Date published: 
5 May 2020
Media event date: 
4 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

COMPERE:

We'll take you live to Canberra where Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan is speaking.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Good afternoon, I'm here to provide you with our daily COVID-19 update from the Department or Health. So, today I can report that there are currently 6825 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Sadly, we've seen 95 deaths, and I express my condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones. We are hearing reports from New South Wales and the media of one additional death. As yet, we've not had that confirmed by New South Wales Health, so we're saying that in fact there are no new deaths reported to us at this point in time. Really encouragingly, we've seen 650,000 tests now in Australia, and we continue to encourage anyone who might have even the mildest symptoms of cold or flu to consider going and get tested. We are expanding our testing across the country. And so we do, as I say, encourage you to do that.

We have 28 people in intensive care today, and that's really encouraging. We're not seeing significant numbers in our hospital system, we want to maintain and sustain that across the country, and so we continue to say to people, the importance of maintaining the social distancing, following our hygiene advice, and certainly, as I've said, if you're slightly unwell please do consider getting tested because those services are available to you.

Also, we now have more than 400- 4.5 million downloads and registrations of the COVIDSafe app, and again, really important. We're asking all Australians with a smartphone, please consider downloading our app. It is voluntary, but the more people we get downloading the app, the sooner the National Cabinet will have the confidence to be able to consider easing some of the restrictions that we're seeing across the country, that we can help return us to our normal lifestyle.

So, I'm happy to take questions.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] with New South Wales, we're seeing indications that most students will be back at school by the end of May, but there are warnings that that may also be [indistinct]. Do you have any concerns there?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think that we're in- we do know that there is a likelihood that we will see some increase of cases as schools go back. We wanted to make sure everyone is following those really clear instructions, particularly the adults, the parents and teachers about social distancing and about maintaining that when they drop off and pick up kids from school, and also in those classrooms- in the- where the teachers collect. So, it is really important that we see that. We do know however that we may see some increase in cases, but we want to keep that well under control. So, again, encouraging everyone to download the app in order that where cases do occur, we'll be able to follow them up quickly, with information available to us.

QUESTION:

At the start of this pandemic, there was a strong message from the government [inaudible]… frontline healthcare workers. [Inaudible]… pretty horrifying stuff. Now that we're seeing an increase in the amount of people being tested and potentially more people going through the healthcare system, are you hearing reports of this in increase? What would be your message to Australians who are now [indistinct]?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes, thank you for the question around aggression towards healthcare makers. Unfortunately, we do continue to hear reports of that, which is incredibly disappointing. As a nurse in Australia, it is very sad to hear our frontline workers being attacked in this way, whether it's verbally or any other form of aggression. That is not tolerated, we do not tolerate any aggression towards healthcare workers, and so we ask everyone to be respectful in their interaction with our health system, and that is an expectation we've set.

QUESTION:

Following on, if I could, on that question. Are you also seeing anecdotal evidence of frontline health workers being refused entry into certain buildings if they are wearing an ID or their uniform?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

We are hearing some reports about people having concern with healthcare workers, and so the employers are providing often some advice to their healthcare professionals, to consider going straight home from work and not wearing IDs, sadly, because of that lack of respect for our healthcare workers. And I reassure all Australians that our highly skilled and professional healthcare workforce out there is well-trained in knowing what to do to protect the community, and they should have confidence in our health professionals.

QUESTION:

On the outbreak of cases at Newmarch House, the first reported confirmed case was over Easter. There are still new cases being identified well beyond that two-week incubation period. Is that effectively a second wave of infections, given that had measures been put in place to stop the spread, there shouldn't be new cases emerging?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Yes, we are seeing an ongoing cases. These are being investigated by New South Wales Health, each case is investigated in detail and we will see over the coming time, what, where and how those further infections may have occurred.

QUESTION:

Given the prevalence of coronavirus globally, the fact that it's highly likely that other aged care facilitates will have outbreaks, would you like to see a- the lessons of Newmarch, I guess, applied as quickly as possible? And how can we guarantee that those investigations can have some kind of result, some kind of lesson for the next outbreak?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

So, we're reinforcing the advice that's been provided to all residential aged care facilities in a number of ways. We're increasing the amount of training provided to health professionals in these facilities, additional funding was provided late last week in order to support and recognise the additional cost that these measures are taking, and we've provided very clear information and guidelines around how one should be screening the workforce to- and also visitors to ensure that we create the safest environment we possibly can for those most vulnerable people in these facilities.

QUESTION:

There is going to be a protest outside Newmarch, some of the loved ones and relatives of residents and lockdown who are either in lockdown or sadly passed away, what is your message to those grieving individuals?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well obviously we express condolences to those who have lost loved ones in this outbreak and we continue to encourage families to talk to Newmarch facility directly on every occasion they can we respect their concerns that they are expressing during this outbreak as it must be very difficult for them in this situation.

QUESTION:

I understand that on [indistinct] providing advice before the National Cabinet meet tomorrow and then again on Friday into [indistinct] guidelines into sport recommencing. What kind of things go into the consideration for reintroducing community sport. Not just for the professionals but how do you say that the coach to tell their players to abide by certain rules. It's going to be a bit of a task how do create a [indistinct]?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think that we have seen the Australian Institute of Sport provide some very comprehensive guidelines to sporting, particularly community sporting organisations about the sort of measures they should be thinking about, as they ran introduce sport to our community. I think that it will help them see and understand the types of things they will need to do, and they can help work with members and team members and players of whatever sport it might be, how they also must contribute and the things that we remember around social distancing and maintaining really high levels of hygiene, during sport as we are asking to the general community to do.

QUESTION:

On the same issue sorry, when you say social distancing, that might be fine for playing tennis, but when you look at playing Aussie rules. Are we potentially thinking that some sports will be introduced while other won't? What is going to happen?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

The advice that has been provided to the national cabinet is being considered along with all of the other advice on restrictions and how we might carefully and appropriately consider, the reduction of those restrictions. So sport will be a part of that, and it needs to be a considered approach and proportional. I will leave that to National Cabinet to decide based on the advice being provided, how and when we might see changes for community sport and more generally on restrictions across the country.

QUESTION:

On our overseas borders the Education Minister indicated the government might be willing to consider exemption or a special allowance for international students to come back to Australia, potentially before the board is completely open. Presumably would you would expect they would have to quarantine but it's going to be a larger number, more than a hotel- the hotel system could cope with, what kind of considerations would need to go into allowing certain groups back into the country?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Again the advice to the national cabinet is being provided it is ultimately their decision around how and when we might see a return of international students, we know the importance of international students to their education and to our economy. But that will be made, considering the impact that might have on the spread of COVID-19, how we can make sure the security of people as they come in, and that we don't find any spread. So they will be considered along with a range of other aspects as we roll back some of the restrictions we have seen in recent weeks.

QUESTION:

On a related matter. We're see the prospect of a trans-Tasman bubble, what measures- will you be looking to duplicate measures. For instance could the COVIDSafe be something we would like to see New Zealand consider a bubble?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I think the considerations around this bubble as we are talking about at the moment, are in early stages. I think there are some discussions going on but I have to say I'm not a part of those discussions, and I think they are very early. But we will of course- front of mind, will be the importance of maintaining this great achievement we have made in flattening the curve and preventing further spread, whatever we will do we will be doing very considered and done in collaboration with New Zealand.

QUESTION:

Could be good for New Zealand to have a tool like COVID app for its contact tracing.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

I thank the decision about how New Zealand manages it response is really theirs to make. Each time a country introduces these kinds of apps we are learning from them and seeing other countries across the world starting to think about how they might apply this technology in their response.

QUESTION:

In your area in particular, you mentioned a few weeks ago that nurses were being put forward to have more ICU training and improving the surge capacity to healthcare staff. Can you provide an update on numbers around how many will be trained and what happens to them when we're in this state of not necessarily needing them are they easily recalled? How will that work going forward?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

If you recall, we announced some weeks ago up to 20,000 places for nurses to do online training in intensive care and high dependency nursing. We were overwhelmed by the amazing response we saw of nurses willing to step forward to do this training to help Australians. That training has commenced and all of the places are now filled. Those nurses, the skills they will learn in this course will be as applicable in a general ward situation as they would if we were requiring them to work in intensive care. Because we flattened the curve, thankfully we have not needed them, but we do know they are now out there and they continue to consolidate their studies and learning and hopefully we never need to call upon them, but those skills won't be lost and they will be a benefit to the community. Any other questions?

QUESTION:

If I could just ask one further question sorry. Just in terms of, sorry, I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but I know it was quite recently about, a quarter of Victoria's cases were made up of people in health care sector or managed health care sector. What kind of numbers are we seeing in terms of the national figure of healthcare workers?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

To be honest, I'm sorry I can't give you those figures. I don't have those figures at hand. I can say still we are aware that the largest proportion of positive cases in Australia are a result of international travel, although that is diminishing as we see less people come back to Australia and we not seeing so much international travel, but I cannot speak to the number of health care workers, sorry. Okay, thank you for your time.

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