Around Australia and across the globe, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has permeated every aspect of daily life, from how we work and socialise to how our country will be economically governed for the foreseeable future. The situation is constantly evolving, and Mozo is endeavouring to provide updated information on the virus and how it will affect individuals and businesses. Here are the answers to some of the big Coronavirus questions.
What is the COVID-19 status in Australia and how might it affect me?
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the virus a pandemic in March 2020, the federal government has implemented more aggressive isolation methods, ordering non-essential services like bars, clubs, eat-in cafés and restaurants, gyms and retail stores to close, imposing an international travel ban, and placing strict limits on social gatherings in public and at home. WHO has a dedicated web page where you can read the most comprehensive information about COVID-19 symptoms, health outcomes, infection rates and how to avoid contracting the virus.
Beyond the immediate health concerns, there are many other elements to this global crisis that could impact your day to day life.
Scammers: People are stressed and scared. Unfortunately, this unstable climate is a breeding ground for scammers preying on vulnerable people or those trying to assist others. The ACCC is anticipating a rise in scams related to the outbreak, and has thus far received reports about people spruiking fake cures for Coronavirus, investment scams for making money during the outbreak, or online stores selling face masks and sanitary products and not delivering them.
How can I be financially prepared in the face of this pandemic?
Work from home wisely: Many people have the privilege of working from home or remotely as offices and businesses shut down, and if your profession allows you to do so, it’s the best way to help curb the spread of the virus. Monitor how you use your new home office so you can claim a portion of your utility costs, internet bills, tech and furniture depreciation, and other expenses on tax. You might also consider looking into cheap fitness apps so you don’t go mad or atrophy while you’re stuck at home.
Talk to your bank about emergency relief: As they did in the wake of the summer bushfires, Australian banks and lenders are offering individuals and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) experiencing financial hardship some concessions across impacted savings products, loans and other lines of credit. As instability reins, the latest Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) interest rate cut saw the cash rate drop to an all-time low of 0.25%. This can be positive for customers with home loans, but can signify lost interest gains for savers. Happily, the big banks are taking the crisis into account: here’s how they’re responding.
Consider your income and life insurance: It’s a tricky time for insurance, with claims related to travel, income and health all impacted by the virus. Life insurance and income protection are front of mind for many, so you’ll need to assess your situation and screen the fine print of your current or prospective policy to see what will and won’t be covered in these new circumstances.
Think carefully about dipping into your savings stash:If your income has been impacted by shutdowns, your first move may be breaking the piggy bank. But before you start funnelling funds from your savings to daily spending account, consider what spending can be put off, if you are eligible for government support, if you can freeze any loan repayments, and if there's hope of rebuilding your savings bundle down the line.
How is this all impacting the Australian economy and society at large?
But beyond interest rate changes, the biggest economic news is around the federal government’s stimulus packages.
Stimulus package:The March 23 stimulus package added another $66 billion to the pool of $189 billion allocated to keeping the economy afloat during the crisis. We’ve reported what this will entail across the states and territories, as well as the different support structures for businesses and individuals financially impacted by the crisis.
For individuals: While banks and lenders are passing on rate cut benefits and providing some relief for mortgage holders, the government is offering further subsidies for those already on income support and others who have recently become unemployed. Two emergency $750 payments will be available to income support recipients, and the Jobseeker fortnightly payment will be doubled. There are also new measures being put in place to protect rental security. But as more Australians lose their jobs, the role-out of these payments has already hit roadblocks. The MyGov website, which facilitates Centrelink’s digital services, has crashed twice since the most recent stimulus announcement due to a dramatic increase in users.
Some light to the shade: Australia has seen negligent beachside behaviour that ignores social distancing and riotous scenes in supermarkets as panic buying overtakes common decency, but we’ve also redeemed ourselves in many ways. Efforts are being made to support struggling musicians by tuning into live-streamed concerts and buying merch; virtual art gallery and museum tours have been introduced to keep those institutions in the green; local businesses are staying in operation through home delivery of food and alcohol; and other arts and retail companies are benefiting from voucher purchases and donations. We’ve also come up with some ingenious ways to have fun for free while you’re stuck at home.
What’s the go with travelling or planning a trip in the current climate?
If it’s not essential, don’t travel.
A travel ban for Australians came into effect on March 25, meaning citizens can’t leave the country unless it’s on humanitarian or compassionate grounds, or in the national interest. State borders are similarly being locked down.
If you’re currently outside the country, the leading advice is to return home to Australia as soon as possible where you'll have to adhere to a 14-day isolation period. If you can’t travel home or wish to stay where you are overseas, you should follow the advice of local authorities but bear in mind Australian consular assistance may be limited due movement restrictions.
Transferring money internationally: Sending Aussie dollars overseas presents its own risks as the AUD drops amid Coronavirus panic. Happily, there are specialist money transfer providers in Australia offering handy features for getting a better deal on your IMT, like locking in an appealing rate or nominating a preferred rate at which to transfer and holding out until it’s reached.
Once you’ve digested all the current Coronavirus news, make sure you’re getting the very best in interest returns using our savings account and term deposit comparison tools.