Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer’s press conference about COVID-19 on 9 January 2021

Read the transcript of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor Alison McMillan's press conference about COVID-19 on 9 January 2021.

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ALISON MCMILLAN: Good afternoon, my name is Alison McMillan, I’m the Commonwealth Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, and I’m here to provide the daily update today on COVID-19, so thank you for joining me.

Let me tell you that there are, today, now confirmed 28,500 cases in Australia. That’s 12 new cases here in the last 24 hours. One is community transmission in New South Wales, the other 11 are all in hotel quarantine across the country. And it is evident, the importance of our hotel quarantine programme as it continues.

We have, as of today, 41 people in hospital, but thankfully no one in intensive care. And since the commencement of this pandemic, we have seen, now 909 deaths in the country.

While we also continue to be very concerned in Australia about these figures, we have to take them in the context of the global figures. And the reports out of the John Hopkins reporting today tell us that there were 840,000 positive cases across the world in the last 24 hours, which is some evidence of the success that Australia has demonstrated in the suppression.

As we know, one of the most important parts of the suppression is the continued cooperation of all of the population and in the people of Australia, particularly in getting tested. And I’ll remind you again, if you have any symptoms whatsoever, please do get tested and isolate until you get your result. And we’ve seen an enormous number of Australians getting tested in the last 24 hours, almost 76,000. And I thank every one of you who went and got tested.

But I also call out and recognise the enormous work of all of the health care workers. Whether they’re at testing sites, whether they’re in the laboratories, or the technical people providing results to people very quickly across the country. So again, a great result, only one community transmission in Australia of which we are really very happy to see. And that is someone that was already in isolation. So I’m happy to take questions? Nicole.

QUESTION: [Indistinct question]. Another one is, did Victoria act appropriately by allowing her to [Indistinct]…

ALISON MCMILAN: So as I understand it, Nicole, this lady did complete, as expected, her 14 days* of quarantine in a hotel here in Victoria. She then travelled to New South Wales, sorry, to Queensland. And I understand she was wearing a mask once it became apparent to Queensland that this lady had tested positive, there are additional steps in place. I have to confess, I am not familiar with all of the details. There's much still going on. Queensland certainly have contacted the lady and are doing further investigation. And certainly we know that Victoria and Queensland are working very closely together, as all the states do in these situations. And I think we will find more information has come along. We do know that sometimes people continue to test positive after the normal average incubation period of 14 days. There are reasons, some circumstances for that. These things are now being investigated and I'm sure we'll hear more from Queensland in coming days about this situation.

QUESTION: [Indistinct question]

ALISON MCMILLAN: It does. It is, and that was the recommendations of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia. We've heard yesterday as a result of the recommendations from AHPPC to the National Cabinet, that we're putting some additional safeguards in place now due to the growing evidence of this variant of the virus in the UK and obviously around the world. Taylor, have you got a question for me?

QUESTION: Alison, good afternoon, thank you for your time today. How concerning is it with these new strains being spread quickly around the world, and is there any evidence that they will not work with the vaccines that we- that Australia has secured?

ALISON MCMILLAN: Okay. So, firstly Taylor, it’s important to understand COVID diseases like this do continue to vary. That is a nature of these unfortunate viruses. So we do continue to see variations. What we do know, from all of the great evidence around the world, that particularly the variant from South Africa and the UK, that it does now- it is clear that it is more transmissible. There are some quotes between 40 and 70 per cent more transmissible. Much, much easier to catch, but no evidence at this point in time, that it’s actually any worse causing disease. And I think that’s important to understand. We’ve put extra measures in place, we’ve been talking every day as AHPPC to make sure that we’ve got all the things in place we need to have to make sure that we control any entry of these variant viruses into Australia.

QUESTION: And just on the vaccines, is there any evidence that it will interfere with the vaccine that we’ve secured?

ALISON MCMILLAN: There's no evidence to this point in time that the vaccine will not work. We are continuing to work to see. We know that across the world the vaccines are being rolled out, particularly in the UK. So all of the evidence provided to us internationally will help us understand the efficacy. But we continue on our programme and our rollout out of the vaccine in the coming weeks and months. As we know. Catina, you've got a question for me?

QUESTION: Yes. I wondered if you could speak about the medical reasons around not having a wider mandate on mask-use on public transport. Or is it actually- is there more of a social reason for not having that across the country?

ALISON MCMILLAN: Well, each of the decisions around mask wearing is actually that of the jurisdiction. I'm here in Victoria today and I am required to wear a mask inside or on any public transport. that's similar now in Queensland and in New South Wales. But I would suggest at this point in time, if you can, there really is no harm in wearing a mask where you can't maintain 1.5 metres of physical distancing, masks are easy to find and the easy to use. Importantly, hygiene your hands before and after. But if you can, why not wear a mask in public transport? It is just that extra protection if you feel you need it, and particularly if you're in a vulnerable group. Another question, Catina?

QUESTION: No, that’s it for me, thank you.

ALISON MCMILLAN: Okay. Thank you very much, thank you for your time this afternoon.

* [CLARIFICATION] The person in question completed her period of hotel quarantine as determined by the CDNA requirements at the time, she did not spend 14 days in quarantine.


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