More than 7000 COVID-19 cases in aged care as hundreds of homes locked down

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More than 1100 aged care homes across Australia are battling COVID-19 outbreaks, with 7014 active cases in residents and aged care workers.

Federal health department data released on Friday night shows the number of facilities with coronavirus outbreaks has more than doubled in a week, an increase from 495 reported on January 8.

The spike in infections comes as aged care advocates this week called for mandated visitor policies to be introduced, with thousands of residents plunged into ongoing lockdowns and the sector facing severe staffing shortages.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO Paul Sadler said it was likely more than half of the 2700 federally funded aged care facilities would be hit with an outbreak in coming days.

“ACSA is disappointed but not surprised to see that over 1100 aged care homes now have outbreaks. It is essential we fix the supply chain problems that are preventing rapid tests and personal protective equipment from getting to aged care homes,” Mr Sadler said.

“We must do all that we can to provide an immediate boost to staffing levels in affected homes, especially as cases are likely to keep rising.”

There are 1107 homes across the country with active outbreaks, with 3208 aged care residents infected and 3806 staff. In NSW, there are 425 facilities affected by outbreaks, with 1530 resident cases and 1580 staff infections.

More than 1100 aged care homes are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.Credit:Getty Images

In Victoria, there were 800 resident cases and 907 staff cases associated with active virus outbreaks, 367 resident and 620 staff cases in Queensland and 462 resident and 582 staff cases in South Australia.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said while the high levels of vaccination among aged care residents was reassuring, the health impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable older people meant special consideration was given when reviewing infection control.

Guidelines published by the NSW government’s Clinical Excellence Commission state that residents that have close, face-to-face contact for longer than 15 minutes with a positive case are classified as high risk and need to isolate for 14 days.

“In light of high levels of vaccination in these facilities and the prevalence of the milder Omicron strain, NSW Health is continuing to work with the Commonwealth to review current infection controls, considering the feedback from the sector, clinicians, residents, and families,” a spokesperson said.

“The clinical and welfare needs of residents remain paramount.”

The spokesperson said while aged care is a federal responsibility, NSW Health and the federal health department have a “joint protocol to support the management of COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in residential aged care facilities.”

Thirty-seven care residents have died from COVID-19 this year, with 25 deaths reported since last week.

Government figures provided this week showed that 1700 out of 2700 federally funded aged care services around the country had been visited by medical firms to provide a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

“All facilities scheduled for in-reach through VAS providers are expected to receive boosters by the end of January 2022,” a federal health department spokesperson said.

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