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

ALI MOORE:

Well obviously what is happening in Victoria is being watched very closely in Canberra. Alison McMillan is the Australian Government's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. She's part of the team supporting the chief— the Federal Chief Health Officer. Alison McMillan, welcome to the program.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Good morning, Ali.

ALI MOORE:

How worried are you about what's going on in Victoria?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well, I think we're all worried about what we're seeing with the community outbreak in Victoria, but I think that what we're seeing — I just heard Olivia expressing her anger — but these measures are really important to protect not only Victorians, but all Australians. So we need to contain this outbreak and keep this disease under control.

ALI MOORE:

And when you have anger though, such as Olivia expressed and that's not to imply that Olivia won't do as she's told, but do you have questions about whether the local lockdown will work?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well, we in the Commonwealth— the AHPPC and the Commonwealth feel that these are the sort of actions we expected might need to happen. We did talk about the fact that, as taking the suppression approach, we may see community outbreaks and that might require local controls. So we were anticipating this would happen and unfortunately for people like Olivia it happens to be in their suburbs at the moment. But they are making an important contribution to containing this disease for everyone.

ALI MOORE:

Do you have any insight into the numbers of people in Victoria who are refusing to be tested?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well I, like you Ali, I have heard the numbers of almost 1,000 not being willing to be tested and that is really concerning — I'll certainly be interested to hear if anyone calls you later to explain why. But I think for me it is important to remind everyone the importance of testing. We need to continue to provide people with information about why that is so. But getting testing means that we can identify where spread is concerned and we can contain it. We think perhaps that it is perhaps a younger group of people who don't think that this disease is this is harmful to them and therefore they don't need to get tested, but they need to do this for everybody's sake.

ALI MOORE:

What about the shut— the blankets bans? I was going to say the border shutdowns, the fact that South Australia and Queensland are opening their borders but not to Victorians, down here we're very much become the pariah state. And I can just play you a little bit of Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, talking about those border shutdowns:

[Excerpt]

PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON:

You're living in in Wangaratta, then you're no more affected by what's going on in those suburbs of Melbourne than if you're living in Whyalla.

[End of Excerpt]

ALI MOORE:

Does he have a point there? That a blanket ban on visitors from Victoria say, into Queensland, does it make sense?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Look Ali, I'm not going to criticise my colleagues in each of the jurisdictions — ultimately the decision they make is theirs — but I think it's fair to say that certainly the AHPPC, of which I'm a member, we never recommended to National Cabinet any full border controls as has been taken. But ultimately this is a decision for each of those states and territories to make based on what they're seeing across the country.

ALI MOORE:

It's interesting though, just from a purely — and I understand you don't want to get involved in the politics at all — but from a purely medical point of view, if there— if border controls were never recommended but they've been incredibly successful, haven't they?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well, I think all of the steps that we've taken, Ali, have been incredibly effective. So in all of those states they didn't just close their borders, they've all been doing the same where it's being ramping up testing, tracing all cases, trying to contain any outbreaks they find. We know that this sort of approach that's happening in Victoria happened in North West Tasmania, and it was very successful. We've seen outbreaks in Bondi earlier. So all of the different states have had their challenges to face. So border closures were not the only thing that they did, but the multiple actions it took has been what's been successful.

ALI MOORE:

Do you think that's just because other states seem to be quite comfortable and relaxed at the moment that they too may end up facing the issue that Victoria is facing?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think, Ali, complacency of everyone is a great enemy for us all. We really need to continue to remain vigilant. We all need to keep doing these things or we will see outbreaks in other states and territories. So, yep.

ALI MOORE:

And also from a federal perspective, I mean, one of the interesting things about how this has been managed is that while we have had a National Cabinet, very much decisions have been left for the individual circumstances of each state. But is the management of hotel quarantine one where maybe there should have been a nationwide standard?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well I think there was a nationwide approach, which was that all returning travellers from overseas were required to, mandated to be quarantined for 14 days in hotels—

ALI MOORE:

[Interrupts] But there wasn't one about how that was managed. That was the problem and that's where Victoria has fallen down.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well everyone had secure processes in place. But I think the important thing to remember too is that this is a highly infectious disease, it is very easy to catch. And unfortunately we've seen some of those breaches potentially in Victoria. Now we've got an inquiry we will get to understand what went wrong and hopefully we won't see that repeated elsewhere.

ALI MOORE:

Look, thank you very much for joining us, Alison. It's obviously, you know, for people in Victoria, it's enormously frustrating, but it's enormously important too that we all do the right thing, or we're all going to end up back in Stage 3 restrictions. Thank you very much for joining us.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thank you, Ali.

ALI MOORE:

Alison McMillan there, from the — well, she's basically part of a team supporting the Chief Medical Officer. But her official title is the Australian Government's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.

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