Date published: 
14 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LISA MILLAR:

For his take on it all, including that stoush over borders, we're joined now by the Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth. Nick, good morning, welcome to Breakfast.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Good morning Lisa. Thank you.

LISA MILLAR:

Should we be, sort of starting to get a little bit worried about the frustrations that seem to be boiling over in Victoria, and whether enough people are still going to get tested?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Lisa, one of the things that I'm acutely aware of is if you're not in Victoria at the moment it's very difficult to understand the pressures that are brought about by the Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and the surrounds. But that said, they are clearly having the desired effect - that light at the end of the tunnel is growing bigger by the day. But 20 cases yesterday that have as yet been unlinked, that is still a number that's too high. And we need, of course, for everybody with symptoms in Melbourne, and indeed Victoria, to make sure they're getting themselves tested so we can understand those transmission links, and the public health unit can shut them down.

LISA MILLAR:

Yeah. It's those mystery cases that keep bothering us all. Where do you see the numbers tracking? What do you think the trend is?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think the trend overwhelmingly is in the right direction; we're coming down off the second wave now in Victoria. It will be important to see those- the trend of those unlinked cases, those mystery cases, and if we can keep those heading down towards single digits then that will be a very good indicator that progress can be made in the right direction.

LISA MILLAR

Lots of criticism of the curfew though, do you have thoughts about that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the curfew obviously was intended to restrict movement, as were all Stage 4 restrictions. Unfortunately, I'm not able to dis- talk about it in too much detail - it wasn't something that was discussed at the AHPPC, it hasn't been a policy that we have discussed or promoted at the AHPPC level. But it was clearly a suite of the policies that the Victorian Government chose to introduce with the overall aim of lowering movement, which we know slows the spread of the virus.

LISA MILLAR:

Can I ask you about something else that has been discussed at the national committee of the health officers? And that is borders. The agreed approach - which I understand is the information that then the Prime Minister is working on - is that borders should be open. But you've got the Queensland Health Officer, Jeannette Young, you've got the Victorian Health Officer, Brett Sutton, on this national committee, and both of them feel very differently about borders. So, who's right? We're- like, why are we having this sort of internal debate against- between the health officers?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, first thing I'd like to say is that, you know, Professor- Dr Young and Professor Sutton, amongst all our chief health officers, are extremely experienced public health officials. There is a debate about borders and movement, and that is largely related to risk tolerance, Lisa, and whether one is prepared to allow any possibility of COVID-19 entering into one state. Of course there is a state in New South Wales that is relying, and relying very effectively, on test, trace and isolate, and has managed to keep numbers down for well over a month now. And of course, that may be the- that likely is the way of the future; we may not see a vaccine, could be anywhere between January 2021 and December 2021 and so we need to have these ongoing border discussions - they're obviously a live issue. And the definition of what a hot spot is - or can I prefer to say, a geographic area of concern - is still a live debate within AHPPC. But I think your viewers can be reassured that those are positive, they're constructive debates and they're ongoing.

LISA MILLAR:

Yeah. But, Jeannette Young is really copping it. I mean, it's been a very personal attack on her. Is she pulling the wrong rein on this? On the advice that she's offering the Queensland Premier?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, personal attacks are not appropriate to our chief health officers, or indeed our chief medical officers - I've suffered a few myself. And people are doing- making the best decisions on the best advice that they have, for the people that they're responsible for - which are the Queensland people. But, whatever assistance we can provide the Queensland Government in that decision making, and Dr Young, it's all on the table - including support for enhanced public health response in the event that there are more wide scale outbreaks in Queensland. But they've done a fantastic job in controlling the South East Queensland outbreak, and that should give Queenslanders a lot of confidence about the ability of the Queensland Public Health Unit to control COVID-19 at low numbers.

LISA MILLAR:

Dr Nick Coatsworth, thanks very much.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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