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

ALISON MCMILLAN:

So today, I'm going to start by saying that I can report that we have 6479 people who have now recovered from COVID-19 in Australia, and that's a really, really encouraging number. I can report that there are 506 active cases of COVID-19 across the country, and that is a number again that we're going to start reporting to produce a very positive message to all Australians about the great achievements we've seen. I can tell you that in the last 24 hours, there have been 15 new cases reported in Australia. Sadly, also, one additional death. All of these deaths are of course tragedies for those families and friends of those who's lost their lives and I pass on my condolences. That's 101 deaths now across Australia. We have 39 people who are still in hospital and seven of those are in intensive care.

So from these figures, we can see the continued suppression of that spread across the country and all Australians should of course be heartened by that information and encouraged by the enormous effort that everyone has made to flatten this curve and contain this pandemic. But what's really important for us now is not to drop the ball. We've seen evidence and pictures in the news and on the television of those who have clearly, quite quickly, move back to the old ways that we do things and we must all follow this important physical distancing rules. As we see the relaxing of these restrictions, it's up to all of us to play our part in making sure that we don't see outbreaks and we don't see resurgence as of this disease across Australia. So I encourage everyone to follow those clear instructions that we've made and also, obviously for those who have chosen as yet not to download the COVIDSafe app, I do once again encouraging you to do so because it's an important part of us maintaining the sustained effort on containing the outbreaks so that we can continue to return back to our normal lives.

So, thank you.

QUESTION:

New South Wales has moved to open pubs and restaurants with 50 people. What are the chances, if someone's infected and walks into a pub with 50 people, of at least one person getting the virus?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Okay. So, yes, we've seen New South Wales announce more people can now go into pubs, restaurants and clubs, though the greatest priority for everyone is for no one to go there who is sick. So if you've got symptoms, if you are unwell, we really do encourage you to stay home and get tested. Of course, as we do relax these restrictions, we will see potential for outbreak and that's where it is if anyone has any symptoms of whatsoever, of cold, flulike illness, they need to quickly call their doctor and get tested. But with the COVID app and with the enormous amount effort by our public health officials, if there is to be a transmission, then we should be able to address it quickly.

QUESTION:

Was the New South Wales Government provided with any modelling in regards to helping them reopen the pubs and restaurants?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

All of the states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth, are doing a range of modelling work continually, as our evidence base about the Australian outbreak grows. So, New South Wales may well have done further modelling and they continue to monitor the sort of outbreaks they're seeing within their own state.

QUESTION:

Were they given any national advice before they made their own step here?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

No. The decision to change the restrictions are those of New South Wales and advice from their Chief Health Officer and for their Premier.

QUESTION:

We now have a Chief Medical Officer in charge of mental health, what work has been done by that officer and are they looking at things like the health impacts of long-term unemployment?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

So, Dr Ruth Vine has been with us for a week and so she is already out there working. We already had a mental health plan and an enormous investment in that mental health plan. So there has been a lot of existing work already going on. Ruth will, as she us now in the coming weeks, will continue to concentrate on that. And obviously the impact on every Australian from this pandemic will be considered and we know the impact of long-term unemployment on everyone's well-being. It will be part of our thinking.

QUESTION:

In regards to the app, is contact tracing working as far as you are aware?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes, we have had a confirmation from Victoria. Obviously we don't have access to the data, Victoria has been able to successfully identify someone who was tested positive, who had downloaded the app and they were able to use that to trace those who they had been in close contact with. So yes, the app is working.

QUESTION:

Do you have any data on how many people that person came into contact with?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

That is kept confidential because of the reasons explained before. It is important that we protect people's privacy. So certainly at the Commonwealth we know do know it has been used successfully but as to the details we are not aware of that.

QUESTION:

Do you think pubs, clubs, restaurants and New South Wales should be asking people whether they have got the app when they come to the door, asking for mobile numbers and things?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

No, we have been really clear and the legislation was outlined by the Health Minister that there should be no requirements for anyone to ask you or require you to download the app. That is actually in law and that requirements. And so no, obviously we would like those pubs and clubs to encourage people but they can be no set requirement for people to do that.

QUESTION:

I just want to ask. There are growing calls for cloth masks to be mandated in public officially as we begin to open up and people go back to work and go on public transport, where it might be more difficult to social distancing from others. Does the AHPPC feel opposed to that as a recommendation? What are your thoughts on that?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

The question is about the use of masks in public for the general public. The advice provided from the infection control expert group to AHPPC is that there is no evidence for the need of general use of masks in the community. Masks are designed and intended for healthcare professionals and that is where we should be using them so there is no recommendation to use either the surgical masks or cloth masks in the community. We have seen evidence of that in other countries but they have got a very different situation about the prevalence of COVID-19 in their community. That is not so here in Australia.

QUESTION:

This has been the longest. We've had without a National Cabinet meeting. Has that caused any problems in terms of getting advice out to the states and so on?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well, the AHPPC has continued to meet pretty much every day. We have been grateful for the opportunity to have some weekend days off but AHPPC has continued to meet on a very regular basis. We go on with our work as intended and we are developing, of course, our advice to National Cabinet when it meets again next week. But the fact that the National Cabinet has not met has not meant that we are all still continuously talking to each other and cooperating on the outbreak.

QUESTION:

Do you know what the key issues might be thought National Cabinet next Friday?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

No, I'm not in a position to discuss what might go on in the National Cabinet. It is up for them to decide. Thank you.

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