Date published: 
10 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Well, patience is wearing thin for Aussie venues fed up with strict coronavirus restrictions after mass protests at the weekend were given the go ahead.

ALLISON LANGDON:

A little earlier, we spoke to one owner of a Sydney wedding business who said he is willing to risk huge fines and reopen again.

[Excerpt]

SAL NAVARRA:

I'm not trying to go against the government because I respect what the government's done, I respect the Premier and everybody, but we're just trying to say if we can come up with a plan — which we do have a plan I think could work — to do events up to a certain number, why not let us do it?

[End excerpt]

ALLISON LANGDON:

And we're joined now by Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan, in Canberra. Thank you so much for your time this morning, Alison. As you heard there, people are fed up, they're ready to break the rules. Can you understand that angst?

ALISON McMILLAN:

I can. I can understand the angst, but I think our messaging all the way along has been really clear that we are encouraging people to be patient if they can. Large gatherings of people do still pose a risk, and so we need to take one step at a time and be cautious as we relax these restrictions. So that's our continuous message.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

As important as the cause was on the weekend, how much damage did it do to the psyche of what you're trying to achieve?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Karl, I don't think it's damaged the psyche. I understand that people felt it necessary to demonstrate and now that's happened. Now what's really important is for us to remember that if anyone who was there over the weekend, or anyone around the country is unwell, we are continuing to encourage them to seek and get tested.

So, if you're unwell and you went to the demonstrations, don't be worried about that, don't feel that you might be blamed, that doesn't happen — there's free testing that's available to everyone across the country. If you've got the smallest or most minor symptoms we're still saying please do get tested, because if we do see any outbreak we want to get on to it quickly. So that's really a message we want to continue.

ALLISON LANGDON:

See, I think people saw those protests at the weekend and thought, hang on, why can't I have a big family barbecue at home and invite everyone that I want over? Why can't I have all of my family and friends at a funeral?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Well, I think they're choices we all make and we've been clear that, as I said earlier, that large gatherings of people do still pose a risk. Although now, as we've confirmed this morning, we've only had 2 cases in the last 24 hours and both of those are from people who've returned from overseas and are in quarantine.

But that doesn't mean to say that there isn't still some evidence of community transmission, so we need to proceed cautiously is our advice. And please let's hold this great achievement that we've had and keep these numbers really low.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay. So those 2 new cases you're talking about — which state? Or states?

ALISON McMILLAN:

I can't tell you that at the moment, but only 2 cases in the last 24 hours and both of those, as I said, in quarantine recently returned from overseas.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

There are some concerns this Victorian man with the coronavirus knew he was at risk before travelling through, I think it was 3 airports, getting to Bundaberg in Queensland. What is your message to Australian who may not be taking the virus as seriously as they should be?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Yeah, and I think it's a really important message, thanks Karl. I think it is. Our continued message is if you are unwell, or you've been in contact with someone unwell you really need to get tested. It's all of our responsibility not to put others at risk. You may not think that you are at risk but others definitely may be. So we're asking, again, everyone who may think that they've got any — even the most minor of symptoms; scratchy throat or anything — please get tested, tested is available everywhere and is free.

ALLISON LANGDON:

How do you do contract tracing with a case like this? So, here's a guy who went through Melbourne Airport after being exposed to someone in Melbourne that had COVID-19. He's then spent time with friends in Brisbane having travelled through that airport, then to Bundaberg. How do you then determine who he's been exposed to?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Well, if the gentleman had the COVIDSafe app that does help us because that can help if he permits us to access that data, or for Queensland to access that data, we can then know who he's been in contact with. We can also, obviously, use those who he knows he's been — the family and friends he might have been in contact with in Brisbane — and then obviously we have manifests of people on flights so we can contact people who were on those flights. It does obviously take some time, but we can go through those steps, and that's what Queensland Health are doing at the moment to make sure that there isn't any further spread.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

If we had a — and this is a hypothetical, of course — but if we had a virus that was new on the scene and we had the kind of race that we've got now, we wouldn't bother shutting anything?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Yeah, no. I think if any novel virus of this type, Karl, we would always take the same type of precautions. We know that none of us have got any immunity to COVID-19; that's a novel virus, and we need to prevent the spread to protect those that are most vulnerable. As we know the elderly and those with chronic and complex diseases are those we are protecting and we all protect— play our part in doing that. So, we would always take this approach irrespective of whether it's a novel virus, as this one is. And that's standard practice across the world.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's getting harder and harder, isn't it? I mean, and I think the weekend has something to do with that, but it's harder and harder for people to go, okay, I need to keep staying the course here, when I'm when I'm seeing other people do lots of things that they previously would have been able to do?

ALISON McMILLAN:

That's right. But then we all need to act responsibly. And they're the same things that we've been saying — stay home and get tested if you're sick, that hand hygiene that we see everybody do now is going to be part of our normal, probably a new normal forever, stay 1.5 metres away whenever you're out and about where can, and those cough etiquettes and the use of tissues and things. They're going to be things that have to be with us probably for a number of years, if not always into the future, so they've got to be new normals and they've got to be habits we've got to maintain. If other people are behaving badly or in a way that we wouldn't agree is necessarily appropriate, doesn't mean to say we all should break the rules.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And just quickly, I mean, students have now returned to two city Sydney schools — they were shut down due to coronavirus cases but the source of the infection still remains a mystery. How much of a concern is that to you?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Well, I think that's part of our message, that whilst we're saying at the moment we're seeing very low numbers, and in the last week we — I think 82 per cent of the new cases we've seen have been from overseas travellers returning, those people in quarantine — but, we do know that there is still some community transmission out there. And that's why we're continuing to push that message around testing so we can identify it early, get onto it, and prevent that further spread. So, I know everyone thinks we're being very cautious, but this is exactly the reason why — because there is still some community transmission in some states.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Some of our Premiers seem to be pushing towards eradication. Is that realistic?

ALISON McMILLAN:

I think that we're continuing to flatten the curve. We know that there is still some transmission in the community and we are seeing very low numbers now and that is really encouraging. But we have to sustain that. We did — if you remember the advice of AHPPC was that we needed to take a staged approach and allow us to be able to monitor what the impact of that is — and we're still in that process of waiting to see, as we've eased restrictions, if there's any change in the numbers. We're really encouraged that so far there isn't but we're far from completely through this, Karl. I think we still have to take this very cautious approach to prevent a further resurgence of this virus in our community.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thank you so much for your time again, we know how busy you are. Really appreciate it.

ALISON McMILLAN:

Thanks for your time.

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