Anthony Albanese could have saved Australia $800m by scrapping Covid isolation periods
Anton Albanese could have saved taxpayers $800m had he opted to end the seven-day mandatory isolation period for Australians infected with Covid.
The Prime Minister announced he would reinstate the $750-a-week Covid payment for casual workers and those without sick pay who are being forced into isolation.
He had been pressured to return the payment after refusing to budge on the length of time Covid-positive people must be quarantined for, with the entire scheme expected to cost just under $800 million.
Mr Albanese brought up the recent emergency national cabinet meeting in Australia omicron wave until Saturday, after calls from prime ministers such as Queensland Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Unlike other countries around the world where isolation times have been reduced or abandoned altogether, Mr Albanese said current rules would remain in place and encouraged wearing face masks indoors.
NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet had led the charge for states to reintroduce the payments, saying if workers had to isolate they would have to be compensated.
Anthony Albanese will bring back the $750-a-week pandemic disaster payment despite previously promising to scrap it
He added there needs to be a discussion about reducing isolation times to five days instead of seven.
“Ultimately we need to get to a point where you stay at home if you’re sick and if you’re not sick you can go to work,” Mr Perrottet said News.com.au.
“I think we need to look at the periods when we are forcing people not to be able to work and provide for their families.
“My view is this: if the state takes away people’s freedom and they cannot work well, the state must compensate.”
The Prime Minister did the extraordinary backflip on Saturday, announcing the payment would be extended until September 30
Experts have predicted that Covid infections will peak in late June or early August and Mr Albanese has been under increasing pressure to meet with heads of state and health chiefs.
Ms Palaszczuk and Tasmanian Prime Minister Jeremy Rockliff were particularly vocal in calling for a cabinet meeting.
“I think the country just wants to know how this wave is going. How the hospital stays are going. And get the information from the chief health medical officer that we received earlier from the national cabinet,” Ms Palaszczuk told The Today Show on Thursday.
“It doesn’t have to be a long meeting. Gives Prime Minister opportunity to update country on how things are going.’
Mr. Albanese had previously said the $750-a-week pandemic disaster payment would not be reinstated after June 30.
But in a spectacular backflip on Saturday, he announced that it would be available again from Wednesday and extended until September 30th.
“I want to make sure people are not left behind, that vulnerable people are taken care of,” he said.
“That no one is faced with the unenviable choice of not being able to properly isolate without losing an income.”
People with Covid are not required to isolate in countries like the UK or Switzerland, while in the United States they are only “recommended” to self-quarantine for five days.
Face masks are also not enforced in the UK or Switzerland – while Australians are still required to wear them when taking public transport or visiting a hospital.
Countries like Sweden no longer classify Covid as a “critical illness”.
Mr Albanese argued the isolation period was necessary to tackle the surge in Covid cases and ease the pressure on hospitals – although much of the strain on the health system is due to a surge in influenza cases.
Australia recorded its worst May on record with 65,770 confirmed cases of influenza – more than double the number before lockdown in 2019.
Health experts warned the previous lockdowns had weakened residents’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
Disaster payments will be reintroduced with crisis payments and will cost $780 million – with the price split between the federal and state governments.
“Going forward, the states and territories have agreed that this payment will be funded 50/50 on a cost-sharing basis with the states and territories,” Albanese said.
Shadow Health spokeswoman Anne Ruston called it an “embarrassing backflip.”
“AlboMP has admitted he has left many Australians behind by being unresponsive in his health response to the current outbreak,” she wrote on Twitter.
Mr Albanese held a national cabinet meeting, brought forward from Monday as the latest Omicron variants sweep Australia
Casual workers who need to isolate with Covid can access a $750 payment as Anthony Albanese temporarily reinstates them
“This is an embarrassing backflip and questions remain to be answered, including whether the government first sought advice on cutting payments?”
Mr Albanese has vowed there will be a “rigorous national approach” to dealing with the Covid pandemic going forward.
“The Commonwealth will meet with the states and territories in the national cabinet every two to three weeks,” he said.
“All Prime Ministers and Prime Ministers and the Commonwealth understand that we need to get the right health outcomes to protect people’s health and also our economy.
“If you get the health outcomes right, you protect jobs and the economy. We are all committed to this. The actual positive is today too [we are] Work on a much more coherent national approach.’
A temporary telemedicine system will also be rolled out to connect GPs with patients who need access to oral Covid antivirals.
“We want to ensure that antivirals can be administered if necessary, and to do that this temporary telemedicine facility is appropriate, it is appropriate to set it up,” Albanese said.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (above) said he would call for the seven-day Covid isolation period to be discussed at Saturday’s national cabinet emergency meeting
Mr Albanese had previously halted calls from prime ministers and unions to continue with the handouts for the disaster leave after they ended on June 30.
He argued that the $1 trillion national debt he “inherited” from the Morrison government and the ease of most Covid restrictions meant paying it was no longer beneficial.
Payments can be requested from July 20th.
Australia is currently fighting two more infectious substrains of the Omicron variant known as BA.4 and BA.5.
Health experts have warned the strains are highly contagious and can re-infect people who have already had the virus and residents who have been double-vaccinated – but it is not considered any more dangerous than the previous strains.
dr Kerry Chant has been urged to shorten the reinfection window from 12 weeks to 28 days.
“We urge people who have recently had Covid-19 not to be complacent, even if they have come out of isolation in the last four weeks. If you develop symptoms again, make sure you test and isolate,” said Dr. Chant warned.
Casual workers, particularly in hospitality and retail, were demanding the reinstatement of the $750 Covid isolation payment to help offset key income losses
Latest Covid numbers in Australia
Australia recorded more than 43,000 cases and 66 deaths with 4,602 people hospitalized as of Friday.
- NSW: 11,082 cases, 38 deaths, 2024 hospitalized with 66 in ICU
- Victoria: 9982 cases, eight deaths, 802 in hospital including 34 in ICU
- Tasmania: 1662 cases, two deaths, 138 in hospital, five in intensive care
- Northern Territory: 424 cases, one death, 61 in hospital and two in intensive care
- Queensland: 5795 cases, 22 deaths, 921 hospitalized including 14 in ICU