Victoria has recorded more than 200 new cases
Victoria has recorded more than 200 new cases

208 new virus cases, 17 deaths in Victoria

There were 208 new cases of coronavirus announced in Victoria on Sunday, as authorities race to get on top of an outbreak at two Melbourne hospitals.

Seventeen Victorians have died in the past 24 hours.

Positive cases have been linked to Dandenong Hospital and Cabrini Hospital in Malvern.

The DHHS could not confirm how many infections across the two sites in a detailed list of outbreaks released on Saturday afternoon.

A volatile outbreak at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Royal Park campus continues to grow with active cases soaring to 155.

Channel 10's The Masked Singer was forced to shut down production on Saturday after seven crew members tested positive to the virus, sending everyone working on the show, including host Osher Gunsberg.

 

HOW NEW SYSTEM IS TARGETING AGED-CARE HOTSPOTS

An Australian-first system to tackle the COVID-19 aged-care crisis has cut the number of "critical" risk homes from 13 to four in about a fortnight.

New specialist hubs have been created to allow authorities to send staff and support to virus-ravaged centres, transcending private and public health systems in federal and state jurisdictions.

More than 700 patients have been evacuated from the worst homes and sent to hospitals.

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has rolled out the hubs in just three weeks to address a rising number of COVID-linked deaths in Victorian centres - which now stands at 261.

 

More than 700 patients have been evacuated from the worst homes and sent to hospitals. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
More than 700 patients have been evacuated from the worst homes and sent to hospitals. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

 

The new system ranks each aged-care home affected by the virus as either At Risk, New, Ongoing, or Critical, with the latter leading to ­urgent intervention.

VACRC executive officer Joe Buffone said "critical risk" facilities often required significant workforce and support services.

"When the model was first developed the Response Centre was tracking 13 facilities in the red category in early August. That number has stabilised to four facilities in the red category this week," he said.

There are nine health service hubs to deal with the outbreaks in aged-care centres, including four in hard-hit metropolitan areas.

 

The system is designed to head off fresh outbreaks; facilities untouched by the virus are provided training in infection control and prevention.

Incidents can be logged through a web-based system.

Mr Buffone said Victoria has about 52,000 residents in 767 aged-care facilities, 129 of which have a COVID-19 ­outbreak.

He said fewer than 1 per cent of homes were in the high risk category and while "those facilities are being actively monitored they are currently stable and are well supported".

 

CITY TO OFFER BEDS TO ROUGH SLEEPERS

City authorities are pushing ahead with plans to use council buildings to provide beds and support services for rough sleepers.

Hundreds of homeless people across Melbourne are currently housed in hotels under a state government-funded program during the pandemic.

But there are also dozens of rough sleepers with severe mental health issues who have refused the free hotel stays, with some moving to the suburbs to evade police scrutiny.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said a City of Melbourne plan announced last year to provide accommodation and wrap-around services for the vulnerable as they sought housing remained active, and funding options were being considered.

 

There are dozens of rough sleepers with severe mental health issues who have refused free hotel stays during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Jason Edwards
There are dozens of rough sleepers with severe mental health issues who have refused free hotel stays during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Jason Edwards

 

"We have also supported the Victorian government to provide emergency hotel accommodation for about 2000 rough sleepers from around the state during the pandemic," Ms Capp said.

"There is now a consensus that returning vulnerable people to the streets post-COVID is not an option."

Salvation Army Project 614 director Major Brendan Nottle said he supported the vision, but rough sleepers refusing hotel stays remained an issue.

"They do not see homelessness as their primary issue, but rather they would see that complex mental health issues and sometimes addiction issues are their main problems," he said.

"We shouldn't assume that a roof over everyone's head will address all of their problems, we need to ensure we are providing the appropriate resources to address the key needs of individuals."

Many rough sleepers who refused hotel rooms were going to the suburbs to avoid a big police presence in the city, he said.

 

A rough sleeper sets up a camp bed in a laneway off Swanston St.
A rough sleeper sets up a camp bed in a laneway off Swanston St.

 

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said hotel accommodation was being extended until April 2021, and Victorians would continue to be supported to access stable, long-term housing.

"We will arrange to lease 1100 properties from the private rental market, providing a permanent home for people once they leave emergency accommodation," he said.

Government aid includes $150m to transition homeless people to a home, and a $498m housing maintenance and ­refurbishment program.

- John Masanauskas

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAW FIRM MULLS GOVERNMENT SUIT

A second law firm is considering suing government departments and security firms implicated in the bungled hotel quarantine program.

Arnold Thomas and Becker may launch a class action over COVID-19 deaths connected with alleged negligence by security firms and government departments. The company is looking into allegations St Basil's aged-care home at Fawkner was negligent in its handling of the health crisis and breached its duty of care to residents, resulting in deaths.

Five deaths and 160 coronavirus cases have so far been linked to the nursing home, and a class action has not been ruled out over that outbreak.

"Thousands of people across Victoria have now been infected by COVID-19 as a result of the hotel quarantine fiasco," principal lawyer Larry Dent said

Law firm Phi Finney and McDonald has said it has fielded inquiries from businesses hit hard during the second wave of coronavirus and associated lockdowns, and was investigating the prospect of taking on the state government.

- Mandy Squires

 

The new system ranks each aged-care home affected by the virus as either At Risk, New, Ongoing, or Critical. Picture: Getty Images
The new system ranks each aged-care home affected by the virus as either At Risk, New, Ongoing, or Critical. Picture: Getty Images


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