Western Australia records three Covid deaths and 351 people in hospital
There were 6,473 new cases in the last reporting period, and 17 people are in intensive care.
Health authorities noted that the three deaths date back to 8 July.
Acoss welcomes pandemic support but urges long-term solutions to inequality
Edwina MacDonald, the acting CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss), has told the ABC she welcomes the announcements from the national cabinet meeting of additional payments for Australians who are struggling.
A few things we have heard that are really great – we heard about the extension of the pandemic leave disaster payments, the crisis payment, the availability of rapid antigen tests – and all those things are really needed at the moment.
However, MacDonald says that while the new short-term pandemic supports are welcome, long-term solutions to issues of inequality are still needed.
The pandemic is showing some inadequacies with our income support system and what is possible … when we are not in a pandemic time because these kinds of pressures continue.
The prime minister is open to taking the health advice and looking at what is needed, really committed to making sure no one is left behind. That is really encouraging to hear that. But we know that we do need a longer term solution as well.
National cabinet meeting brings renewed support amid latest Covid surge
After days of pressure to extend paid pandemic leave, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has reversed the government’s plan to end the emergency measure.
The $750 payment will now continue until 30 September, with the costs covered 50-50 with the states. Telehealth appointments will also be available to people who may need access to antiviral drugs until the end of October.
Concession card holders will no longer be automatically eligible for 10 free RATs through the existing scheme, but Albanese said there were other federal and state schemes in place to provide free tests to the vulnerable.
Albanese arrived back in the country yesterday from the Pacific Islands Forum and called a snap meeting with state and territory leaders for this morning.
The chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, briefed the PM on Friday, then spoke at the national cabinet meeting.
Albanese said national cabinet would continue to meet every two to three weeks as the winter surge hits.
“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,” he said.
“When you get the health outcomes right, you protect jobs and protect the economy. We are all committed to that. The really positive thing as well today is [we are] working towards a much more consistent national approach.”
Albanese said there was “increased access” to RATs.
“States and territories are making sure that they are available as well as the commonwealth through various measures that we have,” he said.
“All of the first ministers also agreed that jurisdictions will utilise existing rapid antigen test stocks funded through these arrangements.”
Albanese and his ministers had argued that the payments and distribution of free RATs were always going to be discontinued after being implemented by the former Coalition government, and that the $1tn budget debt meant the spending could not continue indefinitely.
The health minister, Mark Butler, argued during the week that emergency payments had to be reconsidered as the pandemic entered the “next phase”.
But as the latest Covid surge began and Butler warned that millions of people would be infected, health experts, state leaders, unions and others demanded that the measures should be kept in place.
Albanese said they would reverse the decision “inherited from the former government”.
I want to make sure that people aren’t left behind, that vulnerable people are looked after and that no one is faced with the unenviable choice of not being able to isolate properly without losing an income.
Albanese also urged people to get their booster shots, and to talk to their doctors about accessing antivirals.
On Friday, the Australian Medical Association national president, Omar Khorshid, said people should be supported to “do the right thing” and isolate when they were sick.
Generally the government has extended the measures we continue to need because the pandemic is still here and affecting us.
Albanese had come under fire for suggesting sick people should just work from home, a measure that is not available to many employees. He then announced the national cabinet would meet on Monday to consider pandemic support, but on Friday brought the meeting forward to today.
Albanese says pandemic payment extension to cost $780m by end of September
Albanese says the extension of payments is estimated to cost “just under $800m” by the end of September 30:
Around about $780m to be shared 50-50 between the commonwealth and the states and territories.
They will be available from Wednesday morning if people want to apply, they can apply online, or people who can’t claim online will be able to claim by calling 180 22 66.
Because it is a new financial year, a number of people have sick leave entitlements that have expired and are ready to go as well. In addition to that, a number of businesses have adjusted to the way that they deal with these issues. It may well be that the cost is less.
PM notes increased access to RATs but no change for concession card holders
Albanese says there is increased access to supplies of rapid antigen tests, but the state of free rapid antigen tests for concession card holders appears to be unchanged.
Also noting the increased access to supplies of rapid antigen tests because the commonwealth has already picked up the tab of the cost of all the rapid antigen tests. And states and territories are making sure that they are available as well as the commonwealth through various measures that we have. All of the first ministers also agreed that jurisdictions will utilise existing rapid antigen test stocks funded through these arrangements.
Albanese says indoor mask wearing to be part of health messaging
Albanese says indoor mask wearing recommendations will be part of consistent health messaging between the commonwealth and states and territories:
The jurisdictions and the commonwealth also agreed to provide that consistent health messaging out of there to encourage Australians to follow the recommendations that were provided by Prof Kelly.
These include wearing masks indoors where appropriate, where people are mixing and can’t have social distancing, then that makes sense for that to be highly encouraged. Also getting tested, practising good respiratory hygiene and where it is, where people are contacts or where it is appropriate, for people to work from home. These measures are important.
PM announces new temporary telehealth consultation item
A new temporary telehealth consultation will also be available, Albanese says:
The commonwealth is also agreeing to create a new temporary telehealth item so GPs can spend longer with their patients to assess the suitability for oral Covid-19 antivirals.
[Health minister] Mark Butler with the Royal Australian GPs and the AMA yesterday worked through these proposals.
We want to make sure that antivirals can be administered where appropriate and in order to do that this temporary telehealth facility is appropriate, it is appropriate it be established.
Albanese has also announced the reinstatement of crisis payment national health emergency payments:
In addition to that, the government will also reinstate the crisis payment national health emergency payments until the 30th of September. This will ensure that those affected by Covid-19 isolation requirements … who are in severe financial hardship continue to receive support during the winter period.
Albanese confirms pandemic leave payment to be reinstated
Albanese has confirmed the reinstatement of pandemic leave disaster payments to the end of September:
In recognition of the risks that are associated with the more infectious new variants, we have agreed to reinstate the pandemic leave disaster payment to September 30 of this year.
I want to make sure that people aren’t left behind, that vulnerable people are looked after and that no one is faced with the unenviable choice of not being able to isolate properly without losing an income and without being put in a situation that is difficult.
Going forward, the states and territories have agreed that this payment will be covered 50-50 – a shared cost with the states and territories.
Previously, the states and territories picked up the bill for temporary visa holders – they will also be shared 50-50. And they picked up the bill for business support – that was in place and is no longer being provided.
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. They can’t continue forever, given the physical constraints that are on governments at all levels, but that this is an appropriate measure going forward.
Albanese says national cabinet to meet every two to three weeks
Albanese has announced a more consistent national approach with the commonwealth to meet with states and territories every two to three weeks.
The really positive thing as well today is working towards a much more consistent national approach.
That was agreed and indeed, over the coming period up until at least the end of September, the commonwealth will meet with the states and territories in the national cabinet approach every two to three weeks to make sure we are hearing the updated reports from AHPPC [the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] and to respond, as need be, to make sure our approaches are consistent so people can be clear about the messages which are out there.
Albanese has started his press conference following the national cabinet meeting saying there have been “several new measures” agreed upon.
He says there is good news of strong uptake in the number of people who have received their fourth Covid-19 vaccine, which became available at the beginning of last week.
First, we heard from the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, who provided an update of the pandemic, including the new variants and their potential impact and the impact that was having on hospital capacity and the broader health system in Australia. What was very positive was his report about the substantial increase in the number of people receiving their fourth shot, some 400,000 people in recent days. Also the increased use of antivirals. These two measures are absolutely critical.
PM speaks following emergency national cabinet meeting
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking following the emergency meeting of the national cabinet to discuss the worrying surge in Covid cases.
The snap meeting was originally to take place on Monday but was brought forward to this morning after Albanese was briefed yesterday by the chief health officer, Paul Kelly, and health department secretary, Brendan Murphy.
If you missed our Guardian Essential poll at the start of this week, there were two key insights. The first is Australians are in a complicated headspace about Covid. The second is Anthony Albanese’s post-election honeymoon has moderated.
By complicated, I mean contradictory. More than half the voters surveyed want to treat Covid like the flu and just get on with normal life. But we don’t like high death rates. We also worry about pressure on hospitals.
Northern Territory records one Covid death and 61 people in hospital
There were 424 new cases in the last reporting period, and two people are in intensive care.
Memorable day for Australian golfers at St Andrews
Min Woo Lee has wowed the St Andrews galleries once again to give himself a shot at British Open glory with a dazzling second round at the home of golf, AAP reports.
The West Australian excitement machine almost holed out for a rare albatross on Friday en route to a three-under-par 69 to join his celebrated countrymen Cameron Smith and Adam Scott in contention for the Claret Jug.
Little more than a month after his older sister Minjee won the Women’s US Open in North Carolina, Lee is making an audacious bid to land a major championship of his own.
Gas giant Chevron falls further behind on carbon capture targets for Gorgon gasfield
Gas giant Chevron has fallen even further behind on targets to capture and store CO2 at its mega gas project in Western Australian, but has refused to say by how much.
The company also confirmed on Friday it had bought and surrendered 5.23m tonnes of CO2 offsets to make up for the failure to meet its 2021 target at its CCS project at the offshore Gorgon gasfield in Western Australia.
Queensland records 22 Covid deaths and 921 people in hospital
There were 5,795 new cases in the last reporting period, and 14 people are in intensive care.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese to speak at 11.45am
Stay tuned for Anthony Albanese’s press conference following the emergency national cabinet meeting will be coming up just before midday today.
I’ll bring you the announcements from that presser with Albanese expected to announce that pandemic leave payments for casuals will be reinstated.
Widespread frost in NSW this morning
The BoM confirming what many of us in NSW and Canberra felt this morning, it’s another cold one but dry conditions in store for the rest of the day.
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