The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday September 2.

NSW to reach crucial vaccination milestone.

A day after reporting the 100th death linked to the state's spiralling COVID-19 outbreak, NSW is expected to reach a happier milestone - 70 per cent first dose COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

As of Tuesday, more than 6.9 million vaccine doses have been administered in NSW, with 69.3 per cent of the population aged 16 and over receiving at least one dose.

Almost 38 per cent are fully vaccinated.

The number of people in NSW who've received at least one jab on average has grown by more than one per cent each day over the past seven, meaning the dose that tips the state over 70 per cent coverage was likely administered on Wednesday. 

The milestone all but ensures NSW will reach 70 per cent full vaccination within a number of weeks, triggering the state's gradual release from lockdown.

At 70 per cent double-dose coverage, vaccinated people in NSW can expect to go out for a meal and attend public events, the premier suggested on Wednesday.

Home visits and indoor events are likely to be off the table as they are higher risk.

At 80 per cent - expected in November, Australians overseas will be able to return to NSW without doing hotel quarantine, Ms Berejiklian said, and the state's residents will also be allowed to travel internationally.

While October will likely trigger freedoms for the vaccinated, it will also be the time when hospitals are under the most pressure.


Four more deaths were reported on Wednesday, along with 1116 new cases, 32 of them in the state's west and far west.

A Sydney COVID-19 patient is recovering from a self-inflicted bout of diarrhoea and vomiting after overdosing on Ivermectin and other "supposed COVID 'cures'" ordered online.

The drug, used widely on farm animals and with no proven evidence it works against COVID-19, is not approved to treat the disease in Australia or any other wealthy western nation.

Vic, NSW towns booted from border bubble

Victoria is further tightening its border with NSW, with Premier Daniel Andrews indicating it could remain closed until the end of the year.


As COVID-19 cases rise across both sides of the Murray River, six Victorian and two NSW local government areas will be tossed out of the state's border bubble from 11.59pm on Thursday.

It means residents from Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, City of Benalla, Buloke, Loddon, Yarriambiack, Broken Hill and Edward River will be unable to cross the state lines on a permit.

"With over one thousand cases per day, and a trajectory of exponential growth, the risk that NSW poses to Victoria is bigger than ever," Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Earlier, Premier Daniel Andrews was asked if the border could remain shut to NSW "well into next year".

He replied: "Yes. No one is happy about that but again we will have many more options once we get to 80 per cent and once they (NSW) are at 80 per cent."

It comes as the Victorian government conceded efforts to bring coronavirus cases down to zero have failed, with tough restrictions to remain in place until October.

Authorities have now shifted their focus to suppressing the outbreak, keeping the health system from being overwhelmed, while racing to reach higher vaccination coverage.


QLD, WA refusing Commonwealth vaccination targets. 

QLD's premier has indicated the state may not start easing restrictions once vaccination coverage hits 80 per cent.

Ms Palaszczuk says she wants to see more Doherty Institute modelling on immunising people under the age to 12 before committing to any reopening plan.

"Unless there is an answer on how these young people are going to be vaccinated, you are putting this most vulnerable population at risk," she told parliament. 

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Doherty Institute modelling indicated more children would get COVID-19, but he said the federal government would follow scientific advice and reopening "remains the plan".

"As a father, I am like you, I care about the health of my children, and that is why we should continue to take the medical advice," Mr Frydenberg told reporters. 


"But if you look around the rest of the world ... countries have opened up safely with COVID and kids have got back to school."

WA's Premier Mark McGowan is also refusing to open the borders when we hit the 70 percent vaccination rate, and is still pursuing zero-COVID targets for the state.

"70 percent opening up... deliberately infecting our citizens, therefore closing down potential industries, is a catastrophe," he said.

Recession avoided, still risk this year.

The Australian economy may have avoided the immediate threat of a second recession in as many years, but there remains a risk of a downturn extending through to the end of the year.

Wednesday's national accounts showed the economy grew by 0.7 per cent in the June quarter, slower than the revised 1.9 per cent expansion in the March quarter, but stronger than expected.

"We had solid growth over the June quarter. Our economy is strong, our economy is resilient, and our economy will bounce back strongly once restrictions start to ease," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told parliament.


However, the September quarter is expected to be weak as a result of extended coronavirus lockdowns in NSW and Victoria.

Treasury expects a contraction of at least two per cent and private economists predict a downturn of possibly more than four per cent.

"A technical recession has been avoided," KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne said in reference to the June quarter result.

"The next quarter looks bleak, and the anticipated December quarter recovery is very dependent on the speed of lockdowns ending."

Two consecutive quarters of contraction would put Australia in what economists call a technical recession.

ACT businesses warned over COVID breaches

Canberra workers have been busted breaching face mask rules at work amid concerns about anti-vaxxers descending on the nation's capital.

The ACT's coronavirus outbreak has grown to 256 active cases, with 23 new cases reported on Wednesday.

At least 11 were in the community while infectious and 14 were linked to existing cases or known clusters.

Of about 100 businesses subject to compliance checks on Tuesday, a third were found not to be complying with lockdown restrictions.

This was mostly due to workers not wearing face masks properly or at all.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was concerned about people going to work without realising they had the virus.

Mr Barr cautioned residents to expect restrictions to be in place for the bulk of the year, including the upcoming school holiday fortnight.


"You can be much more confident about planning summer holidays for December and January, but I don't think anyone will be open to us in two weeks' time."

Solo sailer Jessica Watson announces death of long-term partner, 29.

Cameron Dale, partner of Queensland solo sailing star Jessica Watson, has died aged 29.

Watson became the youngest person to sail solo around the world a decade ago, and confirmed his death on Wednesday night from a catastrophic stroke. 

"Cam passed away peacefully nearly six weeks after a catastrophic stroke. We’ll be forever grateful for the dedicated care he received at the Gold Coast University Hospital.


"Cam and I have been inseparable since 2011, our shared world centred on messing about on boats. Describing what Cam means to me is impossible – everyone who knows us understands how much we simply loved each other," she wrote.

"Even while experiencing indescribable grief, I feel so grateful for the family, friends, and communities Cam has given me and the person I’ve become with him. I take enormous strength from having been so devotedly loved. The years of treasured memories offer enormous comfort," she added.

Watson has been named Young Australian of the Year, Youth Representative for the United Nations World Food Program and has received the Medal of the Order of Australia. But she says being "Cam's 'Jess'" is the role she's most proud of.

Al-Qaeda congratulates Taliban, as fighters go door-to-door.

The al-Qaeda terrorist network has congratulated the Taliban this week for its "historic victory" against the United States, which just ended a 20-year presence in Afghanistan and flew its last soldier out of the country.

"We congratulate you on this great victory against the crusader alliance," al-Qaeda said, addressing the Taliban.

Al-Qaeda said this "victory" is a "prelude to the liberation of Palestine" and would help lead to liberation of other areas such as the "Levant, Somalia, Yemen, Kashmir and the rest of the Islamic lands."

Hours after the US withdrew from Afghanistan, Taliban members were going door to door in Kabul and executing people, a senior US official has told Fox News.


So far, it is unclear who the victims are, but Fox said that US officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies in an effort to grant them entry to the airport.

The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader says, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group.

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Islamist group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.

Under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, son of a former Mujahideen commander, several thousand members of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units have been holding out against the Taliban.

In a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to put down their weapons.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans," he said.

The Taliban have declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the past two decades but crowds fearing reprisals have continued to flock to the borders in an attempt to flee the land-locked country.


Biden outraged by Texas abortion ban.

Texas woke up to the strictest anti-abortion law in the country after the US Supreme Court declined to act on a request by abortion-rights groups to block the law banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

It was a victory for conservatives, who have long sought to eliminate abortion access in the United States.

Prominent Democrats including President Joe Biden voiced outrage, saying the Texas law that came into effect at midnight on Tuesday violated the right to abortion access established by the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v Wade in 1973.

"My administration ... will protect and defend that right," Biden said.

The law amounts to a near-total ban on abortion procedures given that 85 per cent to 90 per cent of abortions occur after six weeks of pregnancy, and would likely force many clinics to close, the abortion-rights groups said.

Weather disasters have risen fivefold: UN.

The number of disasters, such as floods and heatwaves, driven by climate change have increased fivefold over the past 50 years, killing more than 2 million people and costing $US3.64 trillion ($A4.97 trillion) in total losses, a UN agency says.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says its "Atlas" is the most comprehensive review of mortality and economic losses from weather, water and climate extremes ever produced.

It surveys some 11,000 disasters occurring between 1970-2019, including major catastrophes such as Ethiopia's 1983 drought, which was the single most fatal event with 300,000 deaths, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that was the most costly, with losses of $US163.61 billion.


The report showed an accelerating trend, with the number of disasters increasing nearly fivefold from the 1970s to the most recent decade, adding to signs that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to global warming.

The WMO attributed the growing frequency to both climate change and improved disaster reporting.

Piers Morgan cleared by UK regulator over Markle comments.

Britain's media regulator has cleared TV presenter and journalist Piers Morgan of any broadcasting code violations for making comments about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

The number of complaints received by OFCOM was the largest ever received by the watchdog agency.

OFCOM says Morgan didn't breach the broadcasting code when he said on Good Morning Britain that he did not believe what Meghan Markle said during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

On the program he added, "I wouldn't believe her if she read me a weather report," referring to comments the duchess made about her mental health and alleged racist attitudes.


Around the world.

- Trainers for the Swiss Gymnastics Federation's (STV) women's team have resigned en masse following an ethics investigation that upheld athletes' complaints of psychological abuse after a series of poor performances.

- Three US police officers and two paramedics have been charged over the death of Elijah McClain, a black man who was put in a chokehold and injected with a powerful sedative two years ago in suburban Denver.

The 23-year-old's death gained widespread attention during last year's protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

- With AAP

Feature image: ABC/Instagram/jessicawatson_93/MWE/GC/Getty.

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