Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Saturday that Australia would restart assistance payments for quarantined casual employees owing to COVID-19 as a new wave of Omicron-driven infections sweeps the nation.
Australia is confronting a large virus outbreak caused by the highly transmissible novel Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, with authorities expressing concern that it could lead to more hospitalizations and further strain the health care system.
"I want to ensure that no one is left behind and that vulnerable people are cared for," Albanese told reporters following an impromptu meeting with state officials.
No one should be forced to make the terrible decision of being unable to isolate adequately without losing income or being placed in a difficult situation.
The leave benefits, which expired on June 30 and entitled workers to up to A$750 ($510) every seven-day quarantine period, will be reinstated and extended until September 30.
Albanese stated that the extension would cost taxpayers slightly under A$800 million, split equally between the federal and state governments. People may begin applying on July 20.
According to official data, the government has spent about A$13 billion ($8.8 billion) on pandemic compensation for 2.4 million employees since last year. In comparison, total federal support since the outbreak began is projected to exceed A$300 billion.
Australia is facing a harsh winter due to the co-circulation of COVID-19 and the flu virus. Authorities recommended people wear masks indoors and obtain their flu shots as soon as possible in preparation for "millions" of new cases in the coming weeks.
The current wave is expected to peak in August, according to Albanese, and health experts have compared the infection rate of the new varieties to measles.
Over 4,600 Australians are currently hospitalized, and hospital admissions in some states have reached record levels. Australia has reported 8.7 million COVID-19 cases and 10,549 deaths since the beginning of the epidemic, much fewer than many other countries.