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Interview on Triple M Breakfast about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on Triple M Breakfast about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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In the meantime, the Minister for Health is Greg Hunt, the Federal Minister and he joins us now on the line as well. Good morning Greg.


Good morning Eddie.


Greg, tell us, Vera’s(*) been asking us questions, was just- dropped at the line there, we’ll try and get her back in a moment. Vera’s asking what now for her and her family and the Australians on this ship?


So we are planning a potential operation to bring them home.

We have a senior Australian medical officer, Dr Paul Armstrong, who’s going on board with international authorities today, obviously they’ll go in a heavily quarantined and protected way.

The concern we have is that there’s been what’s called a secondary round of infections which means that patients and passengers are being exposed to further infections.

So against that background, we’ve been planning over the weekend and working with the Japanese authorities and Qantas and medical authorities, a potential evacuation for later this week.

And we’ll get advice earlier- later today from the- we’ll get advice later today from the medical authorities and as a result of that, what we’ll do is make a decision, inform the passengers, but we’ve been giving them preliminary advice that this is a very possible evacuation in a couple of days.


Greg, other governments, United States have got 747s flying in.


Canada, Italy.


To evacuate Americans and as Ed just said, the Canadians and the Italians. Why are they able to act now and get their citizens off this ship and why the delay from Australia?


Well, with respect, I think only the Americans are going in today.

We’ll be on a timeframe commensurate with the absolute forefront of the world.

So the United States will be there today; we are likely to be there on Wednesday, Thursday at the latest. And so we will be right at the forefront, one of only a very small number of countries to have done this.


Great stuff. That’s great. Greg, just take us through, how difficult a situation is this for you and the Health Department to look at on the other side, the jurisdictions involved, the international politics et cetera, et cetera?

And the fact that no one quite knows what they should do whether it should be quarantined or evacuated. What have been the discussions?


So we're very fortunate in that of all the countries in the world, we are right at the absolute global forefront of preparedness for pandemics and major virus outbreaks.

The World Health Organization looked at Australia a couple of years ago and said we're right at the cutting edge.

So we have a system that's in place; the National Medical Stockpile, National Incident Centre, National Trauma Centre and the diplomatic capability to bring this into action which is what we've done.

That's one of the reasons why we've been able to contain the virus in Australia so far. We certainly don’t rule out that there could be another case at any time.

But we're at 15 cases, eight have cleared the virus, another two have recovered and the other five are stable.

And so what we've been able to do is through very strong measures but a carefully prepared plan in advance for any such sort of pandemic or global virus, bring that into being.

And the National Security Committee met yesterday, we’ll be meeting again today. So we're doing this right the way through.


Good on you, Greg. Now, we think we've got Vera back up. Vera’s been wanting to get some information from the Australian Government. Greg, you've been good enough to say you'd happily speak to her live on here, on air here at Triple M. So let's hope we've got the communications right.

Vera, are you there?

No, sorry. Greg, thanks mate for putting yourself up to have that interview. We'll get it up with Vera in a few moments time.


Greg, can I just ask you one very quick question before we go. I know that you're in touch with the people and we were hoping to get Vera, the line not working for us this morning.

But just in terms of people, we've had stories here in Chinatown in Australia, people not wanting to go anywhere near the city.

Box Hill which is a big Chinese community, I know this is your local town as well, Greg, people are not going outside.

What is the message as the Health Minister to people here in Australia? What is a realistic approach to what’s going on?


So Australia is safe. The virus is contained, it’s not out in the community in Australia.

Those cases that have been diagnosed have all come either directly from Wuhan in China or people who have had contact with those in Wuhan. And all have been very rapidly medically isolated.

The streets are safe. Get out, support your local community.

I, very deliberately went down to Tommy and the crew at Wok on Bay on Friday night in Mount Martha to A) have some great lemon chicken and some great pork ribs and B) to send a message that this is our community and we've got to support them and protect them.

And the Australian Chinese community is no different from anybody else except for the fact that they have been hurting more, that they have connections to China where their families, their friends will be suffering, potentially in quarantine or maybe in China families that have been in deep distress.

So support each other. It's safe; get out and shop. Go to your local Chinese restaurant, anything you can do to support that community just as we've done with the bushfire affected communities, this is what we do- how we get together.


Good on you, Greg. Thanks for coming on, we really appreciate it and thanks for putting yourself up to have a chat to Vera as well. Sorry that the tech (inaudible).


All the best to Vera and let her know that we’ll be in contact with all of the passengers later today, once we’ve got the report back.

But it is more likely than not, I think that we will be doing an airlift later this week.


Thanks Greg appreciate that. That’s the Health Minister Greg Hunt.

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