27 NSW virus deaths, $500 voucher for kids


COVID-19 deaths in NSW have nearly halved overnight as the premier is poised to announce help for parents with the cost of out-of-school care for primary children.

There were 27 deaths recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday – down from the record 52 deaths reported the previous day.

There were 13,026 positive COVID-19 tests, down slightly down from the 13,524 reported in the previous period.

There are 2779 COVID patients in hospital, 185 of whom are in intensive care, NSW Health said on Monday.

The latest numbers come as parents are set to get a $500 voucher for each primary school child to help with before and after school care costs, as students return to class this week.

Premier Dominic Perrottet will announce the $155 million program to support parents and the out-of-school hours care industry on Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Catholic school children return to school on Monday, with state school pupils starting the year on Tuesday.

Parents will be able to apply for the vouchers through Service NSW from February 28, similar to the Dine and Discover program that was rolled out last year to stimulate the hospitality industry.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said eight million rapid antigen tests had been distributed to schools in preparation for the return of children.

Strict protocols had been implemented to prevent COVID-19 spread including improved ventilation, vaccinations, mask wearing, twice weekly RATS, as well as the segregation of year groups.

“I think we have ticked every box managing the risk,” she told the Nine Network on Monday.

The new $500 voucher scheme comes a day after the government announced a $1 billion support package for businesses hit by the Omicron outbreak.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean has been scathing about the federal government’s refusal to provide any further support for small businesses, decimated by the fall in trade during the Omicron wave over summer.

“This is not the time for austerity,” he told ABC Radio National on Monday.

“I think it’s time for the Commonwealth to step up rather than stepping aside.”

Restaurants, tourism operators, hairdressers and beauty salons were struggling and desperately needed support from the federal as well as the state government, he said.

Small business was the engine room of the economy and expected that the federal government would support them when required.

“They are crying out for help,” he said.

“We need to make sure they can keep their doors open, get through this economic shock and come out better on the other side because that’s in the national interest.”

The NSW financial package includes a payment of up to $5000 per week, or 20 per cent of payroll, for businesses with a turnover between $75,000 and $50 million who suffered a 40 per cent downturn in January, and project to do the same in February.

The government has extended the Small Business Fees and Charges rebate program to $3000, which can include 50 per cent of the costs incurred to get rapid antigen tests for the workplace.

Relief for commercial landlords has also been extended until March 13.