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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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Well, for more on the situation in Victoria, Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me now from Melbourne. Good morning, Minister. Is this going to work or do we have to prepare ourselves for lockdown 3.0?


Good morning, Lisa. Well, we are very focused on making sure that this is an effective and successful program here in Victoria.

We know this can work – seven out of eight states and territories, and Victoria until now, have had a dramatic outcome, a positive outcome.

Now in Victoria, it is a difficult time, for families in apartments and in flats, for small business owners, for employees.

But we are going to do this because we have to do this to save lives.

We can see that the number of people in hospitals and intensive care has grown. So this is a difficult but, sadly, necessary step.

And the Federal Government is leaning in to support and to help Victoria, and Victorians.


Right. And one of the things that the Victorian Premier asked for was to stop these international flights coming in.

That's happening until 14 July, but there's a suggestion it needs to go on for longer. And I understand National Cabinet is going to be looking at this issue tomorrow.

What's the logistics of decreasing the number of people actually coming into Australia, how does that work?


Well, what we do is, of course, we work with each of the states and territories, and then collectively, on the total capacity for the hotel quarantine system, and the quality of it.

In seven out of eight states, it's worked extraordinarily well; it's detected well over 400 cases incoming, prevented them from going out into the community, kept those individuals safe, and kept the community safe.

Clear, significant breaches in Victoria, as have been acknowledged by the Premier, and so as a consequence of that, what the National Cabinet is doing is reviewing the total numbers to make sure that the procedures are safe – as I say, seven out of eight states and territories have done an extraordinary job – and then that will moderate the number of total flights, and therefore the number of people that come into Australia.


So, people could wait for another month or so if they were trying to get back into Australia, they'd just have to wait it out?


These are all difficult decisions. And we have brought approximately 70,000 people through the hotel quarantine system, we've brought Australians home.

But we have to work to the safe capacity of each of the states and territories; that's the fundamental responsibility.

And for Australians who are coming home now, five months after the virus first started, then obviously each will have their own circumstances.

And if they do have to wait, we’d ask them to be patient.


Gee, that Jetstar case in Sydney was a bit of a blunder, wasn't it? That’d have to worry you about what's ahead?


So, even though it's been carried out as a domestic transfer between the states, I instructed my department to immediately approach the states to work on the procedures.

I’ve been reassured that they have not only begun, and either in almost every case or those still to come, carried out the contact with the individuals.

But that New South Wales has changed its procedures.

So, we saw that there was one case here in terms of one flight. We have provided federal oversight immediately, and to New South Wales' credit, they've responded immediately.


Would you back the New South Wales Premier in moves to tighten restrictions in that state? She seems to be indicating that's ahead.


Well always, each premier is using a containment and isolation model in consultation with the Federal Government, and that's about the needs with regards to the case levels.

And so, we have what we call rings of containment, where, when there is an outbreak, whether it's in an aged care facility, whether it's in a business or whether it's in a residential community, that capacity for localised containment is there.

It's a model we established in February. It's played itself out in North West Tasmania and worked very well.

Now it's being used in particular areas of Melbourne, and then more broadly in Melbourne, and then at the borders to help isolate those within Victoria who may be at risk of passing on the virus.

So, we're using that model, we outlined it, we're prepared.

And I do think it's important to provide this reassurance to Australians that we've done this once.

Now, as a country, we have to focus on Victoria, which has to do it again.

And it will be a difficult time.

But we know how to do this, we know we can get through this, and we have to support each other.


Alright. Minister, thanks for your time.


Thanks, Lisa.

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