Around 14,000 Australians would have died from COVID-19 by now if the country's mortality rate matched that occurring in the United Kingdom, according to Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.
Although a rash of new cases emerged on Tuesday, including crew members of a live export ship docked at Fremantle and two Sydney school students, Professor Murphy said the nation had "done well".
"We really have a pretty good state of control with only a handful of people still in intensive care and only 500 people recovering from COVID at the moment," he told a Senate committee hearing.
"If we had [the UK's] death rate and we had their outcomes, we would have had about 14,000 deaths in Australia so far, not 100."
More than 5.4 million have been infected worldwide and almost 350,000 had died as at May 26. In Britain, more than 262,500 have caught COVID-19 and almost 37,000 have died.
Authorities acted quickly to contain Tuesday's cases. Six crew from the Al Kuwait live export ship who tested positive have been quarantined in a Perth hotel while in Sydney Waverley College and Mariah War Memorial College were evacuated after a student at each were confirmed to have COVID-19.
Professor Murphy's comments came as state and territory governments moved to announce further easing of business restrictions as part of a staged process to rebuild economic activity.
While welcoming the gradual easing of restrictions, Professor Murphy warned that vigilance had to be maintained.
He said the relaxation of measures had to be taken with "a fair amount of caution about the potential impact of a resurgence of disease, particularly in those eastern seaboard states where there have been recently some community transmission".
Earlier, the committee heard that there had been COVID-19 outbreaks in 31 aged care facilities, including six that were currently active.
One of the worst affected facilities has been Anglicare's Newmarch House in western Sydney, where 37 residents and 34 staff have been infected and 19 have died.
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson told the committee that the disease spread rapidly through the home.
Ms Anderson said that one resident and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on April 12 and within a week 25 residents and 14 staff were infected.
"In the space of six days we moved from one and one and 25 and 14," she said. "That was the situation by virtue of the degree of exposure to the individual who was infected and working at the centre."
The handling of the outbreak has become a focus of attention, particularly the decision by health authorities to treat infected residents at the facility rather than taking them to hospital.
Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard told ABC radio that with hindsight his preference would have been to have people treated at hospital.
But Health Department officials defended the standard of care provided to residents at the home.
Nonetheless, the department's deputy secretary for ageing and aged care, Michael Lye, said operators tended to underestimate the impact of an outbreak on their ability to operate, particularly in maintaining staff numbers.
"They do not quite understand the impact on their workforce of the outbreak," Mr Lye said, including a big jump in absenteeism because some staff to go into self-isolation and others choose to stay home because of fear of catching the virus and spreading it to their families.
Health department officials said that from April 16 the Commonwealth mobilised an extra 27 staff per day to help care for Newmarch residents.
- For information on COVID-19, please go to the federal Health Department's website.
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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