Australia’s deputy chief medical officer has warned of more coronavirus deaths in coming days after the Victorian outbreak led to a national infection record.
There is growing concern about nursing homes with five of the six deaths reported on Monday linked to aged care.
Australia recorded 549 new cases, with 532 in Victorian and the rest in NSW, to outstrip a previous high of 502 from five days ago.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the figures were deeply concerning for health authorities.
“The tragedy of COVID-19 is that we know with the number of new infections that we have seen today, that there will be many further deaths in the days ahead,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Almost one in 10 people infected with coronavirus in Victoria since April are either aged care residents or staff, representing more than 600 cases.
The national death toll is now 161.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was premature to be making calls about harsher lockdowns, but stressed it was important to keep all options open.
Melbourne and Mitchell Shire’s second wave of restrictions will remain in place until August 19.
But with new cases of coronavirus continuing to surge, there are serious doubts about the end date.
Mr Morrison agreed with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews that making face masks mandatory was effectively an escalation of restrictions.
“He will take advice and make assessments, I would think, over the next week or so about what further may be required at the end of the period that he’s set out,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
Mr Morrison said it was inevitable aged care would be affected when community transmission was occurring.
“In aged-care facilities you are dealing with the most vulnerable members of our community and that is where you see the most awful of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The federal government is working with state authorities to transfer residents with coronavirus to hospitals and ensure strict infection control.
National stockpiles of personal protective equipment are being drawn on for aged care.
Australia experienced its deadliest day of the pandemic on Sunday after 10 Victorians died.
Seven of the deaths were linked to nursing homes.
Mr Morrison called for patience as health authorities deal with significant levels of community transmission.
“That will take some time to get on top of and that is what the actions are directed to addressing right at this very moment,” he said.