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Aged deaths 'catastrophe' - PM rushes back to Canberra for emergency talks

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison will return to Canberra for crisis talks about deadly coronavirus outbreaks in Victorian nursing homes.

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Morrison has cut short his planned tour of Queensland, as fears mount about more deaths of aged care residents across Melbourne.

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

Victoria has recorded 384 new coronavirus cases, and six more patients with COVID-19 have died.

Premier Daniel Andrews said two people aged in their 90s, three people in their 80s and one person in their 70s had died.

Four of those fatalities are linked to clusters in private-sector aged care homes.

As of Monday, there were 683 active coronavirus cases among staff and residents at 61 Victorian aged care facilities.

Morrison said Australian Defence Force officers and nurses had been used to plug staff shortages in one aged care home on Monday night after workers were stood down to isolate.

“The situation in Victoria aged care is very complex,” he said.

He said workforce issues had motivated the decision to return to Canberra for urgent talks.

“It’s not a simple issue,” the Prime Minister said.

“It would be nice to say that there are simple solutions to these complex problems, but there are not.

“There are no fail-safe or foolproof solutions that you can put in place.”

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has been tasked with ensuring communication with families is fixed after severe disruptions.

NSW reported another 14 cases overnight, including a woman who was on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney on July 25. Other passengers seated near the woman will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Queensland’s COVID-19 situation was unchanged on Tuesday, still with five active cases, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the NSW developments warranted close attention.

“We will not hesitate to slam the borders shut if there is an outbreak of community transmission in Sydney,” Palaszczuk said.

“We are watching New South Wales incredibly closely.”

Palaszczuk, visiting Proserpine today, said she hadn’t been contacted by the Prime Minister but would have been happy to meet with him during his brief visit. She said the pandemic required ongoing vigilance and cooperation.

The bulk of the 161 coronavirus deaths in Australia have been people aged over 70, including 67 residents in aged care.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said for families with loved ones in aged care, the situation was the most terrifying moment of the pandemic.

“This is a catastrophe. This is a system which is in crisis,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“This is a matter of heartbreak for families who are having to farewell loved ones – but not in person, in ICUs across the state.”

Marles urged the Federal Government to address the “unfolding calamity”, accusing the coalition of using glib one-liners over action.

-AAP

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