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Health staff infection rates spark concern

High rates of Victorian healthcare workers infected with coronavirus at work have sparked national concern from top infection control experts.

A Victorian government report found 70 to 80 per cent of health employees infected with the disease during the state’s second wave caught it at work.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is keen to drill down on the data to see what can be done to protect health workers nationally.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has written to report author Andrew Wilson, who is the state CMO, for further detail.

“That could very much have national implications,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s important our primary people that are looking at infection control … are able to look at that data and really get a sense of what has been happening in our healthcare workforce.”

Professor Kelly said determining where infections were occurring in hospitals would be fundamental.

“That’s why we need further data, we need to consider that and see what we need to do, in terms of protecting that workforce,” he said.

Professor Wilson blamed poor infection control as the main driver of infection, along with aged care workers moving between facilities.

Other leading causes of infection include shared spaces, substandard personal protective equipment use and ageing ventilation systems.

Prof Kelly said hospitals and nursing homes were high risk because of workers’ proximity to patients.

“From the beginning, we’ve been looking for the best expert advice in relation to how to protect healthcare workers.”

Victoria has suffered a sharp rise in coronavirus deaths, with 24 fatalities recorded on Wednesday, taking the national toll to 549.

The state recorded another 149 infections, with new cases below 150 for the third consecutive day.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed problems with Victorian hotel quarantine, contact tracing and virus testing under Premier Daniel Andrews.

He rejected suggestions the intensified attack would fracture the national cabinet.

“I wasn’t seeking to direct any blame anywhere. I was just basically calling out what was the simple facts,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We can’t ignore the fact of what’s happened in Victoria and I don’t believe the Victorian premier is ignoring it either.”

Mr Morrison also raised concerns with the Victorian premier about his push to extend emergency powers for another 12 months.

He said Mr Andrews was not suggesting lockdowns would continue for the same period but needed to be careful about how announcements were made.

South Australia is considering reopening its borders to NSW and the ACT within the next fortnight.

But to the prime minister’s frustration, Queensland will not follow suit.

NSW recorded six new cases and moved 366 people out of a Sydney hotel after dumping it from the quarantine program.

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