Acting Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 5 July 2020

Read the transcript of Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly's press conference about COVID-19 on 5 July 2020.

Date published:
Media event date:
Media type:
General public


First of all, we have had new cases overnight – 94 in total – most of those in Victoria. We have now a total of 8,449 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Of those, 14 new cases in New South Wales in the last 24 hours, all of those in hotel quarantine – overseas-acquired cases.

In WA, there are six cases; again, all overseas, all in hotel quarantine.

There are 74 new cases in Victoria. They are still being investigated as to how many of those are associated with known clusters, but there are cases in Melbourne right now, and that is the major concern we have, as we've had for the last few days, in relation to this pandemic. No new deaths. There are 30 people in hospital, and 4 in intensive care.

The numbers of tests continue to expand. Over 2.7 million tests have now been done in Australia for COVID-19, and yesterday alone, over 45,000 tests. That is a huge number of tests, and I'd just like to give a real shout-out to our laboratory technicians, who are literally working around the clock, 7 days a week, so that we can get these test results. Because that is what is guiding our public health action right now to get on top of this community transmission, particularly in Melbourne.

So, some other important points: yesterday, we– I had– at the press conference yesterday afternoon, I mentioned that we were having an emergency AHPPC teleconference last night; that went ahead at 6. We reiterated our support for our Victorian colleagues. Right around the country, we are offering and providing substantial support to our Victorian colleagues.

They are doing a fantastic job, but this is a huge effort. Having so many new cases every day, many of those with large numbers of contacts, we need to cont– talk to all of those people as soon as possible, make sure that people that are infectious are staying at home, those people that are close contacts, and therefore at great risk themselves, are staying at home, and particularly, in the Melbourne context, working out where people are and where they have been to make sure that we are taking the proportionate and appropriate public health response in relation to those hotspot areas and other parts of Melbourne. The– so, that was yesterday.

We've met again this afternoon. Again, we looked for any way we can support, in terms of laboratory testing, contact tracing, infection control advice, communications, community outreach and engagement. All of these matters are very important, and we are standing ready to support, and indeed, are supporting, right throughout Australia.

Can I please join my Victorian colleagues in very much giving this clear message to everyone in Melbourne and Victoria? If you are sick, please get tested. Do not hesitate. There are many opportunities to get tested for COVID-19 right now, every day, and mobile testing in all the suburbs in our GP-run clinics, in other clinical settings that have been set up by the Victorian Government.

This is the same message we've been giving throughout the pandemic right throughout Australia, but this is absolutely crucial right now in Melbourne for this to occur. This is the way we will know whether we are getting on top of this community transmission in Melbourne right now. We must have that testing, and we will then take the appropriate response in relation to contacting people that are positive, talking about their contacts, making sure they are isolated. And that's how we will get on top of this pandemic.

I want to also say to people that are in Melbourne or the rest of Victoria: if you are wanting to travel interstate at this time, for those people that are in the lockdown areas, there are only 4 reasons why you should be leaving your house right now.

But some states have made particular public health directions for people coming from Victoria in the hotspot areas or, in some cases, beyond the hotspot areas. And so please check those directions before you travel. You may be sent back or indeed be required to go into 2 weeks' quarantine on arrival. So, to avoid that problem, to avoid that embarrassment, to avoid going on holiday when– and then having to sit in a hotel for 2 weeks, please check before you move.

So, I think that's the main messages for today. We have 2 journalists on the phone. I might turn to you, Tessa from The Australian, first.


Yeah, so, just wondering, some of the housing towers that are in lockdown in Melbourne don't have any cases. Should all the towers be in lockdown as a precautionary measure? Or could we have been a little less over the top?


Look I– my– I absolutely would say that I support the decisions that have been made by our Victorian colleagues in relation to those matters. I don't have the level of detail that they do. I do know that part of Melbourne reasonably well, and those towers, even though they are actually in 2 postcodes, in different suburbs, they're very close together, and there is – as I understand it – a lot of intermingling of the people between those towers for various reasons: for work, for family, for community events, and so forth.

So, it– we know there are cases in that group of towers. There were 4 more today, as I understand it. So we are very concerned, as are our Victorian colleagues, about spread in those– in that setting. These are generally vulnerable people, in terms of other health matters and so forth, and those towers has a large concentration of people in a small area. They are vertical cruise ships, in a way, and so we have to take particular notice and particular attention to make sure that the spread is minimised and that people are protected.


Second question, just, why is Victoria so different to the rest of Australia? Why are we having a harder time?


So, there is community transmission in Victoria. We won't go into the details of where that might have come from; that's been talked about already, and there is a judicial inquiry in relation to that.

But however the virus got into the community, it did do so, and it has now started to spread in the community. We have not really seen this level of community transmission during this pandemic in Australia. We have seen it in other countries, and so the proportionate and appropriate public health action which is being taken right now, supported by all of us, all of the public health people around Australia, in any way that we can do so is entirely appropriate and needs to be done rapidly, as it has been done, and to continue until we get on top of this.

Can I turn to Tamsin from The Herald Sun?


Hi, Professor. Thank you. Victoria's now going to be retraining airline staff to man the hotel quarantine. Is it good enough? Or should the state government be asking for more federal [indistinct]…


Well, as we've done with so many other aspects of this pandemic, we have offered assistance, and that has been taken up in many ways. In terms of the quarantine, look, that's a matter for the Victorian Government if they need to find the appropriate people to train them properly to really reinforce the issues around infection control and so forth, to make sure this is done safely and effectively.

That hotel quarantine has been – around Australia – has been the most successful component of the– of our control of this pandemic so far. Around 70,000 people have arrived into hotel quarantine since that was instigated. We've had very few times when that quarantine has failed. There's been a particular issue in Victoria, and that's a matter of a judicial inquiry.


Earlier this week you said that the– using masks would be considered in some of those hotspot areas. Where did the conversation get to with that in AHPPC?


So, we talked about it again today. We've talked about it last night. In fact I think probably at every AHPPC meeting this week. Masks can be part of the solution in times where there is a community transmission and there is no other way of protection. Masks are not without their problems. There was a paper published just last night from the British Medical Journal, which demonstrated – this was in a health care setting – but that wearing masks that are not of the right grade can actually be dangerous; you can actually be more likely to get an infectious– an infection in the respiratory tract.

So, masks are not without their problems, and they need to be used properly. There are certain circumstances where they could be used. Certainly, in health care workers, in health care settings, that's absolutely crucial, particularly where there is an increased chance of community transmission. Out in the community, there will be further information from the Victorian authorities on that in coming days.


Another question, if I may. Earlier in the pandemic there was a divide between Victoria and the rest of the country on some decisions. You yourself said Victoria had decided to go harder and faster, and there was a consensus in the AHPPC. More recently, now that Victoria is splitting away in its cases, have you seen a divide in the way that people in the AHPPC are talking? Or is there still a consensus?


We're very strong and– about one thing, that is about dealing with the pandemic and assisting any of us that have the pandemic playing out in a different way, and that's the Victorian situation right now. We are totally 100 per cent behind Victoria and how they're handling this situation. It's very complex, it's difficult, and we stand ready to support. We've sent our– many of our absolute public health experts, actually, to Melbourne to assist in various ways. We are providing surge support in laboratories, in contact tracing, in case-finding activities, and in many other ways, and we'll continue to do that. That's– we are one in this process.


And just one last question if I may. Is it fair for some states and territories to be imposing bans on Victorians who aren't from the hotspots?


Look, that's a decision for the particular states and territories. I think if we look at where various states are now in terms of their re-opening of the economy and society, because it's safe to do so at the moment, I can see why they would want to keep this virus out in whichever way they can. Issues of border controls and so forth is a matter in front of the High Court at the moment, and so I'm not going to comment further on that.

Any last questions from either of you?


Is there a point at which you'd be advising Victoria to lock down further than just the postcodes being considered so far?


So, that's a decision for the Victorians. We– I'm very pleased to see that they are being led by the epidemiology and the data, that an extraordinarily large number of tests that are being conducted in Melbourne right now, and with a very quick turnaround time, in terms of the result. And then with this surge capacity we've done, that tracing activity and making sure people are isolated very quickly is a marvellous effort.

How that leads in the coming days to any further public health action, that will be a matter for the Victorian authorities, but it will be led by the epidemiology, and that's entirely appropriate. And the proportionality of that response, I'm confident will be correct and appropriate.

Okay. Thanks very much.


Thanks, Professor.


Help us improve

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.