The number of Covid deaths in residential aged care has again surpassed 100 a week, spiking to levels not seen in months.
Health department data, published late on Friday, shows 738 outbreaks are now active in residential aged care facilities, down from 915 outbreaks in the week to 23 December.
There are 3,949 cases among residents and 1,661 staff cases associated with the current 738 outbreaks.
The total number of Covid-related deaths reported by aged care providers during the pandemic has now risen to 4,612.
That’s an increase of 120 reported deaths in the past seven days, the data shows.
Covid was the cause of 5.8% of all deaths in aged care facilities in the past week.
But, promisingly, government data also shows that just 3.3% of Covid cases in aged care resulted in death in 2022, far below the rate of 33% in 2020.
An analysis of weekly data reports shows deaths have progressively increased from October when eight a week were recorded in aged care. The death rate is now the highest it has been since mid-August when 143 deaths were recorded in a single week.
The federal aged care minister, Anika Wells, said the government had moved quickly to prepare for Covid waves before they hit, supplying personal protective equipment, rapid antigen tests, a surge workforce and additional supports.
The fourth dose vaccine rates are currently at more than 83% for the eligible aged care population and the government is continuing to prioritise anti-virals and vaccines for older Australians.
“We must remain vigilant and work together to protect older Australians most at risk of developing serious illness,” Wells said.
“We urge everyone to remember CovidSafe basics when visiting older people. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date, wash your hands, wear a mask, hold your visits outdoors and reschedule if you feel unwell.”
The government delivered three-day PPE packs from the national medical stockpile to all aged care facilities ahead of summer and is providing outbreak PPE upon request. It is also providing in-reach Covid-19 pathology testing until 30 April for residential aged care homes experiencing an outbreak.
Providers are being given rapid tests for surveillance screening and financial support for the costs associated with managing outbreaks. Antivirals are also being provided from the national medical stockpile if local pharmacies are out of stock.
Other weekly Covid data, released by the states and territories on Friday, shows a similar increase in total death figures in both Victoria and New South Wales.
In Victoria, deaths rose to 108 from 69 the week prior, while in NSW, the number of deaths rose from 32 to 77. South Australia’s death toll remained largely stable while Western Australia’s dropped.
The worsening situation in aged care comes as the sector warns of fundamental problems with the financial viability of providers.
A report on the sector published by StewartBrown shows seven of 10 residential aged care facilities are currently operating at a loss. The analysis, first reported by the Australian, shows facilities lost $21.29 a bed each day in the September quarter, on average, compared to $7.30 the year prior.
The report suggests the annual loss for the sector totals about $1.4bn. Occupancy levels are also down, falling from 95% in 2018 to 91%.