Date published: 
9 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

There are fears that weekend protests around the country may spark a second wave of coronavirus cases. Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth joins me now from Canberra this morning. Morning to you. When could we potentially see any effects from the weekend?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Nat, the earliest that we see people show symptoms tends to be in the first week after people are exposed to the virus. But it can take as long as 2 weeks, so we're going to be looking closely in the month of June to see what, if any, affect those protesters had on COVID-19 cases in Australia.

NATALIE BARR:

On the flip side, if we don't see a spike in the next week or 2, does that— is this kind of a test case? Could we then open up everything in Australia?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

So, I've seen these comments about whether this is a natural experiment and whether it should be taken into account in lifting further restrictions. I think it's one of many different things that we'll need to take into account. It was a large gathering, but it was a single gathering and it won't automatically mean if there are a few cases that we can move any quicker, but I'm sure it will be something that is taken into account, Nat, whichever way it goes. And we certainly hope there are not many cases arising from the protests over the weekend.

NATALIE BARR:

We've seen New Zealand lift their restrictions at midnight last night, how far behind them are we?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I'm not sure we can even compare ourselves as being in the same race. We very deliberately didn't go to a full lockdown because we were looking to preserve aspects of the economy, so we potentially took less of an economic hit, and now we're slightly slower coming out of it, in a sort of cautious way.

We still have New South Wales and Victoria with low numbers of community cases. But if you look at other states, they're getting a lot closer to where New Zealand is and certainly Northern Territory and Western Australia are at step 3 of lifting their restrictions. So I think for Australia, which is a very different situation to New Zealand, we're moving at the right pace.

NATALIE BARR:

Dr Nick Coatsworth, thanks for your time this morning.

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