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Childcare To Be Free During Coronavirus Pandemic

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced more coronavirus funding, this time to ensure childcare help for Australian families.

The Prime Minister announced the plan, which he said will allow centres to remain open, on Thursday afternoon.

"Childcare and early childhood education is critical, particularly for those Australians who rely on it so they can go to work every day," he said.

"We will be ensuring for those parents who are still in that position where they are needing that childcare, it will be free. We will be putting in place support arrangements to the childcare facilities, some 13,000 of them, to ensure they remain open and be there for their parents to ensure they can do what they need to do each day."

Education Minister Dan Tehan said a "different system" of childcare would come into force from Sunday night. He said current means testing arrangements were "no longer in place" because the government "wants everyone to be able to access care who is working during this six-month pandemic."

Education Minister Dan Tehan. Image: AAP

"It will be a system which will mean parents will get their children cared for for free. What we will be doing is turning off the old system and going to a new system," he said.

Tehan said parents would be able to send their children to their regular centre as usual, and parents who had taken their children out of care already would be welcomed back.

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The system will work by the government providing a payment of 50 percent of their normal childcare fees -- combined with providing the centre itself with Jobkeeper payments for staff, Tehan said this would effectively make childcare free.

The payments will only be available to the centre "so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care."

Tehan said childcare centres would be asked to prioritise new enrollments for vulnerable children or children of parents who are working.

As of 6am Thursday, Australia has 4,976 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 20 deaths. More than 261,000 tests have been done -- "a testing rate of more than 1,000 tests per 100,000 population" Morrison said, more than one percent of the population.

"We are the first country to the best of our knowledge that has been able to exceed that mark," Morrison said.

Morrison said Australians would be living under current coronavirus restrictions -- such as stay at home orders and restrictions on gatherings --  "for many months ahead".

"We are slowing the spread. That is happening. That is saving lives and it is saving livelihoods and, again, I thank Australians for their support," he said.

"The rate of growth, as we have seen, particularly over the course of this week, has fallen on a daily basis, to single digit numbers, and that is welcome, but it is still not enough."