Date published: 
10 July 2020
Media event date: 
9 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

WALEED ALY:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth is one of those tasked with containing the virus and he joins us now. Thanks for your time.

So, we saw people racing over the South Australia border overnight, on Tuesday we saw the same with the New South Wales border. Could you tell us in, say, percentage terms what the chances are that this outbreak has already spread to other states?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Waleed, I think it's 100 per cent because we've actually already seen cases in the Australian Capital Territory and in New South Wales. I think the question reflects our concern that there might be seeding of the Victorian outbreak in other states. What we need to keep selling is the message that anybody who's come from Victoria needs to get themselves tested if they're unwell and certainly isolate from others.

I understand people wanted to get out on school holidays, get over the border before it shut, but really, it's about all of our responsibility now to work with government and actually make sure that that testing gets done.

GORGI COGHLAN:

How much tougher is it to contain this outbreak compared to, say, the first wave?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it's fair to say it is a harder proposition. This is a community-based outbreak. This– although the numbers aren't as great, and that is reassuring, this is closer to what's been seen around the world, but we know if we reduce movement, markedly, then that stops transmission of the virus. It did it in February and March, it will do it again.

GORGI COGHLAN:

And given that community transmission, is it time to make masks compulsory?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we've come out today and reinforced the position of the AHPPC, even perhaps more clearly by saying that we are going to–  we recommend mask use in areas of community transmission – that is Victoria, that is Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, where people can't socially distance.

But just keep in mind that the most important weapon is distance between individuals who have the virus and people that don't. And so, the restrictions, the reduction in movement is going to be the key. But yes, if you find yourself, you have to be on a tram, you can't socially distance, we're recommending a mask.

RACHEL CORBETT:

Nick, what do you think Victoria did wrong that other states could learn from to make sure it doesn't happen somewhere else?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Victoria's had a fantastic response in so many respects. It's got a fantastic testing regime; it can test between 20 and 30,000 people a day. I think that we've learned a lot from the outbreaks occurring in family groups with particularly large families, families that are ethnically diverse Australians. So whilst our communication had been focused on those groups, it clearly needs to be better, and that is what other states will be doing. But we learn things from every single outbreak that we have and we will continue to do so.

WALEED ALY:

Nick, it looked from a distance that the Victorian Government was caught a little bit off guard by the towers, so the inability to get food in quickly, for example, insufficient social services aligned with the police presence, those sorts of things. Was the possibility of a lockdown like this in a tower situation or in a neighbourhood, was that discussed extensively at the national level as part of a broader national strategy?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

You've got to remember that any of these outbreaks can come upon us whether it's in a tower block, whether it's in a residential aged care facility.

The principle, Waleed, is that you need to be worried about places where there's higher density. Now, whilst we've heard that there have been some delays as you've suggested, I think the logistical undertaking that the Victorian Government has done is actually a great achievement, a fantastic achievement to be able to actually get food, social services, mental health support and then clear those towers today, 8 of the 9 towers can go to the same stage 3 lockdown. So it's important that we give credit where credit's due. That is an enormous undertaking that they've been successful in.

GORGI COGHLAN:

Dr Nick Coatsworth, thanks so much for your time tonight.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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