Media event date: 
31 May 2021
Date published: 
1 June 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Thank you very much to everybody for joining us today. I’m accompanied by Professor Michael Kidd, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, who has just completed chairing the medical expert panel, or the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, and Commodore Eric Young to provide the weekly update in relation to vaccinations.

I will give a brief update in regards to some of the national figures and then address the latest developments in Victoria. I think those are the two things that I’d like to deal with at my end.

In terms of our overall national vaccine rollout, I want to thank Australians. We know that the second dose campaign for AstraZeneca begins this week. This is now 12 weeks since the first dose campaign commenced, and so first doses are ongoing and continuing. Second doses are commencing this week, and so we want to reaffirm the message with Professor Murphy yesterday that anybody who has been vaccinated, when your time comes after 12 weeks, please come forward to have that second dose.

The first dose is, of course, absolutely fundamental and, as Professor Murphy and Paul Kelly have affirmed, provides the bulk of the protection, and so we want every Australian to continue to come forward at the earliest possible time.

On that front, yesterday was a record a day for a Sunday; 30,701 Australians came forward to be vaccinated. Our national total is now at 4.243 million doses, so 4.243 million doses, and significantly, this week was a record week. We have doubled our vaccinations over the course of a four-week period going from just over 300,000 then to 400,000, 436,000, 512,000, and this week, 630,547 Australians came forward to be vaccinated.

And I want to thank and respect all of those that have come forward. This program is a partnership between the Commonwealth and our general practices and the states, and all are playing their part. So far, the states have delivered just over 1.5 million vaccines, and the Commonwealth just over 2.7 million vaccinations, including the primary care or GP program, which is 2.359 million vaccinations, and age and disability care 345,583 vaccinations.

I think that’s extremely important, and of course Commodore Young will take you through the distribution and utilisation figures around the country.

I also want to particularly address the circumstances in Victoria and thank the Victorian Government for the partnership that we have with them. Just in relation to the support, we have indicated that we have commenced the hotspot support which follows through the declaration of a Commonwealth hotspot by the Chief Medical Officer.

That includes the support for surge workforce, the support for single site workforce, the establishment of COVID-specific facilities, private hospital arrangement, but working in conjunction with the public hospitals, that is already being utilised for one resident today, the creation of asymptomatic testing in residences, an additional 130,000 doses, and the provision of PPE where required.

In particular, with regards to the Arcare Maidstone facility, we know that one resident has tested positive. The advice I have is that that 99-year-old woman is being transferred to hospital, is asymptomatic, but significantly was vaccinated. So that we hope will provide protection, but obviously somebody of such an advanced age, it is a very concerning time. But having been vaccinated, that is very important measure of protection.

It reaffirms, as we know, that these vaccines are not a universal defence against infection, but they provide absolutely critical protection against serious illness. There is a second resident who has not been diagnosed as positive, but is being retested on the advice of the medical authorities, a 95-year-old, also vaccinated, and again, asymptomatic on the advice we have. And we’ll update once that advice comes through.

The situation on the ground there is that testing has been conducted across the facility, both staff and residents. In addition to that, what we see is that there is a second dose vaccination round which is occurring today. It was due in two days, and so that has been brought forward on medical advice. And for those residents who did not receive first vaccinations, they did not have consent either of their families or did not provide it themselves, the strongest possible encouragement is being provided to the families to give that consent, and we hope that as many of the staff and residents who had not previously taken up the opportunity will do so today.

In relation to BlueCross Western Gardens, where a worker has been identified, testing is underway today, and tier three PPE is in place, visitor restrictions are in place, resident movement restrictions are in place, and the Commonwealth has also acted a clinical first responder and surge workforce, and as more information is available, this facility has also been vaccinated, but as more information is available, more information will be provided.

I’d now invite Michael Kidd and then Commodore Young.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you, Minister. I wanted to provide some details about what we know of the level of protection divided by a first dose of either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.

As you know, it’s essential that people receive two doses of each of these vaccines. For the Pfizer vaccine, that’s two doses three weeks apart; for the AstraZeneca vaccine, that’s two doses 12 weeks apart, although a shorter time interval may be appropriate in some circumstances.

A single dose of either vaccine is effective at protecting you against being infected with COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms. This protection commences within a few days of vaccination and then increases over time.

We're still learning about asymptomatic infection in vaccinated people, we’re still learning about the development of mild symptoms in vaccinated people, and we’re still learning about the risk of vaccinated people being able to transmit the virus to other people.

But the best data that we have on the effectiveness of first doses of vaccine comes of the United Kingdom, which has, of course, also rolled out the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccines to their populations. And the UK research has shown that for people aged 70 and above who’ve received either the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine, there is a 50 per cent reduction in serious disease and hospitalisation within two to three weeks of that first dose and an 80 per cent reduction within four weeks of that first dose.

So first doses do work, and they provide protection. As people build up protection, it’s still important, of course, that they continue COVID-safe practices to protect their own health and the health of others. And both the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccines require the full two dose course for the very best long-lasting immune response.

While partial protection against COVID-19 may be in place as soon as 12 days or even earlier after the first dose, this protection is likely to be short-lived unless you have the second booster shot, and it’s the second shot that encourages your body to create stronger protection or immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

So our message is please do not delay in being vaccinated if you're currently eligible, whether in Victoria or elsewhere the country. And please, if you are responsible for providing consent for an elderly parent or another relative, and if you have any questions, please talk to your trusted GP, nurse, Aboriginal health worker, pharmacist, about the vaccine.

We know that just over 50 per cent of people aged over 70 across Australia have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but that also means that just under 50 per cent of people are still at risk of serious illness and risk of death if infected.

And it’s also important that we are all vaccinated, and when it’s our turn, because some people may not generate as strong a protective response as other people. And this is particularly the case for some very frail elderly people and for people with health conditions that affect their immune system.

So by being immunised, you’re not only protecting your own health and well-being, but you’re also protecting everyone else in Australia. Being vaccinated shows that you care about everyone else in our country.

Thanks, Minister.

ERIC YOUNG:

Thanks, Professor Kidd. Good afternoon, everybody. As the Minister said, last week more than 630,000 doses of vaccine were administered across the country, taking our total now to more than 4.2 million doses administered.

In Victoria last week, 205,552 doses were administered through a combination of Commonwealth and state clinics, taking the total now in Victoria to 1,134,659 doses administered in Victoria. That includes 53 per cent of those aged 70 and over having received now at least one dose of the vaccine and 35 per cent of those aged 50 and over having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

For the Vaccine Operation Centre, apart from supporting existing sites, our primary focus at the moment is surging to support our fellow Australians in Victoria.

In terms of the operational update, I’ll do that in three parts, focusing on supply of the vaccine, distribution of the vaccine, and administering of the vaccine. In terms of supply, last week the Therapeutic Goods Administration cleared 352,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 1,007,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

In the coming days, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will conduct sample testing and batch release of 298,350 doses of Pfizer vaccine, which arrived onshore this morning, and another 950,000 doses of the onshore CSL-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine.

In terms of Victoria, based on what they have administered to date and what’s been provided, they have approximately 311,000 doses of vaccine available for administering.

In terms of the distribution of the vaccine, last week we had 863,000 doses of the vaccine distributed across the country. Only one of those orders were unable to be completed, and that will be completed today.

This week, we have another 900,000 doses of vaccine and or consumables being delivered across the country. In Victoria, this includes approximately 90,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine being provided to primary care sites in Victoria.

For the state hubs, we have another 71,370 doses of Pfizer vaccine being provided to the state, an additional 101,000 doses of AstraZeneca being provided to state hubs. That takes the total now to an additional 170,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine being provided to Victorian State Government.

In terms of administering the vaccine, as the Minister said, last week we had 630,547 doses of vaccine administered across the country, taking the total now to 2,243,600 doses administered across the country.

An analysis of that data indicates a significant increase with our weekday average now 108,000 doses per day, which is up 15,000 from the previous week. For primary care, this includes approximately 7,000 doses per day increase from the 4,690 sites across the country. And predominantly, that’s on the back of a strong uptake in the 50-to-69-year cohort.

The states, they’ve had an increase of approximately 10,000 doses per day from 717 sites across the country. And again, for the states, that’s predominantly on the back of a significant increase in the rate of those 40 to 49 years. We now, through the combination of Commonwealth and state clinics, have more than 5,400 sites across the country where we can be vaccinated.

In terms of our vaccine workforce service providers, we continue to focus on those most at risk in our community – those older Australians in residential aged care facilities. We’ve now had 2,537 first dose visits equating to 99 per cent of all residential aged care facilities across the country, and 1,920 second dose visits, or 75 per cent.

For Victoria, all 596 residential aged care facilities have had a first dose visit, and 382 of those sites have had a second dose visit, with the remainder sites scheduled for the next three weeks.

In addition to surging support for second dose visits in Victoria, we’re also now looking to provide roving clinics. They are clinics designed to go around to residential aged care facilities where a first dose has previously been provided and again offer additional vaccinations for those that may not have chosen to take up a vaccination the first time around.

For Arcare facility, they completed their first dose visit, and their second dose visit is being completed today. BlueCross has also had a first dose visit, and their second dose visit is currently scheduled for next week, and we’re looking at options now for bringing that forward.

As we complete the aged care facilities, as we’ve said now for the last couple of months, we continue to ramp up the disability sector, and we’ve now had now approximately 7,000 people with a disability in a residential setting that have received at least one vaccination.

This week, it's exceptionally important that everyone understands, if you are eligible, how and where to access a vaccine. You’ve got options at looking at obviously your state websites and numbers, but also the eligibility checker at health.gov.au. We’ve now had more than seven million visits to that website.

Today, the Vaccine Operation Centre, as we do every day, is focused on ensuring the vaccines we have are available across the country where they are most needed to protect our most vulnerable Australians. Thank you.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much to Eric and Michael. I’ll start with those on the phone and then come to those in the room. If I could begin with Jade.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. Given the situation Victoria, will you consider making COVID vaccines mandatory for aged care workers? And don’t they need to be more done to restrict workers to one facility?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. So in relation to mandating for aged care workers, that had been previously looked at by the Chief Health Officers of the states, along with the Commonwealth. And the Prime Minister and myself have asked the medical expert panel to review that decision. That was not recommended at the time. And we have asked the medical expert panel to review precisely that question.

Then in relation to what’s called single site workforce, the important thing here is that that has been triggered. In non-outbreak times, one of the things which, and I’ll ask Michael Kidd to address because of his particular role in chairing the aged care advisory group. One of the things which has been very strongly reaffirmed is the need to ensure that there are adequate staff resources for resident safety.

And so that means that for example, it is absolutely critical that we can have testing staff move between sites, vaccination staff move between sites, clinical first responders, exactly as we are now. The need to cover those that are ill and the need for surge workforce. So all of those things show the need for flexibility.

Having said that, the advice we have is that in the Greater Melbourne region, for example, it’s approximately 4.7 per cent of staff who have worked across different sites. And so it is a situation which is very much in the absolute minority of staff, but the safety of residents, including as I say vaccination testing, clinical first responder, coverage for those that are ill, and the capacity for surge workforce is the reason why the authorities had previously not made a change.

It is very much something that could be done under public-health orders at the state level, but the medical advice has not been that it’s in the interests of the residents for those reasons I’ve set out. But I might ask Professor Kidd to speak briefly.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Minister. So, yes, the Aged Care Advisory Group has looked at the issue of single worker, single site and when this should take place. Obviously, it's essential during times when we have community transmission but the advice at the moment is it's not a proportionate response to require this at times when we don't have community transmission. But this is like all other policies remains under active consideration.

JOURNALIST:

So why wasn't that changed two weeks ago? I mean, we had community transmission, didn't we, in Victoria, not just in the last couple of days. Why wasn't the rule on staff moving between aged care facilities changed earlier in just the last couple of days?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I think Victoria only moved on Thursday to make those changes and the Commonwealth hotspot definition came in at the same time.

JOURNALIST:

But the argument was that it depends on whether there's community transmission. Did we not have community transmission in Victoria before just the last couple of days? And so, in that case, why wasn't that the trigger for faster action by the feds to change this rule on aged care workers moving between aged care centres?

GREG HUNT:

So it's very much a medical decision and medical advice, and we follow that medical advice.

JOURNALIST:

Who are those medical advisers?

GREG HUNT:

Well, the definition is determined through the combination of the work of the Victorian Government, where they put in place their changes, and they have again followed medical, and at the Commonwealth level, a Chief Medical Officer’s decision is taken.

JOURNALIST:

I’m sorry, Minister. It sounds like they were faceless people making this decision, which could be fundamental to the lives of people in aged care, residential aged care facilities.

GREG HUNT:

Well, it remains critical that people are able to work for vaccinations, for testing, for surge workforce, all of those things that are occurring.

JOURNALIST:

But, sorry. Sorry, we’re just trying to clarify, though, what is the reason why when human transmission started to occur, it wasn't immediately changed?

GREG HUNT:

So, again, this is based on the medical advice of what is the appropriate time.

JOURNALIST:

But who is the medical adviser, Minister?

GREG HUNT:

Well, that was laid out by the Chief Medical Officer in the declaration of a Commonwealth hotspot on Thursday.

JOURNALIST:

So are you saying that the risk was determined to be low enough to continue to have people working between the centres or there weren’t enough staff to keep the centres operating?

GREG HUNT:

No, the risk changes as a result of the Commonwealth hotspot definition, which reflects the risk on the ground.

JOURNALIST:

So did the Commonwealth hotspot definition not change quickly enough then?

GREG HUNT:

No, the Commonwealth definition was changed in conjunction with Victoria's own decisions.

Phil? Phil Corey?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. Possibly one thing Professor Kidd just wondering about the transmission in Victoria between May 11 when the fellow who returned from Adelaide tested positive and the events last week.

Is there any link to the slowness of the Victorians to have a QR system, a universal QR code system? They didn’t adopt a universal system until Friday last week and they have had various patch up systems leading up to that. Is that one reason why (inaudible) contact tracers over the last two or three weeks since we first knew about this fellow?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. I'll respond very briefly. Look, we think all of the states and territories have put in place vastly improved contact tracing systems. Obviously, last year, our view was and remains that New South Wales had a gold standard, globally leading contact tracing system. But all of the states and territories, including Victoria, have significantly advanced their capabilities.

Michael.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, very, very important. We've seen how effective the QR codes are in assisting us with rapid contact tracing, following up the contacts of people who’ve been diagnosed infected with COVID-19. Of course, it's absolutely essential that everyone is using the QR codes.

So please, wherever you’re going all around the country, if there’s QR codes required for you to enter a venue, please make sure you use them.

GREG HUNT:

Great. Paul.

JOURNALIST:

So you don’t consider that to be a factor?

GREG HUNT:

Look, we'd have to refer you to the Victorians on that one, Phil.

Paul.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. What proportion of aged care residents, not centres, but residents have had a COVID-19 vaccination?

Can you guarantee the only residents who haven’t been vaccinated in Victoria, are those that were offered but refused? And if there are any plan to circle back to those people in case they now want one, not just in centres with outbreaks, but more generally?

GREG HUNT:

So to the third question, yes, the answer is there's continuous provision. That's exactly what Commodore Young has set out.

Secondly, we know that, in terms of the proportion of residents around the country that have had vaccinations, it's approximately 85 per cent of residents that have chosen to have vaccinations. Everyone is offered. And what we know, certainly through the Commonwealth system – and I’ll let Victoria speak to theirs – we now know that four out of eight states and territories have completed Commonwealth programs and it's 99 per cent all up.

Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory have the first dose programs of Commonwealth residential aged care facilities completed. And there are, as of today, there will be six facilities in the whole of the country which require a first dose and that will occur within the coming days.

So, that's a quick summary there. I'll then go to Rosie.

JOURNALIST:

I just wanted to ask, following up from the question from David Crowe, isn’t making this single site funding and support available during outbreaks or once an outbreak has occurred in a hotspot, shutting the door after the horse has already bolted? Isn’t this simply too late?

And you speak about the need for flexibility and testing for workers to be able to move between sites, why is that needed for privately-run aged care home but not in state-run homes?

GREG HUNT:

Well, state-run facilities are generally linked to hospitals, and so they have staff that can move between the hospital and the facility. Their physical circumstances will depend, but they tend to be part of a much broader workforce. So that workforce actually will, in many cases, move between hospital and facility.

And so, simply in the same way that testing, vaccination, these are all in-reach programs. And then in terms of workforce, it is, as I say, about approximately 4.7 per cent of workers in the greater Melbourne region had worked in more than one facility.

So the single site needs in terms of surge, covering the ill, first responder, testing of staff vaccination, they’re the reasons why the advisory groups have not advised for a change on that front.

Jono.

JOURNALIST:

Is that the wrong decision though Minister? Do you think that does need to be reviewed now that we’ve got infections in aged care once again in Victoria?

GREG HUNT:

So wherever there is community infection, I think it is very important to emphasise this. Wherever there's a global pandemic, any nation is at risk. And wherever there's community infection, then community infection is something which is linked very much to the circumstances within aged care facilities.

The difference this time is that 100 per cent of facilities in Victoria have had that first dose. And in addition to that, as we see, the resident who has shown up as a positive has been vaccinated. The worker that was identified yesterday has been vaccinated. And then the indeterminate resident case, which is being reviewed today with another test, that’s also a case of somebody who's been vaccinated. So that’s the combination of things.

Jono.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask both yourself and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Kidd, do you consider somebody to be vaccinated if they’ve had a single dose?

And secondly there’s brochures lying around from the Health Department talking about prioritising the vaccine rollout in residential aged care, saying if you wish to get a first dose vaccination at a second dose clinic, for staff that is, you need to be aware you will be responsible for getting the second dose at a different location? Isn’t this kind of asking somebody standing on one leg to look around at different options of where they should get it?

GREG HUNT:

No, in relation to the latter. There are multiple options, and whether that is within the facility, within a clinic, which is provided specifically for aged care workers as hubs, within general practice, within general practice respiratory clinics or the Commonwealth clinics or within state clinics, there are five different options, and that’s the fastest possible way to make sure that everybody has that opportunity.

So those opportunities are available, and we are encouraging everybody to do that. In terms of being vaccinated, by definition, somebody who has been vaccinated with the first dose is vaccinated. In terms of the second dose, that's referred to as fully vaccinated. But from a clinical perspective, I'll ask Michael to speak.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Minister. So I think you've covered it well. Clearly, two doses are required for somebody to be regarded as having been fully vaccinated. But as I've outlined, there are already protective benefits after people have received the first dose.

JOURNALIST:

Of the Victorian aged care workforce, what percentage has been vaccinated against COVID-19?

And will you consider it mandatory for those age care workers?

GREG HUNT:

So in terms of mandatory, what we are doing is we are referring that question again to the medical expert panel of state chief health officers and Commonwealth officials. So, that has been referred at the request of the Prime Minister and myself.

It had previously been discussed, but for the medical reasons and the view of that group had not advised in favour of it.

Then in terms of workforce, around the country what we have is just over 70,000 with a proportionate amount of Victorians that have been identified as aged care workers through the Commonwealth In-Reach Program. And that's approximately a quarter of that 70,000 are Victorians.

And in addition to that, though, there are the five channels. And so that only represents the one channel figure of in-reach. We're getting a reconciliation from the vaccination hubs for aged care workers, general practice, general practice respiratory clinics, and in addition to that, the state clinics.

JOURNALIST:

So, on the question being mandatory, when are we likely to hear back on from that advice?

GREG HUNT:

Well, that's a question for the medical expert panel. I don't know, Michael, if you wanted to add something.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Minister. So, yes, the Prime Minister and the Minister have asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to review the advice, which was provided back in January, about whether or not to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for people working in residential aged care facilities. So, that's work that's underway at the moment. We expect that will be also considered by the National Cabinet later this week.

GREG HUNT:

Josh?

JOURNALIST:

On the 70,000, as you say, what percentage is that of the workforce? The ANMF, the Nursing & Midwifery Federation says there's still tens of thousands of aged care workers that might still be waiting for a vaccination. You say it's only that one channel, as you say, in-reach versus outreach and that sort of thing. But what's the percentage that you have on that bit of paper there?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. I'll come back to you on that one. But in particular, that only represents one of the five channels. So as was the case with disability, we are now at over 7,000 disability residents and 10,000 vaccinations. When we looked at that one channel, it was just over 1,000. And so the final figure, once we've got the reconciliation, will be significantly and vastly higher.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have to do more on that, though? I mean, in terms of doing this in-reach, I guess, visits? I mean, one of these workers was supposedly not vaccinated, had missed out because they had a sick day on the day when there was a vaccination clinic in their centre.

GREG HUNT:

Well, that is why we're doing the roving clinics to which Commodore Young referred, but also if workers are not there on the day – and that's a fact of life – that is exactly why, as with every other Australian, we are providing multiple options and encouraging them to take up the option that will work for that particular individual.

So people may be on leave, they may not be there on a day. They may be reconsidering their position, or it may simply work for them. So there are multiple options, and we want to encourage every Australian in every circumstance to be vaccinated. We particularly want to encourage those outstanding aged care workers to take up those opportunities at the earliest possible time.

David?

JOURNALIST:

Minister, I want to follow up on the issue of the aged care workforce and staff moving between sites. Rosie Lewis made the point, well, asked the question about whether the action came after the horse had bolted.

Can you just step us through who made the decision? Are you saying that the committee of health advisers had to wait for some kind of notification from the Victorian Government before they could make a decision on that? Or how often do they meet? How open was it for them to make a decision over the last two weeks, for instance, to stop the movement of staff between multiple aged care sites?

And in fact, I'd like to know who chairs that committee, because who is responsible for that decision?

GREG HUNT:

So that comes from the triggering of the Commonwealth hotspot definition.

JOURNALIST:

So not a state trigger, a Federal trigger.

GREG HUNT:

Correct. But that follows from the number of cases on the ground. So, it is actually precisely related to the number of cases on the ground. And that's something which has been well-established in consultation with the states. And so once that was reached, then that definition was triggered.

JOURNALIST:

What was that number? What's the number that triggers that?

GREG HUNT:

So, I will just check in this particular case, because I believe that the Chief Medical Officer moved at an earlier time. In his view, he did not want to wait for the predetermined figure. And so he acted once he saw that in Victoria there was the possibility of considerable community transmission, because what we saw, of course, was sleeping transmission after the Wallet case.

We had had in fact, when I was standing up just over a week ago, we'd had seven days of no community transmission around Australia. And so it’s only in the last week that we have seen that community transmission.

So one of the presumptions behind your question is, respectfully, incorrect. This is a very recent but rapid phenomenon. What we did have, of course, after the Wallet case was a long period of no cases, not only in Victoria, but around Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Is Professor Kelly the chair of that committee, so he could have made that decision at any point over the last week?

GREG HUNT:

But there were, of course, no cases prior to recently when Victoria had its first outbreak. We had a series, I believe, about seven days of zero cases of community transmission, not just in Victoria, but around Australia.

And my view is that they acted quickly. Once there was evidence of any significant and sustained community transmission.

Sorry, I just want to reaffirm that there is full, absolute, clear support for the Commonwealth for the process and the actions that were taken. These are the best medical professionals in the world, in my view. And the other thing is that - I need to address, I think, this perception that Australia will never have a case in the middle of a global pandemic.

I think we need to have an honest national conversation about this. Much of the questioning indicates it's inconceivable that Australia could have a case in a world of 500,000 cases a day. Sadly, it's not. On multiple occasions, we've said whilst we've had 94 days of counting, 94 days and counting of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We've always said that there will be, while ever we are engaged with the outside world, new cases.

Whether it's a touch, a breath, a surface. Whether- wherever there is a country that is engaging with another country in the midst of a global pandemic with the most contagious outbreak the world has seen in 100 years. We're not immune, but we're well prepared. And I think it's very important to strive for the absolute best, but to realise that we have multiple layers of protection. We're seeing those in our aged care facilities. We're seeing them everywhere.

But I think it is absolutely critical that we are all honest that no matter what the quarantine circumstances, arguably the best quarantine system in the world, no matter what the testing or tracing, there will be cases whilst there's a global pandemic. And we just happen to have done it a lot better than anybody else.

But I think it's a duty and responsibility of all of us to recognise: the reason we're constantly on watch is because it is a global pandemic. Half a million cases a day on most days. Over 10,000 lives lost on most days. We are in a radically different situation, but we're not immune to that environment. And I think that's a deep and profound responsibility for all of us to acknowledge collectively.

Anna, and then Rachel, who's been very patient.

JOURNALIST:

What do you say to those residents at the moment, who have fed back that they're terrified. They feel that if they’re partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, that they’re completely at the whim of this virus in Melbourne.

What do you say to them about the fact that they haven’t had more protection already?

GREG HUNT:

Well, we really want to encourage all of the families or the guardians of those that haven’t chosen to take up the vaccinations or where consent hasn't been provided by families, to please reconsider. These vaccinations, save lives and protect lives.

100 per cent of facilities have been vaccinating Victoria. And we want to continue that process. We want to make sure that those that haven't accepted, do accept. Everybody has been offered. And we want to make sure that that opportunity is there and that it's reaffirmed. And that's why we're going back into those facilities, why we're having the roving programmes. This is an ongoing task for all Australians to give confidence to each other, to protect each other, but ultimately to protect our most vulnerable.

Rachel?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. At the beginning of the vaccine rollout. You said you wanted most aged care residents, disability care residents, those workers, the really vulnerable, to being vaccinated within six weeks. We’re three months into the rollout now. 75 per cent of those facilities have had second dose vaccines, an unclear number of workers have been vaccinated.

For weeks now we’ve had ample and consistent supplies of both Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccines. So why has it taken so long to do these really vulnerable populations? And do you accept that that’s a failure of the government?

GREG HUNT:

So every day, we're pushing to make sure that as many people are vaccinated as possible. At this point, it's 100 per cent of facilities in Victoria, Northern Territory, Tasmania and the ACT. There are six facilities across the entire rest of the country which have had their own individual circumstances. And we expect that they'll all be covered within the coming days.

JOURNALIST:

It is taking twice as long to get there that you initially projected.

GREG HUNT:

Every day we're working with the facilities on the basis of what we have and the capacity to deliver into them. To think of this, at this stage we've had over 4,000 visits to aged care facilities. We have worked on making sure that there's the consent from all of the families or from the individuals themselves. And we'll just continue to do this.

And it is an enormous, monumental national logistical task. But the fact that right across the country, 100 per cent of facilities in four states and territories, and then another four which between them have the last six, is hugely important protections. So these things are done on a scale which is enormous and at the fastest possible pace.

JOURNALIST:

Now, but the Labor statement today is that this is a failure of the Government. That aged care should have been protected with the vaccine by Easter on that original timetable. So what's your response to that very strong Labor accusation today that the Government has failed by not protecting those aged care facilities in time?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I think the simple answer is 100 per cent of facilities in Victoria have been vaccinated and what we see is.

JOURNALIST:

So there’s no failure there?

GREG HUNT:

Every day - every day - as I've said with each question throughout the pandemic, we're always striving to do more, and to continuously improve. That's the mantra. And so that's been our approach all the way through.

But 100 per cent of facilities is a very significant protection for Victorians. And then around Australia, the fact that in four of the jurisdictions, it's 100 per cent of facilities and in the remaining jurisdictions it's over 99 per cent of facilities with the last six to be done in the coming days. I think that's a significant and fundamentally important protection. I'm going to finish there, respectfully.

JOURNALIST:

Thousands of workers are still not vaccinated. Thousands of workers and people in disability care are still not vaccinated. What is the kink in the hose? Is that you can't get enough staff to go into these centres and vaccinate the people? Is it that you get the people out to these outreach centres? What is the kink in the hose?

GREG HUNT:

We would respectfully encourage all of those who have the opportunity to be vaccinated, whether it's through GPs or the priority within state systems, the general practise respiratory clinics, the Commonwealth clinics, the pop up clinics, or the in-reach. There are multiple channels. And we would encourage everybody, everybody to take those opportunities at the earliest possible time.

Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST:

Will all the close contacts at the residential centre be moved? Sorry, will all the close contacts at the aged care centre be moved?

GREG HUNT:

The positive resident has been moved, and then it’s clinical guidance on the rest.

Ministers: