Date published: 
15 June 2020
Media event date: 
14 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KIERAN GILBERT:  

For more on this, let’s bring in the Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan. Thanks so much for your time, as always. The total number of active cases across the nation now less than 140. The active case numbers continue to fall. That’s got to be the source for more encouragement.

ALISON McMILLAN:

It certainly is, Kieran. We’re really pleased to see this continuous reduction. We’ve seen, as you’re probably aware, 12 new cases in the last 24 hours, but the actual number of active cases is continuing to decline, which is very encouraging.

KIERAN GILBERT:  

And with those recovery rates continuing to be quite strong, can you explain why we saw such a dramatic drop in the number of active cases in New South Wales over the last few days. It dropped by well over a hundred.

ALISON McMILLAN:

Well, as we count and continue to look at the numbers we do see the decline. When you see numbers increase of course they do decrease at the other side. We’ll continue to see that, but we’ll need to remain very vigilant, Kieran, as you know, so that we can identify any new cases and address and contact trace those as soon as possible, to prevent any further outbreaks.

KIERAN GILBERT:  

Is there still the risk of a second wave? Or, with the numbers now so low and our health officials around the nation being able to not only monitor but detect and trace any incidence of COVID, is there the risk of a significant second outbreak still?

ALISON McMILLAN:

There’s always a risk. Kieran, we tend to use the term a resurgence rather than a second wave. And that’s why we are asking— the success we’ve seen in Australia, the work that everyone has done has been— we see these restrictions rolling back. But that means that we need to stay vigilant. We need to keep doing those things that we’ve been doing. Staying home if you’re sick, following all those hygiene instructions, because if we don’t do that, there is a risk of outbreak. We’ve always said that outbreaks were possible. We’ve seen that overnight with the closing of a school from a positive case in a teacher.

These outbreaks will continue, there’s no doubt about that. But the thing that we’ll do is get onto them quickly, contact trace as quickly as we can, particularly if we can use the app if people have downloaded it, so we can contain the spread, because we know this disease does spread very easily.

KIERAN GILBERT:  

And is that why the Chief Medical Officer Dr Murphy and Dr Kelly and the others that you work with are so concerned about the protests we’ve seen in recent days?

ALISON McMILLAN:

That’s right, we are. And we have expressed— and please, to the community, not at this time, this crucial time as we’re easing restrictions, not to protest. We do acknowledge the importance of what they’re saying. But right now we need to try and keep that containment, that suppression that we’ve been so successful with, keep on that track. So we’re asking them to find other ways in which to express their views and not to protest.

KIERAN GILBERT:  

Even if there is a spike or a resurgence, is our medical capacity sufficient enough to deal with it?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Absolutely. As you know, we made enormous investments into ensuring our system was prepared and ready. None of that has been dismantled. We have an extensive public health capacity across the country. Those people work very hard 7 days a week making sure that we contact trace all of those positive cases and contain any outbreaks. None of that has been dismantled and remains available and ready should it be called upon in any outbreak.

KIERAN GILBERT:

A bit over a week ago we saw the University of Queensland, along with the company CSL, make an announcement that it’s got the capacity to make a hundred vaccines within the next 12 to 18 months. They’re very encouraged by their initial trials in that particular vaccine effort. Are you optimistic about the progress towards a vaccine?

ALISON McMILLAN:

I am very optimistic. But I think we need to remember that the development of vaccines needs to take time. You can’t rush this and we need to make sure it’s safe. So, there are very encouraging signs all over the world of different vaccines that may have early promise. They need to go through a whole range of testing including human trials. So all of this is very encouraging and the Government has made significant investment into a vaccine. But while we’re waiting for that vaccine we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing so that we don’t see further outbreaks.

KIERAN GILBERT:

 And what’s your take on the suggestion today that the Government might look to reboot, restart business tourism with low-COVID-19 countries in the region with a lower quarantine period? Is that something you’d be open to?

ALISON McMILLAN:

Kieran, at the moment we’re concentrating on our domestic response very much. We are aware of the importance of our international borders but at the moment they do remain closed, except obviously for returning Australian residents or citizens. We will, in time, begin to turn our attention to how we might safely and appropriately open our borders. We know there’s been talks with New Zealand. But right now we’re concentrating on getting our domestic borders opening and making sure that we don’t see any outbreaks.

KIERAN GILBERT:  

Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan, I appreciate your time as always. Thank you.

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