Interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 Report about coronavirus (COVID-19)
Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 Report about coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Thanks for your time today Minister.
It’s a pleasure.
Are the growing numbers in Victoria the result of more testing or something else?
The best advice that I have is there are 2 elements. One, the testing is finding more of those cases that may have been there, but there is clearly a growth in community-based cases.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said today that the state is on the limits of managing the current situation. How is that possible given the time that the original lockdown bought?
Well, I think what we’re seeing is that this is an incredibly contagious disease. It’s a 1 in 100 year disease.
The world as a whole has very sadly just passed 10 million cases, half a million people have lost their lives.
It’s a highly contagious and highly dangerous disease, particularly to the vulnerable.
But we've known that the whole time.
Correct. And so what’s occurred in Victoria is whilst we've been able to get very close to zero community cases in 7 out of the 8 states and territories, there have been outbreaks, 1 related to hotel quarantine, 1 following on from some events in meatworks and other community elements.
And so once they get out, then it's very important to test widely, to trace widely, and we're bringing national resources in.
But you’ve not answered my question which is, we’ve known the whole time that it was highly contagious, how is it possible— we’ve known also that we would have future outbreaks, how is it possible that the chief health officer is saying that the state’s at the limits of being able to manage, when we were told that part of the reason we were all in this heavy lockdown was to give us all time to prepare and have the resourcing and all of the rest of it?
As I understand it, what he’s referring to is the fact that it is difficult to contact trace.
However, that’s why we have brought in the additional resources from around the country.
So, each state has scaled up their public health units, Victoria has done that, but in addition, resources from New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and WA are also assisting in the contact tracing and that's what we do.
The ADF is assisting on the ground.
So, when there is an outbreak, because of the scale of people involved in contact, then we have to make sure that there are very significant numbers available to assist.
We’ve created this mobile workforce, we’ve created the capacity for the Australian Defence Force, and we have created the ability to scale up our testing.
We were testing 12,000 a day some months ago when test kits were a global challenge. Now we're testing well over 40,000 a day with more than 20,000 in Victoria.
So, all of these things are allowing that capacity to be built and we're prepared.
It's serious, but we're all responding as a country and Victoria is as a state.
We know currently that we have a very small number of deaths comparatively in Australia, and we are well below ICU capacity. How many cases could be tolerated in the community at any one time, without having to go into further lockdown?
So, lockdown is really a preventative response, so there are different restrictions and Victoria is considering that today and will during the course of this week as the numbers increase.
And they are responding.
But what's the number? That’s what I’m asking. What’s the ceiling where you go, okay, we have to go to something different.
Well, Victoria is looking at that in terms of their local concentration.
So, there's not a specific number.
In terms of ICU, we currently have 1 patient in ICU with COVID in Australia. We have none on ventilation, I'm advised by the national incident centre.
We have a capacity of 7,500 beds for ventilation.
A third of the new cases are people in their 20s and 30s, the overwhelming majority of whom have very little chance of contracting a serious illness.
Is there another message that may influence their behaviour more than — don’t put others at risk — when they know that they themselves are at very little personal risk?
I think this is a very important point. We know that, particularly in this outbreak, as there was in the Bondi outbreak, young people have been contracting and transmitting the disease.
And so the message to them is not just don't put other people at risk, but around the world we’ve seen that young people are still susceptible to a potentially fatal disease.
It could be your life, it could be your grandmother’s life, your grandfather’s life, your parent’s life.
If we’re going to have to learn to live with coronavirus, when will authorities shift to advocating the use of masks in public places?
So, the Communicable Disease Network of Australia and the medical expert panel, which is the chief health officers of all states and territories, have developed a set of protocols here where if someone is in close proximity, on public transport, it's perfectly appropriate, or if there is a community outbreak, then state and territory authorities are empowered and in a position to make decisions as to whether this could be encouraged or even mandatory.
That's 1 of the items that Victoria is looking at.
So, to translate that just into concise speak for the viewers at home, we're not looking at any sort of national decree about the wearing of masks, but Victoria might introduce it in some places.
Correct. So, not national, but it's designed to be available locally.
And I should say that despite the global supply shortages, we've been able to bring in over 220 million masks for the national medical stockpile, for Australia to have been able to have secured those supplies, to have them in the stockpile has been one of our most important defences which we’ve put in place.
Minister, thanks for your time.