July 16, 2022
Today, the National Cabinet met virtually to discuss developments with the COVID 19 pandemic and agreed on several new measures.
The Commonwealth and all States and Territories remain committed to working together to support the health response to COVID-19, as Australians continue to manage the impacts of this pandemic.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on the pandemic, including new variants and their potential impact, as well as impacts on hospital capacity and the health system more generally. Australia is starting to see a new wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which will increase the pressure on our healthcare system.
In recognition of the risks associated with new, more infectious variants during the winter period, the Commonwealth has agreed to reinstate the pandemic leave disaster payment until September 30, 2022. Eligibility for payment will be backdated to July 1, 2022, to ensure that anyone unable to work due to isolation requirements during this time, without access to paid sick leave, is cared for. Access to these payments will begin from Wednesday, July 20, with existing eligibility requirements set to continue.
We have agreed to share the costs of the payment 50:50, between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories.
In addition, the Commonwealth Government will also reinstate the Crisis Payment – National Health Emergency (COVID-19) until September 30, 2022, with eligibility also to be backdated to July 1, 2022. This will ensure that those affected by the requirements COVID-19 isolation workers who receive an income support payment or the ABSTUDY living allowance, and who are experiencing serious financial hardship, continue to receive assistance during the winter period.
The Commonwealth has further agreed to create a new temporary telehealth element so that GPs can spend more time with their patients to assess their suitability for oral COVID-19 antivirals. This will allow those most vulnerable to COVID-19 to quickly access medical treatment and help ease the burden on hospitals.
State and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers also shared updates from each jurisdiction, including noting initiatives such as improving access to Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) supplies.
All Premiers agreed:
- Jurisdictions will use existing RAT stocks funded through 50/50 cost-sharing agreements with the Commonwealth to support the public health response.
- Jurisdictions and the Commonwealth will provide consistent health messaging encouraging Australians to follow the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s recommendations on health behaviors, including wearing masks indoors, testing and practicing d good respiratory hygiene.
The National Cabinet remains committed to working together on national priorities, including supporting all Australians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Cabinet will continue to meet as necessary.