Govt defends coronavirus support payments

Confusion and complacency have led to people shunning boosters, Lieutenant General John Frewen says.

Confusion and complacency have led to people shunning boosters, Lieutenant General John Frewen says.

The Morrison government has defended coronavirus support payments as one million Pfizer doses arrived in Australia to boost its troubled vaccine rollout.

Full-time workers suffering because of lockdowns lasting more than seven days are eligible for $600 a week, while part-time employees can access $375.

Charities, unions and social services groups have criticised the disaster payment because hundreds of thousands of people on other welfare are not eligible.

There are also concerns the level is below what many people need to meet living costs.

Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds said the payment was created to make it easier to afford the basics in life.

“This is a temporary support measure which is designed to help families put food on the table and keep the bills paid throughout this period,” she said in Perth on Monday.

“We think it is about right.”

There have been 331,000 claims worth $155 million granted for the payment across locked-down Sydney and surrounds during the current outbreak.

If Melbourne and any other parts of Victoria remain under heavy restrictions from Friday, people there who lose work will become eligible.

Senator Reynolds said split streams of support for individuals and businesses were a better option than a nationwide program like JobKeeper wage subsidies.

“We keep evolving the payments as the circumstances require,” she said.

The Coalition government continues to feel the heat over the vaccine rollout but a one-million dose Pfizer shipment has boosted hopes supplies will increase in coming weeks.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews is reluctant to set any vaccine targets or deadlines after multiple earlier milestones were missed.

“We want to make sure we’re not giving false promises to people,” she said.

More than 10 million doses have been administered in Australia, with 13.7 per cent of the adult population fully vaccinated.

John Frewen, who is coordinating the vaccine rollout, is distributing the latest shipment across the country.

Lieutenant-General Frewen is also focused on bringing more pharmacists and GP clinics into the rollout.

“The combination of the additional supply and the additional distribution nodes means we’re hoping we can really start to accelerate the rollout,” he said.

Victoria recorded another 13 community-acquired cases of coronavirus on Monday, with all of them linked to existing outbreaks.

The number of coronavirus exposure sites across the state has ballooned to more than 270.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the state’s five-day lockdown, due to end at midnight on Tuesday, will be extended.

“If you think about it like a fire, we have a containment line and are making significant progress but it is not out yet,” he told reporters.

NSW recorded another 98 local cases of coronavirus, including 20 people who were in the community for their entire infectious period.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said reducing that figure was key to lifting Sydney’s lockdown.

One new case in Adelaide is likely to lead to tougher local restrictions but a lockdown is not on the cards at this stage.


Topics: COVID-19
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