Australia

Aussies’ complacency before second wave revealed

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Australians have become increasingly complacent in the past three months, with new figures revealing more people were choosing not to take simple measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19.

Findings released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed only 20 per cent of people were getting home deliveries to avoid physical contacts in June, compared with more than a quarter in May.

ABS data revealed only 66 per cent of Australians were avoiding social gatherings in June, down from almost 80 per cent three months earlier.

However, in late June, 96 per cent of the country had taken at least one precaution to slow the spread. Nine in 10 people were keeping their distance from others and almost 70 per cent were disinfecting surfaces before using them. Just 13 per cent of people were wearing face masks.

SECRET UNEMPLOYMENT UNDERBELLY LOOMS

Hundreds of thousands more Australians may be out of work than official figures show, according to Josh Frydenberg.

While the official unemployment rate was 7.1 per cent, the real number was more like 13.3 per cent, the Treasurer said on Monday.

“The effective unemployment rate takes into account not only those who are ­officially unemployed by also those who have left the labour force altogether, as well as those on zero hours, and that is around 13.3 per cent right now,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“That is a large number of people, reflecting the economic challenges that we see right now.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release new jobless figures this week, with a further rise likely.

Mr Frydenberg said the government was doing what it could to support businesses via the JobKeeper program, but said it would be a challenging economic recovery.

“We have seen a big ­reduction in hours worked in the months since the COVID pandemic first hit in Australia,” he said.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas last week said he feared pandemic job losses in the state could reach 275,000.

That would represent a jump from 6.9 to 11 per cent at the end of the year — about 138,000 up on the most recent data from the ABS.

Mr Pallas promised a further $534m in state funding for businesses affected by the six-week shutdown.

“We are expecting that there will be literally billions of dollars written off the expected size of the Victorian economy,” he said.

“It will take some years ­before we see that level of economic activity come back.”

On Thursday next week, Mr Frydenberg will announce the next stage of federal support measures.

Tourism and entertainment businesses are expected to receive help in the next round, with means testing expected.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week said the measures would be for sectors still struggling.

“Just as when we initiated what has been the largest ever level of income support any government has ever provided to the Australian community at any time, it was targeted for those who needed it most,” Mr Morrison said.

“The next phase of our support will also be targeted ­nationally to those who need it the most.”

Opposition tourism spokesman Don Farrell said businesses needed clarity.

“While the government continues to hint at support beyond September, the sector is crying out for certainty now,” he said.

HOSPITALS PREPARE FOR AGED-CARE INFLUX

Up to 80 people have been infected in 24 active coronavirus outbreaks in aged-care homes across Victoria, sparking fears of a major health crisis.

A special ward has been set up in Royal Melbourne Hospital in preparation for an anticipated influx of elderly patients from aged-care homes.

Private-sector homes have been worst hit in the recent spate of infections.

Figures released to the Herald Sun reveal 28 of the infected are residents.

Authorities are particularly concerned about three outbreaks — Menarock Life in Essendon, Estia Health in Ardeer and Glendale Aged Care in Werribee.

Thirteen residents have been infected at both Menarock Life and Estia Health, and two at Glendale, including 90-year-old Alf Jordan who died on Friday.

It is believed the Estia outbreak started when an employee, who also worked at Menarock, attended both sites after becoming infected.

Aged-care workers in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be made to wear masks under new advice.

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