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More than half the nation at home as SA joins lockdown

Independent and FREE – 2021 Best Online Publication (Qld Country Press)

More than half the nation at home as SA joins lockdown

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More than half Australia's population is in lockdown as South Australia became the latest state

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Coronavirus outbreaks have plunged more than half of Australia into lockdown, sparking calls for more federal support.

The Morrison government is resisting pressure to reinstate JobKeeper wage subsidies with at least 13.5 million people under heavy restrictions across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Instead, people who lose work in designated hot spots can access weekly payments of between $375 and $600 when lockdowns extend beyond seven days.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said national wage subsidies, which initially paid out $1500 a fortnight before being scaled back, were proven to work.

“JobKeeper had its problems but it also had very important features which the government has stupidly junked,” he told Sky News.

“As time goes on and we have these lockdowns it really does look like an incredibly stupid decision to end JobKeeper and replace it with something inferior.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said disaster payments were higher than the $1000-a-fortnight rate JobKeeper ended at.

“The money is actually flowing out the door faster than it would have under JobKeeper,” Mr Hunt said.

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In NSW, 388,000 claims worth $186 million have been approved during the outbreak which has infected 1418 people in the past month.

Victorians will become eligible on Friday when the current lockdown enters its second week.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall is confident assistance will be made available to his state despite restrictions being planned for an initial seven days.

His state on Tuesday evening joined Victoria — where there were nine new cases — and Sydney and surrounds in lockdown.

NSW recorded 78 new local infections, while SA recorded five.

Borders have slammed shut with Victoria all but banning travel from NSW, and other states shutting off to SA.

Cars line up for testing in Adelaide as South Australia entered lockdown. Picture AAP

South Australia entered its first full day of lockdown with more than 35 exposure sites across metropolitan Adelaide.

They include a number of major shopping centres and at least two schools along with banks, hardware stores, cafes and chemists.

The outbreak has grown to at least five confirmed infections, with all of those currently linked to an 81-year-old man who came to Australia recently from Argentina.

During the week-long lockdown South Australians will only be allowed out for five reasons — to provide essential care, to seek medical assistance, to buy essential food and other goods, for essential work, or to exercise for up to 2.5 hours.

They must also wear masks when outside their homes.

Schools have closed along with most retail outlets and all construction work has ceased.

The Australian Council of Social Service estimates 800,000 welfare recipients who support 400,000 children have been excluded from disaster payments.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie is urging state and federal leaders to fill the gap ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.

She described the system as a “mess” which had created two tiers between people on Centrelink payments and other workers.

“People on social security are people on the lowest incomes, the most financially vulnerable and they’ve been completely left out of these disaster payment arrangements,” she told ABC radio.

“We need to make sure that everybody has enough income support if they’re hit by the loss of jobs, to keep their head above water.”

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