NSW records 18 deaths, 8389 COVID-19 cases as PM describes aged care situation as a ‘crisis'

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NSW has recorded 18 deaths and 8389 new cases of COVID-19, as the federal government contemplates mobilising healthcare staff from other areas and the Defence Force to help the aged care sector with soaring infection rates.

Of the new cases reported on Saturday, 5300 were self-reported from at-home tests and 3089 were from PCR testing.

There are 2337 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 152 are in intensive care units.

More than 40,000 aged care residents are yet to receive booster vaccine shots across the sector and an industry peak body estimates just 40 per cent of workers have had three doses.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had asked Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Health Minister Greg Hunt to discuss the Defence Force intervention, calling the problem a "crisis" at one point before describing it as a "situation of this nature" and then confirming the "crisis" description.

Mr Morrison said the Omicron wave had caused "terrible challenges" in aged care, with about half of the country's aged care facilities battling outbreaks and the death toll among residents nearing 600. Official figures show 40,733 aged care residents who are eligible for a third dose are yet to receive a booster.

Paul Sadler, chief executive of peak body Aged and Community Services Australia, said in NSW about 30 to 40 per cent of aged care staff had received boosters.

At the same time, thousands of aged care workers had either caught the virus or been forced into isolation as close contacts, putting "huge pressure" on a system that was already struggling to cope, Mr. Sadler said. He urged the government to send support into the sector now.

"We've been saying this is a crisis for some weeks now, since the Omicron wave started, and we can't leave older people without adequate levels of care for too long.

Labor has called for Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck to resign over the booster rollout, with Federal Parliament meeting on Tuesday and Labor leader Anthony Albanese planning to intensify pressure on Mr. Morrison over Senator Colbeck's performance, after the minister attended a three-day cricket match as aged care cases and deaths rose.

Labor's health and aged care spokesman, Mark Butler, said: "I just don't think he's up to the job of dealing with a sector that is yet again in crisis, he's not demonstrated any ability to get things done."

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Saturday that he was focused on getting boosters administered across the state, including in aged care.

"If there's any support we can provide to the federal government in relation to aged care, we will."

NSW Health's Dr. Jeremy McAnulty told reporters on Saturday that while cases of the BA.2 variant were increasing across the state, "there is no indication that it has any different characteristics to the usual Omicron variant."


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