National

Health chief blasts aged care plan critics

By AAP Newswire

Australia's deputy chief medical officer has lashed out at critics of the coronavirus response in aged care and defended government efforts to protect vulnerable residents.

Victoria set another grim record on Wednesday, with 21 new deaths, 16 of which were linked to nursing homes.

Professor Joseph Ibrahim told the aged care royal commission there was a lack of urgency and an attitude of futility, which would lead to more deaths.

"In my opinion, hundreds of residents ... will die prematurely because people have failed to act," the leading aged care expert said on Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the comments did not reflect federal and state government efforts to save people in aged care.

"The assertion there was an attitude of futility towards death in residential aged care in Australia is frankly insulting to the entire Australian community who locked down to prevent deaths amongst our most vulnerable," he told reporters in Canberra.

The deputy medical chief confirmed there would be more deaths linked to aged care outbreaks.

"Every one of those deaths will have an impact on husbands and wives, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters," Dr Coatsworth said.

He said that since January, governments and senior health officials recognised the likelihood coronavirus could cause severe death rates in older people.

Australia's death toll is now 352, with more than two thirds of those tied to aged care.

Victoria recorded 410 new cases on Wednesday, which was higher than the previous day but in line with a downward trend in the past week.

The federal and Victorian government are locked in a war of words over whether the Australian Defence Force could have helped with the state's bungled hotel quarantine system.

NSW recorded 18 new infections, with most tied to known outbreaks.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned tougher restrictions could be on the way if people don't wear masks and businesses fail to comply with the rules.

State borders also look likely to remain closed for the foreseeable future, causing immense stress for families desperate to visit sick or dying relatives.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack acknowledged it was an awful situation, but urged people wanting to take interstate trips not to get ahead of themselves.

"The virus has to be contained and minimised," Mr McCormack told the Nine Network.