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Covid cases in aged care homes have surged, with providers urged to keep residents and staff up to date with vaccinations.

Providers warned as Covid-19 outbreaks rise

Providers have been warned to stay alert as a new Covid-19 variant sweeps the nation, following a rise in cases and deaths in aged care homes.

The Department of Health and Aged Care and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) released a statement on Friday, stating it was "imperative" that aged care services remained alert as Covid and influenza cases rise.

"[The provider] and your Board are responsible for ensuring that residents have access to the recommended vaccine dose as soon as they are eligible," the statement read.

"Under Aged Care Quality Standard 3: Personal care and clinical care, aged care providers are also expected to offer staff influenza vaccinations and keep records of these vaccinations."

The new variant, FliRT, has been a key contributor to rising cases nationwide.

According to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, 20,702 cases were reported in April.

Until May 27, when data was last refreshed, 30,326 cases were reported, an increase of 9,624 cases.

According to the World Health Organization, 89 Covid deaths have been reported in Australia in the 28 days up to May 12.

Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said the outbreak, coupled with the flare-up of influenza, indicated another wave was starting.

"I think the challenge for this wave is that, first of all, it's heading into winter," Mr Butler said on 3AW.

"So, you know, people are a little bit more susceptible for two respiratory illnesses, particularly if you're older. It's also coinciding with an increase in flu. We're going to be battling flu and this latest Covid wave at the same time.

"It is a reminder of the importance of taking protection, particularly if you're older if you haven't had a Covid booster in the last six months and you're over 75, you should get one, now is a really good time. If you haven't had your flu shot for 2024, and you're over 65, you should also get that as well, now is the time."

As of May 23, there were 3687 active Covid cases and 416 outbreaks in residential aged care homes.

Since last week, there has been a 25 per cent increase in residential aged care home outbreaks.

A rise of 3549 resident and staff cases has been reported, with 37 resident deaths.

Despite this rise, vaccination rates have been "disappointingly low", according to the Department and ACQSC.

Those over the age of 65 were recommended a Covid vaccine every 12 months, and those over 75 were recommended a dose every six months.

However, only 43.2 per cent of the aged care residents received a booster in the last six months, with 2483 residents receiving one the previous week.

"Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective against hospitalisation (reducing the risk by 71-77 per cent), and against ICU admission (by 73 per cent)," the statement read.

A spokeswoman from provider Estia Health said they were managing their homes with "heightened PPE and anti-viral mediations for Covid-positive residents".

"While our homes in Golden Grove [46 cases] and Twin Waters [67 cases] have had a higher number of residents with Covid, there are now seven and three active cases, respectively," the spokeswoman said.

"Pleasingly, our residents who have tested positive have not been acutely unwell.

"As a national provider of aged care services, we continue to encourage and facilitate our residents to remain current for their Covid vaccinations. As per our policy, it is mandatory for all our home-based employees to have the seasonal influenza vaccination."

HammondCare Waratah in NSW had 47 cases, with the general manager of residential and dementia care, Angela Raguz, stating that the site's size should also be considered.

"With 232 beds and 350 staff, [Waratah] is the largest aged care site in the Hunter, and Covid case numbers should be considered in that context," Ms Raguz said.

"There are now two active cases of residents and five staff with Covid at HammondCare Waratah.

"The recent Covid outbreak was contained to our Daffodil and Grevillea cottages at Waratah. Both cottages support residents living with dementia, and this provides additional challenges for isolation and infection control."

Ms Raguz said that 82 per cent of HammondCare Waratah residents were vaccinated.

Cases of Covid at BaptistCare's ACT homes were among the highest last week, with 37 at Carey Gardens Centre.

General manager of residential services and retirement living Allan Waters said the ACT had the second highest vaccination rates in the country, which was reflected in BaptistCare's homes as well.

"BaptistCare takes all reasonable precautions to manage and control Covid outbreaks in our aged care homes," Mr Waters said.

"One of our homes in the ACT has had a sizeable Covid outbreak, which is now resolved, and this can happen from time to time given the nature of Covid."

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