Temporary visa holders in Tasmania get $3m package for financial hardship due to coronavirus


April 22, 2020 13:21:17

The Tasmanian Government has unveiled a $3 million package to support around 26,000 temporary visa holders stuck in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • Visa holders such as fruit pickers, students and hospitality workers will be eligible for $250 for individuals and $1,000 for families
  • Support includes payments to visa holders, emergency relief funds to related NGOs and travel advice
  • Of some 10,000 compliance checks conducted, police have charged nearly 150 people with failing to comply with quarantines

Visa holders who can demonstrate immediate financial hardship will be eligible for $250 for individuals, and $1,000 for families.

Tasmania COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases: 201
  • Deaths: 8

What do I do if I think I have coronavirus?
If you think you might have COVID-19 because you feel unwell with a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath and have travelled recently or had contact with a confirmed case, phone your GP or the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

Testing criteria are different for north-west residents.

Need an interpreter?
Phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and tell them your language.

For more information and factsheets:
Visit the Tasmanian Government’s coronavirus page here.

Premier Peter Gutwein said it was “only fair” to support people who had contributed to the state’s economy.

“It’s important we support these people who’ve been working in our community earning an income and this package will take the steps necessary to do that,” he said.

“I don’t agree with the simple message that temporary visa holders should just go home. In many cases they can’t.”

Workers who can go home will receive financial support from the Government to get back to their home country, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will also be eligible for emergency relief funds that target temporary visa holders.

Mr Gutwein said the workers covered were mostly fruit pickers, students and hospitality workers, and the help would be rolled out in four stages from today.

The first stage is the payments directly to temporary visa holders, followed by stage two — emergency relief funds to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that target that cohort.

The third stage will include financial support and travel advice for workers who can return to their home country, and the fourth will help employers retain workers if they must remain in the state.

“It is modest, but if any of us had children on the other side of the world, we’d hope they receive some sort of support,” Mr Gutwein said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

As of Wednesday morning, Tasmania has 201 coronavirus cases, 77 of which have recovered.

A man in his 90s from the north-west was diagnosed last night, and was transferred to the Mersey Community Hospital in Latrobe.

A total of 260 tests were completed on Tuesday, with 180 conducted in the north-west, just over 30 in the north, and 43 in the south.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said it was “pleasing to see strong presentations at testing clinics”, but urged Tasmanians with any symptoms, particularly in the north-west, to get tested.

Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch said testing numbers in the north-west needed to be consistently high to get a good indication of whether the virus was still spreading.

“We need to keep surveillance for a good week or so longer, if a couple of hundred tests [were] done a day in [the] north-west then I’d be confident outbreak was on its way out.”

Ms Courtney flagged the gradual resumption of elective surgery, but stressed the process would be slow.

“We’re currently working through our surgery plans to determine the best pathway forward … it’s a gradual and progressive restart,” she said.

“The final decisions will be at the discretion of our medical professionals.”

The Government has also frozen residential rent increases until June 30.

No promises on easing restrictions

Despite the slowing of cases, Mr Gutwein said restrictions on Tasmania’s borders would not be lifted anytime soon.

“We wouldn’t want Tasmania’s borders to be open while the virus is in New South Wales or Victoria or elsewhere, I’ve got to be quite clear about that, this is going to take some time,” he said.

Stricter rules specific to the north-west coast could be lifted this weekend, but the Premier said a decision would be made “based on public health advice and results of testing”.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

“I’d like to see us return to a normal way of life as soon as we can. I’d like to see us get to a point where we open up parts of our economy, but it won’t be business as usual,” he said.

He said social-distancing measures of 1.5 metres and constant washing of hands would remain in place until there was a COVID-19 vaccine.

When asked about the future of events like the Taste of Tasmania and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, both held in late December, Mr Gutwein said the organisation of those gatherings would have to be “worked through”.

“Social distancing will need to occur, businesses will have to change their operating models,” he said.

“It simply won’t be business as usual and I think people understand that.”

It comes as Tasmania Police announce they have conducted 10,000 quarantine compliance checks in the last month.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Higgins said there had been 3,270 compliance checks carried out in the south, 2.330 in the north and 4.640 in the north-west. 

A further 364 vehicle checks were conducted in the north-west.

“Over the past four weeks, a total of 144 people have been charged or summonsed to appear in court for failing to comply with the direction of the Director of Public Health,” Deputy Commissioner Higgins said.

“While the vast majority of Tasmanians continue to do the right thing by staying home, there are still some people who aren’t abiding by restrictions and we will continue to follow these reports up.”













First posted

April 22, 2020 11:19:52

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