Victoria has extended its state of emergency and disaster for another four weeks as the government announces an additional $3 billion suite of measures to help business across the COVID-ravaged state.
The financial assistance announced on Sunday includes cash grants, tax waivers and tax deferrals.
There will be payroll tax deferrals for up to 12 months for businesses with payroll of up to $10 million a year which will come at a cost of some $1.7 billion to the state, Treasurer Tim Pallas said.
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“Our priority as we move towards not only dealing with the insidious impacts that the virus has upon community health, (is) also recognising that the restrictions that are in place are having a profound impact upon our economy,” he told reporters.
Victoria on Sunday reported 41 new cases and seven further deaths.
The statistics for the past 24 hours take the state’s death toll to 723 and the national count to 810 since the start of the pandemic.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the figures were encouraging and aided the state’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions, but he refused to rush the process.
“I can announce that we have extended the state of emergency and the state of disaster for a further four weeks,” he said.
“That underpins all the different rules. It underpins taking those safe and steady steps.”
As parts of Victoria move towards eased restrictions, some tensions are emerging, including further protest action.
Protesters showed up at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets where at least one person was arrested on Sunday.
Small anti-lockdown protests were staged in Melbourne on Saturday.
Police arrested 14 people and fined at least 50 for breaching health directions.
Victoria’s two weeks of low infection rates have prompted Mr Andrews to indicate the possibility that regional Victoria could jump two steps out of lockdown by mid-next week.
This will mean, among other things, that regional residents would very soon be able to go out for a coffee or meal.
Melburnians are also set to receive some relief from Monday, with the reduction in hours of the daily curfew, to 9pm to 5am and the allowance of “household bubbles”, providing company for those who live alone.
© AAP 2020