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Scott Morrison announces free childcare during coronavirus pandemic

Scott Morrison announces free childcare during coronavirus pandemic

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced free childcare as part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Morrison announces free childcare during coronavirus pandemic

“What we will be doing is we will ensure for those parents who are still in that position where they are needing that childcare, it will be free,” Morrison said.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said Australia will be “moving to a different childcare system as of Sunday night”.

“We want all parents who have to work through the coronavirus pandemic to be able to make sure their children are getting the care that they expect and they want their children to be getting,” Tehan said.

The new childcare system seeks to allow children to still go to their current providers, with the government putting in place arrangements to keep 13,000 childcare centres open.

The former means test will not be in place under the new system. Everyone will be eligible for the free childcare, but the children of essential workers will be prioritised.

“There is a clear priority list that we want centres to take into account,” Morrison said.

“The most important of those are those essential workers and the vulnerable children.”

The initiative will cost the government $1.6 billion.

“Under the plan, the government will pay 50 per cent of the sector’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers, but only so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care,” read a statement from Tehan.

“The funding will apply from 6 April based on the number of children who were in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March, whether or not they are attending services.”

The system will be in place for six months with a one-month review.

The prime minister asserted there is “no health risk to children going to school or childcare”.

“What we always have said in the health advice has been very clear and it is has not changed,” he said.

“There is no health risk to children going to school or going to child care. So that hasn’t changed. Absolutely no change.”

During the media conference on Thursday, Morrison also said Australia has reached a COVID-19 testing rate of more than 1000 tests per 100,000 people.

“We are the first country to the best of our knowledge that has been able to exceed that mark,” Morrison said.

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