World

Melbourne deploys disaster teams to virus-hit elderly homes

MELBOURNE: Australia is deploying disaster-relief teams to elderly care homes in Melbourne overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, officials said yesterday.

The stepped-up response came as Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported another 295 cases and nine more deaths in the worst outbreak to hit the country since the pandemic began.

Seven deaths were in Melbourne nursing homes, which have recorded more than 800 infections among residents and workers in the past few weeks.

At one of the worst-hit facilities, Epping Gardens, an ambulance was seen yesterday taking away the body of one of the deceased residents.

Health workers rolled other masked residents on stretchers to waiting ambulances for transfer to hospital.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 13 of the Melbourne care homes were in a "critical" situation with many staff members in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

He said five of the Australian Medical Assistance Teams units would start moving into the hardest-hit facilities today to help deal with the "very distressing" crisis.

"They act as a first responder... into places that are going through a critical response need and to stabilise the situation," Mr Morrison told a press conference.

Yesterday's toll of 295 new cases was the smallest daily increase in several days, but health authorities said it was too early to declare the outbreak under control.

Sydney, in neighbouring New South Wales state, was dealing with a smaller but spreading outbreak with 19 new cases, mainly in clusters linked to several restaurants and schools.

Australia has recorded about 15,600 cases and 176 deaths. - AFP

WORLD