Date published: 
31 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, Australia's east coast is on high alert as COVID clusters in NSW and Queensland continue to spread. It comes as Victoria records 114 new cases and tragically 11 more deaths.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

For more, we're joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. Doctor, thank you for your time again on this Monday morning. Let's start in Queensland; the state's Chief Health Officer has warned 3.6 million people in the South East to consider themselves close contacts. Is that a scare tactic?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, not at all Karl. I believe Jeannette Young said 3.6 million consider themselves casual contacts. And casual means less than or not as much as close contact which is 15 minutes at 1.5 metres. But it's not a scare tactic at all. It's indicating to those Queenslanders that Jeanette is worried about the spread of COVID-19 in South East Queensland and most particularly, if you're in that region and you have any sort of symptoms at all, even the mildest symptoms, to get yourself tested. That's what Professor Young is saying.

ALLISON LANGDON:

I want to talk about masks because in Sydney we've seen cases linked to buses and trains and here's what the New South Wales AMA President Dr Danielle McMullen said on the show.

            [Excerpt]

DANIELLE MCMULLEN:

We've seen an increase in numbers across Metropolitan Sydney and the list of transport cases is growing so I think it's time that we're all wearing masks on public transport.

            [End of excerpt]

ALLISON LANGDON:

I mean New Zealand made masks mandatory on public transport. It's a no brainer, isn't it?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well masks certainly had a positive effect in Victoria. But when there was a significant amount of community transmission - I think what we can be sure of is that the New South Wales and Queensland Chief Health Officers will have a far lower threshold for instituting mandatory mask wearing. But they're the ones that have the best idea of the local epidemiology, the spread of cases, how it's spreading. And they're the ones that will be making the decisions as to whether it's compulsory or not. We already know up to 65 per cent of people in Sydney are wearing masks when they're out and about and that's without it being mandatory.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I guess everyone just goes, why wouldn't you do it?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well I think why you wouldn't do it is because it has to have an enforcement mechanism behind it. So some of these things appear to be straightforward. They're not actually easy public policy measures and you have to get to the point where it's actually going to make a substantial difference to transmission. And that's probably not at the level that New South Wales has had at the moment.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So what about just having stronger language around it then. So sure, it might not be enforced but why don't we just have our leaders come out and say, wear masks on public transport.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Wear masks on public transport. There you go, Ally. I agree. I mean, that sort of strength of language is absolutely important. And I guess my message is that if those cases go up, then masks will be mandatory. So, I think you know let's all get on board with this. It is a straightforward thing to do. And we need to do it in Sydney and South East Queensland at the moment. You know, everybody's going to want to go to the beach. They're not going to drive their car there. They're going to have to be wearing masks on that bus or that train.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne mean time are due to end in two weeks. Any chance at all of that happening with their current numbers?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, it's hard to see that happening, I've got to be honest with you Karl and honest with the people of Victoria. I think that we're going to have to see the numbers down where they're controllable. And that is the numbers that you're seeing in New South Wales and Queensland at the moment. You can see the effort that it takes to control numbers between about five and 10 per day, it's quite clear to people. But then again, the rate of the numbers dropping is getting faster in Victoria. So, you never know and we just got to have a look on a daily basis.

ALLISON LANGDON:

But you think Melbourne needs to stay in Stage 4 until they're getting single digits?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think we need to see what happens to the numbers. I think the numbers need to be a lot less than they are now. Whether that's staying in Stage 4 or Stage 3, that- moving to a Stage 3 restriction, that is going to be up to the Victorian Chief Health Officer. And what I would say, though, is those numbers are coming down at an increasingly rapid rate. So we might over the next week or two actually see numbers get quite low. But we have to wait and see for that.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's good news too as we head into the warmer months, isn't it? I know that that means more people out and about. But it's good news in terms of the spread of that virus and the ability for that virus to spread.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, it's hard to know Karl. We don't know what's the effect summer is going to have. But I mean what we do know is the risk of acquiring it when you're outdoors is far, far less than when you're indoors. That doesn't mean that we should gather in groups of 100 on Bondi Beach. That's not what we're saying. But it is going to be good for Australians to be outdoors in summer, there's no doubt about that.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Were you okay with what happened at Bondi Beach over the weekend?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, my understanding and from the pictures this was pretty good. The mayors of the eastern suburbs where the beaches are located were happy. The lifeguards were pretty happy. As I said, Ally, what concerns me is more getting to and from the beaches. I could never find a park in Bondi when I lived in Sydney. So if you're on those public transport, just to reiterate that - wear that mask when you're heading on the beach, on your train or on the bus.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Feels like people are getting it which is a great thing. Doctor, thanks for your time today. Thank you.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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