Interview with Deborah Knight on A Current Affair about coronavirus (COVID-19)
Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Deborah Knight on A Current Affair about coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
Minister, thanks so much for joining us. Now, you pointed specifically to Easter as a crucial weekend for the country to get on top of coronavirus. How did we go?
Australians were travelling about 13 per cent of what they normally would. That’s an incredible result. It's about saving lives and protecting lives, it gives us a real pathway through.
It says, as difficult as it is Australians are recognising the importance of staying at home, of maintaining the distance, and that’s what’s going to reduce the infection rate. Indeed, that curve has now very, very significantly flattened - and I’ve been cautious about saying this all along – it’s now below two per cent increase a day.
And that means that our overall case numbers, in terms of active cases, are decreasing because more people are clearing the virus then are contracting it. So, it’s a really important moment.
Do those numbers reflect the reality, though? Because the number of people being tested over Easter, was that down on previous days?
So, those tests were about 34,000 over four days, it was a significantly higher result than we were expecting over Easter.
It was down compared with the average per day, but not significantly down, and so, we’re cautious which is why we have to stay the course and continue doing what we're doing, particularly to avoid a second wave as we’re seeing in some countries, and as we’ve seen with epidemics and pandemics throughout the course of the last century.
But we’re making enormous progress and that comes down to the testing, the tracing, the border controls, but above all else the way in which Australians are staying at home and self-isolating. It’s making a big difference.
So, if we are seeing positive signs and the progress, when then should we expect to see an easing in the restrictions that we’re all living under? Because we’re being told it could be six months.
Could that perhaps be lessened to three months?
Well, we’re still looking at what we believe is a six-month arc for the virus in Australia, that advice hasn’t changed. But within that, think of it as the road in which was very steep and fast, we had to take strong action quickly.
Now we are travelling along that road, through the course of the stability and the restrictions. We’ve got more to travel there, but what we are doing now is planning the road out. That means we are looking at what are the signs - continued low rates of infection, very low retransmission to other people.
The second part of that is the ability to respond rapidly - testing, tracing - these are critical capacities that we are strengthening, even now. And from that, as we are doing now, the Prime Minister spent the weekend focusing on planning the steps that we can progressively take to move out of this.
But that will be medical advice on when, and then the small gradual steps out which mean that we’ll be able to monitor how we are progressing with each of those. So, it’s progress, but patience.
And how- what will those small- what opens? And when?
So, I won’t, respectfully, pre-empt the planning that the medical experts and the National Cabinet are doing - they’re considering that this week, and there’s still more to go. Right now we have to say the course and be patient.
Because when you look at countries that are very, very successful in coronavirus management including South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, they’ve all had to tighten restrictions because there had been an increase in cases, only minor, but all had to tighten restrictions.
We want to avoid that challenge of the early signs of a second wave, we want to continue to do everything we can to squash this virus.
Now, I know that your mum was a nurse, and your wife was also a nurse. In terms of the life-saving work that they do, you know it firsthand, and they are heroes aren’t they? Now more than ever?
Our nurses, our doctors, our pharmacists, our pathology workers - they’re absolute heroes. But I have particular affection, obviously, for the nurses. There are 300,000 nurses in Australia, and they put themselves on the front line.
Twenty thousand of them will upskill to be ICU capacity nurses and they’re going through that training now. They are very courageous, they’re dedicated, I don't think there’s a group, along with our lifesavers and our firefighters, that is more highly thought of in society.
They’re simply some of the absolute heroes - our nurses and our doctors together. I just want to say, on behalf of myself but on behalf of all of Australians, thank you.
Yeah. Hear, hear, well said. Minister, thank you for your time.
It’s a pleasure.