Politics

More coronavirus support for travel agents

More support is on offer for travel agents with the federal government putting another $130 million into a program to keep it going for a further three months as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Applications for the second round of the program open in April.

Travel agents can get up to $100,000 in support, while minimum grants will be increased to $5000 instead of $1500 as in the first round.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the program would support travel agents and tour operators who were providing refunds and holding credits for Australians who cannot travel because of the virus.

Mr Tehan said the first round of the program had supported more than 2600 travel agents.

The industry has been calling out for further support as the JobKeeper wage subsidy comes to an end this month.

The Morrison government has also announced 800,000 half-price airline tickets as well as loans for struggling tourism operators.

The tickets will be on sale from April through airlines.

The government has been urged by business groups to ease virus restrictions as the vaccine rollout ramps up.

More than 250,000 virus jabs have been administered, far from the four million Prime Minister Scott Morrison said would be complete by the end of March.

Doctors say the federal government should have tempered expectations of a fast COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as they reassure patients they will get their jabs.

Mr Morrison held a roundtable meeting with peak medical bodies in Melbourne on Friday to discuss the country’s biggest ever vaccination program.

More than 1000 GP practices and 100 Commonwealth clinics are due to start delivering the next phase of vaccinations from Monday.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said doctors had made their views on the program known to government.

“They should have been a little bit more clear with the public that actually this is a really slow start to the rollout – that 6.5 million people can’t have their vaccine in the first week when we’ve only got 200,000 doses,” Dr Khorshid told the ABC.

The mainstay of the Australian program, AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has been given the green light by the European regulator after it was found the benefits outweighed the risks.

A review detected no link between the AstraZeneca jab and an increased risk of blood clots.

It is not yet clear when Australia’s medical regulator will give the all-clear to CSL’s Melbourne-made AstraZeneca vaccine, but it could be within days.

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