Question without notice: My question is for the Minister for Health. With an average of 11 000 reported cases per day, up to 500 COVID patients in hospital and 70 to 100 Victorians per week dying from COVID-19, it is important that those most vulnerable in our community have access to the best public health advice and that it is widely available to help them understand how to protect themselves from serious illness or death. What steps is the government taking to fully inform members of our community, including aged, disabled, unvaccinated and other vulnerable groups, as to their level of risk from COVID-19 and what steps should they take to protect themselves in this current phase of the pandemic?
Answer: Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality): Thank you to the honourable independent member for Shepparton for her question. Can I also give the member a bouquet for the leadership she has shown in the independent oversight committee that the Parliament set up into the pandemic response, playing that committee’s role in the most transparent, accountable system of pandemic response in the country, if not the world. That has brought a level of rigour and oversight to the government’s response, which drives us ever to do better in this area.
The honourable member’s question gives me the opportunity to, through the Parliament, share the message for all Victorians that despite the fact that we have record levels of vaccination and record levels of engagement around public health measures and through that are able to substantially ease the pandemic restrictions to the point where they are now, this pandemic is far from over. This pandemic still has a very long way to run, particularly as we manage our way through the normal business, sadly as usual, of respiratory and other conditions that we see in winter, the likelihood—we do not know yet—of some kind of peak in flu and in addition to that, as the honourable member outlined in her question, the importance of particularly the support for how the pandemic will play out in particular communities, particularly in the regions, I have to say. That is why it is so important that our regional communities continue to have independent voices such as those from the member for Shepparton that are not beholden to, for instance, the likes of Barnaby Joyce, who thinks that supporting Victoria’s healthcare system and infrastructure is somehow another foreign aid. I look forward to the people of Nicholls continuing the fine tradition that the honourable member for Shepparton has established— and seeing that played out in the federal vote—to make sure that her community can have these issues dealt with in the same independent manner in the federal Parliament as they are in the state Parliament. But in regard to the issue that the honourable member deals with in her question, particularly when it comes to the issues of how vulnerable communities are dealt with through the ongoing long tail of the global pandemic, the important work, whether it is in the work in mental health that the honourable Deputy Premier is leading or whether it is in the area of support for vaccination programs for vulnerable communities that the honourable Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers is delivering, right across the board these are important issues with a long way to go in this global pandemic.
Supplementary Question: As we see the pandemic orders being wound back and the community moving to a post-COVID era despite its continued prevalence, can the minister advise what steps the government is taking to support those people who are vulnerable in settings such as aged care and hospitals?
Mr FOLEY : Can I thank the member for Shepparton for her supplementary question and particularly her focus on aged care. We know that aged care continues to be an area of over-representation when it comes to the negative outcomes—together with other communities but in aged care in particular. It bears to mind, just to share this information with the Parliament, that from January to May of this year, 88 per cent of the deaths related to COVID in Victoria were people aged 70 and over. The largest group of those by far were in non-government, private residential aged care. Now, there is a whole range of reasons—people in that system are disproportionately over-represented with comorbidities—but amongst other groups these are the areas where we need all levels of government and community to work together to send the message that this global pandemic has a long way to run yet.