PM announces $1.1bn in health funding

 

Unemployed Australians who have been unable to qualify for welfare because their partner earns more than $48,000 will soon be able to access support as the government confirms it is changing the rule.

Asked if the measure would be changed on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "yes".

"There is an even more effective way beyond the changes in social services that we can address that and I will be announcing that in the not-too-distant future," he said.

 

The Prime Minister also flagged Australian workers who have recently been stood down due to the coronavirus will still be eligible for the federal government's new income support measures when the package is finalised.

Mr Morrison said he would not go into the details of the not yet finished plan, which is widely believed to include a capped wage subsidy, but assured workers they would qualify for help if they had been stood down in recent weeks.

"The principles, I can say, is that the package would support those who have more recently been the victims of these closures that have taken place and we will be seeking to support people involved in those closures, but we will advise further details of the starting point about that," he said.

"The Treasurer and I will be making an announcement on that as soon as we can, it is not that far away but we want to be sure that when we do it, we have covered the majority of the ground that needs to be covered to enable the program to be successfully implemented in partnership with the businesses."

Mr Morrison said Australia was facing a "long term battle" on two fronts that would stretch until September if not longer.

"This is going to be incredibly tough economically as well as from a health point of view but where Australia can ensure we can bounce back better and stronger on the other side is by following these strategies which enable businesses to re-emerge very, very quickly, with their employers, the capital, their equipment, with their shops and all of the things which they can switch on again and get moving again," he said.

"Sadly, this health crisis and economic crisis is a battle on two fronts and it is going to be waged in an unimaginable and unprecedented way over the next at least six months and potentially beyond that."

 

CORONAVRIUS APP PROVIDES UPDATES

In what Health Minister Greg Hunt has called "an early positive sign", the rate of increase in coronavirus cases has gone from around 25 per cent to 30 per cent per day a week ago to around 13 per cent to 15 per cent today.

The national death toll has risen to 16 today after a Mebourne man in his 80s died in hospital, bringing Victoria's number of deaths up to 4.

In Queensland, a woman in her 70s who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, has died at Caboolture hospital.

Australians can now get the latest coronavirus information straight to their smartphones as the government tips more than $1 billion into support for mental and primary health care during the coronavirus crisis.

The government has also launched a dedicated coronavirus app for all smartphones and an official information platform on Whatsapp.

The aus.gov.au/whatsapp service is available on Android and Apple devices, while the app is currently only available in the Apple Store.

The government has also announced $74 million for mental health support and $150 million for domestic violence initiatives to assist vulnerable Australians who are increasingly isolated due to the social distancing measures.

"Google has shown a 75 per cent increase in searches when it comes to concerns about domestic violence in recent days," Mr Morrison said.

"We need to put more resources into supporting people who will be vulnerable and may be vulnerable, and we are putting up support in."

The government has also put $200 million into emergency relief support.

"That will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency food relief as demand surges as a result of the coronavirus," Mr Morrison said.

"These services are demand driven, but we anticipate the funding boost, which is more than four times annual funding, will help hundreds of thousands of Australians in most urgent need. It will be shared among existing providers, including FoodBank, the Salvation Army, St Vincent DePaul, Anglican and many other local community organisations."

A $600 million expansion of Telehealth services will allow every doctor or specialist appointment that does not require a face-to-face treatment such as a blood test or surgical procedure will be able to happen over phone or video from Monday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was also doubling the bulk-billing incentive to support healthcare providers and ensure concession and vulnerable patients had access to free services.

"Further changes will be introduced during the week that will allow GPs and other providers to apply their usual billing practices to telehealth consultations, while concessional and vulnerable patients will continue to receive services at no cost," he said.

National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister Christine Morgan said every Australian needed to embrace physical distancing "but with social connection" during the coronavirus crisis.

"I would like to stop and just remember so many Australians who have recently been through the scourges of our drought and bushfires who are already suffering and to remember that their mental health and well-being is important," she said.

"I would also like to stop and reflect on the fact that, as we must practice physical distance and as we all embrace the concept of loneliness that can go with that, for too many Australians today that also encompasses a sense of fear."



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