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Government prepares for winter COVID spike

The federal government will spend $6 billion on a winter response plan, with a combined COVID-19 and influenza spike in infections predicted in coming months.

A further $1 billion will be spent on extending the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as people prepare to receive their second booster dose, while $546 million will go towards extending the Medicare Benefits Schedule for pathology items used for COVID testing.

The figures were revealed in Tuesday night’s federal budget, which also included undisclosed funding for a facility to make mRNA vaccines through a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Moderna.

The budget papers unveiled by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg showed COVID-19 community transmission will continue, with a predicted new Omicron wave expected to see increased rates of absenteeism and put pressure on supply chains.

Intermittent Omicron waves are also predicted to occur beyond winter, but high vaccination rates are expected to lessen the potential impact.

While public health measures such as density limits and physical distancing are expected to be phased out, the budget has forecast such measures could be reimposed in a targeted way as a response to future outbreaks.

Almost 20 million people across Australia have been jabbed against COVID-19.

More than 95 per cent of the population aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated.

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