Victoria records 459 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths in Australia’s deadliest day in pandemic | Australia news

A national record of 10 Covid-19 deaths was reported in Victoria on Sunday, including a man aged in his 40s, with seven of those deaths linked to aged care.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, also announced that 459 more cases of the virus had been identified since Saturday, and acknowledged the toll the virus was having among healthcare workers who were being infected or furloughed after being exposed.

There are now 381 healthcare workers with active cases of the virus, the premier said.

“That is a significant challenge, given, whilst we have overall capacity and we’ve worked very hard all throughout the year to grow the number of people that can be available for our fight against this virus in a clinical sense, whenever we have clinical staff and other critical health workers away, furloughed because they are a close contact or in fact as an active case, that does put some additional pressure on our system,” he said.

Retired health staff and paramedics were among those now being called on to address the health worker gap.

More than 4,000 current and retired nurses and midwives and 800 other skilled healthcare workers who may have left the workforce to undertake research or for a break are being trained to again be deployed across the health system, Andrews said.

From Monday, Australian defence force personnel will begin training with Ambulance Victoria, including driver training and proper personal protective equipment protocol. Paramedics are among those who have been infected by the virus in recent weeks, with 60 staff off work due to being infected or exposed to Covid-19.

There are 228 Victorians in hospital and 42 of those are receiving intensive care.

With a high number of cases still being announced more than 2.5 weeks into the lockdown announced for metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, Andrews did not rule out that the lockdown may need to be extended beyond six weeks.

“I will say is these things change rapidly, but these numbers are far too high,” the premier said.

He said while it was reassuring cases weren’t “doubling” and growing exponentially, “we’ve got to drive these numbers down”.

The premier implored Victorians to continue to get tested, stay home when sick, and follow the public health restrictions including wearing a mask.

Source of Covid-19 infections in Victoria

A graphic public health advertising campaign was launched on Sunday and was rolled out across radio, television and social media, featuring Covid-19 survivors who describe having the virus as being “like drowning”.

“I had coughing fits that went for one to two minutes. I was put in an induced coma, the doctors thought that I was going to die,” a man in his middle age says in one of the videos. “It is very real.”

Andrews said on Sunday: “There are 10 families that are going to be burying someone in the next few days.”

“Wear a mask,” he said. “It’s not too much to ask. Ten families are currently planning funerals. And the youngest among them, they have lost someone in their 40s. It can’t get any more serious than that. Please wear a mask. Everyone. And if you don’t, you will get fined. And that’s exactly as it should be.”

Of the 10 deaths, seven were in aged care. The transient and insecure nature of the aged care and healthcare work forces has been under the spotlight since Victoria’s second wave began. Casual workers often work multiple jobs across different health and agedcare facilities, increasing the chance of virus spread. Many cannot afford to take time off work while sick or awaiting a Covid-19 test result, prompting the premier to last week announce a $300 payment to any Victorian who has taken a test and without access to sick leave so they can isolate without their income being as severely affected.

Andrews said the crisis in the state had highlighted the need for a national discussion about the causal workforce. Insecure and casual work “is a structural weakness in our economy that has been very graphically exposed” through the pandemic, he said.

“Insecure work is no good for public health … that is something we have to return to, not just as Victorians, but perhaps at a national level once this is over,” he said.

Meanwhile in New South Wales, the state health department said on Sunday 14 new cases had been reported overnight.

Overall there are 99 cases being treated in hospitals in that state, with four people in intensive care.

Six new cases are linked to the Thai Rock restaurant cluster, and four are linked to funeral and related church services in south-western Sydney. Three cases are in returned travellers and one is under investigation.

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