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Interview with Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy on Triple M Melbourne Hot Breakfast about COVID-19

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on Triple M Melbourne Hot Breakfast with Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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The Federal Health Minister has been good enough to dial in right now, Greg Hunt joins us on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast.

Minister, thanks for your time this morning.


Morning fellas.


Greg, if I could ask you mate – I’ll give you the microphone – tell us what the situation is at the moment that you want to get across to the people of Melbourne.


So, the important thing is that it’s incredible effort that’s going on at the moment. Whether it’s the cafes – and I dropped into a local cafe yesterday just for a moment of normality to pick up a coffee – they’d spread out the tables, they were doing everything right, they were adapting.

Yep, it’d come at a cost to their business but they said: you know mate we get where we’re at, we’ve got our part to play. The teachers, the health service workers, they’re all doing their thing.

And so, this is likely to be six months is our best guess – could be less, could be more – but that’s our honest guidance. And so, we’re all going into a different world than we’ve ever faced and will ever face again but that sense of positivity, that sense of we’re going to back each other.

There’ve been a few bad things, a few dumb things that some outliers have done – but all up people are pulling together and backing our elderly, shopping for them, taking care of them – these are the things that we’ll get through on this, we will get through.


Hey Greg, the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy’s, been really strong in his leadership for mine, and clear messaging around the Prime Minister and he – yesterday or the day before – around exactly what we can do around the amount of gathering, social distancing, as you said.

So that message is getting out there.

But there's also been other medical professionals who are trying to take alternate points of view, and I think the analogy that I'm reading today that makes sense – we didn't question the chief fire authority or the irrelevant bodies in the bushfire crisis, we went to senior leadership and we took their advice and that's what we did.

Is that something we need to address? The Chief Medical Officer, that is what we need to follow and not – other commentary isn't helpful at the moment, Greg?


Well, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, is one of the finest medical professionals Australia has ever had.

He has, you know, he's a brilliant doctor in his own right and he's been a brilliant researcher, he’s run hospital systems, he's been the Chief Medical Officer for Australia for many years now.

He gets the country, but he's also deeply compassionate and fearless. He was the one that called this as a pandemic back in January. He was the one that, on a Saturday morning, rang me. And then he and I spoke to the PM, and he said: you know PM, we're going to have to close the borders with China.

And he's gutsy, he's fearless, but he's backed by all of the state and territory chief health officers – so they are working as one, that's our principal source of advice.

It's a democracy, other people are allowed to have their views so I believe in that deeply. But the people that we're following and the people I would advise everybody to follow are the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Health Officers.


Greg, it's escalated that this week – as you talk to us this morning on Friday – are you happy with the way people are reacting?

Is it rolling out the way that you'd hope at this particular stage? Or is there somewhere that we need to improve?


So, Australians get this idea of flattening the curve. What does that mean? It means reducing the number of infections, spreading that out over time. What that does is it protects the hospital system, it means fewer people will get it and we will be better able to manage it.

And so, people are taking the steps – washing their hands, keeping their distance, managing the- they’re sticking to the rules about 500 externally and 100 internally, and in fact they’re going below the mark and I can see that behaviour.

You've got a few people that have done the wrong thing and the stupid thing – whether it's in the shopping aisles or otherwise – and the PM was really clear, he just said: stop it, stop it. And he took that ‘father of the nation’ approach and said, not on our watch.

Yesterday I had to put in place rules around hoarding against Ventolin and children’s paracetamol. So, we'll take those strong steps, Peter Dutton’s going to chase down the shopping hoarders, people that are trying to buy stuff here, and in some cases criminally sell it overseas and so we have to deal with those outliers.

But I've got to say, that spirit we saw in the bushfires is growing now in terms of that national spirit of helping each other.

And that's the thing about FM radio – you've got this sense of upbeat belief in the essential goodness of Australians, and you give them that chance. I really- I just want to say, thank you for that.


Hey Greg, are you disappointed that the private schools seem to be the ones who have turned their back on you?

Private schools, many private schools in Melbourne declared they were shutting the doors about an hour after the Prime Minister implored everyone to keep the kids going to school – what's your reaction there?

GREG HUNT:         

So, our advice to them is very clear. Yes, you are independent schools but the medical advice on this could not have been stronger, unanimous from all of the Chief Health Officers in all of the states, the Chief Medical Officer and all of the Premiers and the Prime Minister that the reason we wants kids to stay at school – and we're not doing this forever.

We know things might change, but why we want to do it – one, low rates of infection and low rates of impact – lower than the flu in each of those cases.

Two – if you take them out of school, they'll be with grandparents or you'll be forcing up to 30 per cent of the health workforce out of the service and out of their duty. So that has massive consequences for the country and as a health and safety measure, all the advice we’ve had is it's not the best one.

So, to those schools that are doing that, we know that there's been a dramatic turnaround in the last couple of days, that many have changed their minds or they are providing support for the children of health and emergency service workers – please listen to the medical advice.


And Greg, might take that further as well to a lot of individual parents that we're seeing who have got kids that aren't presenting as being unhealthy taking their kids out of school and what I'm seeing is that that's put a huge pressure on teachers who are running two sets of classes and having to set curriculum at home and then for the 50 per cent of kids in the classroom.

So again, that's what we're here for hopefully, to hear directly from you and reiterate that message again.

The advice is to get our kids at school obviously, unless they're representing as sick then we stay home which is what you should do anyway. I think that message is a good one.


Greg, can I just ask you – the footy last night. There's been some criticism of the players at the end after tackling each other for two hours giving each other a hug and a handshake at the end of the game, which is always the tradition as we know in Australian Rules football.

Would you like to see and I personally would like to see this tonight – and I tried to get that message through so my club who are playing the Bulldogs tonight – that they actually don't do that and that's a natural reaction, I know it’s probably counter-intuitive after two hours of playing football.

But to show as a good example, what we need to do in the community as far as the social interaction, don’t handshake, step apart, even stand around in a circle, you know, to sing the song, don’t have to be linked up, maybe just do it a bit differently.

GREG HUNT:         

Yeah look, we all need to take the steps. I've got to say the AFL have been great.

You’ve asked for the legal advice and the medical advice which obviously I had the conversation with you guys a couple of days ago and we said there are no barriers to this legally, there are no barriers to this medically, was the advice from Brendan Murphy and then ultimately it's a decision for the players.

Take those steps that will allow the distance – obviously it’s a contact sport and Brendan went through that very carefully, that you know recognising the circumstances and the rapid nature of things that his advice is that community sport is okay.

Now you're a community sport because you've not got those numbers there, but where possible, where possible, try to practice that distancing because that becomes a very important message to the community.

But what you're also doing is in a moment of absolute abnormality, you're providing some normality and I think that's, whilst we can, we should, but if you can take those additional measures, if you can share that with the players, thank you.

But they're gutsy. They were out there they were giving people just a sense of hope and of normality and of a little bit of joy. And it was great win by the Tigers.


You trailed off a bit there at the end Minister. They had a pretty good run, the Tigers.

Hey, just quickly before we let you go, just reading through Elon Musk is talking about maybe offering up his production services in Tesla to switch to producing ventilators if that becomes a need.

Are you getting some ingenuity come through from some of our business, in the event that we do need extra solutions? Have you got anything you can share with us on that front?

GREG HUNT:         

Yeah, I can actually. We have a great Australian company ResMed. They make a sleep apnea machine. They have offered – so they’re used to respiratory actions – they have offered to convert their production lines to ventilators.

These may not be the highest-grade ventilators but for those patients who are one level down. So the medical authorities are working with them, the Medical Technology Association of Australia, so all the medical tech companies, they have contacted us and said: we're moving into wartime mode, you tell us what you need and we’ll do it.

We’ve got mask production underway. We're looking at how we produce additional pathology tests for the testing. We've got this offer from ResMed which we are going to take up on additional ventilator production and so not everything will be perfect, but boy people are stepping up to play their part.


Well that's fantastic news Greg, even Warnie’s gin company is turning itself around and going into hand sanitiser and we were talking about -


Is that right?


Yeah. So maybe you get you get a bottle of hand sanitiser and a bottle of gin as well, might get you right through the day.

But it is fantastic what's going on there and the goat soap here in Melbourne which I think is down- Rosie, you we’re saying –


Mornington Peninsula?


Safety Beach I think is where the  –


Greg’s part of the world.


Was saying that that's the one thing, buy the goat soap, because he's got a tonne of it and is being made in Melbourne, down in your electorate actually, Greg.

GREG HUNT:         

Yeah, it’s absolutely in the electorate. So, I’m not allowed to advertise, but on this occasion, go and buy it.


Good on you mate, well, let’s get the goat soap, and you can get that from Chemist Warehouse and the soap of course is as good. In fact, probably even better as far as getting the hygiene right.

GREG HUNT:         

Actually, that is a very important point – hand sanitiser is good, soap and water is even better. That's the very clear medical device we’ve had.

Sometimes people, you know, might miss the most obvious because an Internet rumour will go around.

Just keep washing your hands, keep a distance, but take care of the elderly, do the shopping, make a drop, do whatever you can and if they're in the shopping aisle, step back and give them the first crack.


Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, really appreciate you joining us this morning on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast, with the latest update and great balanced, sound advice.

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