Daily coronavirus cases in Victoria have dropped for the second consecutive day, however the state’s death toll continues to soar.
Just two days after the state announced a daunting record total of 532 new cases on Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced 295 new cases on Wednesday – a daily total lower than 300 for the first time in nine days.
Yet attention is now focused on the state’s surging death toll, with 31 fatalities from the virus in just four days after Mr Andrews confirmed a further nine deaths on Wednesday.
The latest victims are two people in their 90s, five in their 80s, one in their 70s and one in their 60s. Seven of the deaths are linked to private aged care facilities.
The state’s death toll now stands at 92, while the national toll rises to 176. There are 41 people in intensive care, and 307 in hospital.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said the level of infection in aged care facilities was “substantial”, with the death toll expected to rise further due to the elderly’s vulnerability.
There have been 49 deaths linked to aged care facilities, Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said on Wednesday – about 60 per cent of the deaths in Melbourne’s second wave.
As of Wednesday, there were 804 active cases linked to aged care facilities, with more than 400 aged care residents infected.
Dr Coatsworth told ABC Breakfast that death rates in Australia were far lower than abroad, where death rates in aged care facilities were as high as 20 per cent of all residents.
“It is tragically a disease that affects our elderly so severely. Our death rates have been somewhat less than the international average, but that is not going to be of too much comfort to someone who has an elderly-affected relative,” he said.
Dozens of positive cases not isolating
Mr Andrews announced all positive cases will receive a visit from officers from the Department of Health and Human Services and Defence Force personnel for compliance checks and articulating what is required of them.
He said of recent checks, 29 people who had tested positive could not be found at their homes.
“They've been referred to Victoria Police. I've got no further comment to make or any further details as to what if any action has been taken against those people but it's a significant issue.
“If you are supposed to be at home isolating, you are supposed to be at home doing just that.”
Mr Andrews said there was now 1400 ADF personnel now working in Victoria.
More deaths ‘a certainty’
Former Chief Medical Officer Professor Murphy said there was “clearly deficiencies in care last week” and the federal government is focusing on 13 homes where the outbreak is deemed the most serious.
“There will be more deaths with the number of aged care recipients that are infected. We know that, it is a certainty,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“We will see deaths every day and that is a tragedy. This virus, once it gets into many frail elderly people has an inevitable fatal outcome in some cases.”
Prof Murphy stressed the importance of containing community transmission in younger generations in Victoria, and said it was vital to adhere to the stay at home instructions.
“Please keep that movement to absolute minimum. Please do what you're being asked to do. Do it for your elderly fellow Victorians because it is the community transmission that has caused this problem,” he said.
"We have always said from the beginning of this pandemic that we cannot completely protect our elderly unless we control community transmission."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the “principal cause” of the aged care outbreaks was through workforce transmission.
“It is principally come through the infection of staff, more broadly in the community, many cases completely unaware of that infection and by the time they became aware of that infection, then obviously they'd been in those facilities.”
Hundreds of residents transferred out of aged care
So far 80 residents have been transferred out of St Basil's Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, 80 residents transferred from Epping Gardens and Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth has had 34 residents transferred.
Mr Andrews said nurses from hospitals had also been deployed to short-staffed nursing homes, with 400 shifts already filled.
The premier reiterated the government's ongoing message that Victorians must stay home if they are at all unwell.
"If you are sick, you cannot go to work. If you are sick you cannot go to the shops," he told reporters.
Despite the lower numbers on Wednesday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he labelled current numbers “not great”.
“It hasn't gone down as much as I would have liked,” he admitted.
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