Pandemic leave payments have ended ahead of an expected COVID-19 surge but infected people must still follow directions to isolate at home.
The federal government's decision to axe the payment will force thousands of workers to make a choice between obeying isolation rules or paying their bills, Australia's peak union body says.
But Health Minister Mark Butler insists the government does not have the financial capacity to continue funding the emergency payments, which came to an end on June 30.
"We're going to have to start moving towards more normal programs that support the Australian community and people have been on notice about that for some time," he told ABC radio on Friday.
But Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil says a lack of government support will force people to work while they are sick, spreading the virus further.
The new government is ignoring the lessons learned early in the pandemic and should reverse their decision, she said.
"If we are asking people to isolate to keep the community safe, then we need to ensure that they are supported to do that," she said on Friday.
"No one should suffer such a big financial penalty for doing the right thing."
At the same time as scrapping pandemic leave payments, the health minister warned a third wave of Omicron cases is expected, with re-infections likely due to a new variant.
Australians must get their booster as soon as possible to protect themselves, he said.
"Even if you caught COVID in that big summer wave, where millions of Australians caught (it), if you've only had two doses ... you are potentially susceptible to infection over coming months," he said.
There were 33 new deaths with the virus reported on Friday, taking Australia's total fatalities since the pandemic began to 9930.
Mr Butler will meet with state and territory health ministers on Friday, and managing the coronavirus will be high on the agenda.
Ministers will discuss ways for more vulnerable people with COVID-19 to get access to antiviral drugs, with Mr Butler keen to expand their use to help manage the pandemic.
"We're getting feedback from pharmacists, GPs and patients alike (and) I don't think that there's a great level of awareness about these treatments out in the community," he said.
As the government announced it would hold an inquiry into vaccine contracts, Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said it was critical the country was prepared for further sub-variants of the virus.
"We do need to learn the lessons of the failures of the past, it's not like there's not going to be any examination," he told Sky News on Friday.
"But this is not about an inquiry into all of that, it's about how we can best place ourselves going forward."
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
Victoria: 8057 cases, 12 deaths, 472 in hospital with 23 in ICU
NSW: 10,930 cases, nine deaths, 1558 in hospital with 41 in ICU
Tasmania: 1303 cases, no deaths, 47 in hospital with four in ICU
Queensland: 5313 cases, six deaths, 587 in hospital with 14 in ICU
NT: 302 cases, no deaths, 17 in hospital with two in ICU
WA: 5072 cases, two deaths, 217 in hospital with 10 in ICU
SA: 2781 cases, three deaths, 227 in hospital with seven in ICU
ACT: 1169 cases, one death, 138 in hospital with four in ICU.
Australian Associated Press
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