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Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler issued a stern warning over rising flu and COVID-19 infections this week. Picture: AAP.

Covid deaths in aged care homes on the rise

Coronavirus deaths in Australian residential facilities are beginning to rise again, according to recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report showed the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among aged care residents increased from 17 per cent in 2021 to 26 per cent as of April 2022.

This came as Australia surpassed over 10,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

More than a quarter of these deaths have occurred in residential aged care facilities.

During a press conference, health and aged care minister Mark Butler urged providers to organise fourth booster shots amid concerns over a new Omicron subvariant and rising flu cases.

"It’s very clear that across the country now we’re still only in the early stages of a building third Omicron wave, just this year alone," he said.

"For more than three months, over 65-year-olds and other groups as well have been able to get a fourth winter boost dose. But that again has not been fully taken up.”

“From today, the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended all Australians aged 50 and over take a fourth dose of Covid vaccines."

The new Omicron subvariant, BA.2, is estimated to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the first Omicron variant.

As of July, only 64 per cent of eligible aged care residents have received their fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The health minister has suggested providers seek help from primary care providers to administer vaccines if residents become eligible before a clinic is due on site.

Butler also said that mask mandates in aged care homes will "remain in force" but would not be reintroduced in broader public areas.

"Measures can be more targeted, as I say, at areas of high risk like aged care facilities, and then rely upon individuals to act responsibly on the basis of good health advice," he said.

"People do say if you're indoors and you can't socially distance, really give strong consideration to wearing a mask because it will reduce the chances of transmission."

As of 1 July, there are 5,011 active Covid-19 cases and 627 active outbreaks in residential aged care facilities across Australia. Of these infections, 3,281 cases are in residents and 1,730 cases are in staff.

There have been 2,881 deaths related to aged care outbreaks since the start of the pandemic.

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