Victoria has announced a further 21 deaths on Wednesday – Australia’s highest daily death toll since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced there were also a further 410 new cases – the seventh consecutive day cases have been below 480.
It follows a then-record 19 deaths and 331 new cases on Tuesday.
Wednesday is the fourth consecutive day the state has announced record deaths, with 75 deaths in that period.
Of the 21 confirmed victims on Wednesday, two females and one male are in their 70s, six females and five males in their 80s, five males and one female in their 90s, and one female in her 100s.
Sixteen out of those 21 deaths can be linked to aged care outbreaks. There are 662 Victorians in hospital – 43 of those in ICU and 25 on ventilators.
There are 7,877 active cases in the state – 1,923 of those linked to private aged care facilities.
There are 1,079 active cases in healthcare workers, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying data suggests the majority of those cases have been acquired outside the workplace.
He said a detailed breakdown of where infections were acquired was due next week.
While Wednesday’s cases are nearly 80 more than the previous daily total, it has now been one week of relatively stable figures since the daunting record of 725 on August 5.
Mr Andrews said Melbourne would have “zero chance” of supressing the virus if people don’t continue to follow the restrictions and advice. He said “significant” restrictions could last into 2021 if the movement of people wasn’t limited.
He said at the end of Stage 4, Victoria could be in a position to “cautiously open up” if cases had lowered significantly.
Mr Andrews said earlier this week the current numbers are being shaped by Stage 3 restrictions and that Stage 4 should come into effect in the next week or so.
The state’s death toll now stands at 267, while there have been 352 deaths nationally.
Health authorities predicted the state’s death toll would continue to rise following surging case numbers in the prior weeks.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday there is a “seven to 10-day lag between the daily reports in numbers of cases and people dying”.
Premier clashes with federal government over hotel quarantine
Wednesday's record number of deaths comes amid a war of words between the state and federal governments over Victoria's botched hotel quarantine scheme.
Mr Andrews said on Tuesday at an inquiry the Australian Defence Force had not been on offer to guard the hotels when the scheme began.
But Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said ADF support had been offered to Victoria on multiple occasions.
On Wednesday Mr Andrews said he wasn’t interested in becoming embroiled in a dispute with the federal government and said Victoria was “deeply grateful” for their work alongside the ADF.
“The only quarrel, the only argument, the only fight that I'm engaged in or will ever be engaged in, until this is over, is the fight against this virus,” he said.
He repeatedly deflected questions from reporters on whether the ADF was available for hotel quarantine on its establishment, urging them to refer to a statement made by Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp regarding the matter.
“I can confirm that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) were involved in the initial planning of the hotel quarantine program,” Mr Crisp said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
“Representatives of the ADF participated in the Operation Soteria planning and coordination meetings on 27 and 28 March 2020.
“During these discussions I did not seek nor did representatives of the ADF offer assistance as part of the hotel quarantine program.”
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