The number of critically ill Covid-19 patients in Victoria requiring hospital treatment has soared, a week after the state recorded a surge in cases.
In the past day, an extra 39 people were admitted to hospital, and the number of people in intensive care and on ventilators both increased by 21. That increase represented a daily jump of almost 40% in patients requiring a ventilator (74 patients) and more than 20% in intensive care patients (115).
The state recorded 1,638 new cases on Thursday, the second-highest daily figure seen during the pandemic. It is the eighth consecutive day of the state recording more than 1,100 cases.
The deaths of a woman in her 60s from Wyndham and a woman in her 70s from Hume were also reported on Thursday.
The acting Victorian chief health officer, Prof Ben Cowie, said the surge in hospitalisations and those requiring intensive care was due to the sharp rise in cases recorded in the past week. Covid-19 patients typically deteriorated in the second week after their infection, leading to the leap in hospitalisations, he said.
“When we see days of 1,700 cases, we are not just worried about that because of the case numbers,” Cowie said.
“The real worry about that is that is 80 or 90 people … are going to end up in hospital down the track, and the same the next day, and the same the next day, and the same the next day.
“The pressure on a whole system is increasing and it will continue to increase.”
Guardian Australia reported earlier this week that Ambulance Victoria had been inundated with calls, with 72 people waiting for an ambulance at the same time during one recent shift.
Cowie said that of about 10,000 cases recorded in the past week, 79% had not been vaccinated, despite the vast majority being eligible.
In Melbourne’s northern suburbs, there had been 566 new cases. More than 43% of the state’s active cases were in this area. In Melbourne’s west, there had been 484 new cases. There had been 351 new cases in the south-east, and 114 in the east.
There were 115 new cases in regional Victoria, bringing the active case total to 707. There were 11 new cases in Shepparton, eight new cases in Ballarat, 16 in Geelong, 17 in the Mitchell shire, 11 in Baw Baw, 15 in La Trobe and 11 in Mount Alexander shire. There were four new cases reported in Mildura, all within the same household.
The Victorian minister for disability, ageing and carers, Luke Donnellan, announced a $5m funding package to boost vaccination rates among people living with a disability, saying the current rates were “simply not good enough”.
The package will fund dedicated disability pop-up vaccine clinics in areas of concern, and 16 new officers for Victoria’s disability liaison service.
From Friday, all of Victoria’s state-run hubs would also be able to offer vaccinations for people with a disability without them requiring a booking.
Donnellan said that as of 30 September, more than 71% of Victorian NDIS participants aged 16 and over had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine compared to 67% of the national average. Of the NDIS participants in Victoria living in disability residential accommodation, more than 80% had received a first dose at least.
The rate for the general population was 84.4% first dose, Donnellan said.
He said he had written to federal authorities at least three times since December about plans for vaccinating people with a disability in Victoria. The federal government is responsible for vaccinating those who receive support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or who are in residential accommodation, he said.
“They were in the priority list. Somehow or other they dropped off the priority list. I do not know what happened there. I was not made aware of that, which is pretty frustrating.
“We are opening up, we have got to protect our most vulnerable and that is why we have stepped in … that is just something that we can’t accept.”
The disability royal commission found in a draft report handed down last month that the federal Department of Health’s approach to vaccinating people with disabilities had been “seriously deficient”.
People with disability living in shared accommodation, or “group homes”, were included in phase 1a of the vaccine rollout but then quietly “deprioritised” in favour of aged care residents, the commission found.