Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for aged care failings but rejected claims his government lacks a coronavirus plan for the sector.
The federal government was this week accused of having no specific plan for nursing homes by the counsel assisting the aged care royal commission.
Peter Rozen QC said the federal government was still without a coronavirus plan for nursing homes, despite Sydney outbreaks in March and the ongoing crisis engulfing Melbourne facilities.
Mr Morrison conceded there had been unacceptable shortcomings in aged care.
“On the days that the system falls short, on the days that expectations are not met, I’m deeply sorry about that, of course I am,” he told reporters in Canberra.
But he argued the global pandemic had created unique circumstances, despite multiple reports warning of problems in the sector well before the disease hit.
There have been 215 coronavirus deaths among residential aged care residents, including 188 in past week alone.
The prime minister pinned the Victorian aged care catastrophe on community transmission of coronavirus.
“There is not some special force field around aged-care facilities,” he told reporters in Canberra.
He rejected suggestions the government had been complacent.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese called on the government to establish a national unit to coordinate aged care response, as proposed at the royal commission.
“When I think of what is going on in aged care facilities at the moment, some of the stories that I’m hearing, the pictures that we’re seeing, my heart is shredded,” he said.
But Mr Morrison argued the government was effectively performing the same role.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly pointed to the special response team in Melbourne, despite the floated national unit being about prevention in all states and territories.
“Rather than looking at a national one well away from the action, we are going to straight where the action is required and dealing with those matters,” he said.
Australia’s death toll rose to 375 on Friday after 14 more deaths in Victoria, including the country’s youngest victim, a man aged in his 20s.
There were 372 new cases in Victoria, representing an uptick on the previous day but much lower than a week ago, signalling the impact of Melbourne’s harsh restrictions.
NSW recorded nine new cases, while Queensland’s two new infections were detected in a traveller from Sydney and two crew of a cargo ship.