National Cabinet strikes a deal on COVID-19 payments, ACT quarantine grows

Dominic Giannini 4 June 2021 6
Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said vaccines should not be mandatory for residential aged care and disability care staff unless there are compelling reasons. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Canberrans will have access to income support payments from the Commonwealth in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak under a new deal struck at today’s National Cabinet meeting (4 June).

Disaster payments of $500 a week for people who work more than 20 hours a week, and $325 if they work less than 20 hours a week, will be available for any location declared a hotspot that enters a lockdown for more than seven days.

States and territories agreed to provide support to small businesses.

The announcement came after the Victorian Government pressured the Commonwealth for an income support payment as it entered its fourth lockdown a week ago. Melbourne’s initial seven-day stay at home order was extended yesterday for at least another week.

The extension of the stay at home orders also applies to people who have entered the ACT from all of Victoria under a new ACT health direction yesterday.

The number of people captured by the stay at home orders in the ACT increased by 40 to 580 today and the number of close contacts from NSW exposure sites grew to 62.

Seven close contacts from Victoria remain in isolation and 17 casual contacts are waiting for their COVID-19 test results to come through.


READ MORE: Victoria, NSW stay at home orders extended, second Pfizer hub flagged


Chief Minister Andrew Barr is working with his state and territory counterparts to prevent further lockdowns by increasing vaccination rates for residential aged care and disability care staff.

Mr Barr said National Cabinet discussed whether vaccinations for staff at these facilities should be mandatory – a proposal pushed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison – but a final decision was postponed until further advice is received.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith will receive more information about increased Pfizer supply next week. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Australia’s principal health advisory body, the AHPPC, decided against making vaccines mandatory for aged care and disability care staff in January and again last week.

Mr Barr said the ACT would need to consider whether making the vaccine mandatory for staff would end up reducing the number of people available to work, which would make the measure counterintuitive.

“If it became a mandatory requirement, would it impact workforce availability to the extent that you would be compromising the health and care of aged care and disability residents?” he said.

“Clearly, this is an area of risk and we do need to get the vaccination level up amongst this cohort of workers.”


READ MORE: No vaccination blitz for Canberra aged-care staff despite Victorian COVID-19 outbreak


But Mr Barr said conscientious objections are strong human rights principles that would need to be accounted for in any decision to make a vaccine mandatory for a specific cohort.

“There would always be exemptions and reasons why it would be inappropriate to have a mandatory requirement,” he said.

“We had an open mind that unless there was a compelling reason to mandate [vaccinations], then you wouldn’t. But there are certain circumstances where you would put others at risk, so you have to balance those competing rights.”

The ACT has continued to ramp up its vaccination program in line with other states and territories, extending the eligibility criteria to include 40 to 49-year-olds from yesterday.

Almost 5400 bookings were made yesterday, which smashed the previously daily booking record of 1756.

There were also almost 900 people waiting to receive a callback to book their vaccine appointment as of early Friday afternoon (4 June).

As indicated yesterday (3 June), Mr Barr said Pfizer would be increasing its supply to Australia on an expedited timeline, but further details will not be provided to Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith until at least next week.

The ACT receives between 6000 to 7000 doses of Pfizer a week from the Commonwealth on top of the current stock of 14,000 to 16,000.


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6 Responses to National Cabinet strikes a deal on COVID-19 payments, ACT quarantine grows
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HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:05 pm 05 Jun 21

There was a particularly interesting exchange in the post-National Cabinet press conference yesterday –

“Journalist: ……..and I also wanted to get a question to the CMO if I could on, is AstraZeneca less effective on the Delta variant?”

“Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer: …………… There is some preliminary work out of the UK, where they have been seeing this variant which suggests that there may be a lower efficacy of AstraZeneca but it is not zero and that is very preliminary laboratory work. We know that we need to wait for that real world experience which comes only when you have large outbreaks which I’m really sure that we won’t be having in Australia.”

The full transcript is here, and that includes the full answer, with a couple of hundred words before the punch line(s) about AZ efficacy –

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/press-conference-australian-parliament-house-act-42

Ol L Ol L 1:36 pm 05 Jun 21

The efficacy rate for the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 70%, compared with roughly 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. And the recommendations are that various vaccines cannot be mixed. Seems we were sold a dud.

Acton Acton 7:45 am 05 Jun 21

Has Andrew Barr had his own jab yet, or is his diary still to full? That was his excuse. Strange how those who are urging others to get vaccinated, like also the Qld premier, haven’t had it themselves.

    JC JC 10:47 am 05 Jun 21

    And if they got in early people such as yourself would be having a whinge about that too. Just like how people have whinged about Morrison and Hunt.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:24 pm 05 Jun 21

    We could do without Barr but Morrison and Hunt are essential people.

    Acton Acton 12:54 pm 05 Jun 21

    Anyone who urges another person to undertake a course of action but fails to do it themselves is by definition a hypocrite. And yet there are still people like yourself who ignore hypocrisy and therefore perpetuate it.

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