Date published: 
4 September 2020
Media event date: 
3 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALISON MCMILLAN:

…Queensland has two new cases, both of those under investigation. Sadly, we have seen 15 further deaths reported in the past 24 hours, all of those in Victoria, and sadly that brings us to 678 deaths in Australia since the commencement of the pandemic. We have 391 people in hospital currently diagnosed with COVID-19, and 26 of those are being cared for in our intensive care units across the country. We've seen now more than 6 million tests nationally since the commencement of the pandemic, and again, it's important for me to remind everyone, that if you have any symptoms at all, however minor, please do stay at home and get tested.

It's important probably for me to remind everyone also, in case you didn't know, that it's Father's Day this Sunday. And again, this year like every other is going to mean that for all of these important milestones we see each year, we're going to have to do this a little differently. It's important that you follow the current restrictions that exist within the state and territory where you live, but remember also these are the times when we need to protect the most vulnerable. So if your father lives with you within your household, then a hug is okay, but other than that, you're going to need to find new and different ways to greet each other and greet those you love, particularly all the fathers out there to whom we are so grateful for the great love and care they provide to all of us. So a reminder, follow those rules and restrictions that exist in your state and territory, and think of new ways to show your love for your dad in this continuously challenging year of 2020.

So I'm happy to go questions, and I think Dana, you have my first question.

QUESTION:

Thank you. I've actually got 2 questions. The first one is about healthcare worker infections in Victoria, which are remaining quite high. This has raised concerns that total numbers are going to plateau and delay the state's path out of lockdown. Is the AHPPC Infection Control Expert Group looking at ways to further improve infection control, such as [indistinct] and respirator masks [indistinct]?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thank you, Dana. Yes, the Infection Control Expert Group that provides advice to the AHPPC, we continue to monitor healthcare worker infections, and of course, we are very concerned around any infections with our frontline workers, wherever they are. And we continue to review all of the evidence around the world, and we continue to work with frontline workers so that we can understand some of the challenges they've faced. As we know, healthcare workers do put themselves at the front line, and for that we are eternally grateful. The numbers are flattening down, Dana, and we would expect to see some numbers continue, given how many we saw. We know that sometimes it can take up to 14 days to see someone develop symptoms, and so we'll continue to monitor this. But again, on behalf of the Health Department and the Commonwealth, but on behalf of all health professionals, eternally grateful for the amazing work that our health professionals do out there, every day putting themselves at risk to save others. Next – Dana, you have a second question?

QUESTION:

Yeah, thank you. The other one's just about the aged care death figures that are now being reported through the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre. Now those are being based on Victorian numbers, but it seems that there's a- some sort of a delay in the numbers being uploaded which resulted in incorrect figures being given in Question Time earlier this week. I'm just wondering, what's causing that glitch, given that the new system was supposed to improve the accuracy of this reporting mechanism?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes. Dana, I think I can say that everyone is working extraordinarily hard to improve the accuracy of this data. We are working, both at the Commonwealth and the state level. As I'm sure you can appreciate, this is a complex issue of identifying people across a system and making sure that the two numbers and figures do reconcile. I think we're a lot closer to getting complete reconciliation, but it is going to take a little longer to complete the process. But I can assure you, Dana, there is no intent to be anything other than completely transparent with these figures, and we are all committed to doing that and we'll continue to work hard together so that we can make the system very clear. Tamsin, you've got a question for me?

QUESTION:

Hi, yes. Thanks for taking my call. I have 2 questions as well, if that's all right.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Sure.

QUESTION:

Just following on from Dana's question about the data, I was just wondering if you'd able to speak to the importance of reconciling this data and if you had any idea when that process would be completed?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Tamsin, the 2 datasets are being worked through. I can't give you a deadline of when that will be completely resolve. We had to go back some significant time as you can appreciate. And the- people sadly do pass away in a whole range of places and therefore being able to make sure that we collect every single piece of information does take time. And ultimately, the final arbiter of the cause of the death, and obviously every death is a tragedy, is that of the coroner. So these final figures ultimately will be the determination of the coroner and that often does take some extended time. But again, we are committed to ensuring that we have consistent data because it's for us in understanding the impact of this pandemic on such a vulnerable population.  Have you got a second question, Tamsin?

QUESTION:

Yeah, thank you. While obviously I don't like, wouldn't expect you to comment on what will be discussed at National Cabinet tomorrow. I was just wondering if, but from a health perspective, is there a safe way to move farmers between areas of no COVID cases if it was to cross a border?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes. Tamsin, I think it's fair to say that we've all seen some challenges across the country in the movement of agricultural workers across state borders. We know the importance of agriculture, both to- in our national priorities and for our economy. Certainly, my understanding is the Department of Agriculture has been working extremely hard to come up with some processes and systems that will make it as simple but as safe as possible in this movement of people across borders. But that is a matter for National Cabinet so I am not in a position to be able to comment other than to say the AHPPC has been consulted on the health aspects of that. Thanks Tamsin. And Kate. Katie, sorry. Katie.

QUESTION:

Thank you very much. That's alright. The West Australian Premier said he won't agree to a hotspot [indistinct] because it's less effective than a hard border closure. Is this the case? Are hotspots more risky than blanket border closures?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thanks Katie. I think it's fair to say Dr Coatsworth dealt quite significantly with the definitions of hotspots yesterday. Obviously, the priority about hotspots is, and its use is really about what are you intending to use it for. Therefore, the definition is important. And so the definition of hotspots can be relative to a local response. Obviously, they've no cases in Western Australia at the moment and so that's not relevant. It may be the determination of what's allowed to move across a particular border, as we know, Western Australia has a hard border closure at this point in time, or it may reflect how a national response is done. So I know again that the determination and discussion around hotspots is going to be done at National Cabinet tomorrow so I'm going to leave it to the premiers and others to make the final comment on that. It's not for me to comment at this point in time. Okay.

QUESTION:

Just quickly, on agricultural workers as well. [Indistinct]… concerns have been raised regarding getting ag workers to rural and regional areas.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Again, it's more a point for the Department of Agriculture to deal this, rather than a health issue Katie, so I'll leave it at that, thank you. Thank you for your time this afternoon.

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