Date published: 
31 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, joins us now. Morning to you. Moving into Spring, getting a bit warmer, is it any safer for people to be in crowds at the beach, like we saw in Sydney?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Kochie, what I heard from the eastern suburbs mayors and from the lifeguards, were that people by and large were being good. They were keeping their distance, there weren't too many large gatherings. But, what I'm worried is more getting to and from the beaches and making sure that people, particularly in Sydney, are wearing a mask when they're catching the train or the bus down to Bondi or Coogee, or every beach they're going to.

NATALIE BARR:

Yeah. It looks worse from some of the shots, but when you look at the drone shot, they are actually quite a spread out, aren't they? Let's go to Melbourne. Looking at these protesters, people are frustrated. Would it help if the Government gave them some kind of number to aim for, some kind of hope when they would lose the lockdown?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think the hope is there in the numbers at the moment and the rate at which those numbers go into double digits and then hopefully, down into single digits is what's going to give people the light at the end of the tunnel of course, Nat. And then, there will be a road map out; but the focus for health authorities now is making sure that their testing, tracing and isolating is absolutely top-notch so that when those restrictions are lifted, we can keep a lid on COVID-19 in Victoria.

DAVID KOCH:

Queensland's Chief Health Officer is pushing again for everyone to wear a mask. Should they be compulsory while there's no vaccine?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Kochie, we hear a lot about compulsory mask wearing. What we do know is that in Sydney at the moment, a high number of people are wearing masks, just on the advice of the chief health officers. So, I would encourage those 3.6 million people in South East Queensland to consider, strongly consider in fact, if you're on transport, wear a mask. If you're in a confined space, wear a mask. It's a very easy thing to do. Making it mandatory when numbers are low means you have to have the enforcement mechanism behind it, and that's part of the issue. But I can promise you that neither the New South Wales nor Queensland Chief Health Officers will let the epidemic get to a point- they will implement masks when it's necessary.

DAVID KOCH:

But it sort of gets confusing for everyone, these sort of mixed messages. One state - wear it compulsory, the other saying just on trains or you can't social distance. Do they all check with you? Do they all check with the National Chief Medical Officers before they say anything?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yeah, it's a really important question, Kochie and we discuss these matters at the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and we have a position that the first thing you do is get yourself tested if you're unwell. You socially distance, you wash your hands, and then if you can't distance, then you wear mask. Now, that's a consistent position. When the epidemic got to the point that it did in Victoria, Brett Sutton brought in mandatory masks. If the epidemic increases in New South Wales and Queensland, you will see mandatory masks. But at the moment, they're comfortable.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. So, everyone talks to each other and gets approval from the National bods first?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, it's not- it's not approval, because in- under the constitution, the Chief Health Officer in every state and territory calls the shots, but it's a discussion that we have. And as I've said before on this program, we talk about masks every single meeting.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. Alright. Thank you for that, Nick.

NATLIE BARR:

Okay. Nick Coatsworth, thank you very much, we'll talk to you soon.

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