Date published: 
15 April 2020
Media event date: 
5 April 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PETER VAN ONSELEN:

Well, we're joined now by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Nick Coatsworth. Nick, everyone wants to see the curve flatten, but do we need to prepare at least for the possibility that these lockdowns will continue right up until there's a vaccine?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Peter, I think we have to prepare at least for a possibility of six months of restrictions, although the early signs obviously are very encouraging. Every Australian now knows what flattening the curve is and that they're making a contribution to it. And be assured that we're looking at this on a daily basis, we publish these statistics, and so, the recommendation to keep the restrictions won't be in place for any longer than it needs to. But we're like, we're there at the end of the first quarter in the grand final and we're a goal ahead but we're nowhere near the Premiership at this point. And we, as Australians, we have to keep working together as a team, so that eventually we can beat this virus.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:

The speculation is that it could be up to 18 months for a vaccine – possibly even longer. Does that mean that it could be 18 months that we're in lockdown or virtual lockdown?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I don't think we should be looking that far ahead for a couple of reasons, Peter. Firstly, I think the six-month target is a very reasonable one that the Government's put forward at the moment. There's a possibility that a vaccine – whilst it could be 12 to 18 months – every virologist in the world is looking at this and we hope it might be sooner.

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, there are reports today of modelling shown to ICU workers saying that we'll hit the peak in October, but other modelling shows it could be in the next two weeks. What information do you have?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think that simply indicates the problems with modelling – it's a prediction of what may happen and not the reality. We did see a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia that said that we were supposed to be overwhelmed in our intensive care units today. So, I think that the best figures that we have to deal with are the ones coming through on a daily basis. And today there are 90 Australians with coronavirus disease in our intensive care units, and 30 of those are on ventilators being supported with their breathing – I wish them all the best with their recovery – that is certainly a number we can cope with within our usual intensive care capacity, which is about 2200 beds with ventilators at any one time.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:

The Chief Medical Officer made the point today that 2000 Australians have recovered from the coronavirus. Do we know if they've now got immunity from it or not?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think we can safely assume that they do have immunity – that's the body's reaction to having an infectious disease. The question is how long that immunity will be sustained – we don't know the answer to that. It won't be like chickenpox or measles where you get a long, life-long sort of immunity, but you're likely to have immunity for the coming 12 months so it's unlikely that you'll be infected again with coronavirus disease. Again, it's very early to tell these sort of things but I think that's a reasonable assumption to make.

TOMMY LITTLE:

Doc, you mentioned it's like quarter-time in a footy game and we're up by a goal. Do you think it's cruel to use sporting analogies when we can't watch or play it at the moment?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Exceptionally cruel to use a sporting analogy, and I thought as soon as I used it. I've got my little tackler who wants to play AFL this year – he's desperate, he's a little West Coast Eagle and he can't play. And that's going all the way from a 6-year-old, all the way through to professional sporting players. So, this is having effects on our society, and we're all going to have trouble dealing with it, and sport's a big thing for the Australian psyche.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:

Thanks very much for your time, Nick.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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