Date published: 
21 May 2020
Media event date: 
21 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

For more, I'm joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth. Morning to you. Your counterpart, Professor Paul Kelly has said he can't understand why the borders are closed from a medical point of view. What do you think?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well I'd like to echo the words of Paul Kelly. I think the medical expert panel was not asked to make any recommendations on state borders. The most effective measure has obviously been keeping our international borders closed in limiting the number of cases. And there are very few cases nationwide at the moment, even Victoria with their extensive testing, only recorded eight new cases last night with some 9500 tests performed, Nat.

NATALIE BARR:

So you think the state borders should reopen?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think that there- it's not clear what the medical reasoning is for state borders to remain closed but that of course is a matter for state premiers. And I think those, Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia have made it very clear in the media that it is going to be their decision. But I think in the fullness of time, as we move through step two and three, it is step two and three in the plan that actually reflects state borders opening and we'll get there in time.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Queensland Health authorities think a woman who tested positive two months after returning from overseas may have contracted COVID-19 while she was out of the country. Could it really take two months for someone to show symptoms?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well I'm not aware of that case, Nat, specifically, it does seem like an incredibly long time to show symptoms. We know this virus behaves in a lot of different ways. But it does emphasise the need going forward to do those most important thing. Keep our hands nice and clean, keep our distance where we can and download the app because we just never know, it's still a new virus. And we've got to do those three things to stay COVID free.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Let's talk about the app - there are claims the app is having technical issues, with some New South Wales Health staff not being able to use the actual data from it to trace the contacts of an infected person. Is this the case?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Nat, I think it was clear, in fact, from Victorian health officials yesterday that they managed to find a case using the app where the traditional contact tracing methods had not revealed the case. And that's one extra person who is now in self-isolation, in quarantine. And to be honest, that's proof in the pudding that the app is effective. We've got 5.93 million Australians who have downloaded it, and now it's time for the 10 million odd other Aussies who have smartphones to start downloading the app.

NATALIE BARR:

So it's been going for a few weeks, we've got 5.7 million people downloading it and it's got one key traced. Would you expect more to have happened with it? More tracings?

NICK COATSWORTH:

No, Nat and that just reflects how well Australia is doing. There's so few cases that it will naturally mean that the app will not be as well utilised by public health authorities, simply because the cases are low. I think the fact that Victoria has demonstrated the utility of the app is a real milestone for both public health units around the country and also the app itself. It is a useful tool.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. There's a new campaign launched today to help the Australian public through the next stage of the pandemic. What does that involve?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, you'll see a talking head, it will be my own, and it'll be encouraging some very simple messages as we get out there and that is to keep our hands washed as frequently as we can, to keep our distance where we can and to download the app. And if we do the three, we'll stay COVID free.

NATALIE BARR:

You're a TV star, Dr Nick. Thanks very much for your time.

DAVID KOCH:

Home and Away next.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks Nat.

NATALIE BARR:

Thank you.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID11906, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officer-interview-on-channel-7-sunrise-on-21-may-2020)

View contact