As Australia is managing its pugilistic fight with COVID-19 well, the nation’s leaders are starting to look for possible scenarios on the ‘other side’. And hearing Prime Minister Scott Morrison today, the picture is very bleak on the ‘other side’. Mr Morrison says Australia has 1 million unemployed having lost their jobs due to COVID-19 crisis and now Australia needs to get one million people back to work – but workplaces must first be COVID-safe.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported up to 1 million Australians had lost their jobs since social distancing measures were imposed.
“Thousands of Australian lives have been saved, when you look the experience of how COVID-19 has affected so many countries around the world. But we now need to get one million Australians back to work – that is the curve we need to address,” he said after Tuesday’s National Cabinet meeting.
“We are trying to find what that safe economy looks like, so we can move towards that.”
Morrison’s second in command, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also revealed the true cost of COVID-19 saying that the coronavirus shutdown measures were costing the national economy $4 billion a week.
More than a million Australians would have had their JobSeeker claims processed by the end of Tuesday, May 5. A further five million people who have lodged their claims for JobKeeper wage subsidy, will also have their applications processed. People should receive money in their accounts this week.
This comes on top of a million Australians who have applied for early access to almost $10 billion in superannuation.
“It certainly puts enormous pressure, as it should, on the timetable as we seek to move Australia back to that safe economy because of those significant costs,” he said.
“As we plan our way back in getting a million Australians back to work, those costs are expressed in so many different ways.”
Defying the earlier estimates, the combined economic fallout from the coronavirus is expected to be an 11 per cent hit to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Hospitality sector has been the hardest hit, losing an estimated 441,000 jobs while the Construction, the Arts and Recreation sectors of the economy have also recorded huge job losses.
“The National Cabinet is not in any way unaware of the serious
implications of the decisions we have had to take, now over many months, and that is why we are not seeking to delay any time at all in terms of trying to get things moving again,” Mr Morrison said.
While easing of restrictions is important to get Australians back to work, it is equally important that they return to safe workplaces. The experts have to factor in more outbreaks of the coronavirus as regulations eased. Other nations have had to re-impose even stricter restrictions have eased too quickly and Australia would like to learn from that.
Experts are urging businesses to take basic steps, such as using personal protective equipment, taking extra hygiene and cleaning measures, and reconfiguring worksites.
Mr Morrison also urged workers to download the government’s COVIDSafe tracking App.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) May 4, 2020
The government expects the App to have five million downloads completed by the end of day.
If there are outbreaks the App puts the experts directly in contact with those who need help. Thus the App may provide for a scenario where the need to go back and introduce further restrictions is eliminated, the experts believe.
Tuesday’s National Cabinet meeting made no final decisions on lifting coronavirus restrictions across Australia.
Travel to NZ is on the cards but Mr Morrison said it won’t “happen next week”.
“At some point, both Australia and New Zealand will have to connect with the rest of the world again; the most obvious place for that to start is between the two countries,” he said.
“But it’s not something about to happen next week.
“It is something that will better sit alongside when we are seeing Australians travel from Melbourne to Cairns.”
“At about that time I would expect, everything being equal, we would be able to fly from Melbourne to Auckland or Christchurch.”
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern also joined part of the meeting to discuss a potential “trans-Tasman travel bubble”.
Earlier, Ms Ardern said a travel arrangement would underline the two countries’ “Anzac bond”.