Canberra (Tribune International, PM Office Release, 16 July 2021); The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.
National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions for the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.
National Cabinet discussed the outbreak in Greater Sydney and the additional measures introduced by the New South Wales Government to stop the spread of the virus. National Cabinet has agreed to a suppression strategy for COVID-19 with the goal of no community transmission.
All leaders expressed their full support for NSW to get on top of the current outbreak. National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth’s extension of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment support for Greater Sydney and Victoria, based on Commonwealth hotspot declarations.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 31,632 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 912 people have died. More than 22.5 million tests have been undertaken in Australia. Testing has increased nationally over recent days with 797,127 tests reported in the past 7 days.
Globally there have been over 188.8 million cases and sadly over 4 million deaths, with 559,490 new cases and 8,339 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.
Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. To date 9,806,809 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including a record 175,002 in the previous 24 hours.
In the previous 7 days, more than 935,237 vaccines have been administered in Australia. To date, more than one third (34.5 per cent) of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over half (58.6 per cent) of over 50 year olds and almost three quarters (74.5 per cent) of over 70 year olds. More than one in eight (12.9 per cent) Australians aged 16 years and over are fully vaccinated including more than 16.8 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 29.2 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on current outbreaks of COVID-19 in a number of locations and of both the Alpha and Delta variants. Australia has successfully suppressed a number of outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic, built on strong health measures.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, Coordinator-General of Operation COVID Shield, provided a detailed briefing on the vaccination program. The vaccination program continues to expand with detailed planning underway to expand access points for aged care workers and to bring forward significant additional access points through community pharmacies in both rural and metro areas. National Cabinet further agreed to consider expanding access to vaccinations on weekends through different channels.
National Cabinet received an update from the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the four step plan to reopening and the progress of the COVID-19 Risk Analysis and Response Taskforce report and the Doherty modelling for the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID Response.
All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
National Cabinet agreed to meet next on Friday, 23 July 2021.
Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment
National Cabinet noted the changes to the COVID-19 Disaster Payment to standardise and streamline Commonwealth financial support when a public health lockdown occurs in a Commonwealth declared hotspot.
The rate the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be paid to individuals who live or work in a Commonwealth declared hotspot at the rate of $600 per week if a person in paid employment has lost over 20 hours; or $375 per week if they lost between 8 hours and less than 20 hours of work, or have lost a full day of work. Hours lost must have occurred within the lockdown period.
If a lockdown is seven days or more, the Commonwealth will open applications for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment on day eight. If a lockdown is for less than seven days, and a commitment has been made by the State or Territory Government to provide significant economic support, for the same lockdown period, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment is open for applications seven days after the lockdown was declared. The $10,000 liquid assets test will no longer apply.
Business Support Payments
National Cabinet noted the new arrangement for business support payments in the event of a significant lockdown of greater than 14 days. The Commonwealth will fund 50 per cent of the payment if an agreement is reached with the relevant jurisdiction to fund the remaining 50 per cent. The support payment will cease when restrictions are eased or when the location is no longer declared a Commonwealth hotspot.
The support payment will be available to non-employing and employing entities, including not-for-profits, with an aggregated annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million, if their turnover is 30 per cent lower than a relevant comparison period, and they maintain their headcount of full-time, part-time and long term casual employees as at a specified date.
Eligible entities will receive 40 per cent of their state payroll payments, with a minimum payment of $1,500 and a maximum payment of $10,000 per week. For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1,000 per week.
National Cabinet noted the existing arrangements jointly announced by the Commonwealth and NSW Governments on 13 July remain in place, with small and medium businesses impacted by the current lockdown supported by the new payment from week four of the current lockdown.