July 28, 2020 / 2:34 AM / 14 days ago

Australian PM abandons interstate tour to tackle coronavirus crisis

SYDNEY, July 28 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short a planned interstate tour to focus on the country’s coronavirus crisis on Tuesday, citing a “very complex” outbreak in aged care homes in the city of Melbourne.

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, reported 384 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, down from the record 532 it reported on Monday but still at levels alarming health officials.

“The situation in Victoria aged care is very complex, you have a combination of the community transmission which is widespread in Melbourne finding its way into many facilities, and in particular it has found its way into the aged care workforce,” Morrison told reporters in Yandina, a town in Queensland state. The Australia leader said was abandoning the remainder of his Queensland tour to return to the capital of Canberra.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said 769 active coronavirus cases have been linked to several aged care centers in Victoria, which reported nine new deaths since Monday.

“I cannot stand here and tell you I have confidence that staff and management across a number of private sector aged care facilities are able to provide the care that is appropriate to keep their residents safe,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

A national industrial tribunal ruled on Monday that staff in aged care homes across the country, including nurses, would be granted two weeks of paid pandemic leave.

Morrison said the finite supply of skilled workers in the sector made managing the outbreak very challenging.

Meanwhile, the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne reported late Monday that an infant, staff member and two parents linked to its neonatal intensive care unit had been diagnosed with the virus. It had not found a connection between the four cases, it said.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Jane Wardell

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