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War of words rages over hotel quarantine

Victoria has recorded another 21 coronavirus deaths as the state and federal governments play tit-for-tat over defence force assistance for hotel quarantine.

The record daily death toll came as another 410 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 267, while there have been 352 deaths nationally.

Premier Daniel Andrews used his daily briefing on Wednesday to take a swipe at federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who claimed Victoria knocked back an offer to have Australian Defence Force help with the state’s hotel quarantine scheme.

The premier told an inquiry on Tuesday the ADF never offered to guard the hotels.

The botched program, which used private security companies, was the catalyst for Victoria’s second wave.

“I don’t know the federal defence minister. I don’t deal with her. I deal with the prime minister,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

The retort came after the defence minister released a statement saying ADF support was offered to Victoria multiple times.

“The ADF was consistently advised that its assistance was not required for any “public-facing roles’ in Victoria,” Senator Reynolds said.

Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner Andrew Crisp released his own statement, saying he did not ask for ADF help and it was not offered for hotel quarantine in March, adding it also wasn’t discussed in April.

Hundreds of defence force personnel are now in Victoria helping the state try and bring case numbers under control.

The premier also appeared to take a swipe at Canberra on Wednesday when he pointed to the disparity in Victorian case numbers between private aged care and public facilities.

Mr Andrews noted that of the 1929 active cases, only six are in the state-run public facilities – that trend has been known for several weeks.

Private facilities answer to Canberra.

Politicking between the state and commonwealth came as two women and a man aged in their 70s, six women and five men in their 80s, five men and a woman in their 90s, and a woman in her 100s were revealed as COVID-19’s latest victims.

Sixteen of the 21 people who succumbed to the virus in the 24 hours to Wednesday were in aged care.

The premier refuted a report in The Australian that some aged care residents were being refused transfers to hospital and were sedated instead.

“I’ve asked some questions about those reports and the advice that I have from the team of people who are directly responsible for this … the notion that people are being refused (transfers) is not the advice I have,” Mr Andrews said.

There were 662 Victorians in hospital with the virus on Wednesday, including 43 in intensive care.

A total of 7877 cases remain active across the state, including 1079 in healthcare workers. A little over half of those contracted the virus at work, the premier said.

Outbreaks in disability homes have reached 162 cases since the pandemic began.

Since the start of June, there have also been 630 cases in 69 separate school outbreaks. Food premises accounted for 268 cases across eight outbreaks over the same period. Jails recorded 33 cases.

Meanwhile, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo have experienced concerning increases in cases.

“They’re very low numbers but coming off such a low base, any additional cases are of concern to us,” Mr Andrews said.

A week after stage four restrictions shut all non-essential businesses, the premier said the curve appeared to be flattening but there was a long way to go.

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