Australian PM calls national cabinet meeting amid Covid battle

Canberra: Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called an emergency national cabinet meeting to discuss the escalating coronavirus crisis in the current winter months.

Albanese said he will meet with state and territory leaders on Monday amid pressure for the federal government to reinstate pandemic leave payments for workers forced into isolation, Xinhua news agency reported.

The 750 Australian dollar (505.8 U.S. dollar) payment ended as planned at the end of June, with the government saying at the time it was moving into a new phase of managing the pandemic.

However, with COVID-19 infections surging, state governments, unions and members of federal government have called for the scheme to be reintroduced.

Albanese on Friday resisted pressure to extend the payment, arguing companies were now “providing those systems”.

“Good employers are recognizing that people are continuing to work from home whilst they have Covid and are receiving, therefore, payments through that,” he told reporters on Friday.

“These payments were put in place by the former government with an end date. That was a decision that they made at that time.”

It comes after Health Minister Mark Butler warned it’s likely over coming weeks that some millions of Australians will catch Covid, some of them catching it again after perhaps having caught it earlier this year.

Australia on Friday reported more than 40,000 new Covid infections and more than 60 deaths.

As of Thursday afternoon, 8,643,705 cases of Covid have been reported in Australia, including 10,518 deaths, and approximately 316,789 active cases, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.

There were 4,512 cases being treated in Australian hospitals on Thursday including 139 in intensive care units.