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Vic backs up health system as virus grows

Victoria has recorded Australia’s highest single daily death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 people – including a man in his 40s – succumbing to the virus, while a further 459 cases were confirmed.

The state now has 71 of the country’s 155 confirmed deaths – 22 more than NSW – while 228 Victorians remain in hospital, including 42 in intensive care.

Despite the growing cases and fatalities, Premier Daniel Andrews says it’s too early to make a decision on extending the six-week lockdown in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

“I can’t tell you where we will be in the next three and a half weeks,” he told reporters.

“We’ve just got to go that extra bit to make sure that we’re not just bringing stability, but that we’re driving these numbers down.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra health authorities were watching the numbers closely, but he was hopeful as the numbers were remaining relatively steady.

Mr Andrews on Sunday again urged Victorians to follow the restrictions and hygiene practices as more national help was made available and extra resources were added to the health system to manage the Victorian outbreak.

The premier angrily called people who refused to follow the mandatory mask rule selfish.

“Ten families are going to be burying someone in the next few days. Wear a mask, it’s not too much to ask,” he said.

Students, retired doctors and the army will support the health system to help mitigate the added pressure of the virus spread across the community.

More than 4000 current and retired nurses and midwives have enrolled in Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation workshops for those eager to return to the workforce.

Around 20 Australian Defence Force members will begin a training program with paramedics, including driver training and proper PPE protocol.

“I hope that is seen as a particularly innovative way of putting the best skills to the best use,” Mr Andrews said.

Seven of the deaths registered overnight were linked to aged care centres, where there are 560 active cases.

The federal and Victorian governments have established a joint aged care response centre to assist with workforce provisions, the prevention of outbreaks and supporting providers.

Mr Andrews was concerned about the spread of the virus among care facilities as well as healthcare workers, where there are 381 active cases.

An outbreak at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner has recorded 78 cases while 82 have been linked to Estia Health in Ardeer.

Big clusters such as the 90 cases linked to Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham or the 69 linked to the JBS abattoir in Brooklyn have also shed a light over staff working while feeling unwell.

Mr Andrews said one of the learnings from the pandemic was how insecure work posed a real challenge not just for public health, but for providing for a family.

He reminded Victorians that $300 payments were available for those without access to sick leave while encouraging Victorians to keep getting tested.

The state had almost 43,000 tests conducted on Saturday and has surpassed 1.5 million tests since the start of the pandemic.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien expressed his concern over reported turnaround times of testing of almost a week, and urged the premier to speed up contact tracing.

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