Date published: 
8 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Well, joining me now live is Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Michael Kidd. Michael, good morning to you, thanks so much for joining us. So it is quite clearly a second wave, that is taking place in Melbourne now, isn't it?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, it's certainly a very serious surge of infections that we've seen in Melbourne and the lockdown measures, which come into place this evening, of course, are going to affect everybody who's living in the city; this is going to be very tough for everyone in Melbourne. But, I think it's really important to remember the lessons that we learnt the last time the entire nation was in lockdown. The importance of maintaining that social connection, while we're physically distant from the people that we love.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

What is your greatest concern this time around?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, our concern over the past couple of weeks has been the rise in community transmission that we've seen occurring across Melbourne. The first time COVID-19 hit Australia, was largely occurring from people who came into Australia, from overseas and from the cruise ships.

This time, we're seeing very significant community transmission occurring in Melbourne, with those very large numbers that we've seen over the last couple of days. And the importance, of course, of being able to test everyone who has even the slightest of symptoms of COVID-19. And very importantly, then tracing the contacts of those people and people going into isolation. The messages from last time are still as pertinent now, as they were before. The importance that if people have even the slightest symptoms of cold or flu or fever, they stay at home and they arrange to get tested so that we can prevent further transmission from occurring and get this outbreak under control.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

And how much is that going to be complicated, just by the ordinary flu season?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, the fortunate thing is that people have been very proactive in being immunised against influenza. We've had record numbers of people being immunised right across the country, and that includes of course, the people who are most vulnerable to influenza who are also the people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. We're actually seeing very low levels of influenza, right across Australia and in part, of course, this relates to the physical distancing measures and the hand hygiene and the cough and sneeze etiquette, which the vast majority of Australians, including those in Melbourne, have been adhering to.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Michael, this thing was under control, you know, and the irony is here that, Victoria had some of the strictest measures that were in place. So, who or what is responsible for this? When did this thing turn? Was it the Black Lives Matter marches? Was it the security of the hotel or was it peoples' mindset that just relaxed and just changed when restrictions just started easing?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I think these issues are very complicated and there are a number of factors which have contributed. We've heard from the Premier about the genomic sequencing, which has linked at least some of the cases that we've seen in Melbourne, to those breaches in infection control at two of the hotels where people were being quarantined, and that of course, is now subject to judicial review.

I think the entire nation felt a sense of relief, when the Stage 3 restrictions were lifted the first time, right around the country. The vast majority of people, as I've said, continued to adhere to the measures which were protecting us all. But I think that what we've seen happening in Melbourne, over the last few days, has come as a real jolt, if no surprise, to many people right across the country and it reinforces for us all just how infectious COVID-19 is. And of course, how serious this is when it gets into people who are very vulnerable to serious illness from this disease.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Are you expecting clusters in New South Wales in the coming days?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, certainly measures have been put in place, with the border now closed between New South Wales and Victoria. But the message is just as important for people in New South Wales and in the rest of the country. If you have even the slightest symptoms, please stay at home please arrange to get tested. There may be further cases that occur in other parts of the country; we've seen that happen over the last week, as people were moving from Victoria to other places around Australia. So, the messages are just as important, for everyone outside of Victoria.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So, it might be too late right? So, there may well be travellers from Victoria who've gone to New South Wales. And for the last few days, possibly even weeks, have been spreading?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, we've always said that we expect to see continuing outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring across the country, as we live in a world where COVID-19 is raging, in many parts of the world. So, the measures, as I said, are just as important in other parts of the country.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Should masks become mandatory?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Certainly, the AHPPC continues to look at the global evidence around masks and the applicability, in Australia. What we've always said is that where we have significant community transmission, the use of masks may be appropriate, especially for people who are vulnerable to COVID-19. And when people find themselves in situations where there is crowding and physical distancing may not be possible. The situation we have in Melbourne is significant community transmission. So, people in Melbourne may well feel that they feel much more comfortable and safe wearing a mask, when they're outside of their homes at this time.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Why not just make it mandatory? I mean, it's not that hard to get. It's not that hard to wear. It's not that hard to put on. Why not just make it mandatory across the board?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, of course, if people are maintaining physical distancing and they're outside and they're exercising or they're travelling to work or to school, they don't need to wear a mask, as long as they are adhering to the other measures which are in place. But it's particularly when people find themselves in a situation where the physical distancing is just not possible, that masks come into their own, when we've got community transmission.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But particles from a breath and from a sneeze, can travel more than one point five metres, right?

MICHAEL KIDD:

That's true. Or when people are speaking very loudly or singing, you can get particles travelling. But, again, this is the importance of people maintaining that physical distancing, being aware of your surroundings, aware of who is near you and who is not. Of course, in Melbourne, many people now will be in isolation in their homes and the risks, of course, are greatly diminished.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay. Well, there's a lot of talk now that restrictions are in place about schools. What's your position on that at the moment? Should we go back to remote learning? Are schools safe? We're often asked that.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So, what we've heard from the Premier of Victoria is that the school holidays will be extended by a week. For most students in Melbourne and in other parts of our state and the issue about what will happen with the schools 10 days from now, is being determined by the health authorities and the education authorities in the state.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Are you satisfied that the medical systems and the medical equipment that has been in place for the last few weeks, is enough to handle the influx that may well emerge now? Especially in Melbourne.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Australia is very well prepared, when it comes to our hospitals, when it comes to our intensive care units and the availability of ventilators. We've been in the fortunate position of now having many months, in order to prepare. Our health personnel are very well trained and are ready to look after and provide absolutely optimal care, to people who find themselves, with a disease related to COVID-19. In addition, support is being provided by other states and territories and by the Commonwealth to boost the workforce in Victoria, as required.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay, Michael Kidd. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you.

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