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

PAUL KELLY:

Update for today and so our total number of cases now is 11,441. That makes 233 new cases since yesterday. Again, the majority of those cases are in Victoria and almost all of those are in the greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. So for New South Wales, 15 new cases, several of those are in hotel quarantine. Most of the rest are associated with the Crossroads Hotel or a Thai restaurant quite close to that same area in South-western Sydney. There are several cases that are still under investigation there. In Victoria, 217 cases, the majority of those, locally acquired, the majority of those are still under investigation as are a large number of cases from the previous days. In WA, one new case in hotel quarantine from an overseas arrival.

Total deaths, 118 Australians have died of COVID-19, including two new deaths, both people in their 80s in Victoria. The majority of cases, of course, have recovered, although there are now approximately 2,700 active cases of COVID-19, again almost all of those in the greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. We have at the moment 116 hospitalised cases, that is a little lower than yesterday. In intensive care 26, again, that has decreased since yesterday.

A large number of tests continue to be made every day, well over 20,000 tests in Victoria and similarly, in New South Wales in the past 24 hours. So extraordinary number of tests being done, being targeted at those places where we know there are outbreaks and those that are associated with those outbreaks, such as close contacts and so on. Over 3.4 million tests have been done so far in Australia against this virus and 63,000 just in the last 24-hour period. So I think that we can see that there is a good decrease there in the number of cases in Victoria, I would caution to say we should see that this is over, it certainly is not over in Victoria. We have a large, widespread community outbreak mainly in Melbourne, but also some cases appearing in the rural parts of the state. And so I'm encouraged to see that the Victorian government has dispatched further testing facilities and contact tracing expertise into the rural areas. I think that's a very important component of this control and in New South Wales, again, extraordinarily good and strong contact tracing and case finding efforts, really chasing down all those chains of transmission to decrease the chance of this local transmission being more widely spread in New South Wales.

So I will take questions, firstly, from the room.

QUESTION:

In terms of politicians returning to Canberra, in the past when we have asked about this, your colleagues, the deputy CMO 's, have said it is a matter for the ACT Health Department, so what has changed or what prompted you to provide advice to the Prime Minister?

PAUL KELLY:

So, I've been in very close discussion over the last couple of weeks, really, with my colleague Kerryn Coleman, the Chief Health Officer in the ACT about this matter. Of course, the ACT, has, as all the states and territories have, restrictions on people coming from Victoria. We were looking to see what could be put in place that could be reasonable for politicians to be able to come for that sitting that was due in August. And those from Victoria, of which there is a substantial number, both members of Parliament and Senators that would balance that risk to the ACT community and within Parliament House itself and, indeed, government processes for the country. With the risk that could be posed by those people from Victoria on one hand and the need to have those functions to continue in our democracy. Yesterday I was asked by the Prime Minister to give specific advice to him about these matters and that was provided. He was in touch with the Leader of the Opposition, The Greens, and also the presiding officers of the Senate and Parliament and the presiding officers of the parliament, the speaker, and the president of the Senate. The decision was made that given the risk from Victoria at this time, likely to still be a risk at that time, and the emerging situation in south-west Sydney, it was deemed that that sitting should be delayed.

QUESTION:

What are those concerns if we were to have all of the politicians here in Canberra?

PAUL KELLY:

Let's think about how Parliament works. Of course, for Parliament to work we need to have people both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives from all of the states and territories, so flying in from all states and territories, by the nature of their work, even with physical distancing, hygiene, and all of the other measures that we put in place of all of our lives, but including in the Parliament House, there is a large number of people from all over Australia converging in one place for an intense period and then going back to their normal places. That would be deemed a mass gathering in any way that you would consider it and we feel that, that is a high risk. You will remember at the time in March and April there was a specific decision made then to delay sittings of Parliament and, in fact, that was due to continue until much later in the year. Because we did get on top of that epidemic with the suppression strategy, we were able to have some sittings of Parliament in recent weeks. But, as we know, things have changed quite rapidly, particularly in Victoria, and so we needed to take a different approach. I've got a question on the phone now from Dan at The Canberra Times.

QUESTION:

Just following up on that question. What would need to change in terms of the situation in Victoria and south-west Sydney for you to feel comfortable that parliamentarians and staffers could safely travel to Canberra and that parliamentary sittings could be held and how confident are you those conditions will be met by late August?

PAUL KELLY:

I think the Prime Minister announced late August, I'm sure he will be asking me about that date at some future time. At this point, with the ACT having put those restrictions on, as has New South Wales and the other states and territories about people from Victoria, we would have to see that they were comfortable, my state and territory colleagues that we meet every day in the AHPPC meetings, that they will have removed those restrictions and that would be a conversation we would have there. The short answer to your question would have to be substantially lower rates of community transmission and signs of control of the transmission in Victoria in particular are no worsening of the situation in New South Wales or, indeed, other jurisdictions.

QUESTION:

Just to clarify on that, would the quarantine requirements that the ACT currently has in place for people travelling from Victoria, would they have to be removed for you to be comfortable that parliamentarians and staffers from Victoria could travel to the ACT and therefore Parliament could sit?

PAUL KELLY:

I would suggest that the triggers that quarantine to be lifted and my sense that it was safe for Victorian MPs to come en masse and senators, would have the same precedents, if you like. They would be in tune.

QUESTION:

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is currently in Melbourne plans to come to Canberra to release the economic update on Thursday. What will he be asked to do in order to ensure community safety?

PAUL KELLY:

So yes, the Treasurer is coming for an important economic statement next week, and we are working through that, I have been working through that today with my ACT counterpart, and I hope to have that resolved by this evening. But essentially, if he comes there will be restrictions on what he can and can't do, and that will have to be agreed both between myself and the ACT Chief health officer in the first instance, and with the ACT Government as well.

QUESTION:

Could you describe what measures they are, for example, would he have to wear a mask, would you require him to get tested, would he meet face-to-face with the Prime Minister?

PAUL KELLY:

So there is an exemption component for essential workers in the quarantine arrangements that have been set up by the ACT Government, and the restrictions on the Treasurer will be along those lines. Essentially the principles are minimising contact with other people, if you have contact with other people make sure you keep that physical distance, only essentially go from home to work. And I can assure you that when the Treasurer is in Canberra, indeed most of the ministers, that is pretty much what they do anyway. We are working through the details of that. But those arrangements I am sure the Treasurer will realise how important it is to take care and demonstrate leadership in this way, because there is concern in the ACT community about people coming from Victoria, and that is why those decisions have been made by the ACT Government to protect the people of the ACT.

QUESTION:

Are you comfortable with him coming here?

PAUL KELLY:

I am comfortable as long as those mechanisms are taken care of.

QUESTION:

Just on the virus reproduction rate, you indicated there may be some new figures you could give us today on that?

PAUL KELLY:

Yes, so the reproduction rate, this is related to the modelling I suggested, I mentioned yesterday in the press conference. And two elements to take away from that, this is about the potential for local transmission, and we know the things that drive that in terms of people mixing, coming close together in large numbers, taking less notice of the physical distancing and hygiene measures, these other risky components which tend to make the R effective number increase above one which would demonstrate that the potential for further outbreaks is increasing. The opposite is the case in Melbourne, over the last couple of weeks, not surprising, because there has been a lockdown, people are generally staying at home, and are definitely taken on board those messages much more strongly than they were three or four weeks ago. So that is a good sign. It doesn't necessarily predict what might happen in terms of the numbers of cases or hospitalisations, but it is a good indication. So that R effective number is virtually at one in Victoria which is a good sign. In New South Wales on the other hand, and that relates to the fact that Sydney is not a lockdown, those measures that have been taken so far are much less than in Victoria, they are proportionate to where we are in that emerging outbreak in south-western Sydney. And also a credit to the public health response that has been so effect so far. So people are more mobile, they are mixing in greater numbers, and there are suggestions from that modelling which people are not taking those messages about physical distancing, hygiene and so forth, those key messages about decreasing the risk personally but also to population spread of this virus as serious as they currently are in Melbourne. So the R effective rate is 1.4. So that demonstrates that the potential for transmission is higher in New South Wales. That does not necessarily translate to increase or decrease numbers of cases but it gives us a sense, particularly the message to people in south-west Sydney, please be careful, please do not take this time to have large gatherings either at home or outside the home, and to take those messages of physical distancing, personal hygiene, hand washing and so forth very seriously, and crucially, absolutely crucially, if you are sick with any of the symptoms of COVID-19, please get a test and otherwise stay at home.

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