Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Wednesday that the government has decided it is time for emergency Covid payments “to come to an end,” as vaccination rates rise and people around the world return to “their normal lives.”

Speaking to Australia’s Seven News, Frydenberg unveiled the government’s decision despite the country’s two biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, remaining under lockdown, alongside the nation’s capital Canberra.

“[The] emergency payment needs to come to an end. If you look around the world… people are starting to get about their normal lives, learning to live with the virus in a Covid-safe way,” Frydenberg stated,

It has been estimated by Australian officials that the country’s repeated lockdowns have cost the country’s economy around AU$2 trillion (US$1.5 trillion), pushing the nation to the brink of another recession. To support those in lockdown, the federal government has provided AU$9 billion (US$6.5 billion) since June to around two million people affected by the pandemic.

The government had previously set a goal of ending federal Covid income support when vaccine rates hit 80%, leaving federal and regional officials to decide if they wish to continue providing payments to those forced into lockdown. 

The Australian treasurer told the media that officials will begin to phase out federal income support on a state-by-state basis, as each territory reaches 70% vaccination. Payments will be fully stopped two weeks after the area hits the 80% threshold.

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has recorded 99,032 confirmed cases of the virus, with 1,245 fatalities. Regions, including Victoria and New South Wales, placed residents into lockdown in an attempt to restrict a rise in Covid cases amid the fast spread of the Delta variant.

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