A $1.7 billion package has been unveiled to support thousands of Victorian businesses, as the state recorded 51 new coronavirus cases.
It came as state chief health officer Brett Sutton said young people aren’t getting the message about the importance of isolating and quarantining.
Small businesses will get full refunds on their payroll tax bills for the rest of the financial year, Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Saturday
The payments, applying to 24,000 businesses with a payroll of less than $3 million, will start flowing next week to help them cope during the pandemic.
Eligible businesses, who employ about 400,000 workers, will save an average of $23,000, and some up to $113,975 a year.
“It is unprecedented, it is unique, it is exactly what Victorian businesses have asked for,” Mr Andrews said.
The same businesses can also defer payroll tax for the first quarter of the next financial year, until January.
The package includes a $500 million support fund for the hardest hit industries, including hospitality, tourism, retail and entertainment.
A $500 million fund will also be created to help people who’ve lost their jobs find new work.
The Australian Industry Group said the package was significant and recognised the crisis conditions facing smaller companies.
Victoria’s confirmed coronaviruses cases rose by 51 overnight to 229, with the latest victims including a police officer in Melbourne and a second University of Melbourne staff member who returned from overseas, before the government’s mandatory quarantine period for travellers.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says young people, especially, are failing to understand what coronavirus means for the entire population.
While younger people don’t get such severe infections there have been cases of people in their 20s dying, and cases of those in their 30s and 40s ending up in intensive care.
“Somebody is dying every two minutes in Italy from coronavirus,” Dr Sutton said.
“If you care about the people around you, if you think about protecting your family, your parents and grandparents … think about making that distance between you and other people in all settings at all times, of whatever size.”
Australia’s borders closed on Friday night, meaning non-Australian residents, citizens or immediate family members travelling from overseas are no longer permitted entry.
Meanwhile Victorian public school holidays will be extended by two days to allow teachers to make plans for flexible learning arrangements, including remote learning.
The days off will bookend holidays, with the final day of term one now Thursday March 26.
Mr Andrews said Victorian schools would remain open until expert advice said otherwise.
He also called on people to continue to following other health advice including washing hands, isolating if they exhibit symptoms and social distancing.
“There is no joking about this. If we don’t flatten the curve and suppress the number of people testing positive and the spread of the virus, hospitals will be overwhelmed and that means people will die,” he said.