Melburnians and other Victorians are in “the great fight of our lives” as the coronavirus spreads across the state, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says.
On Wednesday – as the state confirmed 238 more infections and the death of a woman in her 90s – Mr Hunt warned Victorians to brace for more tragedy from the pandemic.
“I think if we are honest, there will be more lives lost. There will be more people admitted to ICU and more on ventilation,” he told the Nine Network.
Among the areas of most concern in Victoria’s virus outbreak are aged-care homes.
More than 100 staff and residents of 32 of state’s nursing homes have contracted COVID-19.
The woman who died on Tuesday was Victoria’s third COVID-related fatality in just over 24 hours, after the earlier confirmation of the deaths of a man and a woman in their 80s.
The state’s COVID-19 toll is at 27, while Australia has had 111 fatalities.
Victoria, which has had 10 days of triple-digit coronavirus increases, now has nearly 2000 active virus infections. There are 105 people in hospital, including 27 in intensive care.
Premier Daniel Andrews conceded the numbers were worrying.
“These hospitalisation numbers are of great concern to us,” he said.
Wednesday’s tally was the state’s fourth-highest daily increase in the pandemic so far.
It came six days after a single-day record of 288 new cases last Friday, and a week into a Melbourne-wide lockdown of five million people.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said Wednesday’s figures offered the first hints the outbreak might be stabilising across Victoria.
“I would hope that it would turn the corner … but there are no guarantees,” Professor Sutton said.
But he also warned more deaths were expected.
“When we have 238 cases every day, we are looking at two to three deaths in a week’s time – so we have to have these numbers decrease,” he said.
Mr Andrews said there were no plans for even tougher stage four restrictions, but stressed authorities had not ruled it out if cases did not stabilise further.
“The length of the current restrictions and the likelihood of further restrictions is in the hands of every Victorian,” he said.
He also did not rule out applying varying levels of restrictions in different parts of Melbourne.
Nurses have urged care homes to boost staff numbers, with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation saying private aged-care facilities needed more nurses and carers even before the pandemic hit.
“They must increase clinical and personal staff now that we have increased community transmission of the virus,” spokeswoman Lisa Fitzpatrick said.
Ms Fitzpatrick wants the federal government to lean on operators who refuse to comply.
As authorities attempt to tame the rising infection rates, debate around eliminating the virus has flared again.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday attempting to eradicate COVID-19 would obliterate the economy.
Instead, he continued to back the national suppression strategy.
Mr Morrison said the approach relied on the strength of state and territory health systems, and their ability to track and trace cases, along with adherence to social distancing rules.
“You don’t just shut the country down because that is not sustainable,” he told Triple M.
“You would be doubling unemployment, potentially, and even worse. The cure would be worse than what arguably wouldn’t be delivered anyway.”
- 247 cases are residents of public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington;
- 36 cases are residents of public housing towers in nearby Carlton
- 150 cases linked to Al-Taqwa College, Truganina;
- 33 linked to Somerville Retail Services, Tottenham;
- 29 linked to Menarock Life Aged Care Facility in Essendon;
- 21 linked to JBS abattoir in Brooklyn;
- 12 linked to La Manna Supermarket, Essendon;
- nine linked to Embracia Moonee Valley aged care;
- five linked to Steel Mains in Somerton;
- four linked to Waste Equipment and Hiab Services, Ardeer;
- four linked to TD Cabinets in Dandenong South;
- three linked to Bell Collision Repair Centre in Preston;
- two linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner.