GPs will be given extra federal support to help treat COVID patients at home, ahead of a predicted spike in cases as states and territories reopen.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a $180 million support package to help primary carers look after COVID-positive cases at home.
As part of the measures, GPs will get a $25 Medicare bonus if they treat a patient who has the virus or is suspected as being positive.
Funds will also be used to secure extra pulse oximeters – equipment that can detect if a COVID-19 patient’s symptoms start to deteriorate.
GP respiratory clinics will also be able to be kept running until at least June 30 next year.
Mr Hunt said more cases of coronavirus would be treated at home due to rising vaccination rates.
“The balance will shift from hospitalisation to community care. We always knew we were coming to this moment,” he said in Melbourne on Friday.
“It’s to ensure that, where possible, patients who are fully vaccinated will have that treatment at home. And in some cases unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people will be treated by that pathway.”
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price, welcomed the move.
“We must be upfront about the fact that COVID-19 cases are going to spike significantly across Australia,” Dr Price said.
“GPs stand ready to help. We have the skills and expertise to continue caring for COVID-19 positive patients in the community.”
The announcement comes as the national vaccine rate for over 16s increased to 76.2 per cent on Friday.
Mr Hunt said the national 80 per cent fully vaccinated rate would be hit in less than 10 days.
Booster shots have started being rolled out to aged care and disability care settings.
While the general public will not be able to access the top-up shots until November 8, Mr Hunt said some GP clinics were already offering the boosters to patients.
It comes as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews revealed a Qantas flight from North America and a Singapore Airlines voyage from its home base would be the first to land in Sydney when international travel resumes on Monday.
“It will be fantastic to see those aircraft touch down here in Australia,” she told Network Ten on Friday.
Ms Andrews confirmed people would be allowed to meet loved ones at the airport, with a backlog of Australians stranded overseas expected to be cleared in the coming months.
Unvaccinated arrivals will still be required to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.
While some health experts have criticised scrapping isolation requirements, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the decision was consistent with official advice.
“For those who were double-dose vaccinated, then you should be allowed to go about your life in Australia and obviously catch up with family and friends,” he said.
There were 1656 cases of the virus in Victoria on Friday with 10 deaths, while there were 268 and two deaths in NSW.
The ACT had 10 more cases.