16 July 2022

UPDATED: PM reinstates pandemic leave payments at emergency National Cabinet meeting; ACT records 1104 new cases

| Lottie Twyford
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been pushing for an extension of the $750 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment which has now been endorsed by National Cabinet. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

UPDATED 3:10 pm: The ACT has recorded 1,104 new COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday, including 689 identified by PCR and 415 by rapid-antigen tests (RAT).

It comes as the proportion of cases attributed to re-infections continues to rise.

Today, there are 156 people in hospital, including 4 in intensive care and 3 being ventilated.

Yesterday, there were 135 people in hospital with the virus and the Territory recorded 1208 new infections.

Since the pandemic began, 177,058 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the ACT.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.4 per cent and 77.6 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 80.6 per cent have received one dose of the vaccine.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has bowed to pressure and agreed to extend the pandemic leave disaster payments until 30 September.

The bill for the scheme will be split 50-50 between the federal and state and territory governments.

“This is a fair way … going forward, all of the states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth, understand that emergency payments are just that,” Mr Albanese said.

“[The payments] can’t continue forever given the physical constraints that are on governments at all levels. But that this is an appropriate measure going forward.

“These measures are important. We will get through this.”

It’s expected the scheme will cost just under $800 million.

People can apply for the payments from Wednesday (20 July) through Services Australia.

“The Commonwealth and the states and territories remain absolutely committed to working together, collaboratively, to support the health response,” he said.

“All of the premiers and chief ministers, as well as the Commonwealth, understand that we need to get the health outcomes right in order to protect people’s health and also to protect our economy.”

Since announcing the payments would be scrapped, the Federal Government had been criticised by unions and health experts who feared the decision would mean COVID-19-positive people would be forced to work rather than isolate.

The $750 payment is available to casual workers who cannot access sick pay.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr yesterday said he believed an extension of the scheme should be considered.

A snap National Cabinet meeting was brought forward to this morning so state and territory leaders could be briefed on the BA.4 and BA.5 wave.

That wave, which is expected to worsen in coming weeks, is putting increasing pressure on the country’s healthcare systems.

Mr Albanese also announced the Commonwealth would create a new Telehealth item so GPs can spend longer with their patients to assess their suitability for oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

READ ALSO Ban on dry cutting engineered stone pulled by WorkSafe ACT at 11th hour

According to ACT Health’s latest weekly epidemiological report, re-infections with COVID-19 now account for three per cent of all reported cases.

Health experts have warned the current circulating sub-variants of Omicron are more infectious than previous strains and can evade immunity garnered from both vaccination and previous infection.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said on Monday (11 July) that more people would likely be infected multiple times, but predicting the amount was next to impossible.

The Territory’s health authorities also expect that changed re-infection and testing requirements, which came into effect earlier this week, will drive an uptick in identified cases.

Recovered cases who develop symptoms are required to test for the virus 28 days after they are cleared from their initial quarantine period.

ANU infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon told Region last week it would prove difficult to measure re-infections accurately because many people who catch the virus for a second time are likely to record minimal symptoms and may be unlikely to get tested.

Professor Collignon stressed this would not be the case for everyone, however.

Authorities have urged people to remain at home if unwell and test if any symptoms develop.

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The report also confirmed the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is now well and truly dominant in the Territory. More than 70 per cent of genomically sequenced cases last week were BA.5.

Only two weeks ago, that number was as low as 33 per cent.

The remaining samples were either BA.2 or BA.2.12.1 or BA.4.

Around 7 per cent of all positive PCR samples are being genomically sequenced by Health.

Overall, case numbers increased for the fourth week in a row in the last reporting period. In the week ending 10 July, 8789 infections were reported – up from 8329 in the previous week.

The rolling mean also increased dramatically from 900 to 1000 to 1100 to 1200 per day.

READ ALSO ICU director alleges health service tried to silence safety concerns at Canberra Hospital

Interstate, NSW has reported 38 deaths overnight and 11,082 new cases of COVID-19.

Victoria has reported eight deaths overnight and 9982 new cases of COVID-19.

Yesterday, across Australia, more than 43,491 COVID cases were reported and 66 deaths. In total, 10,582 people have died with COVID across the country.

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All Australian welfare payments (including these pandemic payments) should be for Australian citizens only. They should go through Centrelink, be scrutinised very carefully and not easy to claim, and people should NOT get more money than what their usual average wage is (provide employer payslips, proof of earnings, proof of covid positive test etc.). As we saw last year, the system is not strict enough and there are too many people rorting it

HiddenDragon7:02 pm 16 Jul 22

Much of what goes on in the fiscal laundromat/post office which is the Canberra component of the APS is about setting precedents while pretending not to – so it was hard not to admire the spin (“this is such a contagious Covid variant”) used to explain today’s decision on “pandemic leave” and to pretend that it was not a back-flip.

What they do when an even more contagious variant comes along in a few months time will be interesting to see.

Let’s be frank, whilst Albo is saying his Government wasn’t prepared to leave people behind, his position was that the scheme had ended and that it wasn’t necessary, because casual employees could work from home! He got called out for having no idea about the nature of casual work and the type of industries that employ casuals. Try getting a coffee from a barista who is working from home!
Albo buckled under pressure from the States, Union groups & Medical experts and had to wipe a significant amount of egg from his face.
In typical politician fashion, he then played the blame-shifting game saying it was all fault of the previous Government.
I’m sorry Albo, as PM, you take over the management and responsibility of everything you inherit. The good and the bad.
When the fuel excise reduction expires, that too will become as an issue that you as the PM will need to own, unless you choose to extend it.
As PM, you own everything, unless you change it.
I hate politicians who shift blame. I’m having a go at Albo here, but the other lot are equally guilty. They listen to their advisors and spin doctors more than they listen to real people and real doctors.

Albo was elected knowing that he’d backflip and change his mind on issues on a caprice – it’s what people wanted: a flexible weather vane of a PM. He openly admitted he’s prepared to back a good idea such as the LNP’s immigration policy and caving to pressure from the states, especially puppet master McGowan is a trademark of his. Why are we acting surprised? No one said it’d be easy under Albanese.

you seem to be a little confused about the process, so here’s some explanation to help get you through. The PM didnt “change his mind on issues on a caprice” he and the National Cabinet took medical advice on the progress of current COVID strains which are causing higher infection rates. They are aware of the impact of the Budget but had to prioritise health. It’s what governments do. Hope this helps.

Astro thinks this decision has something to do with new medical advice?

LOL.

If you don’t think the decision was made after taking up-to-date medical advice then you’re misunderstanding the situation.

Astro,
Of course they took up to date medical advice on Covid.

Medical advice that has not significantly changed, meaning they already knew the facts around the upcoming challenges and have done so for weeks.

Whether you think the decision was good or bad, it was made for political reasons, not health ones.

If there’s one thing we’ve all learnt from this pandemic, it’s that it changes (hence the term “variants”) and that governments need to take up to date medical advice as it changes. The health authorities obviously don’t agree with your summation that the decision was made for “political reasons” as it is firmly in the interests of public health that it was made. All state and territory governments agree with this so you’re really on your own on this one, probably except for the Sky News mob, mouthing the usual chants of an ageing oligarch.

Astro,
Laughable response.

So you claim the politicians who made a decision agreeing with their own decision is evidence it was made for health and not political reasons. You actually make my point for me.

The health authorities have not changed their advice from what it has been in recent months and weeks. If you actually believed the government followed the “health advice”, then the payments would never have been scrapped in the first place.

The ALP spent the last few weeks defending the scrapping of the payments, the backflip was clearly due to political pressure, not any new medical or health information around the predicted winter surge we are now experiencing.

As above, whether you believe that political decision was good or bad, I’ll leave to you.

And as I don’t watch Sky news very often, I’m not sure what you are on about there. Are you a devotee?

The reason for the recent medical advice was because of the very high rate of infection of the new variants. Government (at both Federal and state/territory level) took briefings from medical authorities on this and thankfully, have adapted the payment schedule for those who can’t afford to take time off sick (and because of the increased casualisation of the workforce, there are more of them). Not sure what point you are trying to make in your posts, stating the decision is “political” doesn’t make any sense when it’s quite clearly based on medical advice. Perhaps ask your GP to explain it to you.

Astro,
Not sure if you are unable to read and comprehend, perhaps you need your GP to check your vision?

For the third time, the medical advice you claim forced the government’s position hasn’t changed.

The “new” variants were known about at the start of the year, the infection rates during winter are what has been predicted for months and seen overseas already.

The decision to remove and then reinstate the pandemic payments has very little to do with health advice, they are political decisions. The were political decisions when the LNP decided to remove them initially as well as political decisions when the ALP backflipped on their position to reinstate them.

My point is we’ve spent quite a while with politicians avoiding taking responsibility for their own decisions by claiming to be following the “health advice” when they were doing no such thing.

The medical advisers aren’t forcing them to put in place or take away welfare payments. These are government decisions made for political reasons.

You seem to be accusing the medical authorities of lying. Got any evidence of that claim? Anyone involved in this field knows that advice has had to adapt to many variations of the virus. Trying to turn this into a anti-government rant just because your side lost the election isn’t very convincing.

Astro,
You seem to be making things up because actually responding to the points would leave your position untenable.

The. Medical. Advice. Hasn’t. Changed.

“Anyone involved in this field knows that advice has had to adapt to many variations of the virus”

I’ll just copy paste now because you truly mustn’t read what’s written.

The “new” variants were known about at the start of the year, the infection rates during winter are what has been predicted for months and seen overseas already.

And I don’t have a political “team”, clearly unlike yourself, so I’m not sure how they could have “lost” an election?

Perhaps this is something you’ve picked up on that Sky News you seem so fond of?

Copy paste time again

“They were political decisions when the LNP decided to remove them initially as well as political decisions when the ALP backflipped on their position to reinstate them.”

You see how I’ve said that the LNP decisions were also political? Perhaps you’d take the hint but no.

Because you don’t seem capable of any sort of reasonable and logical discussion, I’ll just leave this article here as a good summary.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/pandemic-leave-reversal-is-a-teachable-moment-for-albanese-20220717-p5b263.html

Hey chewy14, thx for the paywalled article. Here’s one that isn’t: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/government-response
If you’re still unsure about changes to medical advice over the period of the COVID19 pandemic, then here are a few examples to jog your memory: changes to mask-wearing requirements, changes to elective surgery, changes to staff requirements and visiting requirements at nursing homes and hospitals, lock-downs, work-from-home requirements, number of vaccines required for optimal protection, I could go on but i think that’s enough for you to consider. All of these are changes based on medical advice which changes due to the nature of the virus, variants and the availability of vaccines. So, yes, the advice certainly does change depending on these factors. It would be lovely if it was just s static Field of Facts but, unfortunately, life aint that uncomplicated. We’re lucky to have a government that can change requirements based on this information.

Astro,
Unsurprising that you don’t read easily accessible news stories.

Perhaps you’d like to read the AMA’s calls for pandemic leave to be reinstated, which has not changed for weeks/months instead?

https://www.ama.com.au/media/meeting-minister-constructive-covid-19-measures-must-be-reintroduced

Also did you honestly just provide a random link to the health department’s covid response website as evidence of something?

Thank you for also providing even more examples of decisions that were significantly affected by politics rather than being based on health advice.

By your own argument the government should be enacting mask mandates and lockdowns again right now due to our case loads, significant disease burden and death.

It’s almost like they consider other things than just what the “health advice” says.

It’s strange that you have such a poor view of our health experts that you think they completely missed telling the government about the variants impacting Australia and their likely effects, such that the Australian government was caught off guard by refusing to reinstate the pandemic leave until last week and arguing that it wasn’t necessary or affordable for the weeks beforehand.

You must really hate doctors.

We are well and truly a welfare country full of blood-sucking leeches surviving off handouts from others.

I like to think we are a caring country

Capital Retro10:10 pm 16 Jul 22

When there are more takers than givers is when the economy will collapse.

I’m sure the thousands of casuals who have no access to sick leave and would therefore lose a decent chunk of their income if they came down with Covid will be happy to know that they are blood sucking leeches who survive off others.

Sure, there may be a small number of people who may abuse this. But the casualisation of the workforce in certain industries is a large part of the reason why this is necessary.

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