The L and Delta strains saw large changes in government spending and social benefits in kind to households.
With the arrival of the L-strain, government spending ramped up in early 2020. Increased spending was seen for pop-up health clinics, infection containment training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional frontline staff for government services.
Lockdowns and uncertainty about the extent of L-strain transmission in the community initially led to a decline in social benefits in kind as households avoided non-COVID medical attendances, however this rebounded sharply as restrictions began to ease.
Outbreaks of the Delta variant in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT coincided with the rollout of PCR testing facilities and COVID-19 vaccination drives across Australia. This increased government spending throughout the middle of 2021 and slowed in the December quarter 2021 as vaccination targets were reached.
The arrival of Omicron increased government spending on COVID-19 with rapid antigen testing (RAT) accepted in addition to PCR tests to help detect the spread of Omicron. Governments introduced programs providing free RAT tests to concession card holders and in some jurisdictions, school-aged children. This is reflected in social assistance benefits in kind. As case numbers peaked, spending on equipment and staffing in state hospitals also increased.