/ 01 June 2021

Outbreak “may get worse before it gets better”

Eleven more locally acquired coronavirus cases were recorded in Melbourne yesterday, taking the outbreak’s total to 51 cases. What’s concerning officials is the risk to aged care residents with 3 of yesterday’s cases (2 staff members and a resident) linked to an Arcare home in the suburb of Maidstone after a worker tested positive on Sunday. Meanwhile, another worker at a nursing home in Sunshine tested positive and other sites are on high alert after it emerged that their workers also did shifts at the Maidstone facility in the past week. “The fact this outbreak has crept into a number of private residential aged care facilities is obviously a very great concern,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.

It’s not, and it’s forced some difficult issues to the surface again. One is casual aged care workers doing shifts across multiple facilities to make ends meet. The Victorian Victorian and Federal Governments stepped up to help pay them to work in one facility last year after the practice was found to have contributed to the deaths of 655 people in Victoria’s aged care homes during the state’s deadly 2nd wave last year. But that’s lapsed, and Acting Premier James Merlino yesterday took aim at the Commonwealth (which funds and regulates aged care) for not addressing the issue more substantially for the duration of the pandemic. Another issue is making it compulsory for aged care workers to be vaccinated. That’s under consideration by the experts and National Cabinet again this week.

It might be around longer than a week… Merlino says the outbreak “may well get worse before it gets better” with the number of exposure sites yesterday growing to 270 locations. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it will be assessed “day-by-day”, but he didn’t rule out reinstating the ‘ring of steel’ around Melbourne with no cases recorded in regional Victoria. On a more positive note, health authorities received almost 44,000 test results on Sunday, and more than 16,700 doses of vaccine were administered at state-run sites – more than 6 times the number administered at the same time last week.

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