Victorians should brace themselves for a much higher death toll — which could be twice as high as the current numbers — one expert warns as the state deals with fallout from its outbreak.
While Victoria appears to have turned a corner on its daily case numbers, the state announced a record 19 deaths on Monday and the toll is set to rise.
University of NSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is a member of a WHO advisory panel on COVID-19, told news.com.au deaths could increase substantially.
The coronavirus is particularly lethal among older patients and has had already had devastating impacts in aged care homes in other states.
Prof McLaws pointed to the experience at Newmarch House in NSW, where about 50 per cent of the 37 residents who got infected, died.
“It’s very tough,” Prof McLaws said. “But that was in a small facility so you can’t necessarily assume this is going to happen again.”
However, figures from overseas showed the death rate in aged care facilities could be anywhere from 25 to 62 per cent, she said.
So far about 12 per cent of Victorian aged care residents infected with the coronavirus had died.
“Sadly it could go higher,” Prof McLaws said. “It could be twice as high.”
Victoria’s outbreak has seen 1061 residents in at least 122 aged care homes infected with the coronavirus, and 125 of these have died, she said. These numbers don’t include staff or other cases linked to aged care outbreaks.
“It’s just the sheer numbers … the case load is high,” Prof McLaws said.
She said at this point it was difficult to predict with any certainty how bad it would get without knowing what level of illness residents were experiencing and whether it was mild, moderate or severe.
Deaths in the state have already increased by more than 100 in less than 10 days. Unfortunately as cases go down, deaths will still increase because patients take up to 30 days to recover or die.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd warned more people would die because of the “devastating effect” on aged-care facilities.
“This is the tragedy of COVID-19 and the tragedy of the high numbers we have seen in Australia over the past few weeks,” Prof Kidd said.
“We will also continue to have significant risk of COVID-19 infection for senior Australians, receiving care in both residential aged care facilities and at home.”