Victoria’s COVID crisis is hitting essential services, with nearly 400 healthcare workers infected and 140 police officers in quarantine because of their exposure to the virus.
Authorities confirmed late on Thursday afternoon that 388 healthcare workers had been confirmed with COVID-19 – and 150 of them were among the more than 2000 active cases in the state on Thursday.
Earlier, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said 140 officers and 30 protective service officers were off the beat due to the coronavirus outbreak across the state.
“It’s a concern for us, there’s no doubt about that,” he told 3AW radio on Thursday.
Coronavirus outbreaks have affected staffing at Frankston, Werribee and Ringwood police stations, all in suburban Melbourne, and at Swan Hill, in Melbourne’s north.
Earlier this week, it was revealed 57 police officers from the Frankston station had been told to self-isolate while awaiting test results after coming into close contact with two colleagues who tested positive. Ten days ago, the station at Werribee was briefly closed after a staff member’s positive test.
There are also outbreaks among staff and back-of-house workers at several of Melbourne’s major hospitals, including the Royal Children’s,, Royal Women’s, The Alfred and the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s hospitals.
According to one report, Monash Health – which provides healthcare to a quarter of Victorians – has 77 staff in precautionary quarantine following three potential sources of exposure to the deadly virus.
Victoria announced a new record daily tally of 317 confirmed infections and two more related fatalities on Thursday.
The deaths of the two men in their 80s bring Victoria’s COVID toll to 29 – a rise of seven since Saturday (July 11).
On Thursday, chief health officer Brett Sutton said the infections in healthcare workers were concerning.
“PPE is available and it needs to be worn universally,” he said.
“But no one can let their guard down in terms of wearing a mask or where they’re trying to keep a distance, including with other healthcare staff.”
He said more information about infected or isolating healthcare workers would be released on Thursday afternoon.
Also on Thursday, state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said category three elective surgery would be put on hold at metropolitan Melbourne health services to ensure there are enough spare beds and staff to handle the pandemic.
Elective surgery will also be reduced to no more than 50 per cent of usual activity across all public hospitals and 75 per cent in private hospitals.
Private hospitals can take on public category one and urgent category two surgeries to free up capacity across the hospital system.
“We have expected about two weeks of big numbers – today, of course, is a concerning number, it’s a very concerning number,” Ms Mikakos said.
“But if we all keep following the restrictions, we’ll see those numbers come down. We’ll not need to utilise all that additional capacity.”
She said the health sector had not stopped preparing since the start of the pandemic, even when cases dropped.
“Our health system, our hospitals, are well prepared to respond to this second wave of coronavirus cases.”