Victoria records 51,356 new coronavirus cases, nine deaths

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Victoria has recorded 51,356 new coronavirus cases as well as nine deaths, the day after a new self-reporting system was implemented for those who test positive on a rapid antigen test rather than a PCR test.

In a note on today’s figures the government said the large daily figure, a record, was driven by a backlog of self-reporting from rapid tests on a new online reporting platform.

“Most people who reported a positive rapid antigen test got that result earlier in the week, and reported it when the webform opened yesterday,” the government said.

“The number of people who actually received their positive rapid antigen test result yesterday was 5923.”

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 was steady at 644, as was the number in intensive care (106) and on ventilators (24).

There were 20,776 vaccine doses administered at state sites on Friday.

Rising numbers this week prompted the government to reimpose density limits on hospitality venues, while businesses and supply chains feel the brunt of isolation requirements and sick staff unable to work.

NSW on Saturday recorded 45,098 new cases and nine deaths. There are now 1795 people in hospital with COVID-19 in NSW.

Supermarket giant Woolworths has warned more than 20 per cent of staff at some facilities are missing work, as many thousands of coronavirus cases and close contacts throughout the supply chain cause shortages nationwide.

Intensive care units across Victoria are also struggling to find staff to fill shifts as thousands of health workers from cleaners to specialist doctors are furloughed after being infected or exposed to COVID-19.

Coronavirus hospitalisations have jumped 50 per cent in a week to 644 patients – equivalent to at least one large Melbourne hospital – with the vast majority arriving in congested emergency departments before going into general hospital wards. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU has remained relatively steady with 106 patients recorded on Friday, compared to 97 a week ago.

Meanwhile The Age can reveal that, across Australia on Friday, more than 700 critical care staff were unavailable for work. The figures are likely to be a significant underestimate because some hospitals don’t report their staff absences to the national database.

Of these, more than 300 were Victorian doctors and nurses, according to the federal Critical Health Resource Information System, a database used to monitor ICU capacity nationally.

Some healthcare workers were struggling to access rapid antigen tests, while dozens of ward assistants, who help transfer critically ill patients who arrive in the emergency department, had been forced into quarantine after being exposed or infected with virus. Hospital cleaners, who are crucial to infection control, were also isolating in significant numbers.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tested positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms of the virus on Thursday evening.

Mr Frydenberg, who had been staying at his holiday home in the Surf Coast during the festive season, shared the news in a social media post and said he was isolating with his family in their home in Melbourne.

“Like thousands of Australians, I tested positive today to COVID-19,” the post read.

“I have the common symptoms and am isolating with my family. My thoughts are with all those who have COVID – this is a difficult time but we will get through this.”

Mr Frydenberg took a rapid antigen test on Friday and recorded the positive result online, in accordance with Victoria’s new testing rules.

With Melissa Cunningham, Aisha Dow, Nick Bonyhady, Henrietta Cook, Marta Pascual Juanola

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