Date published: 
22 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Well for five days in a row now the number of coronavirus cases in Victoria has risen. And joining me now is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth. Doctor, good morning to you, thanks so much for joining us. So what is driving the spike?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Peter, there has been an increase in numbers in Victoria as you pointed out. There's four outbreaks which are largely driving this, they're- individually, they're of quite a small nature but collectively they have led to an increase in the number of cases that Victoria is reporting. They're largely centred around households and it really just demonstrates how easily this virus can spread within a close knit, non immune community.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So it is basically- so the Victorian Government is right in saying that basically, too many people are having house parties? Or going to houses? And that's where this is gaining momentum.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yeah. I think the important thing is that when we know what the origin of the outbreak is that we communicate that clearly to the Australian community, so that then they know exactly what they need to do to avoid it. And so we know from worldwide that households are a particular focal point of spread and that's no exception in this situation. But it doesn't sound like anyone was doing anything wrong, they were just getting together after apart - so this is the sort of thing that may happen.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So is the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, right to wind back those restrictions?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think the Victorian Premier's had a lot of briefings from his Chief Health Officer, of course, and has taken that particular approach which is to restrict the number of people within a household to five - and that is certainly in response to the household based outbreaks that they're seeing at the moment.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

And is that something that you would support?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we certainly supported at one point several months ago a restriction to the number of people in households - so that's entirely consistent with previous AHPPC advice when numbers started to increase. But that's a very targeted measure and we'll see how that goes in the coming days to weeks.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Doctor, I was around in Sydney and regions outside of Sydney on the weekend and just noticed that people aren't paying attention to social distancing. Queues of people, you know, stuck together closely. People, you know, assembling in groups in parks, in beaches, whatever. We have become complacent, haven't we?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Peter, I think what's happened is that we've confused the lifting of restrictions on what we can and can't do with a licence to go back to our normal behaviours - and I stress they're two different things. If we can have larger gatherings, if we can go to the pub, that's one thing - but we can't stop washing our hands, keeping our distance in crowds, not going out when we're sick, that sort of stuff simply has to continue. Because if we do go back to our previous way of life then we will see increases in the number of cases - there's no doubt about that.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But you have seen that complacency out there?

NICK COATSWORTH:

We've certainly seen people not quite adhering to that social distancing that we would recommend, and as I said, I think that's because there's a confusion perhaps with that lifting of restrictions compared to keeping the behaviours going - so we want to make that distinction loud and clear.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Does the COVIDSafe app actually work?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Absolutely the COVIDSafe app works. The COVIDSafe app is detecting people's contacts at a distance of one point five metres for 15 minutes or more and it is being used by the disease detectives and the contact tracers in the community. And certainly it's operating as we intended it to do so.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Right. Okay. So it is helping you track down people, and trace them, and be able to contact them - it's happening as it should.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, that certainly is happening. By and large the contact tracers are so good at their job that they're finding a lot of the cases that the, the contacts that the app is finding anyway. But certainly if the app identifies that wouldn't have otherwise been identified by the contact tracing, that's where it's going to have its true value.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

A lot of talk about the borders at the moment, Doctor. When it comes to Victoria would you be advising against travel to Victoria given the increase in coronavirus numbers?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So there's some very specific advice that's come out of the AHPPC yesterday about travel and that relates to six local government areas in Melbourne where we're strongly encouraging people who either live in those areas, or are planning to visit those areas particularly on the school holidays to defer their travel. So - and this is consistent with what we're likely to see, Peter - when you have small geographically localised outbreaks, we'll be making this sort of advice and recommendation to defer travel.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

We had quite an admission from the World Health Organization - whatever you make of the World Health Organization at the moment, Doctor - but it has now reported the last day increase in virus infections - 183,000 new cases in 24 hours, numbers are increasing in 81 countries. What's your view on those numbers?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So these are absolutely critical statistics, Peter, with the number of COVID-19 cases really heading north worldwide. Which really just serves to prove that we are still in a non-immune population worldwide, we're still in the middle of a pandemic. And what I would say is to encourage all Australians to look to see what's happening overseas, remind ourselves that we're still in a pandemic, and we still need to maintain our behaviours as we have done to keep that virus from spreading.

PETE STEFANOVIC:

Okay. Dr Nick Coatsworth, as always appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you, Peter.

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