Another grim milestone in virus pandemic

Australia has suffered its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic but new case numbers in Victoria continue to ease.

Victoria recorded 25 coronavirus deaths on Monday, taking the national toll to 421.

The state recorded 282 new infections, well down on the seven-day average and the same time last week.

Victorians are being offered extra mental health supports in response to rising self-harm injuries and calls to crisis lines.

The federal government is has pledged an extra $32 million to create 15 mental health clinics across the state.

Melburnians have been in strict lockdown for several weeks, with restrictions also placed on regional Victorian residents.

There has been a 33 per cent rise in Victorian children and young people presenting to hospital with self-harm injuries over the past six weeks compared to the previous year.

Over the past month, Victorian use of Beyond Blue services was 90 per cent higher than the rest of the country.

Victorians used Lifeline 22 per cent more than other Australians, with calls to Kids Helpline also higher than other parts of the country.

The state’s demand for Medicare-funded psychology sessions is up six per cent on this time last year.

“While we’re fighting the spread of this virus in Victoria we also need to guard against the devastating mental health impacts it is having,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

“This package is about helping people access mental health support as early as possible and as conveniently as possible.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has extended a state of emergency another four weeks until September 13.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is “genuinely optimistic” a coronavirus vaccine will be available by mid next year.

“I am now, on the basis of our best advice, genuinely more optimistic; I think the work is moving closer to a vaccine,” Mr Hunt said.

The opposition has criticised the speed at which the government has moved on vaccines, given other countries already have supply agreements in place.

Mr Hunt said discussions with manufacturers were highly advanced, pointing to two precontractual agreements that have been signed, should those trials prove effective.

The national cabinet will develop a rapid response plan for the aged care sector later this week.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the proposed plan had come far too late, given coronavirus has already run rampant through nursing homes.

“We need to do better than this,” he told 2GB radio.

“It should have been the (federal) government that was on top of this.”

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