The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Australia has reached 600, with authorities urging people to be cautious this weekend even as warmer weather encourages more socialising.
- The rate of daily new cases in Victoria has dropped below 100
- Authorities have warned Australians against being complacent as weather warms
- The Chief Nursing Officer has defended the Government’s response to COVID-19 in the aged care sector
Victoria has reported another 18 deaths in the past 24 hours, while New South Wales and Queensland are dealing with new cases.
Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan said while it was heartening to see daily cases in Victoria drop to below 100 for the first time in nearly two months, it was too early to celebrate.
“Many of us across the eastern seaboard particularly are seeing much nicer weather, we’re seeing perhaps the first signs of spring,” she said.
“So I need to ask everyone to remember that now is not the time to be complacent as we see the sun come out.
“It’s still really important please to [have] 1.5 metres of physical distancing, [wash] your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser, those cough etiquettes, sneeze etiquettes that we’ve become so used to.”
Aged care response again in focus
Professor McMillan also defended the Federal Government’s response to COVID-19 within the aged care sector amid criticism from the NSW Health Department.
An independent review of the outbreak at Sydney’s Newmarch House, where 19 people died, found a lack of clarity about the function of state and federal health agencies created confusion during the crisis.
In its response to the report, NSW Health said an “apparent lack of preparedness of residential aged care facilities” had prompted it to “step in” and ensure aged care facilities have comprehensive plans in place.
The Federal Government is responsible for funding and regulating the sector and has previously rejected claims made at the Royal Commission into Aged Care that it did not have a plan in place to deal with the pandemic.
“We put a huge amount of work into preparing our aged care facilities which included training on PPE [personal protective equipment], additional work with guidance and guidelines around how to prepare, how to respond to an outbreak in a residential aged care facility,” Professor McMillan said.
“We were prepared but we’ve been able to learn further and we’ll continue to learn about this disease over time and we’ll apply those lessons learned into the future.”
Federal Labor’s Shadow Minister for Ageing, Julie Collins, used the NSW Health statement to reiterate calls for the Aged Care minister Richard Colbeck to resign.
“This is not just Labor saying there’s no plan for aged care,” she said.
“It is the royal commission saying there was no plan. The New South Wales Liberal Government saying that there was no plan.”
Senator Colbeck has apologised for a gaffe in which he was not able to say how many people in aged care facilities had died from COVID-19 but argued the Government was working hard on the coronavirus response in the sector and was learning from its mistakes.