Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced government funding for coronavirus. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced government funding for coronavirus. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

ScoMo announces $1b virus fighting fund

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a coronavirus fighting fund that could total $1 billion.

Mr Morrison said the government had struck an agreement with states and territories to bear the health costs of tackling the coronavirus on a 50/50 basis and has put down an initial advance of $100 million.

Currently the government puts in 45 per cent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a stand-alone arrangement and not linked to any other funding arrangements.

But there are estimates the arrangement could actually cost the public health system a billion dollars.

"The Commonwealth, on executing those agreements, will immediately put $100 million down as an advance through the normal distribution mechanism to the states, to ensure that they are in a position to immediately meet those costs," he said.

"But we are estimating based on the advice that we have at the moment this could be as much as about $1 billion - $500 million each - that we would have to be allowing for.

"I hope it is not that much, it could be more, but we at least have to enter into these arrangements having some sense of the scale of what we're dealing with here."

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said meetings were taking place with key health department officials today, looking at vulnerable communities within Australia, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with disability.

The funding will address costs incurred from January 21, 2020.

Mr Morrison said he hoped the offer would be accepted by state governments by the end of next week when COAG meets in Sydney.

He said the agreement enabled the states to move forward confidently to deal with coronavirus challenges.

"This is about dealing with the coronavirus and making sure the states can have confidence that we're leaning forward and responding with them," he said.

"Normally, if you have got a public health response in an aged-care facility, or in a childcare facility, or in a childcare facility or something like that, normally the states pay 100 per cent of that public health response in those areas and we'd be very happy to shoulder those costs 50/50 with the states because of the serious nature and very specific nature of this virus."

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government's task was to keep Australians safe.


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