Media event date: 
17 March 2020
Date published: 
18 March 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

TRACY GRIMSHAW:

I’m joined now by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt from Melbourne. Minister, thanks for your time.

Most parents will tell you that they’ve never been sicker in their lives since they had kids because they get every cold, flu and gastro bug going around because the kids bring it home from school.

So how can we afford to leave schools open?

GREG HUNT:

So I’ve just been briefed by the Chief Medical Officer, and he and the chief health officers of all of the states and territories have been meeting over the last two days.

One of their strongest findings and recommendations is when they look at a country like Singapore, which has not closed schools, when they look at transmission amongst children, that it is a very significant risk to put them with grandparents, to take up to 30 per cent of health workers out of the system.

And ultimately our goal is to protect our seniors.

And as long as we can keep schools open, the advice is – from the communicable disease experts of Australia – that we should be doing it.

They’ve looked at the practices around the world that have worked.

They’re also looking at what best protects kids and with low transmissibility amongst kids, but with high vulnerability of grandparents and potentially 30 per cent of the health workforce being taken out of the heath system at a time when we need every one of them, that’s their advice to the Prime Minister and myself and the governments of Australia.

TRACY GRIMSHAW:

So you’re saying it’s absolutely not on your agenda at the moment?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I’ve just literally been briefed, I’ve walked out of the briefing to speak with you and this is the collective advice of the communicable disease experts, of the chief health officers who have considered this in extensive detail.

And their view is that the safety of the children is maximised for as long as possible, keeping them in an environment with low transmissibility, and that the safety of our grandparents and our seniors is maximised by this.

I respect the other views but that’s the strongest, clearest medical advice, not just in Australia but from the best group of medical advisors.

TRACY GRIMSHAW:

I’m sorry to interrupt you, I need to get to another question because it’s also an important one.

I believe those health professionals have also briefed you on reducing the size of mass gatherings. Now, President Donald Trump has now told Americans he doesn’t want any more than ten people to gather in one place at the same time.

Are you about to say that pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas need to close?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I understand they’ll be making recommendations to the new National Cabinet, which is the Prime Minister and the premiers, and I expect that there will be recommendations but they’ll be balanced recommendations based on the health advice.

And ultimately, this is always about protecting Australians.

And we have given them complete freedom to give fearless advice and they are likely to recommend changes with regards to gatherings inside, but my expectation is that they’ll be reasonable and balanced.

It will allow many activities to continue and we said to them: tell us what you need to protect Australians and we’ll implement it.

And that’s what I’m expecting.

TRACY GRIMSHAW:

Okay. Minister, I hope that we will be able to talk to you again soon with maybe a little more time, but thanks for your time tonight, I know how busy you are.

GREG HUNT:

Of course.

TRACY GRIMSHAW:

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt.

Ministers: