Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer press conference on 25 August

Read the transcript of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan's press conference on COVID-19 on 25 August 2020.

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Good afternoon. I am here to bring you the Australian Government's COVID-19 pandemic update, and thank you for Suzanne for joining me today.

I can report that there are, as of today, 24,053 cases reported in Australia since the commencement of the pandemic. That is an increase of 151. They reported 148 reported in Victoria, and three in New South Wales. All other states and territories have reported zero cases for today. Sadly, we have seen eight more deaths reported in Victoria today. That brings the national total now to 525. And again, I express my condolences to the family and friends of those that were lost in the last 24 hours and during this pandemic.

We see today that there are 3090 active cases. 644 people remain in hospital in our care, 42 of those are in intensive care. We know that we have now conducted more than 5.8 million tests, 56,000 of those in the last 24 hours. Now, we are aware that we are seeing some decrease in the amount of testing, perhaps some of this is - as reported - particularly on the eastern seaboard, the poor weather over the weekend that we all saw, but it is important for me to reemphasise and remind everyone however mild those symptoms might be, even if you have been tested before, and certainly, even if you have been positive before, please if you have symptoms, do go and get tested. There are ample places across the country where testing is free and enable- and again a reminder that you do not require a Medicare card. Testing is free across Australia to everyone here, and we do encourage everyone to go about their testing.

So I am happy to take questions if there are any questions. I understand Dana, you have a question for me?


Yes, thanks very much. I just wanted to ask with the aged care response centres, some in the sector are arguing that they should be set up immediately so that they can plan for outbreaks rather than being activated after there is an outbreak. What is the AHPPC's position on that one?


Thank you Dana. Yes, the decision by National Cabinet to establish aged care response centres in each of the states and territories was agreed. These response centres Dana, are intended to have a strong preventative approach as well as a response if we do see outbreaks. So for example, as we saw over the weekend in Queensland, when there was some evidence of community transmission, very quickly the Chief Health Officer in Queensland made a recommendation that all aged care facilities should become closed to visitors for a period of time, and a liaison officer from the Commonwealth Department of Health is now working directly with Queensland Health in their response. We will see further work by the safety and quality commission in doing spot checks across the country, primarily obviously firstly in Victoria, but then elsewhere to further bolster our preventative approaches in residential aged care and take some of those lessons we have learned both from Newmarch and Victoria across the country. So we are, Dana, seeing those responses already up and active, but not necessarily established through a physical centre at this point in time.



Yeah, thank you. My question is in regards to the University of Hong Kong researchers confirming the first case of someone having COVID back in March and then getting reinfected several months later. I sort of have two questions on this. One, how do you think this will impact our understanding of immunity, how long that might last among people who have had COVID? And secondly, do you think it is a timely reminder for the community not to become complacent given we don't know a whole lot about this virus and that people could be reinfected even if they have already had the disease?


Thank you Claire. That is correct, yes. So this is the first documented case in the literature of an individual who has now substantiated evidence of reinfection. We've said all alone our understanding of this virus is relatively new, and we continue to learn new things all of the time. This, obviously is something we are concerned about, but this is the first reported case. We will continue to monitor the evidence as it grows and consider this in the relationship to our response.

Sorry Claire, what was your second question?


Just whether you think this is a reminder that people can't be complacent about social distancing and all of the other measures in place designed to stop the spread even if they have had COVID before?


Yes, thank you Claire. Certainly it is a salient reminder for us all this is a new virus that we need to learn more about. So reinforcing, again thank you Claire, the importance of not going out if you are sick, those things around hand hygiene and frequent hand hygiene, the cough etiquette, and the 1.5 social distancing. All of those things we have to sustain over the long-term because we are still learning so much about this virus in our community. Thanks Claire.

Matt, do you have a question for me?


Hi, thank you so much. Just wanting to ask you about some of the Victorian data that was released today. How concerned are you that that shows that the vast majority of healthcare workers being infected with COVID-19 were nurses but they were getting it at work, and how safe can nurses feel about going to work when these sort of statistics are being released?


Thank you Matt. Yes, we have heard reported today from Victoria, they are reporting two waves of healthcare worker infection, and the second of those, the majority of healthcare workers are getting that infection while at work. And obviously nurses are the largest representative group in those infections, I am of course extremely concerned for the infection in all healthcare workers, and obviously nurses are the largest population of the workforce. So you would expect to see them well represented. As far as being safe for nurses to go to work, it is important for me to remind them they all need to follow those important infection prevention and control processes that we learn as students and reinforced throughout our career. The wearing of PPE and processes and systems you put in place to protect you and your patients are so important. When wearing PPE, it is very tiring and very difficult to do but we need as healthcare workers to look after each other and protect each other and make sure that we are following to the- stringently the requirements to protect ourselves, as I say, and patients from infection.

So Matt, if the nurses, as with all healthcare workers, follow those very clear instructions, around how to protect them, that is how we can ensure the safety for healthcare workers and patients in our hospitals and aged care facilities. But that is a challenge that we need to continue to reinforce, and we will continue to learn about how these outbreaks are happening in hospitals and how we can prevent further outbreaks into the future. Thanks Matt.

Any further questions? Okay, thank you very much.


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