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Grave concern over virus hitting aged care

The survival of hundreds of Melbourne nursing home residents with coronavirus has been elevated to national crisis talks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday cut short his planned tour of Queensland to return to Canberra for urgent discussions about aged care.

Workforce shortages in facilities have prompted Mr Morrison to abandon his schedule after Labor demanded more federal government action.

“The urgency of the situation requires me to return to Canberra,” he said on the Sunshine Coast.

The prime minister revealed Australian Defence Force nurses were sent into one aged care home overnight to address staffing gaps.

Victoria recorded 384 new cases and six more deaths on Tuesday, taking the national toll to 167.

Four aged care residents are among the latest victims.

In the past three days, almost three quarters of the 22 deaths have been linked to nursing home outbreaks.

New infections fell from a record high of 532 one day earlier with authorities hopeful modelling suggests the peak may have been reached.

There are 769 active cases among aged care residents and staff.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he didn’t have confidence all private sector aged care providers could keep residents safe.

“Some of the stories we’ve heard, some of what’s gone on in some of these settings is simply not acceptable,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

He said the state government had offered the federally regulated sector assistance, with registered nurses being sent to help.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has asked the aged care commissioner to investigate a virus-hit home after reports people were left without food and lying in soiled sheets.

The bulk of St Basil’s residents in Melbourne’s north have been transferred, with more expected to be moved on Tuesday.

Victoria has reimposed restrictions on elective surgery, with only category one and the most urgent category two procedures to go ahead.

Mr Hunt urged caution over modelling showing Victoria may have reached its peak.

“We won’t count any flattening of the curve until we see a week of sustained lower cases. At this point, cases have been rising, not falling,” he told the ABC.

There were 14 new cases in NSW recorded on Tuesday – 13 locally acquired and one in hotel quarantine.

Passengers who flew from Melbourne to Sydney on flight JQ506 on July 25 are being told to self-isolate after a person on board tested positive.

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