Covid outbreak at cancer ward of children's hospital

·3-min read

Vulnerable child cancer patients and their carers have been forced into two weeks of isolation after a Covid-19 outbreak at a Melbourne children's hospital cancer ward.

Royal Children's Hospital chief executive Bernadette McDonald said the parent of a child being treated for cancer in the Kookaburra ward had tested positive for the virus "a couple of days ago".

She said the parent visited the hospital a few days before testing positive for Covid-19, with the ward now classified as a tier-one exposure site and all contacts required to isolate for 14 days.

Signage for the Royal Children’s Hospital is seen in Melbourne.
The Royal Children’s Hospital's cancer ward has been exposed to coronavirus. Source: AAP

Affected hospital patients and their parents or carers have been placed into single rooms within the hospital to quarantine.

"Every time we get an exposure site across the hospital it's concerning to all of us, and we're trying to minimise that as much as possible," she said.

"But we do know Covid in children is not as extreme.

"We're glad we've got lots of single rooms so we can isolate people quite safely."

She said the hospital's policy allowed one parent or carer to visit with a child "so that their care is maximised and they feel less anxious".

"That's a fine balance between restricting visitors and not having any visitors or parents at all," Ms McDonald said.

"We've got very clear screening processes in place."

CEO of The Royal Children’s Hospital Bernadette McDonald addresses media outside the RCH, in Melbourne.
CEO of The Royal Children’s Hospital Bernadette McDonald said a parent of one of the children receiving treatment at the hospital has tested positive for coronavirus. Source: AAP

Victoria records huge Covid spike

Victoria reported 1420 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday and 11 deaths, the most fatalities of the state's third wave.

The latest deaths are six women aged in their 60s to 90s and five men aged in their 50s to 80s, bringing the toll from the current outbreak to 68. Their vaccination status is not yet known.

Of Victoria's 25,000 total cases since mid-July, 84 per cent are unvaccinated.

There are 525 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, with 94 of those in intensive care and 53 on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, more Victorians stranded in the ACT and NSW will be able to return home as border restrictions ease and the state records the deadliest day of its latest Covid-19 outbreak.

From Wednesday, areas considered red zones in NSW and the ACT will be downgraded to orange zones.

The change will allow residents and non-residents to enter Victoria on condition they take a test within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until receiving a negative result.

Extreme risk zone classifications for locked-down areas such as Greater Sydney will also be downgraded to red, meaning Victorians can return if they isolate at home for 14 days.

It comes as the state government will buy almost 2.2 million rapid antigen tests to assist Victoria's health system when lockdown ends later this month.

The state will roll out rapid testing in health care and possibly other high-risk workplace settings such as schools, childcare centres, prisons and emergency services, as the state reopens after hitting 70 and 80 per cent vaccination coverage targets.

The national medicines regulator last week gave the green light for Australians to self-test for coronavirus at home from November but health authorities have been cautious in expanding their use given they are less reliable than PCR swabs.

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