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Interview with Allison Langdon on The Today Show about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Allison Langdon on The Today Show about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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More now on Melbourne's COVID crisis, and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us. Minister, thank you so much for your time this morning.


Good morning.


Well, Victoria Health, we know they stuffed up a teenager's test, putting a whole coastal town in danger.

You had a plane load of passengers allowed off a Jetstar flight without being screened. Can we afford mistakes like these?


Look, it is absolutely critical that there's total focus, total focus on the outcomes.

In terms of the case with regards to the plane, even though domestic movements are covered at the state level, I stepped in last night to instruct my department to work with the relevant state authorities to make sure that the individuals are all contacted and traced, and that the standards and protocols are changed and in place.

My advice is that both of those things are happening and have happened in the case of carrying out the tracing and the contacting.


You must've been livid, because when mistakes like this are made, it's up to your government to pick up the bill?


Well, we have to focus on making sure that everything that is being done at the state level is being done at the right level.

For example, with the hotel quarantine, 7 out of 8 states and territories have done a magnificent job.

There were clear breaches in Victoria, and our task is to make sure that the standards are maintained, that we have set clear standards for Victoria.

They have now changed their protocols and their approaches to supervision.

But it's critical that each of us continues to play our part.

Australians have been magnificent, but we have to maintain the distancing.

Each one of us can save a life with our actions, each one of us could inadvertently risk a life.

So it's a mixture of responsibilities - the governments and the individuals.

We've done this as a country before. Now Victoria has to do it again, but we're going to get through this.


Have those changes in Victoria come too late? Because nearly all new cases in Melbourne have an unknown source.

Contact tracing, basically impossible now, even with the COVIDSafe app.


Well, clearly, it was completely unacceptable in terms of the breach out of hotel quarantine. That's why the Victorian Premier has called a judicial inquiry.

We have offered the Australian Defence Forces.

That hasn't been taken up, but that offer remains standing, if they believe it's required.

Our focus now, though, is to make sure that there's the border protection, the testing.

And if you do feel ill or you are in contact with somebody, please be tested, no matter where you are in Australia, but especially within the Melbourne area.

The tracing to make sure that each case, every day, is followed up, especially in Victoria, and we've helped bring in resources from around Australia to assist the Victorians, and the distancing.

Those distancing rules, that hygiene, is still fundamental, and I know it's hard and I know it's difficult, particularly for people in Melbourne who will have the agonising loss of movement or of business, or of their job.

So I want to thank everybody for their involvement, but say we've done it before, and we can do it again.


Minister, do you know what went wrong in Victoria? Because the Premier doesn't.


Well, I think it's very clear that three things came together.

One, the hotel quarantine breach.

Two, we need to make sure and we're offering this support so as each case every day is contact-traced. That has to happen each day. That's been the overwhelming view of our Chief Medical Officer and our Deputy Chief Medical Officers, that that needs to occur.

And then, of course, once the protests occurred, there were some who saw what appeared to be an understandable view of a double standard and changed their behaviours.

Those behaviours, that distancing, reduced the mixing, reduce the engagement and the movement with other people, increase the distance, those rules will help us save our lives.

Difficult, unfortunately necessary, but we know we can do this and it's our task to provide the support to the states but also to the individuals in Victoria.


Canberra, which has been COVID free for almost a month, now has now cases which are linked to Melbourne, as does Albury and Merimbula.

Should the border have been shut sooner?


Well, I think what's happened is that the border has been closed as the cases began to emerge.

One of the things to understand is that cases can appear anywhere at any time.

And we've been very careful, right from the outset, to set that real-world expectation that an outbreak can occur, that we have to maintain our vigilance.

Fortunately, the testing and the tracing in the ACT and New South Wales are extremely strong, and that's being used now to chase down these cases, to make sure that the contacts are being dealt with each and every day.


Okay. Minister Greg Hunt, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

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