Victoria recorded nine deaths and 295 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday.
Seven of the nine deaths were elderly people in aged care as the sector suffers through 804 cases in 77 homes with chronic staff shortages across Melbourne.
The dead include two people in their 90s, five in their 80s, one in their 70s and one in their 60s.
There are 307 Victorians in hospital with 41 in intensive care. The number of active cases has hit 4,849.
A total of 46 deaths have happened in aged care as the state’s death toll hits 92 – more than half the national count of 176.
The daily total of 295 gives hope that Melbourne is past the peak of the crisis after recording 532 cases on Monday and 364 on Tuesday.
Hospital staff and Australian Defence Force medics are being sent into Victoria’s coronavirus-stricken aged care facilities.
On Wednesday morning Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the care homes were struggling to cope as infected staff are told to isolate.
‘No business in Australia has a business continuity plan that accounts for their entire workforce not being able to go to work,’ he said.
‘I think in a lot of ways that has led some of the most affected institutions to where they are now.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said some care homes in Melbourne were more like hospitals.
‘The aged care facilities that are in the most distressed situation, you wouldn’t describe as being in a normal aged care environment with residents,’ he said.
‘They have moved effectively into an in-patient care type facility akin to what you would see in a hospital.’
Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said there was no way to stop nursing homes from getting the virus brought in by workers.
‘Despite all the preparation, the infection control planning, the deployment of PPE, the pandemic and infection control plans that every facility has created, the restrictions on visitors, staff screenings, all of those cannot protect against what the Prime Minister said it was the inadvertent bringing into the facility of this virus,’ Murphy said.
‘One of the things we have all learned about this virus in the last six months is this terrible combination of a virus that can spread so easily in fit young people, sometimes without any symptoms, and yet when it gets into our frail elderly people, it wreaks havoc.’
Non-urgent elective surgeries in Melbourne have been cancelled to free up staff to help in the homes.
Government sources told news.com.au that Premier Andrews was reluctant to take that step.
The publication reported that the federal chief medical officer advised Mr Andrews to make the move last week but he held out until the Prime Minister texted him on Monday.
The Prime Minister played down any suggestions of tension, saying: ‘The Premier and I enjoy a very good working relationship. We enjoy a high level of respect for each other.’
On Tuesday the premier told reporters he would not want his mother in some of the federally regulated homes, prompting an emotional defence of carers and nurses from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Mr Hunt’s father Alan, who was a state politician for more than three decades, spent the final months of his life in aged care.
‘The idea that our carers, that our nurses are not providing that care, I think, is a dangerous statement to make,’ the health minister said.
‘They are wonderful human beings and I won’t hear a word against them.’
Outbreaks at meatworks across Melbourne have also increased, with 99 cases linked to Somerville Meats Retail Services in Tottenham and 89 associated with Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said there was some good news regarding an outbreak at the Royal Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, where a baby, two parents and a health care worker tested positive on Monday.
She said all other babies in the unit had tested negative, with just one result pending.