Almost 12 million Australians are now in lockdown as the federal government announces new support measures

(Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
  • Case numbers in Greater Sydney and Melbourne spiked overnight as the two states race to reign in their respective outbreaks.
  • Greater Sydney recorded 97 new locally transmitted cases overnight, while Melbourne’s cases rose to 24, revealing 100 exposure sites during Friday’s press conference.
  • The Prime Minister has announced new federal support measures and scrapped some eligibility requirements, including the $10,000 liquid assets test.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

As of midnight, almost 12 million Australians are being ordered to stay at home after Victoria began a five-day lockdown.

On Friday morning, Greater Sydney reported 97 new cases, with New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian stating that it was likely the city would see a further increase in cases in the coming days.

The growing outbreak in Greater Sydney followed an uptick in virus numbers in Melbourne, which led Victorian Premier Dan Andrews to announce a snap lockdown for the entire state.

Announced by the Victorian Premier at an emergency press conference on Thursday afternoon, the stay-at-home orders will last until at least Tuesday, with Andrews warning it could be extended should new case numbers not ease.

It is the fifth lockdown for the state since the pandemic began and its third this year.

The announcement followed the revelation that two new cases of COVID-19 had been linked to a Saturday night AFL match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

There are now 12 cases linked to the stadium, bringing the number of community-acquired cases in Victoria to 24, with 100 exposure sites currently identified.

At her daily press conference on Friday, Berejoklian announced New South Wales had recorded 97 new locally acquired cases since the last report.

Of that 97, 29 people had been infectious in the community for two or more days, with three quarters of the new cases recorded in the Fairfield Local Government Area (LGA).

The Premier said the state should expect to see this number rise in the coming days.

“The number of people being infectious in the community keeps going up” Berejiklian said, adding that “the numbers tomorrow will be greater than what we saw today.”

She also said the state was continuing to record cases relating to people out in the community who may not have been aware they were carrying the virus at the time.

“We are seeing cases where people don’t have symptoms but they are carrying the virus,” Berejiklian said.

The surge in virus numbers across the eastern states has led to a return in border closures, with Queensland announcing it was shutting out Victorians, along with Greater Sydney. Western Australia has also reinstated border closures with both New South Wales and Queensland, as well as restrictions for those entering from other Australian states.

South Australia and Tasmania are currently the only states that do not have border restrictions in place.

New federal support announced

As a result, the federal government has overhauled income and business assistance.

It marks the third time in six weeks that support measures have been upgraded as a result of new outbreaks.

Following pressure from Victoria to do more to help stranded workers and businesses, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a “simplified and streamlined” assistance package on Thursday.

Morrison said that subject to the national cabinet’s approval on Friday, support would now be paid sooner and, in the case of income support, at a higher rate.

Additionally, a $10,000 liquid assets test for personal income support will be scrapped.

Victorian workers affected by the latest lockdown are expected to receive income assistance, even though the five-day lockdown imposed by Premier Daniel Andrews falls short of the seven-day cut-off for the new payment system.

As part of the changes, support payments will be available from the first week of lockdown and will be set at $375 and $600 from the outset, rather than begin at a discounted rate.