Date published: 
19 January 2022
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:                    

Now, Australia has recorded its deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 77 deaths across the country. That’s in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning. New South Wales hit a new record with 36 lives lost. In Victoria, 22 people died; 16 in Queensland; two in South Australia, and one in the ACT.

DAVID KOCH:                       

Now, it comes as Code Brown emergency is declared across all Melbourne hospitals. For more, we’re joined by Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly. Morning, Paul. Private hospitals now on standby to take COVID patients. How bad is it going to get over the next few weeks?

PAUL KELLY:                        

Well, good morning, Kochie. And firstly, just my condolences to the people that lost loved ones yesterday. There’s been over 2000 people that have died during the pandemic and that’s a tragedy for everyone that experiences that. But we need to put this in perspective. We know from international experience, and here in Australia over the last two years, what needs to be done, and that’s what we are doing. We’ve had a very strong plan about our- the surge we were expecting in our hospital systems, and those things have been activated. The private hospital guarantee was activated yesterday; the Code Brown announcement yesterday is what would be expected of a well-functioning hospital system in Victoria. All the hospitals- all hospital systems have these codes available, and when that announcement is made, everyone knows exactly what needs to happen next. And that’s about preparing for the surge and so that’s what we’re seeing right now.

NATALIE BARR:                    

Yeah, Paul, that’s the headline this morning: this Code Brown in Melbourne, isn’t it? It sounds alarming. People in Victoria saying, it’s rare, it hardly ever happens. And the Nurses’ Union wants the ADF to come in to help. People are going to be worried.

PAUL KELLY:                        

So, Code Brown is a- it’s a code, right. So, there are a number of codes that hospitals all around the world have. Code Brown just means an expectation that there is something happening outside the hospital which may affect the hospital service. So we know what that is – it’s COVID – and so they’ve done exactly what is needed to be done. And yes, it sounds alarming and yes, it’s unusual, but it is an appropriate response for Victoria. They have seen what- they have estimated what what’s coming in terms of hospital admissions, ICU admissions, at the moment they’re coping. They do have a lot of furloughed staff, and that’s why over the last couple of weeks we’ve been working very closely with the states and territories through the AHPPC and National Cabinet to deal with that issue. But that’s what’s needed. In terms of ADF resources, they have been fantastic right through the pandemic when needed. My understanding is that Victoria has not reached out for ADF resources, but that’s certainly a conversation that could be had through the appropriate channels.

DAVID KOCH:                       

It sounds a bit scary, but Paul, what do you say to a lot of people in the community now saying, oh god, half the community has had it already, there’s nothing to fear, it’s being a bit overblown at the moment.

PAUL KELLY:                        

So, we know there’s been a lot of cases, Kochie, you know, since the beginning of the year, we know that; over 1 million cases already into 2022, and most of those are mild. But for every individual, that’s an individual story, and so there are things available for individuals to go to. Certainly, people that are older or people with chronic diseases, very important that you link up with your normal medical practitioner. There will be announcements soon about new antiviral drugs that will be coming to Australia, medicines that can stop that severe disease, or certainly rapidly …

DAVID KOCH:                       

Right.

PAUL KELLY:                        

… and very much decrease that severity, so the TGA is looking at those things at the moment. And we have other treatments that have been available for some time and are being used in- for thousands of patients all around the country. So that’s the clear message: if you’re older or have other diseases that may cause severity, please reach out and get advice early in the illness.

DAVID KOCH:                       

So- but we still have to be vigilant like we were in 2020 and 2021? No slacking off?

PAUL KELLY:                        

Yes, we- no slacking off. No, those public health and social measures, the mask wearing and other restrictions, are in place. The test, trace, isolate, and quarantine system is in place, the vaccines are rolling out, these are our levers to control. But in the meantime, we have to care for people- that small proportion of people that do get severe illness and to prevent them getting more severe.

DAVID KOCH:                       

Okay.

NATALIE BARR:                    

Yeah, but it’s good most of these ones are mild. Thank you very much, Paul Kelly, for your time today.

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