Australians who need to prove they are COVID-free to go to work will be able to claim the cost of rapid antigen tests at tax time.
In a speech on Monday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will tell the Australian Industry Group the government is taking action to remove uncertainty around the tax treatments of RATs.
The ABC calculated that Australians earning an income taxed at 32.5 per cent would receive a tax refund of about $6.50 for every pack of two RATs purchased for $20.
“Today, I’m announcing that we will ensure that COVID-19 testing expenses are tax deductible for testing taken to attend a place of work, giving businesses and individuals more clarity and assurance,” Mr Frydenberg will say.
“We will also ensure that fringe benefits tax will not be incurred by employers where COVID-19 tests are provided to employees for this purpose.”
Mr Frydenberg will also say the level of government intervention must not become entrenched and a permanent feature.
“Continued support at crisis levels would do more economic harm than good,” he will say.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is keen to open up Australia’s international border to tourists after the success of partial openings to students, backpackers and skilled migrants.
Mr Morrison said many of the states have now passed their peaks in COVID-19 infections.
He said the government over recent weeks has asked for advice from health officials how reopening the borders could impact on the nation’s hospitals.
“But I really do not believe that is far away. As people will know, we have already opened up our borders to skilled migrants and backpackers and students,” he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the lack of information was concerning.
“Until Mr Morrison stops constantly prioritising headlines over developing a clear and safe plan to reopen our borders, Australian families and businesses won’t be able to plan for a better future,” she said.
NSW posted 7893 COVID-19 cases and a further 28 virus-related deaths on Sunday, while there were 7169 new infections in Victoria and six deaths.
Queensland recorded 5746 infections and nine deaths and in Tasmania there were 471 cases and one death, while the ACT reported 323 cases.
See below for more of Monday morning’s COVID headlines.
Queensland students return to class
Queensland children are returning to class on Monday with authorities saying COVID-19 outbreak in schools are inevitable, but it’s unlikely any will be shut down.
Less than half of children under 11 in Queensland have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and rapid antigen tests are still being sent to schools.
The start of the academic year was delayed by two weeks due to the state’s virus outbreak, which has killed another nine people and infected another 5746, reported on Sunday.
Face masks are mandatory in high schools and strongly recommended for students in years three-to-six, while schools must ensure adequate classroom ventilation.
The government promised to provide every school with free rapid antigen tests by the time classes returned, but its unclear whether they have been delivered in time.
Less than 38 per cent of five to 11-year-olds have had one dose of a vaccine, but Deputy Premier Steven Miles says schools are ready to return.
“We have a very detailed return to school plan that has been implemented across schools,” Mr Miles said on Sunday.
“The last element of that plan was making sure we had sufficient rapid antigen tests so that parents could get their children tested if they had symptoms.”
“We now have those tests, they’re on their way out to schools and they’ll have them available during the week.”
Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said while the delay has relieved pressure on the healthcare system, it is “inevitable” there will be outbreaks in schools in coming days.
He said a small proportion of children would get sick enough from the virus, or suffer complications such as bronchitis, to need hospital treatment.
“There will be some but not large numbers,” Dr Gerrard said.
“The bigger risk in terms of hospitalisations is more the child bringing the virus home to the parents and grandparents, particularly if grandparents aren’t boosted.
“So yes, we do expect to see more cases as the schools open, the impact on hospitals is unclear. I’m not expecting a substantial impact on hospitals but we’re prepared for it.”
The chief health officer said despite the likelihood of outbreaks, it would be “very, very unlikely” that any school would be shut down, as that is a “last resort”.
Dr Gerrard said school shutdowns had been used during the previous two years of the pandemic to contain the virus, but the goal now is to manage the virus at a classroom level.
“Our goal is to minimise hospitalisations, to minimise illness,” he said.
“So it’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely.”
Vouchers for parents
NSW parents who homeschooled their children during long-running lockdowns in the state last year are now eligible for a government subsidised holiday.
One person from every eligible household will receive five $50 vouchers from Monday that can be used to book accommodation or entertainment around the state until early October.
The Parents vouchers work similarly to Dine and Discover vouchers and are available in the ServiceNSW app and service centres.
They’ll be joined by Stay NSW vouchers later this month, which will give everyone over 18 a $50 voucher to spend with approved accommodation providers.
“These vouchers are a double win: they encourage families to get out and enjoy the best of our state while also providing much needed income to businesses affected by the pandemic,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
He said the Parents vouchers were “about thanking parents for their homeschooling efforts last year, helping make ends meet and supporting local businesses”.
The $50 vouchers can be combined up to $250 and can also be pooled with friends and family who are booking accommodation together.
Bookings made through third-party websites and travel agencies are not eligible however customers will be able to search for approved accommodation providers.
Treasurer Matt Kean said the vouchers came on top of a recent business support package.
Mr Kean also announced businesses such as overnight camp and music education providers affected by school COVID safety measures last year would have access to a $14 million grant program.
“The grants will provide eligible businesses and not for profit organisations one-off payments equal to 40 per cent of their decline in Term 4, 2021 turnover compared to previous years, up to $15,000,” Mr Kean said.