Date published: 
6 May 2020
Media event date: 
6 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

The Prime Minister has shared his vision to get millions of Australians back to work, issuing new guidelines to help workplaces reopen.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Yeah, the COVIDSafe blueprint includes increased cleaning, staggering meal breaks, an end to hot desking and temperature testing. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Doctor Nick Coatsworth joins us now from Canberra. Doctor, good to see you this morning. Firstly, do you have an update on the numbers?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I do. So, the total number of cases in Australia has now reached 6856, in the past 24 hours there have been 29 additional cases of COVID-19 and sadly 97 Australians have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the epidemic so far.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Can we expect more freedoms by Friday? That's when National Cabinet will meet again.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has considered, what I can tell you, is a vast range of the restrictions at the moment and how they might be lifted in a progressive fashion. That will be presented to National Cabinet and that will be a decision of National Cabinet on Friday. Australia - as the Prime Minister, as Brendan Murphy have said - is in a great position, the nation's put us in a great position to see some of those restrictions lifted. And I think what you've seen already is many of the states and territories have already gone to lifting some of those jurisdictions because their situation has been so good that they can do that.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So what is that next step? Are we now talking about cafes, restaurants, gyms?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, there's a whole range of items, as I said. Cafes and restaurants have been discussed publicly by state premiers in the past 24 hours. It's all a matter of timing though, they won't all open at once and some of them present more risk than others. Certainly gymnasiums do present a very- a higher risk of transmission because of their nature and the number of people that use them.

So, anything we do, Ally, has got to be done in a very staggered way because you lift one set of restrictions, you've got several weeks before you can see the effect on what's going on with COVID-19, jump on any clusters that have occurred and then place Australia in the position for the lifting of the next round of restrictions.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Well, Dr Nick, there's a lot of talk this week about domestic travel and I guess people at home are wondering when they can visit families and friends in interstate or even a holiday, God forbid. When do you think it's going to be safe to start travelling again?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think we have to see what happens with the first round of restrictions being lifted and, you know, there are a number of states that have their borders closed at the moment for very, very good reasons - I particularly cite the Northern Territory with the very vulnerable Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. So, different jurisdictions will have different views on that. Again, I wouldn't expect it to be in the first round of what we do, but at some point in the future we'd be considering those interstate sort of travel. I think at the moment intrastate travel, we're a big country, we've got big states and we've got places that we can potentially go and visit friends and family. And we- and some states have made it very clear that we do now want small family groups to get together - I'll be visiting my mum at some point who's up in Sydney now who's been isolated for a long time.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yeah, I'm seeing my mum for the first time on Sunday too and can't wait for that. But when these restrictions are eased, is there a danger that we're going to see isolated outbreaks and clusters such as the meatworks in Melbourne? And could that mean that we're sort of basically forced back to square one?

NICK COATSWORTH:

What we want to avoid at all cost is this sort of sawtooth relaxation and then implementation of restrictions again, because that will be damaging to our society. We may see small clusters, we are seeing small clusters, and the example set by the Victorian Health Department of how to manage that down in the meatworks is an excellent example of how we're going to have to move forward.

What can we do as Australians to prevent it? Well, as our mobility increases, we can't forget the behaviours, we can't forget the hand hygiene, we must stay at home if we've got any sense of a cold or a cough and we have to get tested, and we have to keep those 1.5 metre rules. And whilst I'll be seeing mum in the next couple of weeks, you know, even I think giving a hug or shaking hands or that sort of thing, it's got to stop for the moment, I think.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Well, the app, the COVIDSafe app, will that be able to trace that cluster?

NICK COATSWORTH:

The COVIDSafe app on people's phones - on my phone - is making digital handshakes as we speak. So, if I come into contact with someone for greater than 15 minutes at a distance of 1.5 metres, my phone will register that in an encrypted way. What we're waiting for at the moment is the very last piece of the puzzle which is for states and territories to be able to formalise the agreements to access that data. Keeping in mind that we said all along, that it's the state and territory that you live in that should be the only disease detectives that have access to that data.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yes. But have you used that with this cluster at the meatworks to actually track people exposed? Has it worked?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, look, I'm not aware of what the Victorian Government has used for that particular cluster, but keeping in mind that the app is just a part of what we call finding and contacting the cases, which will still be done by and large by these detectives on the telephone with the app being supplementary to that sort of process. But, no, that I'm not aware of at this point.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Alright. Dr Nick, enjoy seeing your mum from a distance this weekend.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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