for him to resign from parliament following a sexual harassment probe.

Mr O'Byrne has denied the "unsubstantiated allegations", saying parliamentary privilege - which gives MPs legal immunity - had not been properly used.


An investigation into allegations Mr O'Byrne sexually harassed a junior union colleague in 2007 and 2008 was finalised last week, with Labor determining at the time no further action was required.

Leader Rebecca White, as well as two former Labor premiers, have since called on Mr O'Byrne to resign, saying his conduct doesn't meet community standards.

Rachel Midson accused Mr O'Byrne of kissing her and sending her inappropriate text messages without her consent when the pair worked for the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union.

Mr O'Byrne previously admitted to the conduct but said he thought at the time it was consensual but now understood it was not.

He has rejected Ms Midson's assertion it amounted to sexual harassment.

Starvation 'perfect storm' in Afghanistan. 

Millions of Afghans could soon face starvation due to the combination of conflict, drought and the coronavirus pandemic, the executive director of the World Food Programme says.

Political leaders must act fast, David Beasley told Reuters in Doha on Tuesday.

"There's a perfect storm coming because of several years of drought, conflict, economic deterioration, compounded by COVID," said Beasley.

"The number of people marching towards starvation has spiked to now 14 million."


Meanwhile, the Taliban will not agree to an extension of the evacuation mission from Afghanistan, a spokesman for the militant Islamist organisation has told British news channel Sky News.

"If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," said Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban delegation in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

"It's a red line. President Biden announced that on August 31 they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that."

He added: "It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction."

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies.

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, his publicist has said.

The musician, who marked his 80th birthday in June, had been a member of the rock group since 1963.

A statement from his London publicist Bernard Doherty to the PA news agency said: "It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.


"Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of The Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.

"We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.''

Around the world.

- Israel has registered almost 10,000 new coronavirus infections in one day for the first time since January. 

So far, just under 59 per cent of the approximately 9.4 million Israelis have been vaccinated twice. Almost 17 per cent have already received a third vaccination.

- A few glasses of red wine a week can help avoid high blood pressure, according to a new study from Queen's University in Belfast. Researchers found a link between lower blood pressure and a higher intake of foods rich in flavonoids, including berries, apples, tea and red wine.

- With AAP

Feature image: Facebook/Lintao Zhang/Getty.

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