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Interview with Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore on The Project about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore on The Project about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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We're joined now by Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, there does seem to be a lot of nervousness about Easter this weekend. What should it look like for families around Australia this weekend?


We want families to be able to connect over the telephone and over the internet, over FaceTime or Skype or whatever other way.

What we don't want is, sadly, people moving around, visiting each other's homes.

The reason why is very simple - we only need to look at Italy or Spain, at New York, or so many other places that we know so well, where the reality is of health systems under massive pressure, tragedy and loss.

Now, what we're seeing in Australia is that all the measures are bringing, as you said in your introduction, the curve down, bringing the new daily rate of infection down from nearly 30 per cent to well below 5 per cent now.

And at the same time, we're boosting the capacity. But we can only do this if we can continue to keep these infections down.

And so if people can continue to do what they're doing - they've been amazing - it's going to take a while longer, but if we can be patient, we're going to save an enormous number of lives.


So, the virus doesn't take a holiday, Easter doesn't become a public holiday for us from those measures, I take that point. The measures are quite extreme and they're having an effect.

The modelling released today, though, there was something that you didn't include in the presentation, but you did in the accompanying documentation, which is interesting.

So this is this graph that we’ve got of it that shows the difference it makes if you go from uncontrolled to quarantine and isolation only, to quarantine and isolation and social distancing, which seems to be where we are.

And it seems to suggest you would have to do that for a year or even longer. The Prime Minister keeps talking about six months.

Is a year actually more realistic? Is that what we’re looking at here?


No, six months remains our guidance. That's been reaffirmed through the work of the National Cabinet and the Chief Medical Officers.

The graph that you'd be looking at, that is important, that showed us that initially looking at what was happening internationally, we could have been facing anywhere from 3 to 20 million people, and obviously with huge consequences.

We know around the world that 1 per cent to 2 per cent of people lose their lives, and those figures would have had a catastrophic impact on Australia.

That's what we've avoided, and that's the immensely important relief that Australians have going into Easter.

But the message is exactly as you say, the virus doesn't take a holiday. I think that's a great way of putting it, and that's why we are going to continue with what we're doing, and Australians have been amazing.

Our health workers are heroic, really heroic, but Australians everywhere are doing their part, supporting other people, as well as doing the right thing by themselves.

The more we do this, the more we avoid those futures that we've seen overseas or that we saw in the models today, that was a possible future that we've now thankfully, on our best advice, likely avoided.

But we can only do this if we continue to take these difficult measures, but in the most humane way that Australians are practising.


I agree with everything you're saying, Minister. And thank you for reiterating that around people doing a good job and staying at home, but can we focus on what else needs to take place for us to get that exit strategy?

Because, I think you will agree, if we all just stay at home and avoid each other, that doesn't necessarily mean the virus disappears.

What else is in place, what are the other plans that mean that, come six or 12 months, that we’re going to have an exit strategy?


Look, that's a really important question and I think a very valuable one.

Our number one goal – and this is what the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said today - is to find the cases of community transmission and to eradicate them.

How do we do that? By continuing to test, by having a testing regime which is at the forefront of the world, and at the same time wherever cases emerge - tracing, going out and finding the possible sources, and if we can continue to do that, effectively mopping up cases and all of those who might have been exposed and put at risk, then that’s what’s stopped what’s called community transmission, or the unknown cases.

And those are the sleepers which have had such a devastating impact in parts of Europe and America, in the early stages in China and Iran, in the early stages in Korea.

These are the things which led to mass outbreaks, and that's what we have been really strong at as a country, but there's more to go.

And if we can do that, that’s what gives us a pathway out.

Because there's been a pathway in, we're now going through a period of stability where we seek out and find all of these community transmission cases that we can, and then that helps us with the pathway out. And we're going to get there.

We're doing very well by global standards, but we're continuing to push to make sure that each person knows their actions can help save lives, or if they take steps which aren't conscious of others, they could inadvertently risk their grandmother or their grandfather or someone they have never met.


Minister, we do have to leave it there. We appreciate your time, we know it's very tight. Thank you very much for it.


Look, thanks very much. I just want to wish everybody a safe Easter, but to say thank you to Australians.

They are doing an amazing job and we're going to get through this. The evidence is getting stronger every day. Take care.


Thank you for all the work you're doing as well Minister, appreciate your time.

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