Australia says 1.5 million workers in Victoria to get wage subsidy as state enters strict Covid-19 lockdown

Authorities say the lockdown of Melbourne is the only way to contain the second wave outbreak of Covid-19.
Authorities say the lockdown of Melbourne is the only way to contain the second wave outbreak of Covid-19.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Nearly half the workers at private companies in Australia's Victoria will receive a federal wage subsidy as a surge of coronavirus cases forces a near total lockdown in the second-most populous state, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday (Aug 7).

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state and the country's second largest city, began a six-week total lockdown on Thursday, shuttering shops and businesses and requiring its five million inhabitants to stay home.

With Australia making it easier to qualify for wage subsidies, Mr Frydenberg said half of the private sector labour force in Victoria will receive a two-weekly payment of A$1,500 (S$1,480), a programme known as JobKeeper.

Australia's wage subsidy scheme, which is scheduled to run until March 2021 and cost more than A$32.4 billion, is among measures seeking to prop up the economy, which is entering its first recession in nearly three decades.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said unemployment was forecast to peak at 10 per cent, with effective unemployment closer to 14 per cent when counting workers in the wage subsidy scheme.

But the authorities say the lockdown of Melbourne is the only way to contain the second wave outbreak of Covid-19 which has infected thousands in recent weeks.

Victoria reported on Thursday 471 new Covid-19 cases and eight deaths in the previous 24 hours.

Australia has 20,000 reported cases of the virus, of which Victoria accounts for 13,000. Nationwide, deaths total 255, still far fewer than many other developed nations.