Emergency payments end before COVID surge

It is important to expand the use of antivirals to help contain COVID, Minister Mark Butler says. -AAP Image

Pandemic leave payments have ended ahead of an expected surge of COVID-19 cases but infected people must still follow directions to isolate at home for a week, the health minister says.

Mark Butler says the federal government does not have the financial capacity to continue funding what were intended as emergency payments, which came to an end on June 30. 

"We're going to have to start to moving towards more normal programs that support the Australian community and people have been on notice about that for some time," he told ABC radio on Friday.

Asked if people without sick leave would go to work with COVID if they didn't have access to the government support measure, Mr Butler said he "hoped not".

"We can't continue forever to fund from the budget the gaps in the labour market that exist," he said.

Yet the minister warned health authorities are expecting a third wave of Omicron cases and reinfections are likely due to a new variant. 

Australians must get their boosters as soon as possible to protect themselves, he said.

"Even if you caught COVID in that big summer wave, where millions of Australians caught (it), if you've only had two doses ... you are potentially susceptible to infection over coming months," he said.

Mr Butler will meet with state and territory health ministers on Friday, where managing the coronavirus will be high on the agenda.

Ministers will talk about ways for more vulnerable people with COVID to get access to antiviral drugs.

Mr Butler said it was important to expand the use of the antivirals to help manage the pandemic.

"We're getting feedback from pharmacists, GPs and patients alike (and) I don't think that there's a great level of awareness about these treatments out in the community," he said. 

"You have to have a plan for when you get notified of a positive COVID test so that you can contact your GP quickly (and) get a script for these antivirals."


Victoria: 8057 cases, 12 deaths, 472 in hospital with 23 in ICU

NSW: 10,930 cases, nine deaths, 1558 in hospital with 41 in ICU