Date published: 
31 January 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

But first, our breaking news on the coronavirus this hour. The World Health Organization has just declared the outbreak a global emergency. It's only the sixth time in history an event has been given the classification. The death toll from the disease has risen to 170 in China, with around 8000 people infected.

DAVID KOCH:

Now the virus has hit 19 countries across the globe. Overnight two new cases in Australia, bringing our total number of infected to nine.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

And for more, we're joined by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Professor, good morning. Welcome. A global emergency has just been declared. What does that actually mean and how does that affect Australia?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Good morning. The global emergency is really recognition by the World Health Organization that the scale of this problem in China is significant, and it also is a recognition of the significant but still small number of exported cases, and the evidence of very limited but contained human to human transmission outside of China. So it really means – it's a recognition of what we've been saying for some time, that this is a very significant public health event, and I think it's timely that the World Health Organization made such a declaration.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah because that means they can then recommend to countries what they need to do, doesn't it? They move in with extra support.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

It means that the whole international community mobilises. And it's important to note that we have been mobilising internationally, even though this declaration wasn't made. And – but it does mean that greater resources will be applied to it and that an international technical team, with support of the Chinese Government, will be going in to try and help control this outbreak in China. But from the Australian point of view, it doesn't make a lot of difference. We've already been very forward leaning in our response and our efforts, and successful efforts, to contain the spread of this virus.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Okay. Professor, what can you tell us about these two more cases overnight, one in Queensland and one in Victoria? And are doctors in Australia starting to learn more about this virus?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Yes. We are starting to learn more about it. One of the somewhat reassuring things, we're always careful to be – in the early phases of understanding a disease to make strong statements, but most of the exported cases in the world have been very mild. And in fact, all of the nine cases in Australia, we don't believe any of them have had severe disease and in fact two of the original New South Wales cases are now fully recovered and discharged from hospital.

The two additional cases have also come from China. The one in Queensland was one of the people in a tour group, who – from the – which their first case also came and there are more people being tested. And the other one in Victoria had also come from Hubei province. So the cases in Australia have all been exported. We are, obviously – limited human to human transmission is being seen in some parts of the world, but that [audio skips] contained and that's the critical goal. WHO has confirmed that containment remains the goal.

DAVID KOCH:

And put it in perspective for us, its spreading really quickly. A lot quicker than SARS. Is it as deadly as SARS?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

We're always very cautious to predict the severity [indistinct] this early – when we're gathering the data. But at the moment, the mortality on the published data is about 2 per cent and SARS had a mortality of 10 per cent. And the severe cases are about 18 per cent at the moment. So – and certainly from what we've seen in the exported cases outside of China, we haven't seen much in way of severe disease. But it's – one has to be very cautious about making statements about severity at an early stage.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

It's very days, isn't it? We don't really know the truth of what's going on in China. But we do thank you, Professor Brendan Murphy, for you time today.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Pleasure.

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Chief Medical Officer

Professor Brendan Murphy is the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and is the principal medical adviser to the Minister and Health.

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