Date published: 
27 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I can report that in Australian in the last 24 hours, we've seen 124 new cases bringing our total to 25,322. Nine cases in New South Wales and 113 in Victoria. Sadly, Victoria has reported 23 deaths today and again, I express my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one, family or friend during this outbreak. Our total now in Australia is 572.

We know there are around 3500 active cases which pleasingly tells us that more than 20,000 Australians have recovered from COVID-19 infections. Although we are aware of course that some people are continuing to have symptoms and this can for some be quite a debilitating recovery.            

There are 558 people in hospital, 558 people in hospital, 35 in intensive care. And that, from recent figures in recent days, is showing a significant reduction in the number of hospitalisations and people in intensive care which we are very pleased to see.            

I can report that almost 6 million tests have now been conducted for COVID-19 in Australia. 5.9 million. And in the last 24 hours we've seen 86,000 tests completed. And that's a considerable increase in what we've seen in the last seven days. And I am, on behalf of not only the Department of Health but on AHPPC and across the country, we are really grateful to the people who are doing as we ask. Which is to go and get tested, please. If you have any symptoms whatsoever, however mild now, please do go and get tested. Because It's important that we continue the reductions in numbers that we've seen, testing is a critical part of our armoury to seeing us suppress this spread of COVID across the country.             

Also today, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre. It's now a month since I and Joe Buffone were asked to establish this facility in Victoria in response to a number of outbreaks of COVID-19 in aged care facilities. In the first week, when the response centre commenced its operation we saw more than 13 aged care facilities of considerable concern to us and deemed to us to be at high risk due to outbreaks in their facilities. Today, only three facilities are considered to be at ongoing risk. And that's less than one per cent of the entire aged care facilities in Victoria. And so all of the enormous work that so many people have been doing in that response centre seven days a week is seeing some really significant improvements.             

In the first week, also during this time, we saw face shields and face masks distributed to every aged care facility in Victoria. That's 767 facilities across the state. More than 170 Australian Defence Force workers worked alongside us in working not only in the response centre itself but out with the teams working in facilities to support them, whether it was healthcare workers providing support and staffing facilities, conducting training or assisting in a whole range of ways and we are incredibly grateful for the amazing work that our Australian Defence Force personnel continue to do to keep our Australian population safe. AUSMAT as we know them, the Australian Medical Assistance Teams, have supported 116 agencies across Victoria in the response. And there are 25 AUSMAT personnel that have been in Victoria. A vital part of normally our humanitarian response overseas. Of course our health professionals across Australia come to assistance when called upon and in this case, supporting our most vulnerable in Victoria. Supporting them in training and in the responses in the state.              

And finally, we know that in the early stages of our response through the response centre, workforce was of considerable concern to us. And I can report now that more than 20,000 shifts have been filled and assisted through a whole range of strategies to help backfill staff who either tested positive or required to quarantine due to a close contact. 20,000 is an enormous number of shifts in such a short period of time. And for everyone who has been willing to be flexible, whether it's from interstate, whether it's been hospital nurses from the public and private systems in Victoria. Or wherever it was and however it's been, we are increasingly grateful to the flexibility, particularly of nurses and patient care assistants to be able to meet the needs of the community during this time.              

So the work of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre will continue. And we will continue to see hopefully a decline in the number of outbreaks and a return of residents to this facility which is commencing now as people move back from where they have been transferred to hospital, back into their homes in Victoria.           

I'm happy to take questions and I think the first question comes from Dana.

QUESTION:

Thank you. I just wanted to ask the question about Liberal MP Craig Kelly's speech in Parliament the other day on hydroxychloroquine. It's been picked up by conspiracy theorists on social media including celebrity chef Pete Evans. Do you find it concerning that a government MP is running a campaign against the Federal Health Department as it works to battle COVID-19?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Look, I don't think it's my position to speak about what MPs might be saying. I think that all along we been really clear, that AHPPC and all of the experts rely on the current evidence across the world and the international evidence, and the recommendations made by our expert guidance groups are based on that evidence. So I think I will stick to the evidence and say that- not comment on the commentary of others. Thank you Dana. Josh?

QUESTION:

Yeah thank you Professor. I want to ask quick one on testing. In the US, the FDA have given approval to a company producing a fast, cheap COVID test that takes about 15 minutes for results to be turned around. Where is Australia at in terms of a rapid turnaround on testing? Are we looking to roll out a similar kind of fast testing or to speed up the test time of the current tests that we have? I'm aware that there are some people in some areas who have to wait several days for a result after getting a COVID test. Where are we at in terms of speeding up that process?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thank you Josh. Yes, I think it's fair to say that Australia, we've stuck very much to the gold standard and the gold standard of the moment across the world is PCR. And we continue to use that across every state and territory in our testing facilities wherever they are. We use the Public Health Laboratory Network who are our expert group who provide advice to AHPPC to continue to monitor the evidence of new and emerging technology across the world. And this like many others will be something they will consider. Rapid testing does have its advantages but of course I'm not familiar Josh, with these details of what this test is. But if we believe it's got the evidence to support its sensitivity and specificity, then it may be something we may consider in the future but for now, all Australians can be very confident that we use the gold standard which is PCR. Thanks Josh. Any other questions?            

Okay. Thank you for your time.

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