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Interview with Ben Fordham on 2GB about coronavirus (COVID-19) and vaccine update

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on with Ben Fordham on 2GB about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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Well, how do you break a city's heart? Just ask Daniel Andrews.

On Friday, the Victorian premier said he was very well placed to make some significant announcements on Sunday. Then yesterday arrived and he gave them nothing.

It was a kick in the guts. And for many, it's one too many broken promises. On Grand Final weekend, hundreds of Victorians took to the streets, not for the AFL parade, but to demand an end to the lockdown.

They've been under strict restrictions for four months now. The federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, joins us live on the line. Greg Hunt, good morning to you.


Good morning, Ben.


There are a lot of big supporters of Daniel Andrews who all of a sudden have turned their backs on the Victorian Premier.


Look, what we've seen in Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, is just a sense of devastation over the weekend. And this has been growing. People have been in lockdown since early July.

And I know it not only from my own community, but from the messages from around Melbourne, and people seeing their businesses devastated, that they're unable to recommence employment. We've seen a 31 per cent increase in mental health presentations through Medicare year on year, 77 per cent higher increase in beyondblue use for Victoria as opposed to the rest of the country.

So the mental health impacts are enormous. And it's time to give Victorians back their confidence and to allow them to have the chance to recover to those that are suffering mental health.

Today is the day when the Premier should make it clear that the reopening begins.


Victorians were told that if they give an average of less than five cases a day for two weeks, that they’d pull the trigger on easing restrictions.

They hit the target, but then he moved the goalpost. It must be that he does not have faith still in Victoria's contact tracing system.


So two things. One, Victoria had very clear targets. The Commonwealth definition of a coronavirus hotspot for the Chief Medical Officer of Australia is a rolling average of 10 cases.

We are well below that. The Victorian definition was a 14-day rolling average of less than five cases. They met that, they passed it. And yet, for whatever reason, there was a decision to defer again.

And the only reason we can identify is that they don't have confidence in their own contact tracing system. And if that's the case, then the Premier needs to be absolutely clear. But that's not the case, then there can be no cause for further delay today.


It's 20 past seven. Monday morning, we're with the federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister Hunt, we're seeing some worrying numbers overseas.

Germany recorded another 11,000 cases overnight. Italy, 20,000 new cases. France, 52,000 new cases, which is a new record. The US has 80,000 cases in one day over the weekend.

So it's another sign, this thing ain’t going anywhere.


Absolutely. And the last four days of full figures have been well over 400,000 cases a day. I think there were four successive days of- well, three successive days of record figures and the fourth day, over 400,000. So this is a global pandemic.

It's actually at its highest point in terms of official figures that we've seen, just human tragedy around the world. What it tells us is that Australia is a safe island bubble at this point in time.

The things we've done as a country have kept us safe. And it's been hard and it's been agonising, and there has been real human loss along the way. But we should be immensely proud.

Our health workers, our pathologists, our public health workers, our community, the Australian public’s done an amazing job, and New South Wales shows how we can do this, how we can recognise that there will be cases but we can manage it. You've done it again and again and again.

And it's the model to which Victoria can turn, with gold standard tracing in New South Wales and confidence in the public health units. And we've done it, we’re safe, the rest of the world looks at this and says, gosh, we wish we were Australia, both in terms of your health and your economic outcomes by comparison.


Yeah, we've had three days in a row of zero community transmission in New South Wales. Today, New South Wales Health will announce that there's been one new case of community transmission. Just on the vaccine, where are we up to with the vaccine?


So progressing well. We have two major contracts that have already been signed and completed. And that's for what's called the Oxford Vaccine, 33.8 million units, and Australia's own University of Queensland vaccine, 51 million units.

We're expecting the first vaccinations to commence - on the latest advice that I had on Friday - in the first quarter of 2021.


Fingers crossed. Thank you so much for everything you've done for us, Greg Hunt.


Thanks. Thanks, Ben. You know, all thanks is due to the public and to our health workers. And we're getting there, we’ll continue to get there.

But today is a day when we respectfully but categorically call on the Victorian Premier to fulfil his side of the bargain and to allow Victorians to begin to regain their lives and to take the New South Wales approach.


Thank you so much for your time. We’ll talk soon.


Cheers, mate.


Greg Hunt, the federal Health Minister, joining us.

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