Victoria has recorded 384 new coronavirus cases and six more deaths as the state’s aged care crisis deepens.
A total of 61 Victorian nursing homes are suffering 769 active cases of coronavirus, including hundreds of staff who must isolate for two weeks, causing chronic shortages.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he had ‘no confidence’ that private homes can look after residents and has cancelled non-urgent elective surgery to free up public health staff so they can be drafted into homes.
Two people in their 90s, three people in their 80s and one person in their 60s died overnight, taking the state’s death toll to 83, with 22 deaths in the past three days.
This graph shows how Victoria’s second wave sprang up in late June. The state recorded zero new cases on June 5
Ambulance officers remove a resident from the St Basil’s Home for the Aged in the Melbourne suburb of Fawkner on Monday
A resident is taken away in an ambulance from Epping Gardens Aged Care Facility
The biggest outbreak at a carehome is St Basil’s in Epping, which has suffered more than 80 cases.
‘We have sent registered nurses in there to support the care and the wellbeing of those residents,’ Premier Andrews said.
Nurses given paid pandemic leave
Casual aged care workers will be eligible for paid pandemic leave after a Fair Work Commission decision to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The new rule will take effect from Wednesday for three months, allowing aged care staff to stay home without losing income, the commission said on Monday.
The Fair Work Commission says the pandemic leave will:
* apply to workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate because they display COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with a suspected case;
* is limited to up to two weeks’ paid leave on each occasion of self-isolation;
* not be paid to workers who are able to work at home or remotely during self-isolation.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is visiting businesses on the Sunshine Coast, will return to Canberra to help deal with chronic staff shortages in care homes after reports that some residents were left without food and lying on soiled sheets.
At 11pm on Monday one home in Melbourne had to call in ADF troops to work through the night after nurses were sent home because they were ill.
‘The standing-down, necessarily, of many in that workforce has had a very significant disruption to the provision of care in those facilities,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘Commonwealth has been working, including with other states, to ensure that we can plug those gaps wherever we possibly can.
‘But I want to be up-front with you – it’s very difficult and it’s very hard to get people into those positions, particularly given the complexity and difficulty of the situations they’re facing.’
‘There is no effort being spared to ensure that we can get the people to the places they need to be.’
Meanwhile, federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has been tasked with improving communication between age care homes and the families of patients.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said for families with loved ones in aged care, the situation was the most terrifying moment of the pandemic.
‘This is a catastrophe. This is a system which is in crisis,’ he told reporters in Melbourne.
‘This is a matter of heartbreak for families who are having to farewell loved ones – but not in person, in ICUs across the state.’
On Monday Victoria suffered six deaths and a record 532 new cases.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that figure could mark the peak of the crisis but The Australian Medical Association Victoria warned that if numbers do not come down then a Stage Four ‘New Zealand-style lockdown’ would soon be needed.
ADF staff are seen at Epping Gardens Aged Care Facility in Epping as six more deaths are recorded across Melborne
Masks are now compulsory in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire. Pictured: a man walks through the Melbourne CBD on Monday in front of Australian Defence Force personnel on duty to help with the coronavirus response
Casual aged care workers will be eligible for paid pandemic leave (pictured, Estia Health in Ardeer, where there are 82 cases of coronavirus)
‘What New Zealand did for a month is that they closed pretty much all businesses other than pharmacies, medical clinics, grocery stores, petrol stations and really curtailed a lot of retail shopping and a lot of businesses,’ President Julian Rait told 3AW on Monday.
‘That’s the model that I would look to and clearly they were able to achieve elimination through that with a month of such measures.
‘I am not suggesting that is necessarily possible now in Victoria with the number of cases but I would suggest that stronger measures for a shorter period might be a preferable strategy to months and months of what we have got at the moment.’
Professor Sutton said he hoped the numbers would continue to decrease.
‘Modelling, with our effective reproduction number that I have seen most recently, suggests that today should be the peak,’ he told reporters on Monday.
‘I’m not going to sit back and say today is the peak. We have to see what happens in coming days.’
Premier Andrews said people who are going to work sick – including those who work at aged care facilities – are the ‘biggest driver’ of the state’s second wave.
He warned the state’s six-week lockdown, which started on July 8, would not end until people stop going to work with symptoms.
Mr Andrews even flagged the possibility some industries could be shut down.
‘If we were to continue to see outbreaks, if we were to continue to see people quite obviously attending work when they shouldn’t be, then every option becomes on the table,’ he said.
Victoria is set to record fewer than 400 new coronavirus cases today. Pictured: Melbourne
Australian Defence Force personnel and Victoria police officers patrol the Royal Botanic Gardens on Sunday, ensuring everyone wears face masks
Many of the recent deaths in Victoria’s second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities (pictured, Epping Gardens Aged Care, where there have been 77 cases of COVID-19)
Monday’s deaths included a woman in her 90s, a man and a woman in their 80s, a man and a woman in their 70s and a man in his 50s.
Five of the deaths linked to aged care outbreaks.
Victoria has reported 58 deaths in the past six weeks, taking the state’s toll to 77 and the national figure to 161.
Mr Andrews on Monday night pleaded with young people to stay at home.
‘This virus doesn’t just affect older people,’ he wrote on Facebook.
‘Young, fit and otherwise healthy people are struggling to breathe.’
Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos echoed the premier’s sentiments.
‘This is not an older person’s disease. A quarter of infections we are seeing are young people in their 20s,’ she said.
‘People in their 60s only represent six per cent.
‘This is a highly contagious virus that can strike anyone in our community regardless of their age, regardless of their circumstances.’
A For Lease sign is seen on Smith Street, Brunswick, as a record number of shops go out of business in Melbourne