Date published: 
25 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, a wave of normality is sweeping across the nation as state by state, territory by territory restrictions are increasingly relaxed.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

In Victoria which has long stayed strict in its rules has announced a dramatic ease in restrictions as community transmission numbers dwindle.

Joining us now from Canberra is Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, our favourite doctor. Good morning, doc, how are you?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Good morning, Karl. I'm well, thank you.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. Firstly, do you have the latest case numbers across the country for us?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yeah, I do. 7112 cases nationally, there've been only six new cases overnight, of which there were three in Victoria, two in New South Wales and one in Queensland.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So, I just feel like sitting back and going, we're done.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

We've done it.

ALLISON LANGDON:

But I mean- but we can't do that, can we?

NICK COATSWORTH:

No, we can't. I mean, I think we have to give ourselves a pat on the back as a nation for the way we've come together with this and the way we've followed what the Government has said and the health advice. We've just got a long way to go, and whilst we can relax the restrictions, it doesn't imply a relaxing of the behaviours. So washing the hands, keeping distance when you can, downloading the app and staying at home when you're unwell; it does to be a normal part of 2020 for us.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Six new cases in 25 million, I mean there'd be more people with influenza, a lot more, wouldn't there?

NICK COATSWORTH:

There are, although the number of influenza cases, happily, is down this year, and so many Australians are getting their fluvax to help our docs and nurses and not overburden the health system with flu as well as COVID. But we're still not immune, and just the importance of being able to detect the cases as we saw last week with one person found using their COVIDSafe app, that it's such a critical thing that the disease detectives find, even these small numbers, Karl, that we are able to shut those clusters down.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Doctor, it is such a big day today. Of course, we know a lot of schools are reopening, people are returning to work. Are you anxious at all?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think when we see large numbers of people having to go about their business, get to school, particularly using public transport. It is an important day to see if we can get this right. And I know New South Wales has got marshals on their trains and their bus services, this is a big day for state transport authorities. And it's an important day, though, it's a day that we'll be able to show that we can do this properly, that we can maintain the hygiene and we can start to get back on our feet again.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

We had a doctor on earlier from Adelaide. Another potential cure on the horizon with human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine to start in Adelaide. Do you think this one is different?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Look, I'd love to say that it was, but I think that all vaccine trials are at a very early stage at the moment. Every step that we see is a promising one. I mean, you've seen stock markets jump on fairly marginal reports of vaccine success, but I think as a doctor, the steps towards a safe and effective vaccine are still a long way away. So, we just need to take our- what we can do as a society which is all the things I've just mentioned about keeping COVID-safe.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, that Professor, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, who's about to start those human trials, he also believes that COVID-19 could have been designed in a lab to infect humans, that it is a possibility. Your thoughts on that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think the most likely origin of COVID-19 is from the wildlife species transferring to humans. I think there's been a wide variety of speculation, of course, about it, and that will be a source of speculation for some time to come.

Our focus at the moment, Ally, is getting Australia back on its feet after the COVID-19 epidemic and living with COVID-19 for 2020. That's where our focus is going to be.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

And on that, it could be Christmas in July according to News Limited papers for footy fans with both the AFL and the NRL aiming to get crowds back in our stadiums within weeks. Is that at all feasible, doc?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I'm looking forward to watching footy on telly - my son's an Eagles fan, he's really looking forward to seeing them play again. Whether we'll be able to do that in person; step three of our plan only has gatherings of 100 people, Karl, and that does not a footy crowd make, unfortunately. And I think it's probably too early for us to actually look forward and see whether we're going to have crowds at games in July. If we got to that point, that would be amazing. But I would be saying that that's quite early.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Can you clarify stage three is what and when does that begin?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, stage three, we can have gatherings of up to 100 people, that's step three. And remembering that those steps will be reached at different times for different states and territories. And that the National Cabinet set review dates of every three weeks to see what the restrictions- whether restrictions can be lifted further.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay. That's still some time off?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it's still some time off. And the thing is, we do- because the virus incubates over 14 days, we really have to take our time, every two or three weeks to actually see what the effects of lifting the restrictions has been.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Incredibly unfortunate that your child's an Eagles fan - we probably don't need to delve into that right now, though, do we? That's a no.

NICK COATSWORTH:

He takes after his dad, Karl, takes after his dad.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Oh, fair enough. Apple doesn't fall far from the tree and all that - he's a lucky boy.

Thank you so much, mate.

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