‘Coronavirus stimulus package’ boosts student welfare

More than 230,000 university students will receive increased welfare payments as part of a AU$66 billion (US$40 billion) Australian federal government coronavirus stimulus package.

The government announced the decision on Wednesday to boost its efforts to counter the effects of the spread of the coronavirus, now rapidly extending its impact across Australia and other nations around the globe.

Students receiving government youth allowances will receive an increase in their payments. A government spokesman said the usual waiting period and assets test requirements would be waived.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson welcomed the decision, saying that many students had recently lost their part-time jobs because the spread of the virus was affecting industries across the nation.

“Many students rely on part-time work, particularly in hospitality and retail, to support their studies and these are exactly the sectors that have been hardest hit,” Jackson said.

She said students had been weighing up whether they could continue to study and pay their rent. As a result of the government’s decision they would be “hugely relieved by the announcement”.

“Giving them some certainty today will encourage many to continue with their studies.”

The coronavirus infection is continuing to spread to new countries, with the number of confirmed cases globally topping 372,000 by 24 March, according to the World Health Organization.

Deaths from the virus are also continuing to increase as more and more nations around the world become infected.

Global coalition to fight the virus

A global coalition set up to fight epidemic diseases has called for US$2 billion to support its development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Describing the coronavirus outbreak as an “unprecedented threat in terms of its global impact”, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) said that while containment measures would help slow COVID-19’s spread, a vaccine was key to longer-term control.

“It is increasingly clear that containment measures for COVID-19 can only slow down its spread and the virus is now entering a stage of unprecedented threat in terms of its global impact,” CEPI’s Chief Executive Richard Hatchett said.

“It is critical that we … invest in the development of a vaccine that will prevent people from getting sick.”

Within weeks of the outbreak, the organisation had announced it would put US$100 million into an initial vaccine development programme.

The aim is to have potential vaccine candidates in early stage clinical trials in as little as 16 weeks.