Victoria has confirmed close to 400 new coronavirus cases and a further six deaths.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced 384 cases on Tuesday in what Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton described as a “volatile” update.
The deaths mean the state has recorded 38 fatalities from the virus in just six days and takes the state’s death toll to 83 – almost half of Australia’s 167 COVID-19 deaths.
The focus of Melbourne’s surge in cases has turned to the private aged care sector, with 769 active cases associated with more than 80 facilities.
Eight aged care homes have at least 50 cases each, including the Estia aged care facility in Ardea with 88 cases, St Basil’s in Fawkner with 86 and Epping Gardens with 82.
About 60 per cent of the deaths in Melbourne’s second wave have been linked to aged care facilities.
“I cannot stand here and tell you that I have confidence that staff and management across a number of private sector aged care facilities are able to provide the care that is appropriate to keep their residents safe,” Mr Andrews said.
“Some of the stories we've heard, some of what's gone on in some of these settings is simply not acceptable.”
State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, who fought back tears as she spoke of how the Greek community had been badly affected by the aged care crisis, said the situation in largely private facilities was “very, very concerning”.
Victoria nurses to assist in aged care crisis
Mr Andrews said residents will be moved out of virus-hit private facilities based on a clinical need.
Most category two and all category three elective surgeries will be cancelled and nurses will be redeployed in aged care facilities, he said.
While 10 per cent of aged care facilities in Victoria are public, Mr Andrews said only five of the 769 cases linked to the sector were in public aged care.
Mr Andrews reiterated several times on Tuesday that while aged care was a federal issue, the Victorian government would do everything they could to assist.
“The Commonwealth have asked for assistance. They've asked for certain things and that's exactly what they will get,” he said.
“This is not a sector that we have any involvement in [but] I stress, the residents are Victorians and we need to look after them.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said the federal government was “doing everything it can” to tackle the crisis in what is a “very difficult” situation.
Mr Andrews said an impending Royal Commission into private aged care is “exactly the right thing to do”.
While it has been difficult to predict whether numbers are stabilising over the last week due to fluctuating totals, Tuesday’s total comes just a day after a record 532 cases on Monday.
The lower figure offers a sense of relief for health authorities who previously said modelling had indicated Monday should have been the peak of its current six-week lockdown.
“I think the numbers that we see day-to-day now are very much driven by outbreaks,” Professor Sutton said.
“But, of course, we have to get on top of the individual community cases occurring where we do not necessarily know where they picked up the virus in order to get on top of these outbreaks.”
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