Date published: 
21 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KARL STEFANOVIC:

For more now on that party at a Melbourne aged care home sparking outrage this morning. Exclusive video obtained by the Today Show showing staff dancing along elderly residents without PPE.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, joins us now from Canberra. Just before we get to that vision, Nick, we've just heard the latest numbers out of Victoria; 11 new cases recorded yesterday, sadly two more deaths. Your reaction?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Alli, the numbers are continuing to improve, continuing to head towards single digits and that's great news for Victorians, great news for Australia and will no doubt be taken into account by Professor Sutton and Premier Andrews as they plan the road map and adjust the road map out of restrictions for Victoria.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Nick, do you know - just to give us some perspective, do you know if there were fewer tests over the weekend and around the neighbourhoods where it's really dug in?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Karl, I haven't seen the results. I mean, we know that Australia wide the testing rates go down over the weekend, but we also know that the Victorians are concentrating their testing around Casey, which is entirely appropriate, and that's really to see- to make sure there's no virus hanging around there and that they mop up the Casey cluster and make sure that all those people affected with COVID-19 in Casey get the care that they need.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So, you've got pretty much everyone in Victoria doing the right thing at the moment, in Melbourne. So, when you see that party at that Melbourne aged care home, for a staff member, there was no social distancing, they weren't wearing masks. Troubling?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well it is troubling, Alli, and of course the staff were likely trying to you know give it give the residents a little bit of respite from a very difficult year due to COVID-19. But, there is - we can't have any exceptions to the rules, particularly in aged care, and PPE - it absolutely has to be used. The masks have to be used during all interactions, that's the health department guidelines and that is actually to protect the residents from staff bringing the virus in which is- you know, it's got to get in somehow. And we know that, unfortunately, the virus does get into aged care facilities from primarily the staff that are working there. And I'm sure that there'll be appropriate reflection on, on whether that was the right thing to do and management will be looking closely at that. But, everybody has to has to follow the rules.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Just on PPE, there's a report this morning that we're facing a critical shortage of face masks for our frontline workers, has that been solved?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, there hasn't been a critical shortage of face masks, Karl. I did read that article and I hear the concerns being raised, but I've been in very close contact with Dr Andrew Wilson, from Safer Care Victoria. We have millions of N95 masks in the national stockpile and, equally, Victoria does as well. The key though is that nobody holds infinite quantities of personal protective equipment and provided that the guidelines are followed then we have more than enough PPE to protect our health care workers, who are our most valuable resource - our health and our aged care workers during-

ALLISON LANGDON:

[Interrupts] [Indistinct] So, Nick, you come on the show and you say that. But, there's clearly a disconnect here when you've got 400 frontline workers in Melbourne saying that there is a supply issue. So, where is the problem here?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Alli, the issue I think is where people are looking at wearing the personal protective equipment. And there is a view within the medical and nursing community that the use of N95 respirators should be expanded. Now, we look at the same evidence, we look at the same guidelines and we have expanded the use of N95 respirators. But, if you use N95 respirators for every health care interaction then you do start running into supply problems. So, whilst there is no shortage at the moment, we- nobody is in a position to supply infinite numbers of N95 respirators to the health system and it's very important that we all follow the guidelines, which we are formulating with the best interests of protecting health care and aged care workers at its heart.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Nick, the lock downs been perfect in reducing the numbers, but the long term sustainability isn't there? We have to have great contact tracing in order to live with this. Are you satisfied that Victoria now has the contact tracing set up in order to handle it?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Karl, Victoria has learnt so much, it's learnt the hard way of course - there's no doubt about that. But, the digitalisation of the contact tracing; from test all the way through to the interview being concluded, sending out contact traces into the suburbs into the regions, the visit that they made to New South Wales - all jurisdictions can learn from each other. But Victoria has shown a particular willingness to adapt their contact tracing, to make it what will be close to the most robust in the country, I believe, by the time they move out of restrictions.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And Doctor, just very quickly, because we've got a major contact tracing operation taking place in Sydney now after this infected cab driver worked right across the city. How confident are you that they can get on top of that quickly? And is this another example why face masks should be compulsory when out and about?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Alli, I'm confident in the New South Wales public health. I commend the taxi driver for getting tested, but also for having the COVIDSafe app active on their phone, which is assisting contact tracers. And we're confident the New South Wales Public Health will get this under control. It does speak to the need to wear masks when you're in contact with people who you don't know - strangers and ride share in taxes is the same as public transport - and we encourage it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Really good to talk to you, Nick. Thanks again for your time today, appreciate it.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks.

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