Date published: 
22 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

BEN FORDHAM:

Dr Nick Coatsworth is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Australia, he's on the line. G’day, Doc.

NICK COATSWORTH:

G’day, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

How concerned are you about the fresh outbreak in Victoria?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Ben, we're all concerned about the outbreak. Just keeping in mind that whilst the numbers are higher in the last five days - as you said 100 cases in Victoria in the past five days - that remains still a small number compared to the population of Victoria, you know. There's over 6 million- 6.4 million people down there, we're talking about 19 new cases in the past 24 hours - and they are confined to four or five different outbreaks which, as you say, do seem to be centred around household groups of people. So, we wouldn't be saying at this point that it's in the whole of Victoria that's in trouble, and we've certainly reflected on which of the local government areas people should have caution in travelling to and from in the school holidays.

BEN FORDHAM:

So what do people do if they live or work in those six local government areas in Victoria?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well they'd go on living and working, Ben. We're certainly not putting any - the Victorian Government is not putting any restrictions on that sort of movement at this point. But, you know, its spread is related to the travel of course and we're asking people who do live in those areas, if they did have plans - and we understand the plans are difficult to change at the last minute - but that those holiday plans be deferred whilst Victoria Health gets these outbreaks under control.

BEN FORDHAM:

I know you like to steer clear of the politics and that's part of your job, but am I right that if you allow tens of thousands of people to march through major cities that everyone else thinks, okay, well everything's sweet now?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Ben, think whether you're a protester or whether you wanted to get together with a family that you haven't seen for weeks and months - I think there comes a point at which Australians look to these restrictions and see the cases being low, and so get out and do these things that involve potentially the spread. And whether that's a family gathering, or another form of gathering, we still need to be cautious in this sort of non-immune environment where we're going to be living with this virus for 2020. So I think it's a wakeup call to all of us, it doesn't matter which part of Australia we live in.

BEN FORDHAM:

We're talking to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. This outbreak in Victoria, Doctor, how's it likely to impact New South Wales?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So, at this point there's nothing to suggest that the virus has spread particularly from Victoria to New South Wales. New South Wales has not recorded many community transmission cases - so cases where they don't know where things have come from. I think there's only been a handful in the past couple of weeks, if that. So, there has been a lot of cases early on in New South Wales and the Public Health Unit there has got it under control. So I think the important thing of course is to listen to what Premier Berejiklian has to say in the coming days, but at the moment it doesn't look like there's too much impact.

BEN FORDHAM:

There is also a consideration in Queensland about delaying the border reopening. You don't really want to get involved in that debate, do you? When it comes to telling states what to do with their borders? Why not when this is a public health issue? And have you guys not said that there's no danger to people's health with the borders being reopened?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well there's - when we say - when we talk about borders there's two levels obviously - there's the international borders, which is absolutely critical to keep them closed and that's the role of the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee to recommend on those. The state borders were closed by individual state governments and so they need to make those decisions to reopen. The AHPPC was not asked whether the borders should close, and nor have we been asked whether the borders should open. So, the balls firmly in the court of the state premiers and their health ministers and they've obviously got an eye on what's going on in Victoria at the moment to help with their decision making.

BEN FORDHAM:

Look, I've got to be honest with you, I was out several times over the weekend at social gatherings and there were lots of hugs, and lots of kisses, and lots of handshakes. That's not what you want to see, right?

NICK COATSWORTH:

It's not really what we want to see, Ben. I think the- and I can understand people confusing a lifting of the restriction on where you can go, with us advising a change in behaviour. But the second one, we haven't done that, and we've got to stop that virus moving from one person to another. So the way we behave can't change. We've got to open our economy, which means that all of us have to keep behaving in a way that the virus won't get from one to another, and that's those very simple measures of washing hands, keeping distance, and downloading that app.

BEN FORDHAM:

We appreciate your time, Dr Nick. Thanks very much.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Pleasure Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Dr Nick Coatsworth, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

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