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Interview with Lisa Millar on ABC News Breakfast about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Lisa Millar on ABC News Breakfast about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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Let's get more and bring in the Federal Health Minister, Greg blunt- Hunt, from his electorate on the

Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Minister, good morning.

I said blunt because that’s, quite frankly, what the Queensland Premier was just then, she couldn't have made it any clearer, hey?


No, I think that the Queensland Premier did the right thing. We are all, as leaders and Health Ministers and Chief Medical Officers, very much in the same position, but Australians are doing magnificently, we've seen real progress.

The rest of the world would, overwhelmingly in a heartbeat, swap positions with Australia. But what the Prime Minister said earlier, what the Queensland Premier has just said then, what the Victorian Premier said on the weekend, is that we need to stay the course.

And we need to do this for a very real reason, that it saves lives and protects lives, so, magnificent work so far. We've seen daily infection rates grow to- fall to less than two per cent daily growth. In other words, the curve really is flattening, but it hasn't stopped.

And so, we need to continue doing what we're doing because these outbreaks could take lives, they could overwhelm the health system if they were left unchecked and that's why we still have a considerable period of time of difficult restrictions. But at the same time, we're planning that road out.


It's normally about this time of the morning that we get the updated figures. Has someone managed to slip them into your hands this morning, can you tell us anything further about case numbers?


Yes, yes. So, just from the National Incident Centre, literally minutes before coming to you, 6366 cases in Australia. Sadly, 61 lives lost. And what that shows is that there has been a continued slowing of the growth rate or flattening of the curve throughout Easter.

We will review what's occurred, but Australians have overwhelmingly done an amazing job over Easter. The average transport, Citymapper, it’s available to everybody, shows this, movements have been about 12 per cent, so under 13 per cent of what they normally are at this time of year.

And that's a very difficult thing for all of the businesses and families but for defeating this virus it's just an immensely important asset and personal contribution made by everybody.


And Minister, when you look at what's going on in Burnie at the moment, 5000 people in isolation, locked in their homes, all of it coming back to the Ruby Princess, what a debacle that has been.


Well, the PM this morning made it very, very clear that there's an investigation going on and that's an appropriate thing to happen. At the same time, we need to ensure that we are dealing with testing and tracing and containment in cases such as this.

The local containment process, what we call the rings of containment that were outlined in February as part of pandemic plan. Tasmania’s moved immediately to implement that. We're then supporting that with the Australian Medical Assistance Team, or AUSMAT, and a military medical team that will operate to AUSMAT that's supporting the locals.

And that's the country working as a whole but there will be outbreaks, there will be challenges. The rest of the world would rather be where we are, overwhelmingly, but that doesn't mean we're out of this, we've got a long way to go. But we are making progress on a scale far faster than any of us had dared hoped only a month ago.


Can I ask you about the wet markets in China, because the WHO is getting ready to allow China to reopen them, and the Prime Minister’s been pretty firm about Australia's approach on this and it sort of has us going against the WHO, where does this go and how concerned are you about the wet markets reopening?


Well, there is a very real likelihood that this disease arose from a wet market in Wuhan. It's clear that these are dangerous vectors and in our view it is unfathomable.

And so, we might disagree on this issue with some of the international authorities, but our job is to protect Australians, and I would imagine that around the world, the vast majority of people would have a similar view.


And Minister, just finally, can I ask you about the growing number of calls, we’ve just made it very clear that restrictions aren't going to lifted any time soon.

But lots of people writing about why young people in Australia should be wearing the burden and paying the price of the actions that we're taking now, some suggesting that the GST should be increased to share the burden, we're getting news about the unemployment rate today. What's your take?


Well, I think that there are a couple of things. Firstly, in terms of any person can catch the virus and inadvertently spread it. And so, the difficult, hard restrictions that are in place and we are apologetic that this has to be the case but absolutely resolute and resolved that it must continue to be the case.

They apply to all of us because anybody could pass on the disease inadvertently and even a person in their 20s could catch it in a way that could be catastrophic for them. They are less likely to have a catastrophic outcome but just as likely to pass it on.

Then, in terms of the economics, what we've done is create two enormous programs – Job Keeper, to keep people employed, and then Job Seeker for those that are unemployed with significantly increased benefits. So, it's a very difficult time but the more we do now, the stronger Australia's position.

And that means that we'll be in a better position economically than so many other countries and a better position to help each of these individuals.


Greg Hunt, thank you very much for joining us.


Thanks, Lisa, I hope I wasn't quite as blunt as you were setting out at the start but I do want to say this, that Australians have been magnificent.

There's more to go but we are making our way through this and every day, I'm more convinced we're going to get through this.


Terrific, thanks for your time.

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