Govts announce $2.3b in Vic business aid

Victorian businesses affected by extended COVID lockdowns are in line for federal-state support.
Victorian businesses affected by extended COVID lockdowns are in line for federal-state support.

Victorian businesses struggling amid extended COVID lockdowns will share in more than $2.3 billion of government support as the state records 190 new cases.

The Victorian government will split $2.34 billion in funding with the federal government to support more than 175,000 businesses over the next four weeks, Industry Support Minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday .

Most of the payments will be automatically deposited into the businesses' bank accounts, Mr Pakula added.

A new tiered payments system for the Business Costs Assistance Program would allow for higher payments to businesses with more workers, the minister noted.

Program payments will be automatically made at rates of $2800, $5600 and $8400 a week over September, depending on payroll size.

Eligible cafes, restaurants and bars will continue to receive Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund payments of between $5000 and $20,000 per week.

The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund will increase the grant amount to $20,000 for around 35,000 businesses, and the deadline for applications will be extended.

An Alpine Support Package will also help sustain resorts through the remainder of the season, Mr Pakula said, with an automatic top-up payment of between $10,000 and $40,000.

A total of 103 of the fresh virus cases reported on Saturday are linked to other known cases.

There are 1301 active cases in Victoria.

The latest daily case count is down from the 208 cases reported a day earlier, which was the highest number since August 22.

There are 76 people with COVID-19 in Victorian hospitals, including 23 in intensive care, Mr Pakula said.

None of those people have been fully vaccinated.

Premier Daniel Andrews is hatching plans to give vaccinated Victorians more freedoms and "lock out" others refusing to get the jab from venues such as sports stadiums, cinemas and pubs.

Discussions are under way with industry to see how a "vaccinated economy" would work, Mr Andrews confirmed, with the required technology set to be trialled in regional Victoria after it exits lockdown.

He has also confirmed the government is working on a home quarantine program to bring stranded Victorian residents home from NSW.

There has been a shift in focus from virus case numbers to vaccination numbers in Victoria this week, as authorities conceded the state cannot return to COVID-zero.

Saturday's data confirmed that more than 2,553,000 vaccinations have been administered in Victoria.

"We are not going to be driving this down to zero. That does not mean the rules are not ongoing. In some respect, we have to try even harder," Mr Andrews said.

The premier continued to push for people to take up 50,000 available AstraZeneca appointments, despite an extra four million Pfizer doses flooding into Australia this month as part of a swap deal with the UK.

A further 50,000 priority vaccine appointments will also be available for senior high school students from Monday, with pop-up vaccination hubs at several schools.

Most of the state's restrictions will remain in place until at least 70 per cent of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated, though some reprieve will be granted when 70 per cent have received their first dose.

The state was forecast to hit that initial mark on September 23, but it has since been revised to September 18.

Australian Associated Press