Date published: 
6 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

As at 12 noon today, 8462 people have been reported as COVID-19 positive. Sadly, one person lost their life to COVID-19 in Victoria yesterday, and we've just received a report of a second death in Victoria today. This will bring the number of people in Australia who have lost their lives to COVID-19 to 106. One hundred and forty people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia in the last 24 hours. Ten of these cases have been in New South Wales, and three in Western Australia. All of these cases have been people in hotel quarantine. There have been 127 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Victoria in the past 24-hours. So far, 53 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed among the 3000 people living in the nine locked down apartment blocks in Melbourne, and testing of those residents is continuing.

Over the past week, 509 newly confirmed cases have been reported in Australia. Only 80 of these cases – or 16 per cent – were acquired overseas and diagnosed among people in hotel quarantine. This is a stark difference to just over two weeks ago, when 50 per cent of new cases in Australia were acquired overseas and diagnosed among people in hotel quarantine. And it just shows us how quickly this pandemic can change. 34 people are now in hospital across the country with COVID-19, and this includes five people in intensive care units. We're seeing a continuing rise in the number of people in hospital and in intensive care in Victoria, and this reinforces the very serious risk that COVID-19 poses, especially on the health of elderly people and people with chronic health conditions.

There have been over 2.75 million tests carried out across Australia, and this includes over 24,000 tests carried out in Victoria yesterday, and 45,000 tests carried out nationwide. Again, the level of testing that we've seen in Victoria continues at a very high level, especially in the affected postcodes, but right across metropolitan Melbourne as well. We continue to be very concerned about the outbreak in Victoria, and the continuing cases of community transmission. The situation in Melbourne has come as a real jolt, not just to the people of Melbourne, but to people right across Australia who may have thought that this was all behind us. It is not. The outbreak in Melbourne is a national issue. We are all at risk from a resurgence of COVID-19. The situation in Melbourne reinforces for us all that COVID-19 remains a risk for all Australians. It is critical that we all continue to adhere to the measures that are in place to support everyone.

The Commonwealth will continue to support the response in Victoria; this currently includes 200 Australian Defence Force personnel and 800 other personnel, involved in providing clinical support, in carrying out testing, and in supporting the contact-tracing which is under way across the state. As we've heard earlier today, the border between New South Wales and Victoria will close tomorrow night. The Commonwealth accepts the need for this action in response to containing spread of the virus. The majority of the people who found themselves in lockdown in Melbourne, just like the majority of people across Australia, have been doing the right thing. These people have been maintaining physical distancing. They've been staying at home when unwell. They've been very careful with their hand hygiene and their cough and sneeze etiquette. They should not be blamed in any way. We all need to support each other during these very challenging circumstances.

A reminder about testing for COVID-19. If you have even the mildest of symptoms of cold, or flu, or fever, please arrange to get tested. While this applies especially to people in Melbourne and across Victoria, it also applies to people right across the country. COVID-19 tests are available at the fever clinics and pop-up clinics set up by your state or territory government, and at the 141 Australian Government-funded general practice respiratory clinics right across the country. Tests at these clinics are free, and they're open to all people who are in Australia, even if you are not an Australian citizen or don't have a Medicare card. If you are approached and asked to have a test, please get tested.

I'm happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Just with the border closure, was the AHPPC was involved in that decision? And if so, how?

MICHAEL KIDD:

No, the AHPPC was not involved in that decision. It's a decision by the premiers of the respective states.

QUESTION:

And how long would you anticipate the border needing to remain closed for to try and control the spread of that outbreak?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Again, that will be a decision for the premiers.

QUESTION:

Were there any AHPPC representatives involved in the meeting between Gladys Berejiklian, Daniel Andrews and Scott Morrison last night?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: 

Okay. And so, does that mean that the AHPPC advice on the need for domestic border closures has remained the same? Or has it changed now?

MICHAEL KIDD:

The AHPPC hasn't issued advice on border closures throughout the pandemic. This is an issue for the governments in each of the states and territories.

QUESTION:

And so, would you be advising governments  –  these states governments  –  against this? Or do you think this is a good measure and therefore, I guess, in effect, that you are saying it's a good thing to be doing to control the virus?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, the AHPPC doesn't have a position on border closures, but the Commonwealth is supporting the decision by Victoria and New South Wales to close the border.

QUESTION:

Obviously the Federal Government previously cited the view of the AHPPC in regards to border debates, previously. Will the AHPPC get briefings about this closure, come to a decision about this closure, and be able to provide that advice going forward?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, the AHPPC obviously receives information about what's happening with the pandemic right across Australia, and that includes the arrangements being made in each of the states and territories and the nature of the epidemiology between each of the states and territories, but the AHPPC does not provide advice on border closures.

QUESTION:

What makes these towers that have been shut down in Melbourne different to similarly sized apartment buildings in surrounding suburbs in Melbourne? And why are they such a risk?

MICHAEL KIDD:

That's a question for the Victorian authorities. My understanding is that there were cases in at least some of these residential towers in the north-west of Melbourne, and hence the decision was made to put the lockdown on those towers. As I've said, I think 53 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, among the 3000 residents in those nine residential towers. There are- my understanding is that there are circumstances in the towers which may have contributed to the difficulty - the very small elevators, which are available for people to access their apartments; large numbers of people living in close proximity with each other.

QUESTION:

Do we know if cases have been recorded in all nine of the towers?

MICHAEL KIDD:

I don't have those details. We'll have to get that from the Victorian authorities.

QUESTION:

What kind of PPE should be being provided to people living in these towers?

MICHAEL KIDD:

What kind of…?

QUESTION:

PPE.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, so, the advice on particularly the wearing of masks is that masks are- people should wear masks when they don't feel comfortable, which may be when people find themselves in crowded situations where you cannot maintain physical distancing - for example, on public transport. But also in circumstances where we have significant community transmission, people may wish to wear masks as well, and, clearly, in the nine residential towers, there is community transmission. In the lockdown postcodes in Melbourne there is significant community transmission.

QUESTION: 

How concerned are you about the community transmission across Melbourne and potentially across the rest of Victoria?

MICHAEL KIDD:

We're very concerned about the situation in Melbourne, and we're watching the situation very closely.

QUESTION:

Just on the hotspot postcodes, I guess, what would be your direct advice to somebody living in one of those postcodes about masks and whether or not to wear them?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Clearly, for people living in the lockdown postcodes, the advice is very similar to the advice that we provided to people when we had the restrictions right across the country. It's for people to stay in their own home, to limit their contacts with other people. Clearly there are restrictions - the four reasons that people are allowed to leave their homes are there and in place. So, if people are going out and doing their shopping, particularly if there's someone who is at increased risk of COVID-19, those people may feel far more comfortable wearing a mask.

QUESTION: 

But in terms of medically, I suppose, is there a medical benefit for those people to wear a mask? Or is it simply and purely about feeling more comfortable?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Now, I think it's very important that masks are looked at in context of all the measures which people adopt in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19. So, just because someone is wearing a mask, doesn't mean that they can stop doing all the other things which we are doing. So, it's very important to keep maintaining that physical distancing, to keep with the hand hygiene and the cough etiquette, but most importantly, if people have any symptoms, they should not be going out at all. They should be staying at home and arranging to get tested.

QUESTION:

What would-

MICHAEL KIDD:

[Interrupts] Sorry, we have a qu- on the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:

Yup.

MICHAEL KIDD:

On the phone? Yup.

QUESTION: 

Hi, Professor. This is Dana McCauley from The Herald and The Age. Just so far, we've had increasing numbers of healthcare workers being infected in Victoria. Doctors [indistinct]… being told not to wear masks at work unless they're working with COVID patients, and there's also [indistinct] that maybe [indistinct] respirator masks should be mandated for anyone dealing with a COVID patient, [indistinct]… Just wondering if the AHPPC is looking at these guidelines and [indistinct]… reviewing them.

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, the AHPPC continues to review the advice on masks, and mask-wearing, both by healthcare workers but also by the wider community, just as the AHPPC continues to review all the advice being provided to the public on the pandemic. We recognise that the evidence and understanding and knowledge about COVID-19 continues to change, and therefore the advice may be expected to change over time as well.

QUESTION: 

At what point would you expect a broader lockdown of Victoria? What kind of community transmission level would we need to see to potentially consider further measures?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah. So, clearly, that's an issue for the Victorian Government and for the Premier in consultation with the advices that he has in his own Health Department to decide about when and if any further restrictions are needed in the state.

QUESTION:

Considering that we've moved to border closures across much of the country now, and the AHPPC doesn't have a position on this, are you at all concerned that the politicians are now making decisions rather than the AHPPC?

MICHAEL KIDD:

There are certain issues which it's most appropriate that the political leaders in each of the states and territories are making the decisions, based on the local epidemiology in their states and the work that they're doing to protect the populations that they are responsible for.

QUESTION:

Sorry, just on those hotspot zones, just to be clear for the people living in those areas, are you saying that they should only wear a mask if it would give them emotional support because there's no medical benefit?

MICHAEL KIDD:

No, I didn't say that at all. No, the-

QUESTION:

[Interrupts] You talked about them- making them feel comfortable.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yup.

QUESTION:

You're not talking about medicine or health.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yup. So, if people find themselves in a situation where they may not be able to maintain physical distancing from other people, then they certainly may feel far more comfortable wearing a mask. If someone is a vulnerable person living in one of the areas of community transmission, and they feel that they may be at increased risk of COVID-19, then, again, they may feel far more comfortable wearing a mask when they're leaving their homes.

Thank you, everybody, and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID13221, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officer-doorstop-about-covid-19)

View contact