Date published: 
24 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

The figures are out for the last 24 hours, according to the Department of Health. Victoria has recorded 116 new cases of coronavirus and most sadly, 15 deaths in the past 24 hours. As you've been seeing over the last few days and as experts were indicating on this program and other programs a couple of weeks ago, the majority of deaths that you'll see now are associated, most unfortunately, with nursing care facilities and nursing homes and aged care homes as well, which is incredibly sad to see; in most cases, avoidable deaths. So it's a sorrowful situation, even while we need to point to that figure of 116 and say that is looking a lot better, isn't it?

Alison McMillan, good morning. I'm glad you could join us again.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Good morning, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

What do you interpret from that figure?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I'm like all of the Victorians - extremely encouraged by that figure this morning. I think that here we're seeing the significant effort that Victorians have done to flatten this curve and now see these numbers go down, and it is very encouraging.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

So we have 15 deaths however and that relates to mostly, according to the figures that I've seen over the last few days, to aged care facilities and the like, and I guess we can expect the deaths that we'll see in the next few days to reflect and continue to reflect that trend.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes, Virginia. Sadly, we do see that the numbers of deaths tend to lag behind the numbers of confirmed cases for two to three weeks. This is an awful disease. It does prey mostly on those most vulnerable and the elderly, which is sadly what we're seeing here again today.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

So, how low do those figures have to be before a state like Victoria, given the situation we're in, before we can move to Stage 3 and then possibly Stage 2 lockdown? What do we need to see?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think, Virginia, what we need to see- I know and everyone said this before: there's no magic number here. It will be the nature of the spread, the characteristics of the community spread and that sustained reduction in numbers are sort of things that may lead the Chief Health Officer to make those recommendations to the Premier around what you might see in Victoria in coming weeks. All the signs are encouraging but it is incumbent upon me to remind everyone the things you've been doing are the things you need to continue to do to see these numbers stay at this level and get lower.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

I know there's no magic number but if we're in the high tens, if we're in say the- above 50, 60, 70, 80, is that, in your view, as a member of the Chief Medical Officer team, is that too high for us to get out of Stage 4?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Again, Virginia, I can't commit on an absolute number. I don't think-

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

[Interrupts] I won't hold you to it. I'm asking more a reflection.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

There is a desire to see the numbers significantly lower, still than 100, and you will want to see that sustained over a period of time. One day of lower numbers wouldn't be sufficient. It will need to be seen that seven-day trend that everyone's trying- tending to go to now, and that sustained lowering of the numbers are the sort of things that will lead to that decision-making about moving from Stage 4 to Stage 3.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

People like Duncan Maskell, who's the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and actually a microbiologist, I understand in his original academia as well, people like him are starting to argue that the effects of the lockdown are now going to be more dangerous, more deleterious to us than the disease and coronavirus itself. What's your view?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think that we're seeing that not only in Victoria but across the world. The impact we're seeing on people's general wellbeing, on their mental health. We are seeing those impacts. There's no hiding away from that. We still need to encourage everyone to continue to get those regular tests, to go to the doctor if they're unwell, if they've got any signs and symptoms. Please don't avoid doing that or don't put it off. And if you, as everyone is, I think it's fair to say, Virginia, feeling that this is impacting on your general mental health and wellbeing, please do seek help. There is help out there for everybody. It's readily available and we need to not be frightened or shy as to saying: I'm not managing and I need help.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

But on that specific point, do you reach a point in this pandemic where locking down and everything that goes with that - job losses, damage to the economy, mental health and everything else - do you reach a point where that is actually more dangerous than the virus itself?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think, Virginia, what we're facing in Australia is where we need to see a balanced approach. We know that we need to do this lockdown in Victoria to prevent the numbers escalating even more, but I believe that we're seeing in other states and territories, New South Wales and Queensland, they're still seeing outbreaks but with their approach to really quickly responding to these, they've been able to maintain a lesser level of restrictions and people go about their business and when there are small outbreaks, they can deal with them. That's what we're looking towards for Victoria, what we can see is working generally in the other states and territories.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

But what about the danger of lockdown fatigue? And we actually had mention made of that at the weekend press conference that numbers were starting to rise over weekend because people were simply sick of being locked down and that itself then can create its own problems in relation to unexpected and untrackable infection.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

It can, and I know that we've seen in Victoria an increase in the number of people using public transport, just by example. We recognise that this is extremely difficult for people to do and to sustain but we need to try to keep our resolve. I know that my friends and colleagues across Victoria are a resolute group and I hope to see them being able to see this through so that they can get back to lesser restrictions and a more normal life, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Alison McMillan, good to talk to you thank you. Thank you.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thank you Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Alison McMillan is the Australian Government's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.

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