Australia announces emergency financial aid to Pacific Island nations. Image Source: IANS News

Canberra, Aug 13 : Nick Coatsworth, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has described criticisms against authorities that they were not prepared for COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care as "insulting".

Coatsworth told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the criticisms were insulting to every Australian who has been affected by the virus, reports Xinhua news agency.

His comments were in response to geriatrician Joseph Ibrahim, who told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on Wednesday that aged care residents have been treated like 'second-class citizens' during the pandemic.

"In my opinion, hundreds of residents are and will die prematurely because people have failed to act," Ibrahim said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Coatsworth strongly rebuffed Ibrahim's testimony to the commission, saying that sweeping changes to society were introduced across Australia to protect the elderly.

"The assertion that there was an attitude of futility towards death in residential aged care in Australia is frankly insulting to the entire Australian community who locked down to prevent deaths amongst our most vulnerable," he said.

"There were many words used in the royal commission witness statements today that perhaps don't reflect the totality of the Government's response, both at federal and state level, to preventing deaths in aged care." Authorities on Wednesday confirmed 21 new deaths from COVID-19 in Australia, all of which were in the worst-hit state of Victoria, taking the national toll to 352.

A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria said on Wednesday that "16 of the 21 new deaths are linked to known outbreaks in aged care facilities".

Brendan Murphy, who served as Australia's Chief Medical Officer from 2016 until June and commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Health in July, also gave evidence at the royal commission on Wednesday, refuting allegations that the government did not have a pandemic plan for aged care.

However, he did acknowledge that mandatory use of face masks in aged care in Victoria should have been introduced sooner.

"In hindsight, you could have implemented that earlier, absolutely," he said.

"The situation in Victoria changed very, very rapidly in July." Australia's overall caseload currently stands at 22,127.

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