Australia unveils $2.2b health package to combat coronavirus
SYDNEY: Australia announced an A$2.4 billion (S$2.2 billion) health package yesterday that proposes setting up fever clinics and offering cost-free facilities for people to consult doctors over video calls, as it combats the spread of the virus.
Australia has been struggling to contain the disease, which is expected to take a significant economic toll, with the Treasury department warning the outbreak would cut at least half a percentage point from economic growth in the first quarter.
"Just under A$1.2 billion of that will actually, we anticipate, be spent this financial year, particularly as the virus and its impacts ramp up in the months ahead," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
The federal government said the latest funding package would include the A$500 million announced last week to support the costs on the health system from the virus outbreak.
It will include free video consultations for people in self-isolation and quarantine.
"We are ensuring people can access essential care in a way that reduces their potential exposure to infection," Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
The package will be in addition to a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package the government said will be announced today.
Sky News, citing government sources, said the stimulus package was expected to be worth as much as A$20 billion and would include one-off cash payments of about A$500 to pensioners, people claiming unemployment benefits and small businesses.
The Prime Minister's office declined to comment on the Sky News report.
Reserve Bank of Australia Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said yesterday the full impact of the outbreak on Australia's economy was uncertain but fiscal and monetary policy would support activity in the meantime. - REUTERS