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

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

Now, we're joined by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth to help us unpack what's happening. Dr Coatsworth, thank you for joining us.

NICK COATSWORTH:

A pleasure, Isabella.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

Can you tell us a little bit about this new campaign targeting young people? Is that because we were seeing young people breaking these lockdown rules?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, look, I mean, it's definitely aimed at young people. I think targeting makes it sound like young people are doing something wrong which I personally don't think. The ads are really interesting. They've got images of young people going about their daily activities. You know, one's a barista, one's cooking dinner, and you can see the virus fluorescing on their hands and touching things and going from person to person, and it ends up with this poor fella's mom on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. And I guess what it's really designed to show is how easily this virus spreads from one person to another, really get that message out that- I think the biggest message from that ad is if you've got any symptoms at all don't socialise if you're crook, and get yourself tested.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

And Dr Coatsworth, from what you're hearing, are young people taking this seriously? Are you hearing about much noncompliance amongst the youth of Victoria?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think the first thing that's really important is that this ad won't actually go out to Victoria at the moment. They're in a very different stage, Stage 4 or Stage 3 as you say, locked down. And so, the ad is really targeted for all those other states and territories where people are enjoying a lot more freedom, and it's just to say that the- you know, the lifting of the restrictions and being able to go out and do more things again, things that we were used to. It's really got to be accompanied by some of those behaviours that we've asked people to do like keeping their distance, washing their hands very frequently. All those sort of things, try to keep those going. But you know, that can be a tough thing. If you're going out for a night out, going to a pub- if you go to the pubs where there's no people, well, the first thing you're gonna do is go and leave and find somewhere that's actually enjoyable to be at. And that might involve people that are desirable that are actually there.

 So, it's more important I think from this ad to recognise that if you're unwell, you're thinking about going out, thinking about socialising, it's actually time to call it a night, come back in and get yourself tested the next day.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

Dr Coatsworth, on the Victoria situation, can you help us understand? We're seeing new infections coming down but we're seeing a record amount of deaths. Can you explain why is that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yeah, Isabella, it's a wretched virus and it's got a number of unpleasant things that happen with it. One of them in particular is that you can contract the virus, be going along fairly well for about- somewhere between seven days or maybe 14 days after you contract it, and then you get really unwell. And that's something to do with the effect of the virus on the immune system. It just switches it on and there's a lot of inflammation going on in the body. It could affect the lungs; it affects the heart. And so, often people deteriorate at that seven to 14-day mark which means that what we're seeing at the moment is actually a reflection of what the numbers were one to two weeks ago. So, unfortunately that number of people dying from COVID-19 could stay relatively high, it might even go higher than 25 over the coming days whilst the total numbers of new diagnoses actually come down.

ISABELLA HIGGINS: As you said, it's a pretty wretched virus and we're hearing that this time around it is affecting young people more than that first wave. Can you tell us why that might be? Is the disease reaching more vulnerable people this time around?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yeah, so I reckon what happened was the first wave was very much international travellers. We- it got brought back but it didn't actually get embedded within the community. This second wave, it's turned up in households, households where there's a range of ages, but often young adults who are in employment, you know, people who have forward facing jobs in retail, hospitality. And so, it looks a lot more like the epidemic that was around the rest of the world where the majority of people who get infected are actually between the age of 20 to 29. It's just hard to sort of imagine that because most of those - not all, but most of those people infected will just have a mild illness. But you know, there are a couple of people who had very severe illness and people who have lost their lives who are of young age.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

Dr Coatsworth, we're getting some texts on the text line from people saying: maybe it might be better for the Government to help support young people who need to keep working despite health concerns. Is that something that's being raised, that young people are going to work while sick?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, it's not just young people, Isabella. It's a lot of people who depend on work and go while sick. And it's- you know, there were years of those ads, Codral ads, saying we should soldier on and turn up to work and just take some Panadol. That's got to stop. And there are measures that the federal and state governments have put in that will provide financial support to people who have to get tested- tested and have to isolate. So those things are there and people should take that opportunity to be supported if they have to test and isolate.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

And for our Victorian friends, we know a lot of them are counting down to that 13 September where lockdowns may be lifted, that six-week mark that we kept talking about, the Stage 4 lockdowns. But does Victoria need to reach a magic number for the government to pull back those lockdowns from Stage 4 and Stage 3 in regional areas?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think what people are going to want to see is that- you know, we talk a lot about the numbers of cases that are still under investigation, 223 today out of 282. That number needs to be way, way down where we really- there's very few cases that we can't link to any outbreak. And that'll be the signal that we can start to relax, or the Victorian Health Department can start to relax those restrictions a bit. We hope that it comes as quickly as possible and we know that the numbers will start to- will continue to fall in the coming days to weeks.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

In that case, is there a case for extending this lockdown? Is that looking like it might be imminent for Victorians?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I reckon we do just have to see. I mean, I'll be honest in saying I don't know what's going to happen to the numbers by mid-September, but there's some pretty encouraging signs at the moment, and we know that that magic- that basic reproductive number, the R number is down at around- probably heading down towards 0.5 based on the data we've got. And so that means that for every one infection, it's only being passed on to another half person or- two infections go to one person. So, those numbers will start to come down because of that very soon.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

And you said this new campaign is really for people in other parts of the country outside of Victoria. Do you have any concerns about the situation perhaps in New South Wales or some of those other states?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I mean, we've definitely got concerns in New South Wales. I think the other states are pretty well under control at the moment. So, it does sort of make people who are going out in New South Wales, young adults who are heading out on the town, heading to pubs, clubs, restaurants that sort of thing, just to have that extra level of caution. And as I said at the start of the interview, if nothing else, if you do nothing else, just remember that if you're sick with a cough, cold, sore throat, runny nose, any of those things, stay in and the next day go and get yourself tested. That's going to be the most important thing, because as soon as those public health contact traces find someone with COVID, they've got a chance of stopping it. But if they don't find them, the people don't get tested, we can't find out where it is.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

And Dr Coatsworth, are you confident this campaign can convince young people to do that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I've had a look at it myself. I had a look at it last week when it was in inception, and I reckon it's a pretty good campaign. Like, to me it's not about blaming young people at all, but it shows how very easily this virus can spread and even the mildest symptoms need attention from young and old alike around the country.

ISABELLA HIGGINS:

We've got a few more texts on the text line coming through. One of them: good to hear the numbers are going down in Victoria. Very, very true. Thank you so much for your time Dr Coatsworth.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks Isabella.

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