Health authorities fear there will be more deaths in Victoria’s aged-care sector in coming days as the state braces for another day of new COVID-19 cases.
With more than 680 cases in at least 61 aged-care facilities across the state, there is a significant risk more elderly residents will die in coming days despite many being moved into private hospitals for care.
On Monday, deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said 5 per cent of all coronavirus cases in Victoria since April were among aged-care residents, and 4 per cent among staff.
“The tragedy of COVID-19 is we know with the number of new infections we have seen, there will be many further deaths in the days ahead,” he said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday some industries could be forced to close as people who go to work sick drive the state’s second virus wave.
On Tuesday morning, staff at the JBS abattoir in Melbourne’s west walked off the job until the company could assure them they would be safe, their union said.
Victoria’s biggest meat-processing facility, which employs more than 1200 people, has 71 COVID-19 cases.
The United Workers Union said the company had failed to address safety concerns. The union also claims some workers have been left without any income while isolating, or have had to use annual leave.
Mr Andrews had earlier warned the state’s six-week lockdown would not end until people stop going to work with symptoms.
There are 245 people in hospital with the coronavirus in Victoria, including 44 in intensive care.
St Basil’s Home for the Aged worst hit
On Monday, five of Australia’s six deaths were linked to Melbourne nursing homes as the national toll rose to 161.
Federal and state health authorities are concerned community transmission of the disease is driving infections in aged-care residents and staff.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has 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.
Mr Hunt said 79 of 115 residents at St Basil’s had been transferred, with more expected to be moved on Tuesday.
He was also cautious about modelling showing Victoria might have reached its peak in cases.
“We hope that, in the coming days or week, we reach that peak, if we haven’t already,” he told the ABC.
“But we won’t count any flattening of the curve until we see a week of sustained lower cases. And at this point, cases have been rising, not falling.”
There are now 84 cases linked to St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner, 82 at Estia Health in Ardeer, 77 at Epping Gardens Aged Care, and 62 at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon.
Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has 53 cases linked to it, and 57 are associated with Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.
Earlier in the pandemic, 19 residents of Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home died from coronavirus.