Date published: 
7 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

Well, a huge day as we know in the nation's fight against COVID-19. The border between New South Wales and Victoria being sealed off at midnight as Melbourne records its darkest day since the pandemic began.

ALLISON LANGDON: 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth joins us now in Canberra. Thank you so much for your time this morning. We know the numbers in Victoria are frightening and we do understand that they're going to be big numbers again today. Have we lost control?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Ally, we are certainly concerned about those numbers when we see daily case numbers in three digits with a lot of community-based transmission within Victoria. That is obviously the reason for the very drastic measures that have been implemented by the Victorian Government and now by the New South Wales and Victorian premiers in closing the New South Wales and Victorian border.

So I think as you see these measures, that's reflective of the concern that we have about the nature of the outbreak at the moment. But everything is being done to bring that under control and certainly the Commonwealth is giving every support that we can that is requested of us in supporting Victoria because as we know, the Victorian problem is a national issue that we need to deal with.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

Do you know - is Victoria passing information that they retrieve on to you? Or are they keeping it pretty much to themselves?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Oh, Karl, on the contrary, it absolutely comes to us. We, as you know, have a meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on a daily basis and either the Chief Health Officer, Professor Sutton, or one of his deputies provides us with the up-to-date epidemiological information. So as you know, they do a press conference at 11 and we have a discussion together to put our collective minds towards solving the problem.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

So as it stands now, how many people inside those towers have COVID-19?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So up until yesterday it was 53. We anticipate that the Victorian Government will share the information with us and with the Australian public today about what the new cases have been. We do anticipate new cases in those tower blocks. Of course, we do. But the importance of the protective aspect of that hard lockdown, as harsh as that looks, it is designed to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our Australian community who live down there.

ALLISON LANGDON: 

So 53 out of 3000 residents, at this stage?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

At this point in time- that was yesterday Ally, and we would anticipate that there will be more to come after that.

ALLISON LANGDON: 

Is anyone refusing tests in those towers?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Look, I don't have that information, Ally. I know that there's a lot of communication being done with residents in the towers, extensive communication. There's obviously 3000 people who need to be tested.

And I'm sure everything is being done to convince people of the importance of getting tested. You know, door-to-door communication obviously in people's own language. That is the sort of thing that allows people the information that they need to get tested.

There's a lot of fear when something like a hard lockdown happens. So the importance of that clear communication, the understanding of why you need a test, those things are critically important.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

Well there's fear because they've been likened to vertical cruise ships. I mean that does nothing to allay fears.

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Well Karl, it's a real concern that there's cases within very close confines. I think that was the purpose of the analogy to help people understand that people needed to stay in their own homes, as hard as that is in a situation of being in flat and tower blocks like that.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

Nick, in terms of the number of cases that we've seen in Victoria, how many people are in a critical condition in hospitals?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Well Karl, there has been an increase in hospital admissions and intensive care admissions. To yesterday, it was 34 people in hospital and five of those in intensive care units and that just speaks to the severity of this virus in certain groups, particularly older Australians, particularly Australians who have added health conditions.

This is a very, very serious virus and that's exactly why we need to get this outbreak under control as quick as possible. Still modest numbers when you consider the entire ICU capacity of Victoria. So we are well within capacity and that was the important preparation element that we did within February and March, but not numbers that we want to see nonetheless.

ALLISON LANGDON: 

Is a lockdown of the entire state on the cards if it doesn't improve quickly?

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Well we know that Professor Sutton, the Premier of Victoria meet on a daily basis. They talk to us on a daily basis about their decision making and they have the latest intelligence on their- their public health intelligence to determine which post codes, if any, need to undergo further lockdowns. So that depends, Ally, on the numbers that emerge on a daily basis. So we have to-we have to watch that day-by-day.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

It's so disheartening what's happening in Victoria. And it's so disheartening for Victorians and so disheartening for those people in those towers, Nick.

NICK COATSWORTH: 

Karl, I feel that. I feel that it's a disheartening thing to see those numbers. We need- we do need to moderate our perspective a little bit to say that there are some countries in the world, they're getting 100,000 new cases a day. That is what the prediction for the United States was going to be. We've done remarkably well. We have seven out of eight states with no community transmission. We knew there were going to be outbreaks and it's in a densely populated urban area, our second largest city.

So the important thing is that we get on top of it as quick as possible. As disheartening as it is, there will be a light at the end of this tunnel.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 

Good on you Nick. Thank you.

ALLISON LANGDON: 

Thanks, Nick.

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