Australia warned of more virus deaths

Australia

The deputy chief medical officer has warned Australia’s death toll could rise further given the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections in Victoria, and as worries mount over a potential cluster linked to a pub in Sydney.

Dr Nick Coatsworth’s warning on Sunday came as a man in his 70s died in Victoria, taking the national death toll to 108. The state reported the death of a 90-year old man on Saturday.

“Deaths are a reality of COVID-19, they are the reality of a pandemic,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra.

“It is possible that the death toll will increase, there is no doubt about that.”

But he said Australia had learnt a lot during the pandemic and it had been able to avoid the large numbers of deaths seen overseas, particularly in elderly members of the community.

Victoria reported a further 279 COVID-19 cases, following on from 216 reported on Saturday and a record 288 infections on Friday. The state has recorded more than 1000 cases in the past week.

NSW recorded five new cases and authorities in the state are concerned about community transmission, especially a cluster from a Sydney pub.

An 18-year-old staffer has been confirmed among the now nine cases in The Crossroads Hotel cluster at Casula in Sydney’s southwest.

Dr Coatsworth said people who visited the pub between July 3 and 10 should self-isolate immediately and get tested for COVID-19 regardless of their symptoms.

That includes people who have now left NSW and freight drivers who are known to frequent the venue.

“Without using the obvious pun, we are definitely at a crossroads in NSW,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

She said NSW had the opportunity to clamp down on community transmission or go the way of Victoria, which was why the number of flights from overseas would be capped and returned travellers would be charged for quarantining in hotels, as was agreed by the national cabinet on Friday.

Returning travellers will be charged $3000 for an adult, rising to $5000 for a family of four.

“We believe this is fair,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“Australian residents overseas have had three or four months to think about what they want to do. What we need to do is protect our citizens and put resources where they are needed most and that’s in community tracing.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese backs the national cabinet’s decision but hopes no one’s health is put at risk by putting off a return to Australia because of the cost of quarantine.

“I”m sure that governments will apply a common sense principle there,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews again emphasised the need to follow the lockdown rules in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell shire to try curb the spread of the virus.

“This is not an ordinary Sunday. These next six weeks are not an ordinary winter,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“We all have to play our part, we cannot ignore the circumstances we face. Nobody wanted to be in this position, but this is where we find ourselves.”

By contrast, the nation’s third largest state Queensland – which only last Friday reopened its borders after more than three months – reported another day of no new cases.

Western Australia was the only other jurisdiction to report a case, one recently returned traveller in hotel quarantine.

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