Scott Morrison has announced that disaster relief payments will be available to eligible workers in NSW affected by the three-week lockdown and that an extra allocation of 300,000 Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines would be made to the state.
Fronting a press conference on Thursday, the prime minister said he had been in extensive meetings with the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and treasurer Dominic Perrottet during the last 48 hours to plan how the commonwealth could support efforts to get on top of the ‘serious situation’ that was evolving in the state.
Morrison said that residents of NSW should call 180 22 66 to discuss their eligibility for a new federal disaster payment, which would not be subject to either a liquid assets test or mutual obligation test (applicable to people who receive government welfare or social security payments).
The payment gives people who would have worked more than 20 hours in the week of a lockdown $500, and those would have worked fewer than 20 hours $325.
“This [lockdown] is now going into a third week and with further decisions to be taken, the commonwealth recognises that and the liquid access test will not apply to access to those payments,” Morrison said.
Eligible residents living in the first areas in Sydney to go into lockdown will be able to access the disaster payments from 8 July.
Eligible residents in the broader Sydney metropolitan area will be able to access the payments from 11 July.
People living in states and territories who may be placed in a future lockdown with a similar three-week duration to NSW would also be eligible for the disaster payment, subject to eligibility requirements.
Morrison struck a forceful and optimistic tone and said everything was being done to protect Australia’s suppression approach to the COVID-19 virus. He used the COVID-19 death rates in Indonesia (which has now surpassed 1000 deaths in a single day), the UK and US to remind Australians that the domestic public health context was different to other nations.
⚠️Public Health Order – stay at home order and restrictions extended⚠️Restrictions currently in place across both Greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour and regional NSW will remain in place until 11:59pm on Friday, 16 July. pic.twitter.com/3wKKPjjIBn
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 7, 2021
The PM urged Sydney-siders to follow NSW health lockdown orders, and made a plea for households to resist the temptation of mixing with other friends and family in their home.
“In particular, we are having issues with compliance when it comes to casual contact between households. You just can’t go from one house to the next. Birthday parties, family gatherings, these sorts of things are just not okay for people to go to each other’s houses at this time,” Morrison said.
“I understand how frustrating it is that you can’t do those things but this is an absolutely critical time.”
Morrison reiterated that the COVID-19 virus does not discriminate, and will hitch a ride on any person – celebrity or otherwise – to spread via casual contact.
“Whether it’s a party of footballers, or just a simple family gathering coming together, it can both have exactly the same consequences,” Morrison said.
“The virus doesn’t move by itself. It moves from person to person, people carry it from one to another.”
On Thursday NSW recorded 38 locally acquired COVID-19 cases, the highest number of recorded positive cases in the states this year. A total of 21 of the positive cases were in the Fairfield government area in South West Sydney.
The prime minister also announced that next week NSW would receive an additional 300,000 vaccines comprising extra AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses in equal quantities. The boost to supply of vaccines in NSW was to focus on boosting the vaccinated number of vulnerable people and residents living in areas of concern for virus transmission such as South West Sydney.
There are more than 350 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week. To find your nearest clinic visithttps://t.co/LmeATIQK4Z or contact your GP.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 8, 2021
According to Morrison, the federal government has been able to secure additional COVID-19 vaccine doses in recent days but he said that he could not outline further details due to the confidentiality of ‘commercial arrangements’.
“This means that these additional doses going into Sydney will not come at the expense of the ongoing allocations that are being made to other states and territories,” the PM said.
Morrison encouraged people living in Sydney’s high-risk areas, who have already received their first dose of AstraZeneca, to book in their second shot within eight weeks of their last one.
“We believe it’s important that they get that second dose of AstraZeneca as soon as possible. That is the community that is most at risk in these circumstances.”
The prime minister also hinted that any Australian who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be likely to get one by the end of the year. He said that if Australia could maintain the current pace of its vaccine rollout, the country would only be tracking two months behind original targets at the beginning of the rollout.
“There are two types of charts,” Morrison said.
“There’s the chart which shows the double doses of vaccination – and we all know where we are there, and we all know where we’re going to go over the next few months — we will rocket up those charts in the months ahead.
“But the chart that I do not want to see change on is deaths. Australia still has one of the lowest, if not the lowest death rate, of COVID in the world today,” he said.
A record week for COVID-19 vaccinations last week with over 880,000 Australians getting their jab, bringing our total to over 8.25m doses administered.
We’ll continue to do everything we can to get Australians vaccinated as quickly as possible.
We’ll get this done Australia. pic.twitter.com/E0OJhyhFc3
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) July 5, 2021