COVID-19 deaths in aged care will be scrutinised by a new task force as the Federal Government comes under intense pressure about high numbers of fatalities from the Omicron wave.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says while Australia has now passed the peak of Omicron infections, he warns another wave, alongside a flu wave, is expected in winter.
“I do believe that we will have another wave of Omicron in winter,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“I think we will have a flu wave in winter for the first time … since the beginning of 2020.”
He stressed the death rate from Omicron was 0.1 per cent as the Federal Government faced intense scrutiny over high numbers of deaths in aged care.
“Because of the better clinical care and the surge capacity we are putting into the sector, because of our very skilled health staff working at the frontline, because of all of those things, we have a spectacularly low rate of death,” Professor Kelly said.
“That is not to discount the fact that we’ve had a large number of deaths.”
The health department is moving to establish a specific task force to look at virus deaths in aged care.
People over the age of 70 accounted for 84 per cent of the 1103 deaths recorded from December 15 until the end of January.
Another 24 per cent of these deaths were people over the age of 90.
“We will be setting up a specific task force in the department to look at that and doing everything we can to get more detail about the issues,” Kelly said.
He flagged one state in particular would be providing a “granular detail” about deaths, with that information to be extrapolated to the rest of the country.
Kelly also said some people in palliative care were choosing not to get the booster.
“There are very good reasons in aged care where people themselves, or their families, decide that they do not want protection against severe illness. They are on that palliative pathway,” he said.