Date published: 
20 July 2022
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

All right. Well, the new medical advice is urging us to once again wear masks in the workplace and to work from home and businesses. Will a feeling that impact?

KARL STEFANOVIC:

They sure are. So the nation's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, joins us now from Canberra to try and sort out some of that angst that is out there right now.

Professor, good morning to you. It is a bit like that at the moment, isn't it? The new advice was not a mandate. But how strongly you recommending it?

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER PAUL KELLY:

Very strongly Karl. I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to wear, start wearing a mask again because I saw what was coming. The key message today is that we can all contribute to decrease the spread of the virus, and that's the important thing over the next month or so.

Masks work particularly in indoor settings. In terms of the work from home. There's two elements to that. One is slowing the spread. The second one is actually helping businesses with their business continuity.

A lot of people are going to get sick with this new virus, the new variant the BA.4 and particularly BA.5 variant. It's much more infectious. And so we're talking to business groups about that, making sure that they can keep that absenteeism rate down and it will really help them in the coming months.

LANGDON:

So, look, it might help in that regard, but we had on them two cafe owners, Jacqui and Darren Silverman. They've got a cafe in the Melbourne CBD. I mean their heart just sunk when they heard this advice to work from home.

It could, could mean the end of their business.

JACQUI:

Every single day now, so it's just getting quieter and quieter and quieter on the street. We're just hanging in there at this point, I guess we don't know what's going to happen or where it's going to go.

LANGDON:

So sorry about that, Professor. Your response?

KELLY:

Yes. Look, the people like your segment there have done it really tough over the last couple of years. I really understand that. The reality is that we do know that decreasing mixing of people at this time is going to make a difference to slowing the spread.

 

And that's the important thing. The main the main issue here is partly, of course, about protecting the most vulnerable in our community who are at higher risk of severe illness.

But it's also about protecting our health system. Yesterday, we were rapidly approaching our peak in hospitalizations with COVID that we saw in January. And so by slowing the spread now, we will allow the health system to cope with that and so that helps all of us. We all need to be able to access hospitals on occasions that have other illnesses.

STEFANOVIC:

The thing I want to say is this and bear in mind, obviously, I'm clearly not a medical professional, but we've been through it all. Our most vulnerable should be fully vaxxed that means four and then probably more in the future.

So of course they need to take those precautions. But for the rest of us who are fully vaccinated or part thereof, isn't it about just getting on with it?

KELLY:

So firstly, on the fourth dose, congratulations to the half a million people that came forward and rolled up their sleeves last week to get their fourth dose. That was an amazing response to that, that increase in availability of force.

So keep that going. Certainly protecting the vulnerable, absolutely essential. But that other issue which we saw in January, if you remember that Karl -

STEFANOVIC:

Yeah.

KELLY:

About large numbers of cases, absenteeism and so forth, and that pressure on the health system, that's the key component. Now, the health system's already very busy with winter, winter viruses, flu and other things.

And so any small amount of increase there is going to put further pressure on and that's the part that we all need to take a part in, not just protecting the vulnerable.

STEFANOVIC:

I know, but I think there's I mean, again, I think there's a lot of people out there have had the flu that was worse with our kids have had terrible respiratory illnesses that I think were certainly worse than when they had COVID, speaking from a personal experience. And we're not you know, taking those extra precautions against those things. I mean, has the horse bolted for you here a little bit?

KELLY:

Look, I understand people want this over, but wishing it to be over is not going to make it over. And I think the key the key part of this in winter, you know, we've talked about it on this program before and other programs, that winter was going to be hard and it's and it's coming to fruition there.

The flu rates are decreasing quite quickly in every state except for WA, where they're just starting with their flu season, as well as this COVID surge. But the other states are looking much better in that regard.

But that key message there, Carl, it's not just about vulnerable and more severe disease. It's actually about what this is doing to our frontline health workers at the moment and we all have a stake in that, to making sure that our hospitals can cope. I'm sure they can. And I'm sure we can do through actions today we can change what happens in the future.

LANGDON:

All right. Thanks for that Professor. Appreciate your time,

STEFANOVIC:

Thanks Professor, thank you.

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