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ABC News

Elderly and aged care COVID-19 deaths expected to rise over Christmas in NSW

Vulnerable older Australians are at risk over the Christmas and New Year period as deaths from COVID-19 are expected to rise following a recent peak in NSW cases. 

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has said it appears the current COVID-19 wave may be slowing.

"This week a number of indicators suggest we have reached the peak of the COVID-19 wave," Dr Chant said on Thursday. 

"While this is good news, there are still a high number of cases across the state."

NSW Health said in the seven days to December 15, 74 people were reported to have died with COVID-19. 

More than1,600 people were in a NSW hospital with the virus over the same reporting period, with 37 of them in intensive care. 

Aged care consultant Paul Sadler said older Australians in both nursing homes and in their own homes remained vulnerable.

"The pandemic is not over, of course the number of cases in residents and staff has been increasing and so we expect, unfortunately, that we will see continued deaths in aged care over the next few weeks."

Mr Sadler said there was a lag time between a high number of cases in the community and a high death rate.

"There is usually about a two to three weeks delay in the death rates in aged care, so I would envisage that even though we have reached the peak in terms of the number of outbreaks, we will continue to see the death rate remain high through Christmas."

Chief Executive Officer Tom Symondson from the Aged and Community Care Providers Association said COVID-19 remained a major challenge in aged care.

"COVID is still incredibly dangerous, in aged care we are still very concerned."

Mr Symondson said a lot of people's vaccinations were waning, especially staff and visitors.

"People need to use common sense, even if you are planning to visit a loved one on Christmas Day if you are not feeling well, just do not go." Mr Symondson said.

Mr Sadler said it is the third Christmas in a row impacted by the pandemic.

"Last Christmas was the worst in that we saw the first Omicron wave hit — that had a massive impact on aged care", he said.

"This time we are about a third of the size of that wave, and we have still got 1,600 staff off nationally with COVID so that is a pretty significant impact on staffing aged care."

How is Australia in the grip of another COVID wave?
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