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NSW businesses wait on federal support

A support package to help keep struggling NSW businesses afloat during Sydney's worsening coronavirus outbreak is set to be unveiled. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the federal and NSW governments have been finalising the details of cash flow support for businesses. Social services and union groups have called on more support for Sydneysiders and others in lockdown.

The Australian Council of Social Service wants a top-up and an expansion of the federal disaster payment scheme. People can claim up to $500 a week if they're in a nationally recognised hotspot for more than seven days and cannot work.

Those already receiving income support are excluded.

"We need to urgently deliver an income floor to ensure everyone affected by the pandemic has an income above the poverty line," ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the situation in Sydney required a JobKeeper-like wage subsidy program available for all workers including casuals.

Secretary Sally McManus said the majority of permanent employees stood down last year had exhausted their paid leave, while the casually employed remained in limbo with no security or end in sight.

Meanwhile, the government defended a graphic ad showing a young woman gasping for air after contracting COVID-19. The ad was broadcast as NSW reported 112 new cases on Monday.

There were 63 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW. Of those, 14 were under the age of 35 and 18 were in intensive care. NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said these numbers dispelled the myth young people would not get sick from the virus.

The state's mass vaccination hubs and pharmacies will start offering AstraZeneca vaccines to people aged over 40. Vaccine task force leader Lieutenant General John Frewen urged people aged under 40 living in hotspot areas to talk to their doctor about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is despite Pfizer being preferred for that age group.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation met on Monday to review its advice about AstraZeneca. The expert panel has previously recommended only those over 60 get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Lt Gen Frewen said people in southwest Sydney needed to weigh up the risks of getting coronavirus against the vaccine advice.  Two million medical-grade masks from the national stockpile are being sent to primary health networks across Sydney. Gloves, gowns and goggles will also be distributed.


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