Speaking to reporters on Monday, Scott Morrison was asked whether the government should be held responsible for the alarming rate of deaths related to COVID-19 in aged care facilities.
A Royal Commission into the aged care sector has found 68 per cent of coronavirus deaths in Australia have been linked to aged care facilities, one of the worst ranked countries in the world by that measure.
“We've always known that the most vulnerable in our community are the elderly, as well as others who have other comorbidities and health issues, receiving treatment for cancer and so on, those in indigenous communities,” he said.
“And so it is sadly not surprising that we would see the highest proportion of those who've been fatally affected by the COVID-19 virus to be those in aged care facilities, because they are the most vulnerable in our community.”
The Prime Minister argued the startling statistics around aged care deaths speak to the “greater success” of preventing fatalities in the broader community, as “the fatalities have been more restricted to those who have been the most vulnerable in aged care facilities”.
Mr Morrison slammed what he saw as suggestions in the media that those in older demographics should be “offered up” to the coronavirus.
“There've been some suggestions, I've read it in pieces that have been written in the outlets that you represent, that somehow our elderly should in some way have been offered up in relation to this virus,” Mr Morrison said.
“That is just a hideous thought. An absolutely amoral, hideous thought, one that I have had no countenance with from the very first time it was suggested.”
No federal pandemic plan for virus-hit sector
While the rise in new coronavirus cases in Australia’s epicentre appears to have been arrested, Monday was the deadliest day, with 19 deaths being recorded in 24 hours in Victoria, taking Australia’s death toll to 314.
A Royal Commission into aged care has uncovered gross negligence, under staffing and poor conditions in the troubled sector.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed all of the flaws of the aged care sector," Counsel assisting the commission Peter Rozen QC told Monday's hearing.
The commission also heard federal health authorities failed to develop a pandemic plan for the sector, despite Mr Rozen saying it was the greatest challenge facing aged care.
He said while much was done to prepare the health system, evidence will reveal neither the Federal Health Department nor aged care regulator developed a sector-specific plan.
This was despite federal Health Minister Greg Hunt saying in late July aged care was "immensely prepared", Mr Rozen added.
Mr Rozen said since April, the commission has received more than 360 submissions which refer to inadequate staff infection control training and a lack of access to personal protective equipment.
The response of two Sydney homes, Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge, which both had deadly outbreaks, will be closely examined.
There was a "stand off" between federal and NSW officials early in the outbreak at Newmarch House about whether virus-positive residents should be hospitalised.
Of 37 positive residents, two were transferred to hospital. One of those died, with another 16 fatalities occurring at the home.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.