CANBERRA, AAP – Medical experts will review a decision not to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for aged care workers after staff in Melbourne contracted the deadly disease.
Victoria has recorded another 11 cases of coronavirus, including a Melbourne aged care resident and another worker, forcing several facilities into lockdown.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt have asked Australia’s expert medical panel to revisit advice from January around mandatory vaccinations for aged care staff.
“That was not recommended at the time and we have asked the medical expert panel to review precisely that question,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Friday’s national cabinet meeting of federal and state leaders will consider the fresh advice amid increased scrutiny on the Commonwealth’s response to the Melbourne outbreak.
Rules banning workers from doing shifts across multiple nursing homes only came into place last week because the federal government’s hotspot threshold was not met.
The Morrison government is also under pressure to provide more support for Victorians unable to work during the statewide lockdown, which could be extended beyond seven days.
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said the next few days would be critical in determining whether restrictions could be eased.
“I want to be very clear with everyone, this outbreak may well get worse before it gets better,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Business, industry and union groups have welcomed the Victorian government’s $250 million small business support package but argue the federal government must also step up.
The package is aimed at 90,000 businesses affected by Victoria’s lockdown.
Felicia Mariana from the Victoria Tourism Industry Council believes the Commonwealth should bring back wage subsidies.
“When we ceased JobKeeper at the end of March, we did that under the plan that we were supposed to have mass vaccinations here in Australia by the end of March,” she told ABC radio.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has slammed the federal government’s refusal to offer economic support.
Mr Pallas called on the federal government to reintroduce JobKeeper for the week, match the Victorian support package dollar for dollar, or put forward alternatives.
But Mr Morrison knocked back each proposal, pointing out the Victorian support paled in comparison to Commonwealth funding throughout the pandemic.
The prime minister also noted the Queensland and Western Australian governments had covered the costs of similar snap lockdowns.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the Commonwealth of prematurely withdrawing economic support.
“We are worried this government is very quick to pull economic support, but very slow to roll out the vaccines and take responsibility for quarantine,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Labor is also calling on the federal government to reintroduce payments to encourage casual workers to take time off and get tested.
Payments are available to people with no sick leave, but only for those with coronavirus or who are close contacts of somebody who has it.
“No Victorian worker should have to make the choice between doing the right thing by their families and doing the right thing by their co-workers,” Dr Chalmers said.
“We need to avoid that at almost any cost.”