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

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, just a day after children return to classrooms full- time, two Sydney schools less than 3 kilometres apart have been shut down after a student at each tested positive for coronavirus.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Deputy Chief Medical Professor Michael Kidd joins us now from Canberra. Professor, thank you very much for your time again today. We appreciate you being with us. Do you have the latest figures, the case numbers across Australia first of all?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So 7130 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. Over the last 24 hours, we had 15 new cases. 10 of those were from people who had come into Australia from overseas; five were local cases, including the cases you've been referring to.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So those- I don't know if you have these details, but those five cases that haven't come in from overseas, do you know the source of those transmissions?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

No. So the state health authorities in each of those cases will be doing as we're doing with every new case and following up with the contacts, people who've been in close contact with those people to try and determine the sources.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You have said on this show many times that the schools are safe, obviously. This morning, two are closed for cleaning in Sydney. Is this going to be the new normal? And where do three cases just pop up from?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So, we expect to see small out-breaks occurring because the pandemic, of course, is still with us in Australia. And what we hope will happen is exactly what's happened in these two cases where someone develops symptoms, the health authorities are notified very quickly, their contacts are being followed up and people are being put into isolation. The facilities which they've been attending are closed, and are cleaned, and then we wait to be told that it is safe for people to return to those facilities, in this case to the schools.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Is it not a worry for you, though, that- I mean, people have been pretty much in lockdown. There have been no other reported cases, then suddenly at two schools, two kids have it. I mean, we're all going - scratching our heads going, where have they come from?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So what it shows to us is that COVID-19 is still out there in the community, and what we know is that there are some people who have very mild symptoms or often very few symptoms at all. So it just reinforces, Karl, the importance that if anyone has any symptoms of a respiratory tract infection, no matter how mild, you stay at home and you arrange to get tested because it could be COVID-19.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And this is the issue that some parents have, that in some states where kids are back full-time, it is now mandatory. Sometimes you have family situations where the kids- where elderly grandparents live in the family home. Do you think that we should be allowing parents here the choice that if they don't feel it's safe to send their kids to school, that they can continue home schooling?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

So this is an issue obviously for each family. And you're quite right, there are families where there are people in the home who are at increased risk, who are vulnerable if they were to contract COVID-19. So we are very concerned obviously about the elderly members of our community, people who are immune suppressed, people who have severe chronic health conditions. And it's very important we continue to protect those people.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I guess it's this kind of thing when it pops up, and there is another infected ship that has docked in Australia, this time in WA, six crew members testing positive. I mean, are we looking at another Ruby Princess there?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well hopefully not. Because what has happened with that ship in Western Australia is that the authorities have acted very quickly. So the first report that there were people who were unwell on that ship, they have gone in. Everyone's been tested on board the ship. People are isolated. And so there's no risk of those cases transmitting further into the community. So again, this is exactly what we hope and expect will happen whenever we see these small outbreaks occurring across the country while the pandemic is still with us.

ALLISON LANGDON:

There does seem to have been an issue with the sharing of information, which is what we saw with the Ruby Princess but on a much greater scale.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Sharing of information... Sorry? Sharing of information between different-?

ALLISON LANGDON:

There seems to be an issue between different states and federal authorities, that information hasn't been shared, which is what we saw with Ruby Princess and why we had that outbreak. Is that a concern?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, I think what we've seen right from the outset of the pandemic in Australia is a really close partnership between the Federal Government and between the states and territories, and also between the different agencies which are responsible for different aspects of quarantine, and shipping, and so forth. So what we hope is that those communication lines are open and that people will be sharing information. Because, of course, doing so is absolutely essential because it protects the health of all of us.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Where that relationship fractures is obviously on borders, and this all plays into even what happened with New South Wales. Annastacia Palaszczuk's stand and that is, we don't want anyone coming into the state from interstate because it's all gone pear-shaped in New South Wales. There are more cases and we don't want it spreading here. How do you respond to that?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well again, we're all in this together. We are seeing cases occurring in different states, and we've seen that over the last 24 hours with the first cases for quite some time in both Western Australia and South Australia, a new case occurring in Queensland. So we are in a pandemic, we do know that there are cases out there, we've all got to be vigilant, we've all got to be working together.

ALLISON LANGDON:

We do need to work together. I don't think it is happening quite as much as it was at the start, but hopefully we can get back to that point. Professor, thanks for your time this morning.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thanks, professor.

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