Date published: 
10 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Joining us now from Canberra is Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Nick Coatsworth. Nick, good morning. I bet you've never had Eurovision as a warm up act, but thanks for persevering through that. I want to turn to the situation of course in Melbourne with the hope - and it is only a hope at this stage - of the infection rate stabilising. How promising are those figures from your prospective?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we have to look at those figures on a day by day basis. We will obviously be very happy when we start to see them head consistently south. What is clear is that the Stage 3 restrictions, and now the Stage 4 restrictions have led to a plateau. And there's every expectation that the Stage 4 restrictions have restricted movement enough that the basic reproductive number is going to fall substantially below one, and we're going to start to see those numbers come down.

But what we can't have is the disappointment or that roller coaster ride of them going from 390 to 450 and up and down again. So, it's important to wait for the trend to emerge, but we do have some confidence in the coming days to a week we'll see those numbers come down.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. And that's the rough ballpark timeframe we're hearing - we heard it from Brett Sutton, the Victorian Chief Health Officer - a week, maybe a bit more before we see the true impact of the Stage 4 restrictions hopefully pushing that number down - that's pretty much on the mark, isn't it, Nick?

NICK COATSWORTH:

That's what we expect. And we look forward, like every Victorian, to seeing it. This is about getting runs on the board, this is about Victorians, particularly those under Stage 4 restrictions but also those under Stage 3 restrictions, getting reward for their efforts. And when we do see it I think we will all be very happy to see that curve inflect downwards again.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. Just looking at Sydney, the only other state or territory that has infection rates routinely in double digits. How are things looking there from your point of view?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the Public Health Unit there has done an incredible job - I mean, this is a city of seven million - to keep the numbers between about 10 to 20 is quite extraordinary. But it really is a race, it's a race to find those chains of transmission and lock them down, isolate people's contacts within 24 to 48 hours. And we are still seeing the odd, what we would term now I think, mystery case where people can't find where they got COVID-19 from. And whilst we still see those, the situation in New South Wales remains a concern.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. You made, I think, a very salient point over the weekend - it might have been yesterday in your media conference - a message aimed squarely at young people, young kids, teenagers who can still mingle with friends in states, other than Victoria of course. How worried are we about young people in particular getting an increasing case of pandemic fatigue, and just simply forgetting - not consciously - but forgetting the social distancing rules and the like?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think that's a really good point. This is often not conscious, this is just reverting back to what we all did as in our late teenage, early adulthood. So, it's going to be important for all of us - whether it's Government, whether it's parents, whether it's friends and colleagues - to just remind each other that what is happening in Victoria could happen anywhere. And it just behoves us to all change our behaviour for the coming months whilst we get this situation under control, so we don't have another state or territory go in the same direction as Victoria.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. Melbourne's in Stage 4 lockdown until mid-September at least, worse case - when we don't want that to be the worse case, it'll be extended - but at the very least there'll be a graduated return to normality. Nick, I just want to ask you, just to get an honest view from you, is it realistic at all to expect events like the AFL Grand Final and the Melbourne Cup to take place in Melbourne this year?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, these are enormous events and ultimately that will be, of course, a decision for the Victorian Government, the Victorian Premier and Chief Health Officer Professor, Brett Sutton. But these events are getting closer of course, and some of them are easier than others to regulate. I did go to the Melbourne Cup once, and it would be highly challenging to regulate the number of people there and understand who and where, and who actually turned up to an event like that which would be critical for contact tracing. So, a massive undertaking I would have thought at this point in time, but will be a matter for the Victorian Government.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Yes, you're right. I think the time to make decisions is fast approaching on those two big events. Nick Coatsworth, as always great getting your insights. Thanks for joining us this morning.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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