Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has indicated that pandemic leave disaster payments would not return despite having isolation policies remain in place.
The payment program provided funds for people who took leave to isolate and ended on June 30. However, there are calls to restart the scheme as the number of people going into isolation has increased.
But Albanese said the government would be “fiscally responsible” after inheriting $1 trillion of debt from the previous government.
“We’re making an announcement today which will add to the government’s bottom line federally, and there are a range of things we would like to do, but we intend to be fiscally responsible in how we deal with issues,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said financial assistance remained in different areas.
“We’ll continue to work with the Commonwealth government to provide that support going forward, but it has to be done in a balancing position as we move through this next period of COVID,” he said.
It comes after federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the government had no plans to continue the payments, noting that current COVID-19 health measures were determined by the state governments.
He added that the federal government had lifted emergency settings in May, giving health authorities plenty of time to return society to normal.
Mask Rules up to the States
With the emergence of new subvariants and the spreading of the seasonal influenza virus, many people have taken leave from work.
Following a rise in the new Omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommended that there be a reduction in the advised reinfection period, from 12 weeks to 28 days.
This will require people to get tested and isolate again if they redevelop symptoms after 28 days after recovery.
With both COVID-19 and the flu spreading, there have also been increased calls for the return of mask mandates.
The prime minister said the health advice recommends that masks are appropriate in circumstances where social distancing isn’t possible, such as on public transport.
But he added that “mandates on those issues, of course, are a matter for the state governments around the country,” making no indication that mask rules would be imposed from a federal level.