Friday has become Victoria’s deadliest day in the pandemic yet, with the deaths of seven more people.
All seven of the fatalities – two men and two women in their 80s and two men and a woman in their 90s – were connected to burgeoning outbreaks that are crippling the state’s aged-care facilities.
They bring Victoria’s COVID toll to 55, and Australia’s to 139.
It is also one of Australia’s saddest days since the pandemic hit, topped only by days in April when there were seven and eight deaths nationwide.
Victorian authorities initially reported six fatalities on Friday, but confirmed the seventh later in the day.
Victoria also had 300 new coronavirus cases on Friday, down from its record highs of 400-plus earlier in the week.
Premier Daniel Andrews said 206 Victorians remained in hospital, including 41 in intensive care.
“On today’s numbers, I think it’s best that we simply note that that number is a lower number than it was yesterday, but again, no one should be moving towards trying to provide definitive commentary that we have turned corners or we are in a peak or any of that,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is in our hands, all of us.”
Friday’s deaths come as the Australian Medical Association again warned Victoria’s aged-care homes were in crisis. President Tony Bartone urged the federal government to step in and provide extra staff to help quell the outbreaks.
“We don’t have weeks to plan, we don’t have another 10 days to plan, we need to be planning to deliver those resources, certainly in the next few days,” he said.
Of the 35 people who have died since Victoria’s COVID crisis spiked, 23 have been residents of aged-care homes.
“That’s unacceptable, but it completely underlines the risk, the vulnerability and the susceptibility of why this sector is of particular urgent and intensive need for action,” Dr Bartone said.
On Wednesday, he had warned Victoria’s aged-care residents were a “heartbeat away from calamity” as virus infections spiked.
Earlier on Thursday, he said it would be a disaster if Victoria’s renewed lockdown continued until Christmas.
“Clearly we need a circuit breaker,” he told the Nine Network.
“We need all Melburnians to understand this is serious and this is really now about everyone doing the right thing.”
A Sydney nursing home was also closed to visitors this week, after a staff member tested positive.
NSW reported seven new virus infections on Friday. Six were related to the Thai Rock restaurant cluster, while one remains under investigation.
NSW Health has also ordered health workers in all public hospitals to wear masks if they are within 1.5 metres of patients.
“Patients are also required to wear a mask, where possible. This advice applies to hospital and community health settings and comes into effect today,” it said in a statement on Friday.
In other concerning developments in Victoria, two cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Aboriginal communities in the regional city of Ballarat.
The new cases have prompted the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation to “strongly encourage” Aboriginal people in regional Victoria to wear a face mask, even though they are only compulsory in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
“We know communities have been working hard to minimise any infections which have been quite successful to date, but we are entering a very challenging period,” CEO Jill Gallagher said.
“We are seeing alarming rates of community transmission – unlike the first lockdown period.”
A total of 37 Indigenous Victorians have tested positive to the coronavirus, and 19 cases remain active.
More than half the cases have been in people aged between 15 and 44, with spikes of new infections among the community identified in the Brimbank, Melton and Wyndham local government areas.