The aged care crisis has seen Victoria's COVID-19 death toll pass the rest of Australia's combined. Image by Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS

safety of citizens

More COVID deaths linked to Vic aged care

2020-07-29 16:36:38

Nine new COVID-19 deaths mean Victoria has recorded more fatalities from the virus than the rest of Australia combined.

The aged care crisis remains a major driver of the state’s death toll and high case numbers, but Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said community transition figures are stabilising.

“The aged care numbers, the increase in each of those facilities on a daily basis will be a significant contributor, including the staff in those facilities and our other outbreaks, especially the larger ones, are another significant contributor,” he said.

“So if you take out the outbreak numbers, I think we are actually looking at relatively few community cases.”

The latest nine deaths reported on Wednesday brought the state’s total to 92 and the national figure to 176.

The number of new cases dropped to 295 from 384 on Tuesday and 532 on Monday.

Prof Sutton said while the lower community transition was a positive, those numbers still needed to drop.

“It hasn’t gone down as much as I would have liked,” he said.

Victoria is now seeing about 50 new community transmission cases daily, Prof Sutton said.

“Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but we were at a point a month or so ago where we had single figures for community transmission.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced every positive COVID-19 case should expect a knock on the door.

Australian Defence Force personnel and public health workers have been visiting the homes of known positive cases who could not be contacted, but from Thursday they will doorknock all confirmed cases.

Mr Andrews said of the 500 visits already done, people were not home for 29 of them and those cases were referred to police.

“If you are supposed to be at home isolating, then you are supposed to be at home doing just that,” he told reporters. 

“These doorknocks aren’t just about checking people are where they should be, it’s also an opportunity where we can say to them, ‘what can we do for you, what do you need?’.”

The new deaths on Wednesday were two people in their 90s, five in their 80s, one in their 70s and another aged in their 60s, Mr Andrews said.

Seven of the nine are linked to private aged care facilities.

Following state and federal intervention into the besieged aged care sector this week, patients are being being transferred from the worst-affected homes.

So far 80 residents have been transferred out of St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner and 34 residents transferred from Epping Gardens.

Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth has had 30 residents transferred out, while 21 people from Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North have been transferred to Mulgrave Private Hospital.

Mr Andrews said nurses from hospitals had been redeployed to short-staffed nursing homes, with 400 shifts already filled. 

Up to 50 South Australian nurses will also travel to assist Victoria’s hospital and aged care staff.

The latest state government figures released on Wednesday show there are 952 active cases linked to aged care, with 87 facilities having active outbreaks.

“It is not the fault that those facilities have outbreaks,” said federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy.

“We know that residents and families have often observed breaches … These incursions of this virus into these facilities are essentially unavoidable.”

Prof Murphy issued a warning that Victorians should brace for more deaths from aged care facilities every day.

“There will be more (deaths),” he said.

Mr Andrews reiterated the government’s ongoing message that Victorians must stay home if they are at all unwell, in order to drive down case numbers and prevent further outbreaks.

Australia now has 5700 active cases, well above the previous peak of 4935 on April 4.