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

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That's the Federal Health Department's new weapon in the battle to win the hearts and minds of people not following the advice on how to stop the spread of coronavirus. It's aimed principally at young people but it won't screen in Victoria. For more, we're joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, welcome to the programme.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks, Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

This new ad takes an emotive approach to the health messages. What's the thinking behind that kind of strategy?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Conveying risk to people in their 20s in a really hard thing to do. I know I was often immune to lots of public health messages at that age. I think what this does is conveys two important things. Firstly, an understanding that young people will largely have mild illness, but that mild illness can have consequences. And that the consequences can be very, very close to home in terms of your immediate family.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Is this primarily targeted at young people or anyone or everyone who's not following the rules?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it can have an impact on a lot of people. I mean the ads are quite emotive and do hit home with a message, but it's clearly about showing that Australians between 20-29 who have the highest rate infection - 70 infections per 100,000 is the rate -that the virus does spread within the community through the movement of young people. And just that image of the virus fluorescing on people's hands and getting stuck on the urger and the coffee that we've seen in the ad. You know we use those fluorescent techniques in hospital infection control, to show when people have or haven't washed their hands. It's a really powerful image on the virus traversing easily from person to person.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

This isn't just about apathy or complacency or defiance. You mentioned today that young people are also in a precarious employment situation often which could be influencing some of those risky behaviours. How so?

NICK COATSWORTH:

You know I think people have a lot of drivers to have to go to work when they're unwell. It's actually a big cultural change for us to depart from that. People are in casualised (*) employment and they don't often have access to sick leave. Also front facing employment is the case for a lot of young people in the hospitality, the retail industries, that sort of thing. These are risky sort of professions or positions to be in at the moment. So whatever we can do to get the message out there that, you know, get tested quickly. Because as long as we- it doesn't matter if- don't feel guilty if you've got or you're spreading it or whatever, but as long as we know where it is, who's got it and what we're going to do about it. Then we can do what is being done in New South Wales, which is actually keep the numbers, really quite low, single digits for the past two days. That's the message we want to get out to young adults in Australia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So is this an acknowledgement that people outside of Victoria or in states completely unaffected by this second wave we're seeing in Victoria aren't sticking to the health advice anymore?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it is. I mean, clearly we've got images of people- of young people doing what we all do or did.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Did.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, which is going to pubs, having fun, socialising. And that can be done in a COVID safe way. Venues have a certain responsibility to make sure that your contact details are there. But if we take in a priority. What I would say to people listening- young people listening, is don't go out. If you're crook and get tested. Download the app. Because if you do those two things then the contact tracers will find the chains of transmission and shut them down. Then of course the third thing is, if you do go out try, do your best to be COVID safe, acknowledging that, that's not always the easiest thing to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Four people in their 30s are in ICU in Victoria. And three people in their 40s, young people we know have died. Do you think that's resonated at all, these facts?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Those numbers are increasing. They're still small but it's really significant. No one wants to consider that if they're in their 30s, or like myself in their 40s that they could get COVID and end up in intensive care fighting for their lives. But it's a reality we're seeing here now with the second wave. It's a reality we've seen around the world, and it's not a dice that anyone should particularly want to roll.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

What do you make of the numbers in New South Wales and the concern about undetected cases in the western and south west. And is there still the risk of a more widespread outbreak there?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, I think there is. That risk seems to be getting less every day. TO see single digits for the past two days is very encouraging. So it does mean that people in the community are obviously coming out and getting themselves tested. And when we get to that point where we have no unlinked cases, where every case, every day is known where the individual got COVID-19 form, that's when we can all start to breathe a little easier but we're not quite there yet.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Are the non-COVID states testing at the kind of levels they should be?

NICK COATSWORTH:

They are to the extent that, that's possible. I mean we had a very interesting conversation on our Australian Health Protection Principle Committee for Queensland in particular. It's very hard to do lots of symptomatic in Queensland at the moment because no one is actually bringing winter respiratory viruses up into the state. So you can only test as many people as there are actually symptomatic in your state. And that is proving challenging for some of the states.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So should there be wide spread testing that's not symptomatic? Asymptomatic to try and establish whether there might be something else going on?

NICK COATSWORTH:

It's just so difficult to know where to target that. So the proven strategy for asymptomatic testing has been in both New South Wales and Queensland, where you've got these individual cluster or outbreaks and then you test asymptomatic people, who were in the same venue, at the same time. So that's the strategy that's worked. That's uncovered a lot of cases that wouldn't have otherwise been found and stopped them from spreading.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Thank you so much for your time.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth.

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