A new Covid-19 case discovered in Victoria has been described as Australia’s “worst-case scenario”.
Victorians are currently enduring a seven-day lockdown with the coronavirus cluster on Sunday rising to 40 cases.
One of the cases identified is a so-called “mystery case” in the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility in Melbourne’s northwest.
Health authorities are scrambling to determine how the female health care worker, who lives in Altona, caught the virus. She was asymptomatic and wore a mask when she worked shifts on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The aged care positive case is an extreme concern to us,” Victoria testing commander Jeroen Weimar told reporters on Sunday.
He said it was the first mystery case reported during the current outbreak and was located in “our most vulnerable and sensitive setting”.
Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett said the case was a “worst-case scenario”.
“Having the virus get into an aged care facility is a big concern,” Prof Bennett told The Project.
She said around half the people in the facility had received one vaccine dose but it was unclear how many had been fully vaccinated.
“So having a worker unknowingly take the virus in, is our worst case scenario just because of the risk of serious illness amongst the people in that facility.”
Lisa Wilkinson asked if it was true that 15 per cent of eligible aged care residents were refusing to be vaccinated.
“If we can’t convince them to be vaccinated does that mean that these facilities and everyone in them will always be at risk?” she asked.
Professor Bennett responded it was correct and said she hoped the outbreak would convince more people to get vaccinated.
“This isn’t an abstract idea about the virus, it’s very real. And we can now see how quickly it can get into a facility. At the end of the day if people still choose not to be vaccinated, despite their own personal high risk, then we’ll have to manage that risk.
“It will mean that perhaps aged care facilities are ‘cohorted’ into people who are vaccinated and the ones not vaccinated.”
The risk of dying or ending up in intensive care after getting Covid-19 increases threefold for every decade of a person’s life, immunisation expert Associate Professor Margie Danchin of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has previously told news.com.au.
While residents in aged care facilities have been prioritised in Australia’s vaccination program, many have still not had the jab.
Last week Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed residents in 74 aged care facilities around Australia had still not received their vaccinations.
This is despite the government suggesting in mid-February that it would take just six weeks to complete vaccinations in the sector.
Mr Hunt told 7.30 on Thursday all the facilities in Victoria were expected to have access to at least their first jab by the end of the week.
On Sunday he revealed that up to 15 per cent of aged care residents hadn’t been vaccinated because they hadn’t consented to the jab.
Prof Bennett said this meant people in those facilities would be at risk but that hopefully the latest outbreak would get people thinking.
“This isn’t an abstract idea about the virus. It is very real and we can see how quickly it can get into a facility,” she said.
However, she said if people did choose not to be vaccinated, despite their own personal high risk, authorities would have to manage this.
Prof Bennett said facilities may have to group together people who were not vaccinated and they may be the first to not be able to have visitors during an outbreak situation, in order to protect them.
“This is something that we’ll have to now look at very carefully,” she said.
“But perhaps, like vaccination generally, the current outbreak might in fact inspire people to get that extra protection.”
There are already signs that Victoria’s outbreak is prompting a surge in vaccinations.
Mr Hunt said on Sunday that almost 600,000 had been vaccinated over six days, setting a new record high.
“This week has seen Australians come out in record numbers, we are six days into the week and already we have seen a record number of Australians for this week, 599,846 be vaccinated,” Mr Hunt said.
“More people are being vaccinated at a faster rate than ever before”.
In total about 4.2 million vaccine doses have been administered.
by Charis Chang, news.com.au