Date published: 
22 May 2020
Media event date: 
21 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

TOM CONNELL:

Well, a lot of discussion at the moment about the borders. We've still got Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tassie all with different degrees of borders up, not letting the other states, namely New South Wales and Victoria, into their particular areas. Is it fair enough? There seems to be conflicting advice from the federal and the state levels. Earlier, I spoke with Alison McMillan for more on this.

Alison McMillan, thanks very much for your time this morning. Now, Jeannette Young, the Chief Health Officer in Queensland, has said that keeping borders up in Queensland is key to keeping the number of cases down on or low. Do you agree with that?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Look, Tom, we saw the borders closed in a very different time and we certainly have seen much lower numbers of transmission now, but we respect the right of Queensland to make their own decisions and to reduce and relax the restrictions as they see fit. So, it really is a matter for Jeannette and her premier about how they do this.

TOM CONNELL:

But when we look at the medical advice, is the advice we're getting from the federal body that it's not going to be a risk of major outbreak? There could be some cases of Queensland lift their borders but that it would not be a major threat to the state?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes. You're reiterating the advice that we provided earlier in this outbreak and this pandemic and that advice by the Commonwealth, through the National Cabinet, remains the same. But as I say, we do respect the right of Queensland to make their own decisions as they see fit and how it works with their strategy.

TOM CONNELL:

So, when you look at Queensland- because there's also obviously South Australia, Tasmania, WA, they're entitled to keep their borders up. If they want to go for something approaching eradication, then perhaps that's the only way to do that, but if they did lift their borders now, they'd get some cases. So eradication would make sense if they want to keep their borders up.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well I think again, Tom, yes, they are taking their strategy about how they want to prevent a resurgence of this across their state and therefore across the country, and they're taking that considering what they're seeing locally, yeah.

TOM CONNELL:

When we look at the situation in Australia right now, it seems very encouraging. Is the main concern right now, the remaining one, Victoria? Is that the state struggling to get on top of this the most, with a few different outbreaks over the past few weeks?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Tom, we're definitely really encouraged by what we're seeing and we're obviously really keen to people to continue to do the great work that they've been doing so we can keep it like this. We are seeing some continued outbreaks, and you're correct, there are predominantly the ones- the 11 in the last 24 hours are in Victoria, But Victoria can identify generally very clearly where these outbreaks are and they're managing them really well. So, we will continue to see this as we relax the restrictions. So, yep. And as you know, we- Victoria successfully used the app as reported by their Deputy Chief Health Officer yesterday and identified a case that wouldn't have previously been identified. So that's a really positive outcome in Victoria.

TOM CONNELL:

Just on the app, we've had more than six million downloads of it. Are you able to know, at any one time, how many active users there are? And by that, I mean users that have downloaded the app, it's working on their phone, and the Bluetooth doesn't have an issue with it. So in other words, an actually effective person with the app.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

No. Tom, if you recall, when we launched the app, we were really clear that we can't actually see anything about who's using it, how they're using it and the nature of the people who have downloaded that. We do and are hearing some concerns around some aspects of the Bluetooth connectivity and we're working with the providers to try to address those things. But we can't see, we don't know who and what is using it when, that's not how it was designed, and we're very committed to that and know that means that protecting people's privacy.

TOM CONNELL:

Yeah. So that helps I suppose with the privacy concerns. On the other side, you don't know if someone's downloaded or a lot of people have downloaded it and then deleted it. So the actual figure - if we get to 6, 7, 8 million people and that feels as though it's a good result, the true result might be a lot lower in terms of use of the app.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

That's correct. That's true. Yes. But we are- even if someone has chosen to download it, we're encouraging them to upload it again because we do know and have heard now in Victoria, what we were trying to achieve is identifying all of those possible contacts. That's what it does and that's what we need it to do. So, we're encouraging people, even if they chose to not download it or to delete it, please re-upload it.

TOM CONNELL:

The rule of 10 is one that's been criticised in venues - people that run a pub, a restaurant, a cafe or whatever it might be - mainly because it doesn't matter what the venue size is. You could have a venue that holds 200. They can have 10 people or a venue that holds 30 people and they can have 10 people. Why is it one size fits all?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

We went with a figure that was easy to understand initially. As we see these restrictions reduce, we will see- I'm confident we'll see the numbers change and increase over time. But we went with a number that was easily understood and clearly definable. So, each state and territory is taking a slightly different approach and we are seeing some of the states and territories announce greater numbers in coming weeks and particularly after the long weekend. So, it's a gradual change. We were really clear. We weren't rushing into anything.

TOM CONNELL:

Do you get the sort of, I guess, confusion by people running the bigger venues and they think: well, why on earth do we have the same number as the person next door that might have a very small cafe?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

We are hearing that, but we are asking them to work with the industry. So how they can- planning and preparing to make their venue COVID safe so they'll be able to continuously increase their numbers over time in a safe way.

TOM CONNELL:

The ski fields in Australia, we're getting close to the ski season. I know when this first was breaking out in Europe, there were quite a few issues with ski resorts. Is there confidence this can be done safely if it's done more carefully here in Australia?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes, Tom, it's my understanding that the industry is looking at how the ski fields will reopen. Obviously, it's traditionally at the Queen's Birthday long weekend that we look to the ski fields opening. The ski fields- the processes will be different. They will need to make changes and they're looking at all of the safety aspects to make skiing COVID safe. It's outdoors, that's great. But obviously, some of the hospitality and accommodation changes will need to be made so that we don't see outbreaks through ski fields.

TOM CONNELL:

So you have your normal limitations there. What about on the mountains itself? I mean, it's pretty hard to regulate where people are at any one time. Would it be a process whereby you just couldn't get the same numbers on the mountain at any one time?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think there was definitely some of the things that the industry are looking at: how you manage crowds around the lifts, particularly we know everyone huddles together during those times. So, they're going to have to make some significant changes and certainly, we won't be skiing in the same way as we have in the past. Just like life is still somewhat different for all of us in our normal daily lives.

TOM CONNELL:

Is July a realistic timeframe, do you think, for skiing?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I'll leave that to the industry really because there are some very small fields, obviously cross-country skiing -skiing is quite diverse - and it will be up to them about how they manage this safely so that they can protect their skiers.

TOM CONNELL:

Alright. Well Alison McMillan, we'll see how it all goes. Thanks for your time today.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thank you.

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