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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 bring in the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, good morning, welcome to Breakfast.


Good morning, Lisa.


Lots to get through this morning so we’ll crack on. Is it out of control in Victoria? The coronavirus spikes that we’re seeing?


It is clearly a very serious outbreak, primarily confined to the north and the west of Melbourne although not exclusively - that’s why these difficult measures are being taken.

And for those that are involved in the suburbs that are under lockdown – of course the high-rise towers and the border communities – we really understand the difficulty.

And the Australian Government is mobilising to support those different communities - we have over 200 ADF in Melbourne; we will have over 350 coming to the borders and up to 500, if required.

And we thank them for their patience but this is a critical time and these are, sadly, necessary steps.


Let's talk about the border situation. We've already got three cases in Albury-Wodonga region. Were the borders closed- this decision taken too late?


No, I think what we've done is follow the medical advice both at state level and at federal level.

As a country one of the things we've been able to do is to flatten the curve to stop that spread, and in light of the number of cases in Victoria the decision was taken between the Prime Minister and the Victorian and New South Wales Premiers off the back of medical advice to do this now.

It represents a ring of containment for Victoria, which fits in with what we've also been doing at the local levels.

So, these are the steps that we always planned in the case of outbreaks, and now is the time to enact them in order to contain that spread, at the same time to provide the support - contain the spread, provide the support - they're the things that we're doing.

And we've been through this, sadly, as a country before, we are now going through it in particular as one state.


You say that closing the borders was always planned but I feel we've jumped from a period where it was considered not the right thing - and the Prime Minister was demanding borders reopen - to suddenly now saying, well, this is what we always expected would happen.

I think people in Victoria would be surprised to hear that, Minister.


No. With respect, right from the start in February we've talked about the concept of rings of containment - whether it's been suburbs, broader areas such as north-west Tasmania, or when it's required to take that step.

Now is the moment when we believe that step, for the first time, is required and necessary and it relates specifically and exclusively to the challenges that Victoria is facing.

And so the concept of rings of containment, of isolating areas, has always been part of it - this is the first time that we believe that the triggers have been met and the challenges are such with numbers that it's appropriate, required and necessary.


Well, you call it a: ring of containment. The Australian Industry Group this morning is saying it's a Berlin Wall between two of the biggest states and that it is just going to devastate this attempt to try and reopen the country's economy.


It's difficult, it's temporary, but sadly it is necessary.

It flows from the fact that, of course, there's been a very serious outbreak in Victoria, particularly within the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne - but what we know is that it's not exclusively confined to them.

That's why our task is very clear - one, to make sure that we're controlling our international borders and preventing the bringing of cases, which why we have been using the hotel quarantine; clearly there was a significant breach in Melbourne which has seeded many of these cases.

Secondly, the testing - and I thank all of those people around the country who are testing, but in particular those within Melbourne where there are over 25,000 tests occurring in Victoria on a daily basis at the moment.

Tracing is very important - the thing that we have to work on is to make sure that in Victoria every case is traced down every day, every case, every day - that's the fundamental task now, I think, going forwards, to assist Victoria with that and the nation is doing that.

And then finally these distancing requirements. And these are difficult and challenging, but fundamental to protecting Australians.


Regional communities are saying they're being punished for what's happening in the cities?


Nobody is being punished, everybody is being protected.

And this is a difficult and unique circumstance - a global pandemic.

And I spoke with the New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, last night - they are making arrangements for regional communities.

We would ask everybody to exercise patience and I know it's difficult, and I know it's challenging.

We have been through this already. In March, what we saw was that - and in April - Australians had difficult restrictions put in place.

We were able to deal with it, we were able to rise to it, and we were able to flatten that curve.

Around the country, there is effectively zero community transmission in seven out of eight states and territories - we want to keep it that way, and we want to concentrate our resources on making sure that in Melbourne we are able to contain that spread, to support the Victorian Government, and to support the people who are doing the most difficult but fundamentally lifesaving things to protect themselves, and to protect Victorians, and to protect Australians.


Good to have you on the program. Thanks, Minister.


Thanks, Lisa.

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