An ambulance is seen outside one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Australia, on July 6, 2020. (AFP / William West)

Misinformation circulates online about COVID-19 government handouts in Australia

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Multiple Facebook and Twitter posts shared repeatedly in July 2020 claim the local government in the Australian state of Victoria has begun handing out an AUD1,500 (USD1,044) payment to “anyone who tested positive for COVID-19”. The claim was shared by one Facebook page with almost 1.5 million followers. The claim, however, is misleading; as of July 7, 2020, the Victorian government said the payment is only being issued to people under certain circumstances, namely workers whose sources of income have been affected by a government-imposed lockdown, and claimants must not be receiving any other forms of government income support to be eligible for the payment.

The claim was published here on Facebook on July 5, 2020. It was shared by Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans, who has almost 1.5 million followers on his Facebook page. 

A screenshot taken on July 6, 2020, of the misleading post

The text post states, in part: “VICTORIA YOU WERE BRIBED !!

“20TH JUNE, PREMIER DAN ANDREWS ANNOUNCED A $1500 PAYMENT FOR ANYONE WHO TESTED POSITIVE TO COVID-19

“JUST 10 DAYS LATER, THANKS TO A HUGE SPIKE IN POSITIVE CASES. 12 POSTCODES WERE FORCED BACK INTO STAGE 3 RESTRICTIONS. WITH THE MOST VUNERABLE IN PUBLIC HOUSING HAVING THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATED.” 

The claim was also shared on Twitter here, here, here and here in June 2020, as a surge in COVID-19 infections in the Australian state of Victoria prompted Premier Dan Andrews to reimpose lockdown for multiple postcodes on July 1. Here is an AFP report on the developments.

The claim, however, is misleading; the payment is not available for “anyone who tested positive for COVID-19”.

A keyword search found this announcement from Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services, titled “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker support payment”. 

The announcement states, in part: “The Department of Health and Human Services is providing a one-off $1,500 payment designed to financially support Victorian workers who, as of 20 June, have been instructed by the department to self-isolate or quarantine at home because they are either diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) or are a close contact of a confirmed case.” 

The guidelines state that the payment is available to workers who are Victoria residents and had their sources of income impacted by the lockdown. They must also not have not applied for other forms of government income support.

Below is a screenshot of the conditions: 

A screenshot of the COVID-19 worker support payment guidelines published by the Victorian government

A spokesperson for Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services told AFP by email on July 7, 2020 that the details about the payment on its website were "correct". 

COVID-19