Dental surgeries next in line for shutdowns
BUSINESSES forced to temporarily shut their doors will be protected from total collapse so they can bounce back and kickstart the economy when the coronavirus crisis passes.
A potential freeze on some taxes, rent and debt obligations would enable companies to hit pause until demand for their goods and services returned, which would help Australia recover faster.
The Federal Government is already looking at the next round of economic measures to help businesses, after unveiling $190 billion in spending so far.
It is understood Treasury is also looking at possible wage subsidies paid at a flat rate, not the 80 per cent mechanism being deployed in the UK.
States and territories have been considering measures to reduce rent stress for both commercial and residential tenants, with a freeze on certain obligations a likely option.
The radical economic lifeline plans are to be discussed in a National Cabinet meeting today.
Dental surgery could face the same cancellations as elective surgery, as the Government seeks to secure as many medical masks as possible, while some dental care units could even be commandeered for healthcare.
No final announcement on rental assistance is expected today, as the Prime Minister and premiers seek to work out complications rising from the situation, including mortgage repayments, strata arrangements and more.
The next stage of lockdowns will also be up for discussion, as the situation has now become a rolling conversation in the rapidly evolving crisis.
There will be discussion on dental health surgery guidelines, for both public and private practices, similar to the move to restrict elective surgery to only the most urgent cases.
It is part of the bid to secure as many medical masks and personal protective equipment for any surge in serious coronavirus cases.
Some dental care units could also be used as spillover hospitals if scaled up appropriately during a surge.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said steps already taken to limit elective surgery was vital to ensure there was enough personal protective equipment for medicos during the height of the outbreak.
"If our healthcare workers are not able to do their duties sufficiently, then they are not there to help us all of us when we get with this sick with the issue," he said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese called for an eviction moratorium to be put in place.
"Housing is critical and at the moment there are so many Australians who feel they're vulnerable," he said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the matter was being considered by the National Cabinet.
"The Prime Minister, and premiers and chief ministers have turned their mind to and I expect there'll be announcements in relation to this," he said.
While there have been calls for a UK-style wage guarantee or subsidy to be put in place, Senator Cormann warned such a system could take months to practically put in place while people needed assistance now.
"Doing it the way we have, through the existing JobSeeker payment framework, was the fastest pay to provide the necessary support to those Australians who, through no fault of their own, are losing their job because of the economic impact of the coronavirus," he said.
He said they were considering other measures to keep businesses open and people in jobs, but he would not speculate on what that would entail.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen called for wider lockdowns and shutdowns, saying the current rules were too "complex and confusing".
"We renew our call for clearer, simpler and stronger restrictions. To ensure that we deal with this crisis as well and as soon as possible," Mr Bowen said.
Senator Cormann criticised what he called "political commentary undermining medical advice" calling for more businesses to close before they needed.
"We are never going to close down businesses based on political decisions. If there is a decision to close down certain sectors in the economy, it is going to be because the medical advice clearly and unequivocally indicates that is required to protect people's health and to save lives," he said.
Originally published as Dental surgeries next in line for shutdowns