COVID support payments must be balanced against debt, says Victorian business lobby

Victoria’s leading business group is urging the federal government not to continue COVID support payments one day longer than necessary.

The state is currently battling a COVID outbreak that is putting enormous strain on the health system, with the number of Victorians in hospital with the virus nearly doubling in the last month.

An anticipated national cabinet meeting on Saturday agreed to extend a scheme offering $750 to Australians who have tested positive but have not had access to sick leave.

There was mounting pressure on the government after the scheme expired on June 30, with concerns vulnerable Australians could not afford to self-isolate despite having the virus.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the decision was made in recognition of the risks associated with more infectious new variants of COVID-19.

“I want to make sure that people are not left behind, that vulnerable people are taken care of, and that no one is faced with the unenviable option of not being able to properly isolate without losing an income and without finding themselves in a situation that is very difficult,” he said. .

The payment has been extended until September 30 and is also available to people who need to stay home and care for a person with COVID-19, including children under the age of 16 or a person with a disability, as well as close contacts.

Business leaders acknowledge that the pandemic is not over

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Paul Guerra welcomed the announcement, but said the government must ensure it strikes a balance between supporting people in need and putting the economy into debt.

“The federal government has told us that the pandemic is not over,” Guerra said.

“The current wave seems to be stronger than we might have thought at first, so we think it’s a good thing that support is being given there to those who need it.”

Paul Guerra said the government must make sure it maintains a balance between supporting people in need and putting the economy into debt.(ABC News)

Guerra said the cost of pandemic support payments would be justified if it prevented a more widespread outbreak that could cripple the country.

“Those who have access to sick leave and the like, should isolate themselves anyway, but those who don’t, this is the incentive they now have to make sure they don’t work when they actually might have COVID,” he said. .

Nurses, exhausted health workers

The Australian Federation of Nursing and Midwifery has praised state, territory and federal leaders for rethinking their earlier decision not to extend the scheme.

Federal Secretary Annie Butler said it will allow people to comply with critical public health measures to try to contain the virus through the winter.

“Nurses, midwives and care workers across the country, they are now two and a half years into this pandemic, like all of us, but they have been on the front lines all along,” she said.

In the photo, a nurse dressed in a pale yellow PPE gown pushes a bed down the corridor of Alfred Hospital from behind.
More than 10,000 hospital employees were furloughed in the first week of July alone.(Supplies: Alfred Hospital)

The Royal Australian College of GPs said the entire health care system is under pressure, with President Karen Price urging the community to treat their doctors and reception staff with kindness.

“I think people are a little bit tired and a little bit burnt out, and that includes everyone,” he said.

She said staff illnesses are also affecting GP clinics.

“There’s a lot of staff absences due to illness and people find it hard to have to work harder to provide the same level of service, so I think we’re all a little bit frustrated and we’re still in the middle of a pretty serious pandemic,” said.

Health authorities said more than 10,000 hospital employees were absent from work in the first week of July alone.

The pressure on the system is exacerbated by a massive jump in Victorians in hospital with COVID, which has increased by 99 per cent since June 22.

Government announces support for Victorian hospitals

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced a $162 million package to recruit around 400 additional staff for 12 major hospitals across the state to combat staffing shortages.

He also said two private hospitals would be supported to set up emergency departments, but did not say which ones.

Two pediatric GP respiratory clinics will be set up at Royal Children’s and Monash Children’s hospitals to prevent children from having to go to the emergency department if they have problems with COVID, flu, asthma or hay fever.

Daniel Andrews speaks
Daniel Andrews announced his support for the overwhelmed Victorian hospitals.(AAP: Diego Fedele )

Andrews said multiple factors were putting pressure on hospitals, leading to delays.

“Winter is never easy in the healthcare system and this winter is particularly challenging because both borders are open and a very nasty flu, a lot of flu cases, and a particularly challenging flu strain and of course these sub-variants of Omicron”. he said.

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