Date published: 
12 May 2020
Media event date: 
11 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LEIGH SALES:

Earlier I spoke to Australia's Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy.

Dr Murphy, thanks for your time once again.

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Pleasure, Leigh.

LEIGH SALES:

At this point as many of us take steps towards resuming whatever will be part of a normal life, what is the key to avoiding a second wave of infections and a return to a full lockdown?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Thanks Leigh, I think the most important key to it is personal responsibility. Regulation has taken us a long way and Australians have really stepped up to the plate. But as we cautiously remove restrictions, every Australian has to behave responsibly. It's terribly important because the risk will increase at each level of reducing restrictions.

We know that this virus is still in our community and if people don't all do the right thing, do all the social distancing measures, avoid crowded places, do all the hygiene measures, that to me is the most important thing. If we're going to live with this virus for months in an economy which is more open, we have to change our fundamental way of human interactions.

LEIGH SALES:

Some of the political leaders have said that as we ease restrictions we will see an increase in the cases. How many national cases would you tolerate each day before you went into lockdown mode again? What is the ceiling?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

So there is no, there is no ceiling. The critical thing about an increase in cases is the nature of it. If it's a localised outbreak like the Cedar Meats outbreak in Victoria where the public health officials can come in, contract trace and control it, or like the Burnie outbreak, they don't worry us. What worries us more is if you had a whole lot of pockets of community transmission, particularly if you don't have clear, epidemiological contacts identified.

It is really a whole suite of measures that we've put through the National Cabinet process that we're going to be monitoring. It's total case numbers. It's that effective reproduction rate which you've seen which is meaningful if you have lots of cases. It's how quickly outbreaks are coming under control. It's how diffuse and widespread outbreaks are. It's a whole picture that we would look at before being concerned. But our intention is to expect outbreaks but to have, because of our really strong public health programs and our testing, but to respond to them and to control them without having to introduce measures again, if at all possible.

LEIGH SALES:

You mentioned the Cedar Meats case in Victoria, the abattoir. Is that something of a test case for seeing how well our systems are managing a localised outbreak?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Yes, I think that and the North-west Tasmania outbreak in Burnie where not only did they close hospitals and quarantined some thousands of staff but also, really locally, shut down parts of the town. That was a very good response too, and the Cedar Meats is on a smaller scale, closing down a workplace, quarantining a lot of the staff, but also testing widely. What we've learnt now is that if we really test every contact and very aggressively test, we can find cases earlier and respond more quickly. So both of those are good test cases.

LEIGH SALES:

How many people have now signed up to the COVIDSafe, and how long will it be till it's working as intended?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

So it's a bit over — I think it's about 5. 5 million today. I haven't seen an update in the last few hours but it's increasing every day. At the moment, it's — that's about a third of the 16 million adults with smart phones. I believe that some of the states and territories are in the final phases of their training and testing so that they should be able to get data out of this week.

LEIGH SALES:

What, at the moment, most worries you? If you wake up in the middle of the night, what's the thing that most plays on your mind?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Oh, a large second wave. It's the most worrying thing of all. We saw people behaving really badly and congregating. We've seen that this virus is incredibly infectious. We saw 35 people from one wedding in the early phases.

It can spread really quickly. If people aren't careful and we have lots of pockets of outbreaks and widespread community transmission, you know, thousands more cases, that is what worries me most of all. I don't it will happen because I think we are as well prepared as we could be, but it will only work if every citizen does the right thing. I just say again and again, it's those of us who are mobile, fit, adults that are the people that probably don't get sick with this virus but we are the ones who transmit. We have to all be so careful.

LEIGH SALES:

Dr Murphy, thanks for your time.

DR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Pleasure.

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