Coronavirus live news: New Zealand cases drop for second day, Japan blames vaccine contamination on needles

Drop in New Zealand cases is ‘reassuring indication’ lockdown is working, country’s director-general of health says, Japan says it’s likely that Moderna vaccines were contaminated when needles were stuck into vials

Australia will ramp up its vaccination programme this week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced it is set to receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer jab in a swap deal with Singapore.

Canberra struck the deal, which will see Australia return the same amount of vaccine doses to Singapore in December, as daily cases reached near record levels for the country, the Reuters news agency reported.

That means there are 500,000 doses extra that will happen in September that otherwise would have had to wait for several months from now, accelerating our vaccination program at this critical time as we walk towards those 70% and 80% target.

That’s it from me, Helen Livingstone, for today. I’m handing over to my UK colleague Tom Ambrose.

Before I go, here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours:

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Last man out: the haunting image of America’s final moments in Afghanistan

After sending a brief message of congratulation to his troops, Major General Chris Donahue became the last pair of American ‘boots on the ground’

After two decades, America’s last soldier left without pomp, without ceremony, certainly without the grandeur of victory.

Bathed in the green light of a night vision scope, Maj Gen Chris Donahue, the final American pair of “boots on the ground”, walked up the rear ramp of an air force C-17 on Monday night.

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Celebratory shots ring out above Kabul after US troops leave – video

Celebratory shots rang out in Kabul as the United States completed the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of war that culminated in the militant Taliban's return to power. Footage from inside the city in the early hours of Tuesday morning showed loud gunfire ringing out, lighting up the skyline as Taliban fighters fired into the sky to mark the end of two decades of US military presence. Video released by the Taliban shows Taliban fighters walking through Kabul airport after the US forces had left.

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Gunfire fills the air in Kabul as Taliban celebrate airport takeover

Taliban spokesman says Afghanistan has ‘gained complete independence’ as fighters enter hangars occupied by US forces hours earlier

As the last US military transport aircraft lifted off from Kabul airport on Monday night, marking the end of two decades of American troops in Afghanistan, celebratory gunfire rang out the capital as Taliban fighters revelled in the end of America’s longest war.

Just two weeks earlier, Taliban fighters had taken Kabul and toppled the government without force as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. It was a rise to power so swift that it had taken the US and even Taliban leadership by surprise.

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New Zealand Covid update: cases drop to 49 in ‘reassuring indication’ lockdown is working

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said virus’ reproduction rate remained under one, meaning cases would continue to drop

New cases of Covid-19 have continued to drop in New Zealand, in a promising early indication that the country’s strict lockdown is working and its latest outbreak may be coming under control.

The country announced 49 new cases on Tuesday – dropping for the second day in a row, down from 53 cases on Monday and 83 on Sunday. It is the lowest number of new cases reported in the country in six days.

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New Zealand minister’s TV interview interrupted by son waving phallic carrot

Carmel Sepuloni said she would ‘never buy the odd shaped carrot pack again’ after ‘almost wrestling’ with son over vegetable

A New Zealand cabinet minister has become the latest public figure to be embarrassed by an unfortunate incident involving a video call after her live TV interview was interrupted by her son, who entered the room excitedly brandishing a phallic carrot.

Carmel Sepuloni, the minister for social development, was doing a live Zoom interview with Radio Samoa when her grinning son burst through the door behind her, holding an oddly shaped carrot he’d apparently found among the groceries.

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Afghanistan live news: country wakes to new era under Taliban after US withdrawal completed

Biden confirms end of 20-year military presence; US secretary of state says support for Taliban ‘will have to be earned’; Taliban fire guns into the air in Kabul in celebration

The final US troops left Kabul on a flight shortly before midnight local time on Monday, meeting the US commitment to withdraw ahead of the deadline. The Taliban has since proclaimed “full independence” for Afghanistan.

The new regime in Afghanistan faces pressure to respect human rights and provide safe passage for those who wish to escape its rule following the passage of a UN Security Council resolution, PA news reports.

Tonight’s UN Security Council resolution, led by the UK with our allies, makes clear that the international community stands with Afghans.

There can be no return to repression or terror. We will push as one voice for safe passage, humanitarian access and respect for human rights.

Today’s resolution is an important step towards a unified international response to the situation in Afghanistan.

We will continue to build on this to ensure the council holds the Taliban accountable on its commitments.

There is a lot of shared ground for us to work from although, in this case, Russia and China abstained rather than voted for the resolution.

British forces are prepared to launch airstrikes to target so-called Islamic State terrorists in Afghanistan, the head of the RAF indicated, as the US-led military presence in the country came to an end.

US forces finally withdrew from Afghanistan on Monday, bringing to an end a deployment that began in the wake of the September 11 attacks two decades ago. The end of the western military presence – the UK had already pulled out its remaining troops – also concluded the airborne evacuation effort from Kabul, leaving Afghans wanting to escape the Taliban facing an uncertain future, PA Media reports.

Ultimately what this boils down to is that we’ve got to be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, whether it’s strike, or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed.

If there’s an opportunity for us to contribute I am in no doubt that we will be ready to – that will be anywhere where violent extremism raises its head, and is a direct or indirect threat to the UK and our allies.

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After 20 years, last US flight departs Kabul, leaving Afghanistan to its fate

Last Americans, including acting ambassador, have now left, ending near 20-year occupation

America’s longest war came to an end just before midnight local time in Afghanistan, when the last evacuation flight flew out of Kabul airport.

A C-17 military transport plane took off carrying the US commander who oversaw the evacuation operation, Maj Gen Christopher Donahue of the 82nd Airborne Division, and the acting US ambassador, Ross Wilson, who were the last two Americans to step off the tarmac in Kabul, minutes before the 31 August deadline.

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New Zealand flash floods force evacuations in Auckland, motorists rescued by jet ski

Floods came after unexpectedly heavy rains, with as much as 90mm per hour hitting the city through the night

Aucklanders have been forced to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night due to flash flooding, after New Zealand’s largest city was hit by unexpectedly heavy rainfall.

Evacuations were carried out in the suburbs of west Auckland and nearby townships, such as Kumeu and Piha, with firefighters having to use jet skis to reach motorists trapped in their cars, according to the New Zealand Herald.

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