After horror high, Victoria’s COVID tally falls – but no halt to fatalities

Ambulances and medical staff at St Basil's in Melbourne on Monday.

Ambulances and medical staff at St Basil's in Melbourne on Monday. Photo: AAP

Victoria has had a slight reprieve in its battle against the coronavirus outbreak, reporting 384 new infections on Tuesday.

It was a welcome relief for many after a record 532 cases confirmed on Monday. But there’s no relief from the mounting fatalities, with six more reported on Tuesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said two people in their 90s, three in their 80s and one in their 60s had died. Four were linked to aged-care clusters that are ravaging the state.

Health authorities fear there are many more deaths to come in Victoria’s aged-care sector, with 769 cases in residents and staff across the state.

Earlier on Tuesday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would cut short a planned three-day trip to Queensland to return to Canberra to help deal with the Victorian aged-care crisis.

“We have just over 80 facilities out of just over 430 in Victoria that have been affected,” he said.

“Not all severely, but some of those cases have been far more severe. … we really are dealing with a health crisis and we are dealing with an economic crisis.”

Elsewhere, NSW confirmed another 14 virus infections on Tuesday, mostly associated with clusters at various Sydney venues.

NSW Health has also confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on Sydney-bound flights – Jetstar flight JQ506 from Melbourne on July 25 and a Garuda Airways flight GA712 from Jakarta on July 22.

It is contacting passengers who sat near the infected travellers, and they are being placed into self-isolation.

  • For details of all flights into NSW with confirmed COVID cases, see here

But it is Victoria’s aged-care crisis that remains of most concern nationwide.

On Tuesday, Mr Andrews said most elective surgery would be cancelled across the state to help try and address what he called “a critical challenge”.

“I cannot stand here and tell you I have confidence that staff and management across a number of private sector aged-care facilities are able to provide the care that is appropriate to keep their residents safe,” he said.

“We don’t run this sector but the residents in these homes are all Victorians. The Commonwealth government have asked for help and that is exactly what my government and our agencies will provide to them.”

“It was a very long night, but this is a critical challenge.”

st basils

Worried family members at St Basil’s aged-care home in Melbourne.

The state government will also move registered nurses into some of the stricken aged-care homes to help managed the crisis. Some homes will also have their residents moved out en masse.

“Some of the stories we’ve heard, some of what’s gone on in some of these settings are simply not acceptable,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s not about blame, it’s not about demarcations and having disputes about who is in charge of what. It’s just about getting on and getting this done.”

He said 200 residents had already been moved from private-sector aged care to public and private hospitals across Victoria.

Among the homes where registered nurses have already been sent is the hard-hit St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, in Melbourne’s north. The COVID cluster there has grown to 86.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has also asked the aged-care quality and safety commissioner to investigate St Basil’s after reports of people being left without food and lying in soiled sheets.

Among other concerning outbreaks in Victorian aged care are: 88 cases at Estia Health in Ardeer, 82 at Epping Gardens Aged Care, and 62 at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon.

Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has 53 cases linked to it, Baptcare Wynhdam in Werribee has 51, and 57 are associated with Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton described the aged-care infection numbers as “pretty volatile”.

“They will really depend on whether outbreaks occur with large numbers of residents in some of these private aged-care facilities,” he said.

Earlier in the pandemic, 19 residents of Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home died from coronavirus.

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