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

FRAN KELLY:

Professor Michael Kidd is Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer. Michael Kidd, welcome to RN Breakfast.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Good morning, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:

Victoria has had one of the toughest lockdowns. It went early, it stayed longer and yet we see this spike of cases. The Chief Medical Officer of Victoria says they're making him nervous, days like yesterday, 21 cases. How concerned are you by this spike in cases in Victoria's today?

MICHAEL KIDD: 

Well, clearly we continue to be concerned about any new cases which are being reported across Australia. As you said, 15 of the 21 cases were in people who had returned to Australia from overseas. These people, of course, are in 14 days of hotel quarantine so the risk of transmission to other people in Australia is very, very low for those people coming in, but also six cases occurring out in the community. Now, some of these, of course, are related to existing outbreaks, which the health authorities in Victoria have been following up assiduously. And the reason why we're seeing the numbers is because the process is so effective in detecting the contacts of people who've already been diagnosed. But, particularly concerned whenever we have a case which appears and initially we can't identify the source of infection.

FRAN KELLY:

Yeah. So, the six of these 21 cases in Victoria were community transmission - that's what Brett Sutton, Professor Brett Sutton, says makes him nervous. But, Victoria has had more and higher numbers and a few more of these outbreaks in the last few weeks than the other states seem to have. Is there a reason for that? Is it because they're- the testing is more? Or the contact tracing is higher? Or just something else going on in Victoria to explain it? Just bad luck? Or bad management? How do you see it?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, I think you've touched on a number of points there and this, of course, is related to a multiplicity of different factors. Yes, there is a lot of testing occurring in Victoria and that's terrific. But also, as each outbreak does occur, the contact tracer is moving very quickly to try and identify other cases, and as those cases are identified then then the numbers rise. The important thing is, of course, that when cases are identified that people are put into isolation and quarantine and reduce the risk of transmission to other people.

But, I do think it reinforces the importance of all of us not being complacent and remaining vigilant. And that most important measure that if any of us develop these in the mildest of symptoms of respiratory tract infection, that we stay at home and arrange to get tested so we don't see further transmission occurring.

FRAN KELLY:

So, we can't relax. But, how worried do we need to be about outbreaks like this? And what does it mean? Victoria is set to further ease restrictions from next week. Will an outbreak like this, or should an outbreak like this change those plans?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, clearly that's an issue for the Premier in Victoria. But, what we've seen in each of the jurisdictions with the three step process to gradually ease restrictions across the country is each state and territory is doing this in a cautious and incremental way related to what's happening with the epidemiology in their state. And in a state, like Victoria; where there are still cases of community transmission, of course, we'd expect the steps to be smaller, and more cautious, and more delayed than in other parts of the country where we're not seeing community transmission at this time.

FRAN KELLY:

So, you would expect Victoria, in the light of these kind of outbreaks, to go a bit more slowly? Bit more cautiously in lifting restrictions? Is that what you're saying?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, that's again - that's an issue for the Premier in Victoria, but that would be a reasonable approach.

FRAN KELLY:

Can we expect to see spikes like we've seen in Victoria in other states? Is that what you're expecting?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well we've always said from the outset that we do expect to see outbreaks occurring in different parts of the country as we continue to live through the pandemic. The virus is of course is still out there-

FRAN KELLY:

[Interrupts] And you still expect that? Even though in some states, many states have had virtually no cases for some weeks now?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, but of course if and when the borders open, or with - people are still moving in and out of some of the states and territories which have had closed borders - there, of course, is still the risk of transmission of this virus. As we all know, Fran; this virus is incredibly infectious and very easy to transmit from person to person. So, that's why we have to continue to be really vigilant and cautious.

FRAN KELLY:

I'm speaking with Professor Michael Kidd, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer. Most of the cases in Victoria and other places in recent weeks are returning - people returning from overseas - most of them returning Australians, I think. States are presently paying for the quarantine but have flagged the possibility of passing those costs onto incoming passengers. Is this too risky? We're going to be worried about this because people might try that little bit harder to dodge the $3000-dollar price tag if they're the ones having to pay it, for staying at a hotel for two weeks?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well again, part of the deal in being able to return back to Australia is 14 days of supervised quarantine. And at the moment that quarantine is supervised in hotel accommodation and that hasn't been waived. And I think, you know, the Health Minister yesterday in Victoria said that a number of the cases which we'd seen over the last couple of days there, with people coming especially from South Asia where we're seeing the pandemic sweep through at this time. So, I think that the 14 days quarantine is still there and I would be very surprised if we see people being able to dodge or avoid that period.

FRAN KELLY:

Okay, Michael Kidd, just one final question - and we've only got a minute or so to the news. But, researchers in the UK have found this common steroid, called dexamethasone, can save lives of desperately ill COVID-19 patients - that seems to be the claim, these are trial results. The researchers say the drugs should be used immediately and it has been approved for use by Britain's National Health Services. Will it be used in this country anytime soon?

MICHAEL KIDD:

It's a complex question in just one minute, Fran, but yes, look we're looking very closely at those results coming out from the UK. Obviously, these are not subject to a comprehensive research trial but they are very promising. At the moment, fortunately, we have very few people who have severe respiratory disease from COVID-19 in Australia and we hope it stays that way.

FRAN KELLY:

Okay. And yes they're not peer reviewed viewed either, these results. Michael Kidd, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:

Professor Michael Kidd is Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer…

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