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  • Govt reverses plan to stop pandemic leave

    Author: AAP

The federal government has reinstated the $750 pandemic isolation payment following widespread criticism.

Speaking after a fast-tracked national cabinet meeting on Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said continuing the payment was appropriate with cases rising across the country.

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"I want to make sure that people aren't left behind, that vulnerable people are looked after and that no-one is left with the unenviable choice of not being able to isolate properly without losing an income," he told reporters in Sydney.

The emergency payments for people who don't have sick leave but are forced to isolate due to COVID-19 will be reinstated from July 20 and last through to September 30.

The scheme originally lapsed on June 30.

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The Commonwealth will split the $780 million bill with the states and territories but the prime minister could not say whether the payments would later be extended past September 30.

He instead cited the $1 trillion debt his government inherited.

"We do need to act on this (debt) and all state and territory governments understand that as well," Mr Albanese said.

"The truth is that we have real fiscal pressures and the measures put in place were temporary measures."

Mr Albanese also announced a new telehealth program will start next week, allowing GPs to spend longer with patients to assess their suitability for COVID-19 antiviral treatments.

A national crisis payment for anyone with COVID-19 and in severe financial hardship will also be reinstated through to September 30.

National cabinet was told cases across the country were expected to peak in August.

Mr Albanese also urged Australians to mask up indoors, practise good respiratory hygiene and test and isolate when symptomatic.

"There will be less spread if people take more action - if more people wear masks, if more people get vaccinated," he said.

The government expanded eligibility for fourth vaccine doses to anyone aged 30 and over earlier this month.

As of Thursday, nearly 14 million people had received three or more jabs, while almost three million had received four or more.

Acting opposition leader Sussan Ley says Mr Albanese "owes an apology to the tens of thousands of Australians who have faced stress and uncertainty" as a result of ending the pandemic payments.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has urged Mr Albanese to extend them as well as free RATs for concession card holders.

With data still to come for the ACT, Australia had recorded almost 40,000 cases on Saturday along with 77 deaths. There are currently more than 4700 people in hospital.

LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:

NSW: 11,082 cases, 38 deaths, 2024 in hospital with 66 in ICU

Victoria: 9982 cases, eight deaths, 802 in hospital with 34 in ICU

Tasmania: 1662 cases, two deaths, 138 in hospital with five in ICU

Northern Territory: 424 cases, one death, 61 in hospital with two in ICU

Queensland: 5795 cases, 22 deaths, 921 in hospital with 14 in ICU

South Australia: 3863 cases, three deaths, 287 in hospital with nine in ICU

Western Australia: 6473 cases, three deaths, 351 in hospital with 17 in ICU

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