Prime Minister confirms $750 pandemic isolation payment will be extended and when COVID cases may peak

The federal government will extend the $750 pandemic isolation payment for an additional two months.

A snap national cabinet meeting to discuss the latest wave of COVID-19 was brought forward two days to Saturday morning and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held a press conference immediately afterwards.

The accelerated meeting comes after the government came under increasing pressure to reverse a decision to end emergency payments for people who need to self-isolate due to COVID but do not have sick leave.

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Albanese confirmed that the $750 pandemic isolation payment payments would be extended.

“In recognition of the risks associated with newer, more infectious variants, we have agreed to reinstate the Pandemic Catastrophe Payment until September 30 of this year,” he said.

A man wears a face mask as he crosses Flinders Street in Melbourne. Credit: DIEGO FEDELE/AAPIMAGE

“I want to make sure that people are not left behind, that the vulnerable are taken care of and that no one is based with the unenviable choice of not being able to isolate themselves properly without losing income and without put in a situation that is difficult.”

Albanese said that in addition to these payments, the government will also restore the crisis payment for the national health emergency until September 30.

“This will ensure that those affected by the isolation requirements of COVID-19 receive income support payments or education living allowances who are experiencing severe financial hardship continue to receive support during the winter period,” a- he declared.

Albanese said the September date was chosen because chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in Australia in August.

The Prime Minister also said the Federal Government would provide health messaging to encourage Australians to follow current health advice, including wearing masks indoors where social distancing cannot occur.

On Friday, Albanese said there had been a sharp increase in the number of people receiving COVID-19 booster shots and a rapid increase in the use of antivirals over the past week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Credit: DEAN LEWINS/AAPIMAGE

The government widened eligibility for the fourth doses of the vaccine to anyone aged 30 and over earlier this month.

As of Thursday, nearly 14 million people had received three or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while nearly three million people had received four or more.

The government has resisted calls from across the political spectrum, including its own back seat, to restore pandemic payments for workers required to self-isolate, saying the national debt is too high.

Acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said on Friday night that the Federal Government had “bowed to pressure” and criticized the prime minister for moving too slowly.

“Mr Albanese owes an apology to the tens of thousands of Australians who have faced stress and uncertainty in recent weeks following his decision to end these payments,” she said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has urged Mr Albanese to extend payments as well as the free rapid test scheme for concession card holders.

“In light of new strains, case numbers, health advice and pressure on hospitals, the government should minimize the spread by helping sick people stay home,” Bandt said on Friday.

– With PAA

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Elaine R. Knight