Australia’s top health and aged care officials are set to face another grilling about deadly coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.
Health secretary Brendan Murphy and aged care regulator Janet Anderson will front a Senate inquiry on Tuesday.
The federal government has been under intense scrutiny for its handling of the aged care sector.
More than 650 aged care residents across 220 facilities have died from coronavirus and thousands more have been infected.
Most of the deaths have been in Victoria.
And yet, the aged care regulator has visited just 13 per cent of nursing homes with outbreaks.
Fewer than 10 per cent have been sanctioned since the start of the pandemic.
“More evidence of the Morrison government’s regulator failing older Australians in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” Labor frontbencher Julie Collins said.
Victoria has recorded 10 new cases of coronavirus and seven more deaths on Tuesday.
Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average is now down to 18.2.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt seized on the low numbers to again urge the Victorian state government to ease coronavirus restrictions.
“They can, we believe, take safe steps forward which will help improve mental health,” Mr Hunt told Sky News.
He fears Victoria’s markers for reopening small businesses could trap owners in a permanent cycle of reopening and closing again.
“The prime minister, the treasurer and myself respectfully asked Victoria to review those thresholds,” Mr Hunt said.
Community transmissions have slowed to a trickle in Victoria and ground to a halt elsewhere.
Mr Hunt said the time was right to do away with state border restrictions.
“We think the epidemiology in Australia is so strong now that it’s a COVID-safe country,” he said.
“Obviously respecting the fact that some states would want to keep borders with Victoria for a short period.
“But in time, very soon, we think there won’t be any basis for any borders in Australia.”
Mr Hunt also indicated a travel bubble with New Zealand was likely to be in place before Christmas, but would probably only allow one-way traffic to begin with.
“We are looking to allow New Zealanders into Australia, potentially in a travel bubble, as soon as possible,” he said.
“We’re not requiring that New Zealand allows Australia back immediately, but they are working towards it.”
Meanwhile, another eight crew members from a ship anchored off Western Australia’s north coast have tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of cases to 17.
The eight new infections are part of the crew transferred off the Patricia Oldendorff and into hotel quarantine in Port Hedland last week.
Seven of the infected crew members remain on board the vessel.