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Scott Morrison commits $48m for mental health, elective surgery to resume

Health Minister Greg Hunt said concerns about health, loneliness of isolation and anxiety about jobs and finances that have come with the pandemic, “have created specific mental health challenges”.

The plan will involve a national campaign titled “it’s OK not to be OK”, costed at $10.4 million.

It also involves a $7.3 million investment in data and $29.5 million for outreach to vulnerable communities such as the elderly and Indigenous communities.

Mr Morrison reminded Australians they shouldn’t neglect health conditions while keeping “COVID-safe”.

He said restrictions on elective surgery would start to lift “at the pace that states set”.

“That will be welcome … to the private health industry, in particular, and the jobs that are supported throughout that sector,” he said.

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In the wake of the ABS figures on Thursday revealing nearly 600,000 people had lost their job, Mr Morrison acknowledged the economic impact of the virus and related shutdowns was taking a toll on mental health.

The Prime Minister said the return of Australians to jobs was “the curve we are now working on together”.

National cabinet was briefed at their Friday meeting by the heads of Treasury, the Reserve Bank and APRA, Mr Morrison said.

“We noted that our banking system has stood up well, but we must be conscious that the shock absorbers that are in our system, whether it be the banking system or, indeed, in federal supports and other supports, they have limits,” he said.

He said there has been $220 billion in loan deferrals across the country, and $11.7 billion in superannuation claims since the start of the pandemic.

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He expressed hope for domestic tourism operators as international travel remains off the cards for the foreseeable future.

“As the borders fall internally, and Australians can hopefully soon return to domestic holidays and to move around the country more widely, and particularly with school holidays coming up again in July … that’s up for grabs for Australian domestic tourism operators,” Mr Morrison said.

He said he had been in discussions with state and territory tourism ministers along with federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham about what might be possible down the track, although his current focus was on “opening up our economy safely” and not rushing states and territories to open borders.

Some state and territory leaders, notably Western Australia’s Mark McGowan and the Northern Territory’s Michael Gunner have explicitly said reopening their borders to interstate visitors will be the last stage of relaxing their restrictions.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy reminded Australians “the virus is still there”, as he reported the total number of cases recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic now stands at 7017, with roughly 20 new cases recorded each day this week.

There are 50 Australians being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, with 12 on ventilators.

“Just a reminder this virus is still there, at very low levels in the community, and I reiterate the Prime Minister’s message – as people start to go back to some normal activities and open up, please, please be careful,” Professor Murphy said.

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