Date published: 
28 July 2020
Media event date: 
27 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Nick Coatsworth, joins us now. Good morning to you, Nick. Melbourne; I mean, as we know… 

NICK COATSWORTH:

Good morning, Ally.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Wednesday is half way mark of the lockdown; should we be seeing infection numbers coming down by now?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we would have hoped to see infection numbers come down, but the explanation, of course, is that during the first wave we were largely dealing with people who had returned from travel, who hadn't had time to transmit the virus. And now, of course, the virus is deeply embedded within the community in Victoria and so, it's going to take longer to come under control.

We know that Victorians in those lockdown zones are mixing far less, that the movement data shows us that we're about where we were in that first wave, when the curve started to flatten. So, that is good news and of course, the other bit of silver lining is that those numbers, whilst deeply concerning, are bouncing between about 350 and 450 a day. And certainly, we're not seeing a doubling during the week, which is- which has to be a good thing. And it's testimony to the efforts so far of Victorians.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, we’re going to take any good news we can get. But will six weeks be long enough for the lockdown?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we just have to see day by day, of course. I think Premier Andrews, has signalled the possibility of extension, but let's just examine what we can do to make this happen quicker. It's to absolutely wear masks when we go outside or face coverings. It's not to go outside for anything, except for those four reasons. It's to substantially reduce our minglings. Stop the virus from getting to from one person to another. It sounds so simple; we realise that it's difficult. But, the quicker we do that together, then the quicker that curve will bend down the other side.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Nick, there are a couple of things that I picked up over the weekend that I just wanted to clarify with you. Because, there's so much information out there and I guess it's hard to know what's true. There were reports over the weekend, the strain of the virus in Melbourne is seemingly stronger or at least more contagious. Is that true?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we've had reports from around the world, that the strain is now different from the original Wuhan strain and that there's a possibility that it may be more infectious. We don't have any firm data on that, Karl. I think it doesn't change the fundamentals, of course, of what we need to do. There's no indication that it's any more virulent, that is that it affects people any more aggressively or that it affects different types of people in the community. So, the data is more or less consistent. But we just have to be absolutely rigid in our attempts not to contract the virus and not to spread it on.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

And also, statistically, there are also reports people are having to live with the consequences or the scars internally of COVID, for a lot longer than previously thought. Is that true as well?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So, I think that is often a reflection of the severity of the virus. So if we get any young person into our hospitals, with pneumonia or bad influenza related pneumonia, they will take a lot of time to recover. I see a lot of people in my clinic who have had viral infections and then develop fatigue like syndromes, which take many weeks or months to get over. And so this is a feature of viral infections, to what extent it affects people with COVID-19, we don’t know. But, that’s a really important point we have to keep on top of and keep understanding - learning new things about the virus at all times and one of the- and just another reason to get this under control, as quick as possible.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Doctor, up until this point we know that most of the victims of coronavirus have been the elderly. But, to hear overnight that a man in his 40s has died, hugely worrying I suspect?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, it is. My heart goes out to the family of that gentleman, who are grieving right now. We don't have details of the case. Clearly, this virus can affect people at any age, of course, the elderly are more severely affected. But it doesn't mean that young people can't find themselves in dire straits with COVID-19. So, it just is a timely reminder that if you're young, you are not immune and will affect you just as severely as someone who’s at the extreme of their age.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. In terms of these people going around having a go at Bunnings staff and other places. We’ve heard from several families this morning, pleading with people in terms of these, you know, these people saying it's a human rights issue and all that. How do you respond to that? And what's the message? Because, it must make you incredibly angry.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, it's clearly disturbing, Karl, very disturbing when you see that sort of footage of one Australian citizen putting others in a very difficult situation and I just want to commend the Bunnings staff. I’ve seen the footage myself. They did a remarkable job staying calm, against behaviour that is frankly unacceptable. What we can take away is that the vast majority of Australians find them unacceptable. We've obviously all been flooded with messages of support for those Bunnings staff. It is not a human rights issue to decide not to wear a mask. It is a- because it's such a simple intervention. I just can't see how it takes away someone's human rights or individual liberty to just have to put a face covering on at the request of government. It is simple. We know it's effective. We know it's the time to do it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Hear hear. Lovely to speak to you. Thank you for that information. Appreciate it as always.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks, Mate.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID13664, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officer-interview-on-channel-9-today-show-on-27-july-2020)

View contact