States in charge of business lockdown aid

Australian businesses losing money in future lockdowns will receive support from state and territory governments under a new funding model.

Victoria and NSW will devise nationally consistent payments after national cabinet agreed the federal government would pick up the tab for household support.

The nation’s two biggest economies will investigate states’ experiences with business support during the pandemic.

A proposed model is expected to be put before next month’s national cabinet meeting of state premiers and territory chief ministers to be chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Under the arrangement, the federal government will offer payments of up to $500 for workers who lose income when a hotspot-designated area is locked down for more than a week.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in Victoria about 50,000 applications had been made during Melbourne’s two-week lockdown with 34,000 approved.

“Now that hot spot has been lifted here in Victoria, my view is I would love everyone to get back to work as quickly as possible,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

Mr Frydenberg met with state and territory counterparts on Friday, with Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe briefing the nation’s treasurers.

As Melbourne emerged from another hard lockdown, Mr Frydenberg said it was important for mental health and the economy to avoid similar situations in the future.

“Clearly this lockdown dents confidence. It hits investment. It ultimately costs jobs,” he said.

Melbourne residents must stay within 25km of their homes, wear masks indoors and outdoors, and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people.

Public schools and kindergartens will return to face-to-face learning and cafes, restaurants and pubs can host up to 100 people.

Further north, country towns are on edge after a coronavirus-positive couple travelled from Victoria to Queensland through regional NSW.

More than 150,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the past 24 hours taking the national total past 5.6 million.

Meanwhile, medical experts have reassured Australians about vaccine safety after the death of a 52-year-old woman.

The NSW woman died after developing a blood clot condition likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine – the second fatal case out of 3.6 million doses administered.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the side effect was extremely rare and doctors had more information on how to diagnose and treat the condition.

“We will continue to learn from these unfortunate circumstances and will tie it into advice to all practitioners,” he said.

Cabinet minister Peter Dutton said the death was a tragedy but needed to be put in perspective, comparing it to the millions of deaths from coronavirus around the world.

“We haven’t had that here and we don’t want it, which is why the vaccine rollout is important,” he told Nine on Friday.

“As you’ve seen in Victoria, people have lined up in huge numbers to get the vaccine, because they know this is our only pathway out of COVID-19.”

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