The federal government will need to extend some COVID-related support into 2023, Health Minister Mark Butler has said while warning the virus still poses a "very substantial threat" to the public.
Mr Butler has announced an extra $1.44 billion to support the fight against the virus, helping to extend some measures that were due to expire this month until the end of the year.
The funding includes another $840 million to protect aged care homes, an area Mr Butler said had been substantially underfunded in the Morrison government's final budget in March.
Mr Butler made a point of not criticising his predecessors, who made the decision before the third Omicron wave triggered a dramatic spike in aged care outbreaks during the winter months.
The winter surge has now passed, with case numbers down about 85 per cent and hospitalistions falling 70 per cent from the peak in late July.
But Mr Butler said the virus still posed a significant risk to the community.
"We need to be clear that COVID is still a very substantial threat to the community, especially to those who are at risk of severe illness," he told reporters in Adelaide.
"There is still tragic loss of life being felt by 45 families on average every single day because of COVID. And there is still very real pressure on our health and our hospital system because of ongoing infections."
Mr Butler all but confirmed that Commonwealth support would need to continue beyond the end of 2022, hinting at further announcements in the coming months.
The extra funding comes a week after national cabinet agreed paid pandemic leave would remain as long as people were forced to isolate after catching the virus.
"There will be a need to retain some measures over the course of 2023, I'm very sure of that," he said.
"And so over the course of the rest of this year, we will be considering the need for measures to be extended beyond the end of calendar 2022."
The announcement on Monday also included more than $115 million for rapid-antigen tests in high-risk settings, such as aged care.
About 100 GP-led respiratory clinics, which were due to close next week, will also remain open after the government allocated an extra $50 million in an attempt to ease the pressure on hospital emergency departments.
Peak health groups have welcomed the announcement, as they stress the pandemic is not over.
"Our health system is under tremendous strain and these measures will make a real difference," Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said.
"GPs, practice managers, nurses, receptionists, and administrative workers are doing a tremendous job after a gruelling two-and-a-half years. We need all the support we can get so the measures announced today are timely and most welcome."
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