News Coronavirus Victorian toll rises, amid grim warning of avalanche of COVID patients
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Victorian toll rises, amid grim warning of avalanche of COVID patients

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UPDATED 4.55PM AEST (14/7/2020)

There have been two more COVID-related deaths in Victoria as authorities warn hundreds more people will be in hospital within weeks, many fighting for their lives.

Authorities revealed late on Tuesday afternoon that a man and a woman in their 80s had died in a Melbourne hospital.

The man’s death was reported just before 4.30pm, with confirmation of the woman having also died following within half an hour.

They are the state’s third and fourth virus-related deaths since the weekend – after a man in his 90s died on Saturday, and another man in his 70s died on Sunday. The state’s virus toll is at 26, and the national toll is 110.

Victoria also had 270 more confirmed virus infections on Tuesday – the latest in a grim set of figures that has brought it to more than 1800 active cases.

They include 83 people in hospital, more than a quarter of them in intensive care.

“That’s a measure of the fact that we’re going into a phase where a lot of our current cases will be deteriorating,” chief health officer Brett Sutton said.

And he expects the number of hospital patients to rise significantly within weeks.

“It does mean that in the next fortnight, we’re going to see a number of people who will require hospital,” he said.

“There’s often 10 per cent to 20 per cent of all coronavirus infections who require hospitalisation – so that’s a couple of hundred individuals at least.”

Brett Sutton said he expected hundreds more virus patients in Melbourne hospitals within weeks.

Professor Sutton said GPs were critical to managing the care of coronavirus patients – and seeking more care when it was needed.

“If people are deteriorating, now is the time to make an early referral of linkage with acute care or the tertiary care system,” he said.

“It’s important to see these patients early if they’re deteriorating. It avoids the worst outcomes – intensive care or death.”

Among most concern for Victorian health authorities is the alarming rate of growth in case numbers at aged-care homes.

In just a few days, infections at aged care homes have reached about 80.

On Tuesday, 28 cases were confirmed linked to the Menarock Life Aged Care Facility in Essendon, making it the biggest aged-care outbreak to date. A further 13 have been linked to the Glendale Aged Care Facility in Werribee.

A third aged-care home, Estia Health in Ardeer, has also had a jump in cases, with 13 residents confirmed to have the virus on Monday.

Professor Sutton said the growing clusters were a challenging situation.

“Often it’s a single staff member or a few staff members, but there are a few significant outbreaks with a number of residents,” he said.

Several residents from the Menarock Aged Care facility have been taken to hospital for treatment but Professor Sutton said that was not necessary for all aged-care residents who contracted the virus.

Government advice has been for staff at aged-care facilities to wear masks and limit movement between residences. Professor Sutton said guidelines might be reviewed if cases kept rising.

“They really need to consider minimising that to the fullest extent possible, and also map where the workforce are,” he said.

“They’re some of the things that we would review at the end of the week if there is ongoing transmission in some of these settings.”

The Royal Melbourne hospital has set up a specialist COVID-19 ward for elderly patients from aged care homes.

Elsewhere, 1000 Australian Defence Force members are on their way to Victoria to help stop the spread of the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said a key role of the additional ADF members would be to “support the inevitable number of paramedics who will finish up having to quarantine, having to isolate, having to be furloughed because of exposure or potential exposure [to coronavirus]”.

“That will be rolled out quite soon,” he said.

Other Victorian clusters on Wednesday

  • 147 cases linked to Al-Taqwa College at Truganina;
  • 14 linked to Brunswick Private Hospital;
  • 11 linked to La Manna Supermarket, Essendon;
  • 14 linked to Somerville Retail Services, Tottenham;
  • Nine linked to Riverina apartments, Footscray.