Date published: 
15 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PAUL KENNEDY:

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, joins us now from Melbourne. Minister, thanks your time. We appreciate you being available. A couple of quick ones.

GREG HUNT:

Morning Paul.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Firstly, do you have any evidence that the cluster in the Sydney pub was linked to Victoria?

GREG HUNT:

We don't have specific evidence ourselves, this is being developed by the New South Wales health authorities.

We have had some initial reports that that is a prime source, that's probably the most likely source.

But they are doing what's called the contact-tracing – so going back to the original source and that's their working theory at this point in time – it's not surprising.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Okay, and the other one is on aged care in Melbourne. What is your advice at the moment for Melbourne? Should every resident who tests positive be removed from the facility?

GREG HUNT:

We're making that capacity available and the response is a clinical response.

So in other words, the doctors and the medical advisors on the ground are determining whether or not somebody can be isolated – whether they need to be separated and removed; or, taken directly to hospital – and all of those options are on the table.

We have made sure, in conjunction with the Victorian authorities, that there is immediate capacity. This remains always the most serious of cases, if there's an infection in an aged care facility (inaudible).

PAUL KENNEDY:

Would you like to– on the evidence would you like to see it happen? With every case? To make it uniform?

GREG HUNT:

One thing that I have always done is never put myself in the shoes of the doctor. It's to make sure that the doctors have all of the available material.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Yeah.

GREG HUNT:

And they have the immediate capacity to take everyone to hospital if they believe that that's in the best interests of the patient – to separate, to isolate or to move.

And that's what we have done as federal authorities – to make sure there's immediate testing of all staff and all residents, and the capacity to provide whatever is the appropriate hospital care.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Minister, has Victoria told you what the tipping point might be for another phase of lockdown? Stricter and a tougher lockdown?

GREG HUNT:

Look, at this stage they are working through their options, they haven't ruled anything out.

Right now our goal, everyone's goal, is to help flatten that curve within Victoria.

We have done it once, we know we can do it again. But it does mean everybody doing the really difficult things – staying at home, keeping that distance. If you can reach out and touch somebody other than your household members, that's too close; the cough etiquette, and, the masks where you can’t social distance.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Can I just take you– Sorry to interrupt you, just got a bit to get through.

Can I take you the numbers though yesterday, horrible numbers yesterday after a bit of a reprieve the day before, relatively speaking?

If we get numbers like we did yesterday from Victoria, do you think we're very close to another stage of lockdown?

GREG HUNT:

I'll be cautious on that.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Okay.

GREG HUNT:

Our focus is to make sure we do get the numbers down.

Victoria is assessing every day and in particular through what's called the medical expert panel, but also through their own work.

Our role is to increase the resources. We're bringing in, after our offer to Victoria, an additional 1,000 ADF, and that will also include some senior leadership to assist with the tasking inside the contact tracing program.

PAUL KENNEDY:

To be ready for it?

GREG HUNT:

They’ve been advocating for this and that's been accepted.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Okay. Just a quote from the New South Wales Premier last night speaking to Michael Rowland on 7.30: We have to learn to manage these outbreaks.

My question to you: given we're still experimenting in Australia on the best approach to COVID-19, what's holding you back from trying for elimination?

On the evidence that we have had, on the failures that we have seen, learning from that and then pushing ahead for elimination.

GREG HUNT:

Well actually, we're simply being honest about the fact that in a global pandemic – which is now past more than 13 million – our goal is always to get to as close to zero cases as possible.

But with the example of the hotel quarantine in Victoria – after Victoria had had zero cases on one particular day – that came from the hotel quarantine, not from the community.

It's obviously had a catastrophic impact in human terms as well as in societal terms, and that was after zero cases from without– from outside of the system. And that's an example of why we want to be honest. We don't want people to relax.

We want to be absolutely clear that this disease can strike, it can come in in ways that are unseen, and so we’re aiming to have as close to zero as possible.

PAUL KENNEDY:

But I guess, Minister– I understand that. I guess I'm saying hotel quarantine, that debacle has happened and we have learned from that, and that these locked borders – I mean if you’ve got New South Wales going one way, Victoria another way – the borders might have to stay closed?

One state goes in and out so we're really in a paralysis for a long time.

GREG HUNT:

Well I– can I ask, Paul, what are you actually– can I respectfully ask, Paul, what are you actually advocating? Do we stop people.

PAUL KENNEDY:

No.

GREG HUNT:

From overseas? Do we stop all trade with overseas? Do we stop humanitarian arrivals?

PAUL KENNEDY:

No, I'm not. I’m not advocating for it. I'm just sort of exploring this, because a lot of people are asking.

GREG HUNT:

Okay. Well, all those things are, all of those things are the elements that you would require if you're going to have total, absolute, hermetically-sealed Australia with no elimination.

So just again, ask if that's what you're proposing?

PAUL KENNEDY:

Yeah. No. I don’t know. I’ll be clear with you – I'm not proposing it. I'm asking because a lot of people are thinking, well, is that something that we should be now thinking about?

Just one last one.

GREG HUNT:

Look, our goal remains as close to zero as possible.

But as we’ve just seen, you know, in a genuinely sort of well-intentioned way, if somebody were arguing for that, that would mean obviously, clearly no gatherings, no protests, no trade, no returnees from overseas, no family reunions, none of those human contact.

And in a world with over 13 million cases – and clearly it's going to head towards 20 million at some stage – and with over 575,000 lives lost, we need to be honest that this is a global pandemic, nobody’s immune, therefore we have to prepare.

The vigilance that we have will have to remain with us.

And the reason I'm saying this is because if we try to pretend it away, then there will be outcomes which are real and significant and human.

By being vigilant, by being upfront, I think we have the best means of possibly protecting ourselves.

And remembering, Australia has overwhelmingly done extraordinarily well and Australians have been magnificent.

So can we do this? Yes. Do we have to do it again in Victoria? Yes. But we'll get there.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Just one final one on the contact tracing app. Much has been said about the failures. What's been done right now to improve our contact tracing beyond the app?

GREG HUNT:

Well, what failures, Paul? What failures?

PAUL KENNEDY:

Well, it hasn't picked up– it hasn't been able to trace any positives. It hasn't been useful in that regard.

GREG HUNT:

Well, that's incorrect. There are over 200 cases that have been identified.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Okay. So, you're happy with the way the contact tracing has been done in the country?

GREG HUNT:

No. There are 2 different things here.

Our number 1 federal concern in Victoria is contact tracing.

We are working with Victorians. We're encouraging them to reach the standard of every case every day, every case, every day – that has to be the standard for tracing and then for following up the contact.

We're bringing in additional federal resources.

We will have very senior military leadership, which is now been invited in by Victoria at our suggestion, to help with the tasking within the contact-tracing unit in Victoria.

We're bringing people from around the country  public health officials from other states are remotely tracing.

And so we’ve have been offering, providing, suggesting, proposing those resources and we're thankful Victoria has agreed to accept them.

And they're doing everything they can, but we're supporting them in that task which is our number 1 federal concern along with the aged care.

PAUL KENNEDY:

Greg Hunt, we appreciate you making yourself available.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks, Paul.

Ministers: