Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised to "hear out" the Victorian government, but appears disinclined to agree to its urgent plea to bring back JobKeeper-style financial support with the state plunged into second week of a debilitating COVID-19 lockdown.
Six new locally acquired Covid cases have emerged in Victoria, taking the state's outbreak total to 60 cases. The acting Premier James Merlino has warned the lockdown extension was necessary or, "this variant will become uncontrollable and people will die."
It comes as Victoria health officials admit supply issues with both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as people rush to get vaccinated. Around a million Victorians have inundated the coronavirus hotline over the past week to try to book an vaccination appointment.
With an extended lockdown estimated to cost the state several billion dollars, Mr Merlino has topped up support to $460 million on Wednesday and beseeched the federal government follow suit by reconsidering an earlier rejection to reopen the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy program.
"Victorian businesses are absolutely devastated by this lockdown as are our families and communities," the acting Premier said in Melbourne.
"I will speak to the Prime Minister and we need to see this support.
"We have stepped up to the plate in supporting business and the federal government needs to do exactly the same thing."
Mr Merlino has flagged taking the issue of federal lockdown support to national cabinet on Friday if he does not get what he is after.
It is expected he will speak with the Prime Minister on Wednesday night, while the federal Treasurer will talk to his state counterpart Tim Pallas.
"I will be speaking to the Treasurer, I will hear him out," Mr Frydenberg said.
"A position with respect to the first week of the lockdown was based on the view that with a short lockdown a state has the capacity to respond as they announced. That the budget anticipated that there would be lockdowns, further lockdowns."
But the JobKeeper program was, according to the federal Treasurer, a "particular program introduced at a particular time effectively" and it was the "right decision" to end it in April.
The Treasurer has indicated he is not playing one state off against another.
"It is not about Victoria or individual cases. It is about on a national basis," Mr Frydenberg said.
"And we will stick to our principles, namely our approaches will continue to be national, sustainable, where support is offered it is through existing systems. Those principles have served us well from the start of this crisis and they will continued to serve us well."
Victoria's positive cases were detected from 51,033 test results, while 20,585 vaccination doses were administered at state-run vaccination sites.
The state's chief health officer Brett Sutton has revealed that one million people have called the coronavirus hotline over the past week to make a vaccination booking. The hotline has crashed numerous times during the outbreak with the weight of calls, leaving many people waiting to receive vaccination.
And the demand for doses is close to outstripping supply.
"There are limits. Supply is one of them," Professor Sutton said. "There are about 71,000 Pfizer vaccines a week being supplied. That is not expected to increase in the immediate future. That's a constraint."
"We will get through that supply on current use. But we can't step up more than that with that current supply."
There is currently adequate supply of AstraZeneca in the state, but there are expectations that demand will increase with people starting to require second doses.
"So we'll need to step up the numbers of vaccines with AstraZeneca we give in coming days," Professor Sutton said.
Australia's expert immunisation group ATAGI is considering the possibility of lowering the recommended age to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine below 50 years.
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