Welcome back to the show. Well, questions surround what will happen next with the cruise ship en route from Brisbane to Sydney via Eden, with at least a hundred staff and passengers with COVID on board.
Let's bring in Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kely, who's in Canberra. Professor, what will happen here? I mean, this cruise ship will reach Sydney tomorrow. You've got a hundred people on board with COVID.
How do you get them off safely?
Well, good morning, Alli. Good morning, Karl. And good morning, viewers. So, this is something we do a lot of work with, with the industry, as well as with state and territory colleagues and the Commonwealth agencies that are involved with cruise ships.
And I'm very confident that all of those plans are, firstly, already being used on board and in terms of keeping people as safe as possible. And it will be the same when it arrives in Sydney.
Look, it's inevitable, as we're seeing with this rise in cases around Australia, that we will see cases on cruise ships. And that was something we've prepared for over the last few months in preparation for restarting.
So, this is bringing those plans to fruition.
So, what does happen? So, for example, when it arrives in Sydney tomorrow.
So, firstly the cruise ship has, as you know, already told us that there's an issue. And so be prepared for that. That getting people are getting the care on board and anyone who's seriously ill, if there are any, and I don't know the details of that particular cruise ship or the outbreak at this stage.
But, if there are people that are seriously ill, that they'll be escorted to get that the care that they need at the place they need it and others will be transported safely to their homes.
You know, we're seeing many, many cases in the community already. And so, this won't make a big change to that. I think it really highlights the importance of being up to date with vaccination.And that's part of the deal if you go on a on a cruise ship, is one of the things that we insisted upon.
Also the availability of treatments and we've worked with the cruise ship industry in relation to that as well and there's been some expansion, as you know, on on treatment availability in the last few days.
And the importance of, of other methods that we know about, in particular in those crowded spaces as occurs in cruise ships of mask use and so all of those things come into play on a cruise and indeed throughout the whole society as we look at this next wave of Omicron.
Yeah. Well, I mean, we're certainly hoping that no one on board is too sick and we're not getting word of that anyway at this stage. But when you say those who have COVID will be transported safely to their homes.
How do you do that? Ensuring that no one else gets infected. So, say someone lives in Wollongong, which is, you know, an hour and a half away. How do you get them to their house?
Well, that’s where masks and other things come into play. But, look, I won't go into the details of that, but they'll certainly be talking to my New South Wales colleagues about that matter today to make sure that they are prepared and have all of the assistance that they need while we deal with that situation.
It's a lot of cases in an enclosed area, isn't it? I guess that's the ongoing battle. Yeah. It's a lot of cases, Paul, in an enclosed area, that is the ongoing battle.
Yeah, that and that's certainly something, as I said, we've planned for. And so all of those plans are coming into play, right now.
Alright another COVID wave is sweeping the country, as you mentioned, that we're seeing concerning predictions for hospitals this morning. What are you bracing for? What are you preparing hospitals for around the country?
Well, that's you know Karl, we've had a lot of preparation and work with the whole sector of the hospitals. So aged care and other care, disability and so forth, right throughout the pandemic.
And so, last week we looked at this again and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee with my Chief Health Officer colleagues about a range of measures that could be, could be done and all of those things are coming to fruition over the last couple of days.
So that increase in the availability of fourth doses of vaccine, very important for people to go and have that discussion with their health practitioner this week and be up to date with vaccines.
Two doses is definitely not enough. Three doses is absolutely for everybody over the age of 12 and fourth doses have been expanded. The other thing to talk about, and this is really important is the availability of oral treatments that has also been expanded and simplified and so now is the time to get that treatment plan if you're in that higher risk group, particularly those over the age of 70, to get those treatments.
And then the third, third very important element of that is for everyone to consider what they can do to decrease that. So that transmission of the virus. It’s very important to increase use of masks, for example, in indoor settings.
So I think there are three key things that we can all do together to assist with that that will assist with decreasing the absenteeism that we're seeing in hospitals, but also people ending up with severe illness.
So, it's one of those times we've talked about before, Karl and Alli, about working together on this. All of us have a responsibility and an opportunity to assist our frontline workers.
Good to talk to you, Paul. Thank you.