Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has brought forward national cabinet amid reports he will restore the $750 pandemic isolation payment.
Mr Albanese returned to Australia from the Pacific Islands Forum on Friday, and chief medical officer Paul Kelly briefed him on the latest COVID developments.
"He [Dr Kelly] will report to National Cabinet tomorrow [Saturday] morning and we will discuss proposals to ensure the vulnerable are protected over coming weeks," he said on Friday evening.
National Cabinet had been scheduled to meet on Monday. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who is in isolation after testing positive for COVID, will attend remotely.
There are reports from Nine and News Corp that the government plans to bring back financial support for people with COVID-19 in isolation, although only for a limited time.
The payment, introduced by the former government, had ended on June 30, but the Albanese government has been facing calls from the country's first ministers, opposition, crossbench and members of his own party called to reverse the cut off and reinstate the payment as Australia faces a growing wave of cases.
Mr Albanese issued a brief statement on the matter on Friday evening.
"We know the COVID pandemic is not over and people should continue to act in accordance with the health advice," he said.
"The government will continue to address issues based upon the health advice that we have received.
"We want to keep the economy open and the key to that is limiting the health impact on Australians."
Until now, Mr Albanese and his ministers have maintained the $750 payment will not return, citing pressures on the federal budget.
But state leaders, as well as federal Labor backbenchers, have advocated for the payments to be extended amid rising case numbers stemming from the virus.
With an expected winter surge ahead, consumer health advocates say it is not the right time to stop emergency support.
"In the face of this crisis, we need to recognise that people's circumstances can be very different, and it is important to use these tools to ease the burden on people who can least afford to cope with increasing exposure to COVID infections," Consumers Health Forum chief Leanne Wells said.
The Nationals leader has told the Prime Minister it's a "no brainer" decision to continue financial support for people with COVID-19, particularly for people in regional and rural areas.
David Littleproud said the new government had had weeks to get advice, and only seeking advice now amid mounting pressure from state and territory leaders showed how out of touch with real Australians Labor was.
"You have to understand that this is a fluid situation, it has been fluid for the last two and a half years - have they learnt nothing?" Mr Littleproud told ACM.
"Why are they actually erring on this? This is a no brainer."
While still in Fiji, the Prime Minister said he would give consideration to all the issues around the payments, but it was the previous government who set the end date.
"We inherited these decisions, but we also inherited a trillion dollars of debt and that's something that was not our responsibility." Mr Albanese told reporters on Friday.
Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have called for the payment to be extended, at least through winter, while rising case numbers leave workplaces with staff shortages.
Labor ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has joined the pressure on Mr Albanese to reconsider a temporary extension of free home rapid antigen testing and the seven-day isolation payments in some cases.
"A short extension of the COVID-19 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, until the end of winter, should be considered to help workers who have no sick leave entitlements - including pandemic, sick leave or personal leave - and are required to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID," Mr Barr said.
"A modified, and less costly, version of the concessional RAT scheme should be considered to ensure vulnerable community members can still access free RATs when they need them."
Australia recorded more than 43,000 cases and 66 deaths on Friday and there are 4602 people in hospital with the virus.
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