Date published: 
31 March 2020
Media event date: 
31 March 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH:

Health authorities are set to release critical modelling this week on how many coronavirus cases they expect in total throughout this journey in Australia. Now, for more, I'm joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. Nick, good to see you again.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Good morning, Kochie.

DAVID KOCH:

Now, the Government's been questioned for weeks about why it won't release this modelling. What's behind the delay? And are you able to sort of give us a bit of an idea of what the numbers look like?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Kochie, anyone who's looked at modelling knows whether it's in economics or trying to predict the stock market or trying to know what real estate prices do, know that modelling is an imperfect science where you're really trying to predict the worst case scenario and the best case scenario.

So it's one of the many different contexts that the chief officers take into account every single day. And so that's why we haven't released it up until now because it's one of the many decisions. But we respect the calls of Australians and Australian academics to show those numbers and that's exactly what Professor Paul Kelly has suggested we're going to do later on this week.

But essentially, what it shows is we see a very large curve in cases for what we call the unmitigated scenario where you don't do anything to stop it and just let it run through the community and then you see the graph flattening.

So what Australians will see is very close to what the Prime Minister showed a couple of weeks ago when he showed the graph and he introduced the concept of flattening the curve.

DAVID KOCH:

Yep. Yep. Now, even though the New South Wales Premier, I was telling everyone what — keep 127 new cases in the back of your mind with New South Wales. If it's below that, we are starting to improve a bit. Now, yes, it's too early to get cocky about it but we sort of all need a bit of an incentive that doing the right thing brings a result. Is this a good thing that the new cases are reducing?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Kochie, I think there's a nice way to put this and that is we've landed a punch on COVID-19, but it's nowhere near on the canvas. And the reason we've landed the punch is because we've shut down all travel to Australia, we've put in the aggressive quarantine measures, and we've got our Australians returning in very difficult situations having to quarantine in hotels when they weren't expecting to do so. So that's going to be largely responsible for the drop in the cases at the moment.

The problem is, Kochie, that there are still undetected community transmission going on and if you don't know where a person got the case, you can't shut down the transmission chain.

DAVID KOCH:

Right.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

So all you've got then is to combat the virus by social distancing and keeping us apart from each other, which is why the Prime Minister's introduced such aggressive measures to keep us apart and limiting those gatherings to two.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. Alright. There is a line of thought — thinking as well, that we still need to let a fair few people get it so we build up this — what do you professionals call it? This herd immunity thing? We can't reduce it to an extent where hardly anyone gets it, because it'll just keep coming and coming?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

We have heard that. I think the herd immunity idea was abandoned very quickly by a lot of countries when they saw exactly what that entailed at the sharp end of their health system. And those images of Italy and the United States which are in the minds of all of my colleagues in hospitals, we just can't afford to get there. So we're not adopting that strategy at all.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. Let's move on to the cruise ships. There's new data showing a large number of coronavirus cases linked to those coming off these ships. Roughly, one in seven cases in New South Wales, third of all cases in South Australia. What will this mean for those Aussies still stuck out at sea?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I can imagine if you're on a cruise ship at the moment, it's not the most comfortable place to be. But the guarantee is that if someone is unwell on a cruise ship, they will be brought to Australia for treatment and we've seen that happen in Western Australia in the past 24 and 48 hours. Even if you're a foreign national and you're unwell in a cruise ship in Australian waters, you'll be treated. And that is entirely appropriate and that's what we should be doing.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. Let's take a look at the number of recorded cases of coronavirus and the fatality rate compared to the rest of the world. There've been 4,250 cases in Australia, 18 deaths. China, 82,000 cases, 3,300 deaths. In Italy, over 97,000 cases, 10,000 deaths. United States, 143,000 cases, 2,500 deaths. Our death rate quite low, 0.4%. What do we owe that to and should we be prepared though for it to rise throughout the winter?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

I think we can be thankful for it, Kochie, that death rate being so low. What does it reflect? It's going to reflect a whole host of scenarios. It's going to be about our health care system, it's going to be about the underlying health of our population compared to the rest of the world which is very good. I think we must be prepared for the numbers certainly will increase of Australians who die from COVID-19 and we are prepared for that.

I hope that the rate doesn't increase and if it doesn't, we'll obviously be in an excellent situation compared to the rest of the world.

DAVID KOCH:

Nick, really appreciate your time. It's at times like this that every Australian basically thanks God where you have the health system we do in this country and people like you. So really appreciate your time.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks, Kochie. Thank you.

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