Date published: 
13 July 2020
Media event date: 
12 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MONIQUE WRIGHT:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth joins us now from Canberra.

Good morning to you, Doctor. Thanks so much for your time.

One death, 216 new cases in Melbourne yesterday Channel Seven that is down from the day before. We understand that this is all new, but what is your modelling showing you? What are you expecting to happen and how this will play out?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Mon, we know from the previous outbreaks in February and March that the social distancing measures do work. As difficult as they are to have imposed upon the citizens of greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, we know that when the movement decreases, the spread of COVID-19 decreases. So, we do anticipate a plateauing of infections in the coming days, perhaps over the next week, but we shouldn't be surprised, equally, to see a few increases in the coming days as well. Because that will represent infections that occurred a week or so ago.

MATT DORAN:

Dr Coatsworth, really interested in your insights into what contract tracing has revealed with regards to the source of this second wave. As you've mention, it is a source of great frustration in Victoria and beyond. What percentage, do you know, of the outbreaks could, for example, be traced back to the Melbourne hotel quarantine security debacle versus perhaps, you know, more widespread, you know, community issues where they are not socially distancing?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Matt, you know, it's a really important question, and I can understand why Australians –particularly Victorians – are asking it. I think from a public [audio skip] perspective(*), it's going to be very difficult to determine exactly how many infections resulted from the infections control breach in hotel quarantine.

We know it occurred. We know it's been remedied. We're now conducting a review Australia-wide into hotel quarantine to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's likely that there was community transmission cases at a very low level still going on as well. So, what we have to do now is deal with the outbreak as it is at the moment, move forward, actually get those cases under control, get those numbers under control, and make sure it doesn't happen again.

MONIQUE WRIGHT:

Doctor, I just want to ask you about remdesivir, this drug that has been approved as Australia's first COVID-19 treatment. That is for the most severe cases. It's not a silver bullet, but you know, it's at least something.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

It is. It is, Mon. Whilst we say it's the first approved for use in COVID-19, that's because it's only use is for COVID-19. There are other drugs that are available, including the common steroid dexamethasone, which likely has more of an effect in improving the situation of severe COVID-19 than remdesivir does. However, remdesivir does reduce the length of stay. It's likely to reduce severe adverse events, and that's enough for us to say that for patients who need it in hospital, when the clinician decides they need it, we'll make it available.

MATT DORAN:

Well, good news in this space is rare, so we'll certainly take that for the moment. Doctor, New South Wales on high alert this morning as more cases are being linked to the Sydney pub. We look at Victoria, and we're very, very fearful that we may see it replicated elsewhere in Australia. What's your view?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, my view is that it's not just the New South Wales Government and public health authorities that should be on high alert. All citizens of New South Wales and the ACT need to do their bit by getting tested if they're unwell.

Those 5 cases that have emanated from the pub in Casula is obviously a concern. Three of those, I understand, were household contacts and were already isolated when tested, so that's a bit of good news. And the New South Wales public health unit, of course, very adept at rapid response down into Liverpool, getting pop-up clinics, making sure people are getting tested and doing the contact tracing that's necessary to stop what's happening in Victoria happening in New South Wales.

MONIQUE WRIGHT:

It's interesting, because of what's happened in Victoria, I think is freaking out the rest of the country to some degree. But we're still seeing these incredible breaches of social distance. At the Sydney rugby match yesterday, you know, social distancing was, you know, non-existent. How complacent do you think people are becoming in the rest of the country.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Mon, it is such a difficult balance for people, and the message needs to be this: as we lift restrictions and as you can do more, that doesn't mean that [audio skip] social distancing gets less. And there's a responsibility here – it's twofold. For the promoters, the providers, the pubs, and the clubs, if there's people lining up outside your business that are not socially distanced, that's your problem as much as anybody else's. And for people who find themselves in those lines, that is not safe. And if you find yourself in those situations, exit from that situation. Or distance yourself. They're important messages that we just keep having to hammer home. So critically important at this time.

MATT DORAN:

Doctor, just while we've got you, we've seen Donald Trump wearing a face mask in public for the first time. Are they images that, I guess, fill you with hope that others will now, sort of, follow suit and do the same thing?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think people down in Victoria are the ones that I'm concerned about, and obviously we made that clear recommendation that community transmission had got to a sufficient level in Victoria last week that we recommended mask-wearing in the community. There's been lots of purchasing of medical masks, of cloth masks. The Victorian government will make those available also in due course. And that is great news because we need to do everything we can now to be able to slow down that transmission in Victoria, including mask-wearing where we can't socially distance.

MONIQUE WRIGHT:

Yup, just makes sense. Well, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, thank you so much. It's always great to talk to you.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you.

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