Date published: 
8 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

HAMISH MCDONALD:

Professor Michael Kidd, is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the federal Health Department. He is in Canberra this morning, good morning to you. Welcome back to Breakfast.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Hamish. Good morning.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

Is this approach in Victoria, the right approach? Locking down Melbourne metropolitan area, effectively, is this going to get on top of this so-called, second wave?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, this is a very important approach and totally appropriate, given the very significant rise that we've seen over the past few days in community transmission of COVID-19, across Melbourne. But this is, as you say, Hamish, this going to be really tough for the people of Melbourne, who find themselves moving back into lockdown. And I think it's really important that people remember the things that we did last time, to make lockdown bearable. That importance of remaining socially connected with each other, even while we're physically distant.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

The AHPPC has not recommended, at any point, border closures, within Australia. But, effectively, Victoria is now cut off from the rest of the country. What's your view on that? Is it an appropriate measure?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, clearly, the decision yesterday to- sorry, the decision to close the borders, yesterday, between New South Wales and Victoria, was a decision made by the two Premiers with the Prime Minister. And so, yes, this is an appropriate measure. The Australian Government is supporting the border closures. We have well over 300 Australian Defence Force personnel, who are supporting the local people on the ground, to maintain those border closures. This is what is needed at this time, in order to stop the spread of this very infectious and very serious disease.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

Can I just ask you about the specifics, though? Because, we've spoken Mick Fuller, the New South Wales Police Commissioner this morning and also to Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Premier. There are different arrangements in place for people returning to, for example, New South Wales, from Victoria, from what there would be if they were returning from overseas. There's a different quarantine process; it's self-isolation, effectively, if you're coming from Victoria. Is it reasonable to have different approaches to this? The virus obviously can't tell, whether someone's come from Victoria or come from overseas?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, clearly, these are decisions for the health authorities in each of the jurisdictions and is based on what we're seeing with transmission, occurring in Australia. Clearly, people coming from overseas, from many countries, are coming from places where community transmission of COVID-19 is occurring at a far higher level, than it currently is in Melbourne. And we don't want to get to that situation in Australia.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

But there is community- there is significant community transmission in Melbourne. So, are you saying that it's okay that if- that we just trust someone that was arriving from Victoria to self-isolate and not be monitored, in the same way they would be if they'd come from overseas?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, we need to be monitoring what's happening on a day by day basis with the new cases which are being diagnosed, both in Victoria but also any cases which are diagnosed outside of Victoria. At the moment, we have not seen significant numbers of cases, occurring in New South Wales or elsewhere in the country. There've been a small number of cases, they've been picked up very quickly. I think it really reinforces though, for everybody in Australia, Hamish, the importance of maintaining the physical distancing measures, which have been in place for all of us for many, many months. And if people have even the slightest symptoms of cold or flu or fever, to stay at home and arrange to get tested. We've got to make sure that we're picking up every case of COVID-19, both in Melbourne, Victoria and across the country and stopping the spread of this virus.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

What is the extent of community transmission in other parts of the country, beyond Melbourne?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, we're not seeing community transmission in the seven other jurisdictions, around Australia. We've just seen isolated cases occurring and very small outbreaks, if at all, occurring over recent weeks in other parts of the country. So, the community transmission we are seeing is in Victoria and predominately, in those north-western suburbs of Melbourne. But, as we've seen over the last few days, expanding to some of the other suburbs across the city.

HAMISH MCDONALD:

Speaking to, Dan Andrews, this morning, he indicated that face masks are something that are being given consideration by the Chief Medical Officer in Victoria, that he would follow any guidance from him on that. Are you reviewing that actively? I see that the expert advice on this globally, is somewhat mixed. Is it under consideration by you, currently?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, absolutely. So the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment has been on the agenda of the AHPPC right from the start of the pandemic. Both, used by our healthcare workers and other people who are working both with people who are infected and with people who are vulnerable to infection with COVID-19, but also, looking at what are the issues for people in the wider community. And our recommendation has been that face masks are not required by the general public unless we have areas of community transmission.

Clearly, we now have community transmission occurring in Melbourne and there will be people who will feel far more comfortable wearing a mask when they leave their home. That's particularly people who are at increased risk - the elderly, people with chronic disease, people at increased risk of COVID-19. And also, people who may find themselves in a situation where they can't maintain the physical distancing measures and this may be in public transports or elevators or other situations. So-

HAMISH MACDONALD:

[Interrupts] So, just to be clear on this though, do you think masks work?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Masks, definitely masks work. Masks, by and large, protect the environment from the wearer. So where somebody is infected, they are largely most effective in protecting other people. But they also have some role to play in protecting people who are not infected. So- and as you said right at the start, Brett Sutton and his team are looking at recommendations around face masks, whether the recommendations should be more broad in Victoria, given the cases of community transmission that we're seeing.

HAMISH MACDONALD:

There's obviously a fair amount of finger pointing going on at the moment in relation to Victoria. But I wonder if you could just offer something constructive here about lessons learned. Because, clearly, the rest of the country is looking at this situation and just hoping, but obviously taking practical steps to try and avoid it for themselves.

MICHAEL KIDD:

I don't think blaming other people is very helpful. We're dealing with an infectious disease and a virus, which is very infectious and easily transmitted from person to person. I think that after the Stage 3 restrictions were lifted right across the country, obviously, there was a huge sense of relief amongst the people of Australia.

Most people, though, continued to adhere to the physical distance measures of hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, physical distancing when outside the home, and most importantly, staying at home when unwell and arranging to get tested. And that is the message for everybody, Hamish. This virus is still with us. We're still living in a world where COVID-19 is in its first wave as it sweeps across many countries around the world. Australia is not immune. And we've all got to continue to play our part.

HAMISH MACDONALD:

But this really is a question about lessons learnt from Victoria because the Premier himself, Dan Andrews is saying that they're trying to understand what has gone wrong. Are there things that could be done differently now in the other states to try and ensure there isn't a repeat of this? Other than all of the measures that you've just articulated, are there different approaches?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look absolutely and it's really important that we learn the lessons from every outbreak which occurs. And we've seen a number of different outbreaks which have occurred in Melbourne and the AHPPC discusses each of the outbreaks and what are the lessons that have been learned. What do we need to be recommending to the National Cabinet? What do the other states and territories need to be implementing?

We've seen- throughout the pandemic, we've seen challenges with residential aged care facilities, with hotel quarantine, the issue with the cruise ships, the issue with people living in crowded accommodation, issues with people working in workplaces where physical distancing has not been possible. The list goes on and on and we are continuing to learn and we're learning from what's happening around the world as well.

HAMISH MACDONALD:

[Interrupts] Professor Kidd, briefly on that. The Ruby Princess, Newmarch House, the aged care facility. They seemed to indicate that once the virus spread, it was rapid, it was lethal. Is containment in something like these housing- these apartment towers in Victoria, the right approach?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, that's obviously an issue for the Victorian authorities. My understanding is that the people who are being diagnosed, if people are being diagnosed and have serious illness, those people, of course, will go to hospital for management of their serious illness and receive the optimal care. Where possible, where people are in their own homes and have mild illness, it may be possible for those people to isolate in a room in their own home. Of course, that may be very difficult if the apartment has multiple other people living there as well. So this will be dealt with on a case by case basis by the authorities on the ground in Victoria.

HAMISH MACDONALD:

Professor Michael Kidd, thank you very much.

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