Date published: 
24 June 2020
Media event date: 
23 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Professor Michael Kidd is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and my guest tonight. Professor Kidd, thank you for your time.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Firstly, how concerned are you about the rise of community transmission that appears to be happening in Victoria?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, we're very concerned about what's happening in Victoria, but also very assured by the vigorous response which has taken place and been led by the health authorities in the state. We've seen a significant increase in the number of tests which are being carried out in Melbourne, especially in those affected local government areas. We've seen significant amounts of contact tracing under way with the people who've been diagnosed. And so, there's no surprise that we've had additional cases identified over the past 24 hours. And the response I think has been has been very strong and very positive.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Okay. You say that. I'm wondering if you can help me here. Do we have any work to see the difference between compliance rates or attitudes between different states? Like for instance, we hear about the spread between family groups in Melbourne. Could it be the case that equivalent family groups are just not getting tested in New South Wales?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

That's always possible but if we were getting very large spread community transmission which, where people hadn't been tested, we would start to see people who are significantly unwell presenting to our health care services and we're not seeing that occurring in New South Wales at this time.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Okay. So, in terms of the different rates, what are those different rates?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

The different rates of—

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Interrupts] Of testing. Sorry, I should be specific. Testing.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Sure. No, look, the testing rates are very high in both Victoria and in New South Wales and we continue to encourage anyone who has even the mildest of symptoms of respiratory tract infection to go and get tested. And the public by and large is adhering to this very, very well. So, we continue to have tens of thousands of people being tested each day, and fortunately of course in the vast majority of cases they're coming back negative for COVID-19. But it is very important that we continue to do this because the virus is still with us and we do still have community transmission occurring.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The Federal Government was warned it had missed an opportunity to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus by not actually engaging more fully with migrant and refugee communities. Now why didn't the Federal Government heed those calls? Do you concede that you were too slow to act when it comes to migrant and refugee communities?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, Federal Government has had a number of programs to reach out to culturally and linguistically diverse communities right across Australia. The national campaign has included advertising translated into more than 20 languages. There's been engagement with the radio press and in digital means with [inaudible]…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Talks over] Okay. The communities themselves are saying that that hasn't been managed well. Do you concede that there is a problem?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

I think that more needs to be done. Certainly we've reached out to a number of communities. I myself did quite a bit of work with Arabic speaking communities during Ramadan, but there is more that needs to be done and we do know that working with trusted representatives from multicultural communities, people who understand the issues and the health seeking behaviours, and most importantly the barriers which may exist for people getting tested from different communities is an absolutely essential component of the report.

Part of the work which was carried out by the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee was looking at the risks of resurgence across Australia and identifying those areas for further engagement, and that's been under way.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It's been under way but were there other strategies that could have been used? Strategies which ethnic community leaders called for which weren't implemented that you are now looking to implement?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Certainly. So, there's more translations occurring. We're now providing information in 63 different languages on the Australian Government response and targeting that information. But I totally agree with you, Patricia. We need to all be working together as a community and that involves everyone in the community. We can't afford to have parts of the community missing out on essential messages and missing out on being part of the response. And in that way, if we are all engaged, we can all do our part as well in preventing further transmission.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Could it have made a difference though to the rates we're seeing right now?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Possibly, but I'm not sure that we can say that. We're seeing small outbreaks occurring in Victoria at this time. Some of those have been related to the members of different ethnic groups with the few family settings that we've seen, but I'm not sure that we've got the background information to be able to determine what messaging those particular family groups were seeing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do the positive cases at a childcare centre and several schools over the last few weeks indicate children are actually getting sick or that they're just testing positive?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, we are seeing still very low rates of COVID-19 amongst children. The children who we are seeing with infections are by and large linked to close contacts in their own families or in the wider communities, rather than in the school or childcare environments. So, we do know that children when they become infected with COVID-19 very often have a mild illness. And that's why it remains really important that children, just like everyone in the community, if they develop signs of respiratory tract infection, arrange to get tested.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Look, there's also of course a big discussion now about particularly Victorians and Melburnians and travel. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says tourism operators should be wary of Melbourne travellers as Victoria confirms its seventh straight day of double-digit coronavirus infections. So, what's the advice there? Does that— is the advice that if you're from Victoria or Melbourne, you're not welcome anywhere else?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, the advice issued by the AHPPC yesterday was advice to people living in the six local government areas to not travel outside those areas, and for other people where possible not to travel into those areas.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But it's not enforceable, is it? So, if I was from— I happen not to be, but if I was from one of these areas and I wanted to travel interstate, would there be a penalty?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

There's no penalties at this time and of course there are restrictions as to what happens if someone does travel into states, particularly the states which are requiring two weeks of isolation when people arrive.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Look, it's the most obvious question to ask and I know it's been asked, but I feel like we still don't have a handle on it. Why Victoria? Why are we seeing this? Victoria was seen as the state, if anything, that went into the most extreme form, I'm using the word loosely, but lockdown. Why this?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, Victoria, like all of the states and territories in Australia has acted very swiftly, has acted very well and in most cases very effectively in protecting the community. And we've said right from the outset that we expect to see outbreaks from occurring.

We recognise that the pandemic continues to gain pace all around the world and we do expect outbreaks to occur in Australia. We saw the outbreak occurring in north-west Tasmania in the hospitals there. We've seen outbreaks occur in other parts of the country.

This virus is a challenge and it is very tricky. And Victoria I think has performed incredibly well. We've seen very high testing rates in Victoria. We've seen the people of Victoria behaving incredibly well, as we have right across the country. So, there is a degree of luck or bad luck in what happens with the spread of this virus, but it reinforces, Patricia, the importance of everybody doing their part.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Thank you so much for joining us.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd there.

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