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

PAUL KELLY:

I’ll start with the numbers as of today. So 16,303 patients have been confirmed now since the start of the pandemic in January with an extra 747 newly-confirmed in the last 24 hours. That is a new unfortunate record. Most of those cases are in Victoria and almost all of those in Melbourne, the Greater Melbourne area, Mitchell Shire, with some outbreaks in the rural area as well. So 723 new cases in Victoria are the majority of those new cases in the past 24 hours. There are cases also in New South Wales - 18 new cases - of which two are overseas-acquired, the rest are locally-acquired but importantly all linked with confirmed case or a contact, and a couple of those are still under investigation. In Queensland, there is one overseas-acquired case and three locally-acquired of people that had come- two of those had come back from Melbourne. In South Australia, one new case, locally-acquired as well, and the contact is still being investigated there. And in Western Australia, one overseas-acquired case.

We now have 189 people have died of COVID-19 in Australia. That's a terrible tragedy and my condolences go out to all the friends and families of those people. And that includes 13 new deaths in the last 24 hours. We have now over 5,500 active cases, most of those in Melbourne but also some in the other states as mentioned. 330 are in hospital. 40 in intensive care. Testing continues to be very strong and widespread with over 66,000 tests done yesterday, making a total of over four million tests around the country.

Our major concern, of course, continues to be the ongoing community transmission and the community outbreak in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria. The aged care elements of that are also of great concern and, again, I just really want to give my best wishes to the families that have been affected by some of these issues in aged care in Melbourne. It's- we all have to remember that whilst these are numbers, these are all representing real people, real families, friends and loved ones. And so, I do want to talk a little bit about the aged care response. We are continuing to reinforce from the Commonwealth into the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, which has been set up as a really true collaboration between the Victorian Government, the Commonwealth Government, the Defence Force, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and others, including the sector themselves, to really get on top of this situation in Melbourne in particular.

So we've had only 16 new residents out of that over 700 cases that were confirmed overnight in Melbourne. 16 new residents of aged care facilities. So that makes a total of 456 aged care residents out of over 5,000 active cases in Victoria right now. There are also 58 new staff members, and I would reiterate that in the vast majority of cases, those staff have been infected in the community and it really is a symptom, really, of the community transmission that is happening as people move around and are infected in the community.

So I just wanted to talk a little bit about that as well. We hear a lot of the new research about the virus and how it's spread and what can be done to decrease that spread. I think it's a really important message I want to give to the Australian public today, is that the virus generally spreads with people. It's people that move, not the virus. And so, all of the measures that we're putting in place around movement restrictions, about limiting the mixing of people through mass gatherings or gatherings at homes, all of the things that we've put in around social distancing and, indeed, the border restrictions with other states out of Victoria, that's all about decreasing the mobility of people so the virus cannot be spread amongst us by ourselves and our actions. That's why we say it's really important for us to take those messages, particularly if someone is sick, they should not be going to work they should not be leaving their home unless they're going to, and we really stress importantly, get tested for this virus. And so, please, as people living people particularly in Victoria but also other parts of Australia where there have been some cases - so, certain parts of Sydney and also certain parts of the south of Melbourne - sorry, of Brisbane - please take those messages from your state Chief Health Officers and your state authorities very clearly and carefully. Those messages about mobility restrictions are there to protect the health of all of us, and yourself and your families.

So I'll leave that there and ask for questions, thank you.

QUESTION:

It's emerged in Victoria that there have been some issues with contract tracing but potentially some contact tracers have been using handwriting to take notes and their colleagues haven't been able to read it which has caused further delays. And obviously now we've seen a massive issue in Victoria. What are the protocols around contact tracing in terms of recording those details and sharing that data?

PAUL KELLY:

So the contract tracing effort particularly in Victoria is enormous. When you think about the number of active cases, now over 5,000, it was reported today on the Australian Health Protection Committee meeting that over 10,000 contacts are being contacted every day. So this is an enormous effort and people are doing their best to do that as efficiently as possible. The other thing I would say about contract tracing is that it is not only people on the ground in Victoria that are doing that work for- in Melbourne right now but, indeed, we have set up a virtual network of contact tracers around the country. And so a lot of that work is being done electronically and occasionally, of course, there is some handwritten notes. But that's being done efficiently but it is an enormous effort. And I think all credit to the people that are doing that contact tracing right now.

QUESTION:

Professor, today New South Wales has six cases under investigation, it's the highest number since the Crossroads outbreak began. When does that number start becoming a concern for you in terms of not being able to connect the virus to existing clusters?

PAUL KELLY:

So there have been 105 cases in the last week in New South Wales. Up until today that's been - and I'm confident by tomorrow we'll have much more information about those under investigation cases - but up until today it's been very clear how those transmission chains have worked. That large outbreak at the Crossroads Hotel and related places around that area of south-western Sydney, even people that were diagnosed further afield were traced back very carefully and quickly and that original outbreak. A new cluster that's formed in and around Potts Point is similarly connected through very clear contact tracing to particular venues. And that's being supported by wide testing and tracing down those chains of transmission. So I have a lot of confidence in the New South Wales system. But we need to be clear, with 5,000 active cases right now in Victoria, that's an issue for all of us. And even though there has been border restrictions and mobility restrictions, people for reasons of essential work and other reasons are able to move to other states, and we have seen where that has led to, in New South Wales and, in more recent times, in Queensland. So the more we can do as a nation to assist our colleagues in Victoria to get on top of this outbreak, that is absolutely the most important thing right now.

QUESTION:

Just further on the Victorian issue, the Prime Minister today flagged that the AHPPC would be discussing what further measures the rest of the country could provide to Victoria and what more Victoria could do. What was discussed at today's meeting? What further help could we be providing Victoria?

PAUL KELLY:

So that was the only topic that was discussed at the Australian Health Protection Committee meeting today. So I chair that meeting and my Chief Health Officer colleagues from around Australia were there. We work through the situation in Victoria right now, considering what things have been introduced in terms of strengthening that contact tracing effort, that increasing the testing, improving the case finding, contact tracing and isolation of cases, thinking through the movement restrictions that have been introduced and strengthened by Premier Andrews earlier today, as well as other restrictions in relation to movement around Melbourne. So we looked at that. We considered what happened back in March and the sort of things we all experienced at that time in terms of restrictions of our lives and, for some of us, our livelihoods. We looked at and considered what we knew from around the world and the best medical evidence that's come forward about how to approach this problem. We also looked at what we had in terms of data from Victoria, some modelling as well around movement, in particular, but also issues around aged care and so on. So we've put that altogether. We will be providing that as advice through to the Prime Minister and the National Cabinet, and that will be discussed later tonight. But I won't go into the details of what that might lead to in terms of any further measures in Victoria. That's, obviously, a discussion and a decision for the Victorian government, not for me or anyone else. So, but it's the best advice. As we've done in the beginning, from the beginning of this, the AHPPC has been the medical advice, medical expert advice group, giving advice to all governments and so that they can use that to assist in their decision-making. I've got two people on the phone.

Firstly, Dana.

QUESTION:

Thanks professor, aged care providers say they haven't been given enough federal funding to respond to COVID-19. The Prime Minister is now criticising providers for not using PPE properly. But health authorities were aware last month that only one-in-five aged care workers had done the training. Should more have been done to fix these issues before the virus escaped from hotel quarantine?

PAUL KELLY:

Well, we have always known and we have experience here in Australia, as well as around the world, that our most vulnerable members of our society and very high-risk settings are aged care facilities. So we've done a lot to prepare for this. We've learnt from a couple of large outbreaks in Sydney in the first wave and we have introduced that training, as you've said, as well as supplies and other measures to support the aged care workforce and aged care providers for this event. Could we have done more? Well, we're seeing those difficult times now in a few, a small number I must say, of aged care facilities in Melbourne and that is not at all to downplay the seriousness of that for the individuals in those settings. But we've responded very quickly. The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has been setup specifically for that purpose. We're continuing to put in Commonwealth and other resources to support that. The first of our AUSMAT team members have arrived and are on the job now. Our Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan is down there, leading on the medical side and I spoke to her last night, she'll be staying for at least another week to support those other resources and nurses that are coming through from other states. So one way of looking at this is to look at the past but I prefer to but I prefer to look at what's in front of us, the present, and get on with the job and work out how to do that better in future. Someone on the phone?

QUESTION:

It's Sarah from Western Australia.

PAUL KELLY:

Sarah, thank you.

QUESTION:

Thanks, Professor. I wanted to ask your thoughts, WA Minister Ken Wyatt this morning was saying WA's closed borders have meant we have not had the kind of outbreaks of coronavirus that we've seen in New South Wales and Victoria. I just want to hear your thoughts on that? If it is not really the hard border closures in restricting that movement, then what's separates states in containing that the virus, compared to those that seem to have let it get out of control?

PAUL KELLY:

Look, that's a difficult question to answer insofar as the issues of the borders, particularly the Western Australian border with the rest of the country is before the High Court at the moment, so I don't think I really should be commenting too much on that. In terms of why certain states are experiencing this epidemic quite differently to Western Australia, again, it's well known about the issues with hotel quarantine and so forth which, again, is matter for judicial proceedings. I'm not going to speculate on those measures other than to say we know this virus is extremely infectious, it moves when people move. If you stop people moving in, that is one way of stopping the virus coming. WA early on, as all of the states and territories in Australia, were protected by the closure of the external border. That was our main - really important and strong public health measure early on in the first wave. And so, WA experienced that, like the rest of Australia, and they've had very good approach to hotel quarantine since then. And so whilst they continue to have cases in WA, it hasn't really experienced that community transmission events that other states have done.

QUESTION:

Thanks, Professor.

PAUL KELLY:

Anna?

QUESTION:

Just one more on the phone, Professor Kelly, thank you. The identities of two teenagers in Queensland who tested positive have been made public. Do you have any health and welfare concerns about personal details of positive cases in this environment being leaked and publicised in that way?

PAUL KELLY:

That's certainly, I think, a shame that that's happened in terms of those particular individuals. Although, I must say, that their actions were rather reckless and they've led to a large amount of mental concern and worry, and other effects in the wider population in the southern part of Brisbane. So it's not only those two that have been affected but, look, I'm not in favour of naming and shaming. That's unfortunate that that's happened.

QUESTION:

Professor, I know the AHPPC doesn't make decision on borders but the Prime Minister said today that any Premier that does make a ruling must justify that with health advice. In your opinion, based on the epidemiology of the outbreak in Sydney, did that warrant Queensland labelling the entirety of Greater Sydney a hot spot area and closing the border?

PAUL KELLY:

So, as I've said many times before, and as you've mentioned, the Prime Minister has also reinforced, those decisions are matter for the states and it's up to them to really justify their decisions. And in terms of Sydney, certainly there are active cases in Sydney that have been found very quickly. They are in relatively small numbers and relatively well defined areas of Sydney at the moment. And so, that is our absolute focus at the moment to make sure that that remains the case. The Queensland border is open to many other people. I understand that many people have applied for - to cross that border since the border restrictions were removed and it's really up to the Queensland Premier and her staff to defend those actions.

Just one more question?

QUESTION:

Just on the movement modelling that the AHPPC was looking at today, what kinds of movement modelling were you looking at? Were you looking at ring-fencing, like we saw in Melbourne earlier or movement between suburbs? What the considerations you take into in terms of obviously potential spread of the virus but what other issues could that present in terms of other health concern?

PAUL KELLY:

So really, the movement modelling was about are the current mechanisms for decreasing movement around Melbourne been effective? The and so, on the macro-level, it seems to be quite effective, in fact. If you look at the whole of Melbourne, certainly people are moving a lot less than they were three weeks ago when those first restrictions were brought in. I think it's importantly, really, to consider what is happening in Melbourne. This is very different outbreak to the first outbreak we had. Many of the people who are continuing to contract the virus and to have contact with others and thereby increase that community transmission are indeed working in essential industries. And so, they are of a particular demographic in Melbourne from a particular - from particular areas of Melbourne and they have to continue to go to work, which is one of the recognised exemptions, for work which you cannot do from your desk. And so when you think about where we've seen some large outbreaks, including in aged care, including in healthcare, in meat supplies, distribution centres and so forth, these are exactly the people who continue to move and the virus is moving with them. And so, I think that's really one of the key messages we'll be giving, is about what else do we need to consider about movement restrictions in a way that does not interfere too much with people's lives and livelihoods as well as - as well as supply chains and so forth. But really tries to get this virus under control. Because we - that's a really important component of it.

So, thank you very much for coming. Thank you to those on the phone.

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