Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has rejected calls to extend the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency payment.
Speaking to reporters Friday after a two-hour meeting with state and territory treasurers, Mr Frydenberg said NSW and Victoria would work towards a “nationally consistent approach to business support in the event of a shutdown”.
Mr Frydenberg stressed that the aid measure was only available when Melbourne was considered a national hotspot.
“It is the state governments that make the decisions about lockdowns,” he said. “About which sectors will be affected, which parts of the state will be affected and the level of restrictions that remain.
“We made it very clear that we would provide income support. But it would be done in a manner consistent with the Commonwealth hotspot definition, and, as you know, that Commonwealth hotspot for the metropolitan Melbourne area was abolished, in line with the announcement of the closure of more in general the restrictions in Victoria. ”
The treasurer has disclosed that approximately 50,000 applications have been made for payment, and approximately 34,000 have been processed and paid.
Earlier on Friday, Victoria’s acting Prime Minister James Merlino thanked all Victorians after the state failed to register any new local cases of coronavirus on Friday as Melbourne emerged from a two-week lockdown.
Queensland and NSW also registered no new local coronavirus cases on Friday after a Melbourne couple traveled through the states before testing positive, triggering health warnings.
Victoria’s health department returned just over 17,600 tests in the 24 hours to midnight, revealing just one new foreign case in hotel quarantine.
There are now 75 active cases in the state, up from 78 on Thursday.
It’s the first day without a local case of COVID-19 since May 24, when a family tested positive for the virus, ending the state’s 86-day streak of no community transmission.
The latest outbreak spread through the local government area of Whittlesea, north of the city, and the seaside suburb of Port Melbourne.
Mr Merlino said Friday was a good day for Victoria.
“It’s good news and news that I know everyone in Victoria wanted to hear,” he told reporters.
“To get to zero cases today is a great achievement, but it’s far from over.”
He thanked all the Victorians who had followed the rules to get to zero cases, but urged people not to be complacent.
“It’s a great outcome, but far from over,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the next week “will probably not all be zero cases,” citing the thousands of close contacts of infected cases who remain isolating at home.
“Some of them will go positive. That’s not a problem, as they were quarantined for the whole (contagious) period,” he said.
Under the new restrictions on Melbourne, masks will remain mandatory both indoors and out and people must stay within 15 miles of their home unless they are working or studying, providing care or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
A ban on home gatherings remains in place, but up to 10 people can meet outside, students can return to schools, retail can reopen and hospitality establishments can resume seated service.
Restrictions have been further eased in regional Victoria, with more industries to reopen, two visitors allowed at home and masks only required indoors.
“Basically what the changes mean is that more people will move around the city. More people will gather outside and more dine indoors,” said Mr. Merlino.
“People will get married and do the things they love. It’s a wonderful thing.”
But the acting prime minister warned that continued easing of restrictions would depend on people being tested “immediately” if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
“If you look now and cough or have a runny nose, you know what to do,” Merlino said.
Prof Sutton added that Victorians will likely need to be tested several times over the winter.
“That’s the only way we can be sure we know where the coronavirus is and get it out of the state.”
Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate how four members of a Reservoir family with no known links to current outbreaks tested positive for the virus.
Prof Sutton said genomic testing showed they have the Kappa strain of the virus, which is consistent with the outbreak in the nearby town of Whittlesea.
He said blood tests would be done on some family members to determine when they came into contact with the virus.
The family’s close contacts are in self-isolation, and some have tested negative.
Research is also underway on a Victorian couple who traveled to Queensland via NSW before testing positive.
Several supermarkets, gas stations and a McDonalds in Thomastown have been listed as exposure sites overnight, while wastewater detections of the virus were reported in the Pascoe Vale, Scoresby and Vermont areas.
No new cases in Queensland
The Chief Health Officer of Queensland, Dr. Jeannette Young, said Friday that all close contacts of the infected Victorian couple driving to the state had so far returned negative COVID-19 tests.
“We’ve done a lot of work going through all the close contacts, so we now have 316 close contacts of the lady and her husband who traveled from Victoria. And there we have 41 test results that are negative,” she told reporters.
Friday’s figures showed that Queensland had no new cases of coronavirus, either in the community or in hotel quarantine, with nearly 6,000 tests conducted in the past 24 hours and more than 11,000 vaccinations given.
The woman left Melbourne with her husband on June 1, when the city was in lockdown, and tested positive at the end of a road trip through NSW and into Queensland.
Her husband has now also tested positive, although it appears they are late in their infection period.
They are known to have visited locations in Goondiwindi, Toowoomba and the southern Sunshine Coast.
It remains unclear how they contracted the virus.
According to Queensland health authorities, the couple has not applied for a travel waiver to enter the state.
Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Martin said on Friday that police had yet to interview the Victorian couple over possible criminal charges, but hoped to do so in the coming days.
Martin said police have so far found five people from Victoria who entered Queensland illegally. They had received infringement notices of $4,003, he said.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people from Victoria crossing the border “will be found” without exception.
“You can’t enter this state if you come out of a hotspot and endanger our state,” she said. “And we’ll make sure you suffer the consequences if you do.”