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Interview on the Today Show about coronavirus (COVID-19) 5 March 2020

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on the Today Show with Allison Langdon and Karl Stefanovic about coronavirus (COVID-19), and a coronavirus death in an aged care facility.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Well more now on the coronavirus crisis and the measures being put in place to stop the spread. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us again now. Greg, thank you for your time again this morning.


Good morning, Karl and Ally.


Let's begin with the very sad news, a 95-year-old has passed away as a result of the coronavirus. That’s now two people in the space of a week. Understandably, it's causing a great deal of fear amongst our elderly.


Look, I do understand this. This is a very sad loss, a 95-year-old woman at the BaptistCare Home in Sydney.

There are now four people who have been diagnosed from that home, the aged care worker, the 95-year-old woman who’s passed away and two other residents who are in hospital.

The isolation and containment measures within the aged care facility are in place and we do know that, on the one hand, the coronavirus is much milder in children than had previously been expected but it is something that has a big impact on those elderly that are affected, which is why we are focusing on our aged care homes as a top priority.

We are meeting with aged care facilities tomorrow in particular, but right now, we are working on the support with them.

The Chief Medical Officer is preparing additional advice today for sharing with aged care facilities.


Because you’ve got to admit a lot of families at the moment who are wondering should they pull their elderly relatives out of these aged care facilities because if we look at this latest case, the 95-year-old, she was under the care of a worker who had the disease- who has the disease and you’ve now seen the rest of the workers walk off the job.

So what happens to these elderly people who are there and staff aren’t turning up? This is not ideal.


Well I see what has happened in this particular case and, whilst I understand the concerns, what we’ve seen is, as planned, and I think this is a very important thing to note, that we have a very, very clear and well-prepared coronavirus emergency plan.

That was immediately put into action. And around the world we are seeing incidents, the difference here is that Australia is as well prepared as any country.

For children who have older parents in aged care homes, that remains the safest circumstance for them because they're under care, they're under management.

Aged care homes deal with infection control because every year they face flu seasons and that’s one of their areas of expertise.

So I think it's very important to have that confidence that we have, you know, over 200,000 residents around the country who are safely and caringly taken care of by magnificent aged care workers.

In this case, all thanks to those who came in, exactly as planned, to take care of the residents.


But the problem is, as you know - and these workers have a right to feel safe when they're treating people with the coronavirus.

However, if you're in one of those aged care facilities and the workers walk off the job because they fear for their own safety, that only produces a huge amount of fear amongst those people, not just in that facility, but it's like a contagion.

That fear spreads to other facilities and it spreads through the community and it's our elderly who feel most vulnerable right now.


I do understand that. And that's why I think the most important reassurance that I can provide and we can provide, not just as a Government, but as a nation where we have Commonwealth and State and Territory governments all working together is that we have a coronavirus emergency plan. That includes work force.

We would respect the rights of the workers but encourage them to work with their facility managers to make sure that they are well-informed and that they are in a position to understand every step.

We're communicating with them but our message is very clear - that in the general community, we have a country which has had very few transmissions.

There are transmissions that have been in parts of northern Sydney, around this area, which have now been diagnosed; there are the two medical workers and the aged care worker.

And so, against that background, the important thing is we've been ahead of the curve literally in making sure that what we’ve done with travel, what we’ve done with containment, what we’ve done with evacuations and the third of the quarantine groups, this time from the Diamond Princess will leave after a successful quarantine in Darwin today, they’ll be released and they’ll be able to return home to their loved ones, and that's an example of what we can do and what we have done by preparing and being a head and supporting people.

So it will be a difficult time. I think it's very important to understand that.

And when we say we are immune, we aren't.

But we are as well prepared as anybody and we would continue to urge facilities to keep talking with their employees, our magnificent aged care and other workers to keep talking with their management and this remains an isolated case and there has then been isolation and containment within the facility with the top priority on the health, safety and care of the residents.


Alright. Minister, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

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