Federal pressure after lockdown extended

The Morrison government is under renewed pressure over quarantine and the vaccine rollout after Victoria extended its lockdown, with other states on high alert.

Melbourne’s restrictions will now last until June 10, while conditions in regional Victoria will still ease from Thursday night.

Parts of NSW have been drawn into the outbreak after a man with coronavirus travelled through a slew of towns last month.

There are also renewed calls for an overhaul of hotel quarantine after a man in Perth became infected by a fellow returned traveller in a room next door.

Federal Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck reacted to the lockdown extension during a second day of gruelling Senate estimates hearings in Canberra.

“It’s unfortunate that they have had to. It’s unfortunate the circumstances the Victorians find themselves in,” he said on Wednesday.

Labor frontbencher Murray Watt argued serious holes in hotel quarantine and problems with the vaccine rollout showed the federal government was to blame.

“Every time this government doesn’t do its job there are consequences. People lose their jobs. People get COVID. People can’t move around,” he told the minister.

“When are you going to start doing your job?”

Senator Colbeck said he completely rejected the criticism.

Respected health adviser Jane Halton, who undertook a major review of quarantine, said recent breaches in hotels were because her recommendations were not being adopted.

“I’m disappointed that it certainly appears that we don’t have continual adoption of best practice right across the system,” she told ABC radio.

“To say that I’m disappointed about that I think is the minimum.”

Ms Halton said it was perplexing it had taken so long to increase capacity at the Howard Springs quarantine camp in the NT and look at facilities in other states.

Talks between the Victorian and federal governments are understood to be progressing on a stand-alone quarantine facility.

The Australian Medical Association is calling for urgent quarantine changes after the latest Perth infection, the 21st recorded breach in hotels.

Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak has grown to 60 cases across more than 350 exposure sites with none of the six new cases in aged care.

Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham was non-committal on providing more federal support for the state because of the lockdown.

“We have said over the course of the last week we would continue to monitor the situation that relates to Victoria and respond accordingly,” he said.

The federal government is also facing questions about the vaccine rollout to aged care residents and staff, as well as home care workers.

The number of aged care workers who are fully vaccinated is unknown and many residents are yet to receive their second doses.

More than three months after the rollout began, less than two-thirds of nationwide aged care residents have been fully vaccinated.

The number is lower in Victoria where four facilities have been forced into lockdown due to the outbreak.

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