Australian Health and Aged Care Officials to Face Virus Inquiry

September 28, 2020 Updated: September 29, 2020

Health and aged care officials will be front and centre of a parliamentary inquiry running a fine tooth comb over the federal government’s COVID-19 response.

Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy is set to front the Senate inquiry on Sept. 29, alongside other senior officials from the department’s aged care team.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson will also be grilled at the hearing.

Murphy, who was until recently the nation’s former top medical officer, recently admitted to a separate inquiry the aged care sector was under financial pressure and needed a funding redesign.

The federal government’s handling of coronavirus outbreaks in the sector has been under intense scrutiny, with 654 people in residential aged care facilities dead with coronavirus.

The majority of the deaths have been in Victoria.

The state recorded just five new coronavirus cases on Sept. 28, the lowest daily number since June 12.

But authorities are concerned the number of people getting tested is also dropping, with high-risk industries such as aged care, abattoirs and hospitals to have targeted testing.

Victoria also recorded another three deaths on Monday, taking the national toll to 875.

The state’s 14-day rolling average, the critical marker for easing restrictions, has fallen to 20.3 in metropolitan Melbourne and is stable across the regions.

NSW recorded no new cases for the second day in a row but health officials are urging people to remain vigilant during school holidays.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is talking with her ministers about when borders can be eased after Victoria’s lowercase numbers.

“I don’t want to leave borders closed a day longer than we need to but we also don’t want to throw away all the hard work we’ve done here in NSW,” she said.

SA and Queensland also recorded no new cases on Sept. 28, while test results are due for crew of a ship anchored off the Western Australian coast.

So far nine crew members have tested positive, including seven people who are still onboard.

Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland still have strict border controls in place and face continued pressure from the federal government to ease them.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given her most optimistic comments yet about a cross-Tasman travel bubble before the end of the year.

It could occur on a state-by-state basis depending on case numbers in Australian jurisdictions.

By Rebecca Gredley