Date published: 
3 July 2020
Media event date: 
2 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LEIGH SALES:

Professor Paul Kelly is Australia's Acting Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Kelly, we've always been going for a suppression strategy in Australia, not elimination. Is what we're seeing around the country now in line with what was anticipated?

PAUL KELLY:

Yes. Certainly, the trade-off with the suppression strategy has always been with the risk of what is actually- we're seeing now in Melbourne, and around the country, to an extent, I mean, there has been some cases now in New South Wales and one in the NT today from that outbreak, it appears, but, yes, completely consistent. It's something we've planned for and been prepared for. Hoped it wouldn't happen, but here we are.

LEIGH SALES:

The case of the worker at Woolworths in New South Wales is a bit confusing. So, he spent two weeks in quarantine in Melbourne. He tested positive for coronavirus. He was then cleared to leave. Returned to work in New South Wales. Had some symptoms and tested positive to coronavirus again. Did he- how was he cleared to leave the hotel in Melbourne? Did he ever actually test negative?

PAUL KELLY:

So that's an emerging issue that we need to get on top of clearly. I think the positives here is that he did develop symptoms and get tested quickly. So, that's been a really important component of the control and that's our call out to everybody at this time, if you have symptoms, get tested quickly. In terms of what happened about clearance from quarantine, my understanding is that the Victorian authorities did exactly what is required from the national guidelines. And so, the symptoms that occurred after he arrived back in Sydney was- appeared to be a new thing and the right thing was done at that time.

LEIGH SALES:

What's the capacity of Australia's hospitals to deal with COVID cases versus what it's currently dealing with?

PAUL KELLY:

We have a lot of capacity. That was one of the things that Australia has really built up since the beginning of the year. We're now six months into this global crisis and the places which- the countries in the world that have really had great difficulty and large death rates are the ones that were very much affected in that first wave of the virus that is continuing to go around the world. Australia got under control because of the strong and rapid and- response that we had in terms of public health. But at that same time, it gave us time to build up capacity in our hospitals, build up capacity in personal protective equipment, built up capacity in treatments and training. And so we have plenty of capacity for people in our hospitals right now. I'm hoping we won't have to use it.

LEIGH SALES:

What harm would it do for people to be told now to wear masks in public?

PAUL KELLY:

So, masks is an interesting thing I'm asked about a lot. Masks in certain circumstances may be part of a solution. That's part of our advice we've given all the way through. In particular, if there is community spread at a large amount, and people are unable to take other precautions, such as the physical distancing and so forth. So, masks may be part of the solution. It's still not a recommendation we're making universally or mandating at this time.

LEIGH SALES:

So key suburbs are now locked down. Hospitals have heaps of capacity. Australian case numbers are very low compared to internationally. Given that background, what is your biggest worry at the moment?

PAUL KELLY:

Well, my biggest worry is that it's further spread from those cases in Melbourne. We've had over 400 cases in the last week. So, that is a major increase, mostly in those areas of Melbourne. The Victorian authorities have taken very strong and appropriate and proportionate action in relation to the public health measures in those lockdown- hotspot areas. They're doing a lot of testing. Thousands and thousands of tests, door to door, as well as at the end of the street, in clinics all around Melbourne. And this is certainly assisting us in getting this under control.

LEIGH SALES:

Professor Kelly, thank you.

PAUL KELLY:

You're welcome, Leigh.

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