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

DAVID KOCH:

Live now to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. Nick, good to see you again. The virus has claimed 25 lives in the last day; why are the numbers so high when actual cases are going down in Victoria?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Kochie, this is such a wretched virus, and it actually gives you more severe disease in the second week of infection, people can deteriorate quite rapidly. And so, I think what we're seeing at the moment is an effect of the high numbers of cases a week or two ago. The reality is, I think we have to be prepared for those numbers to exceed 25 in the coming days. What we do know though, is that now that the total number of cases are coming down, that with time, the total number of people losing their lives every day will also come down as well.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay. So what does your modelling show that Victoria will get it under control? How long away are we?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, we know, definitively now, that that basic reproductive number, the number of people that get infected from one other person- original person, is now less than one. And what we think's going to happen is that the movement restrictions will drive that down to say, 0.5 or 0.6, and when it gets down to that number, then the numbers will fall quite quickly. But it's still early days, Kochie, I think we've only just seen the inflection point where we're heading down the other side of the curve.

DAVID KOCH:

Can you ever eliminate it? What are we learning out of New Zealand?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it's extraordinarily difficult for us to truly eliminate this virus. Even though we are an island, there's always possibilities as they're coming in. The most important thing is that we don't have undetected community transmission, that we know where COVID is, who's got it and what we're going to do about it. And to have that, we really need those cases, case numbers down around about where they are in New South Wales.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah. So, case numbers in New South Wales, is that, if you like, a definition of managing it well? Is that sort of learning to live with it?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think they're doing extraordinarily well in the New South Wales Public Health, but also the community. Kochie, we rely so heavily on the community to come out and get tested when the Health Department asks them to and when they've got symptoms. That's how we find out where the virus is, and we can break those transmission chains, put people into quarantine. That is how you get control of the virus and live with it.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah. Federal Government has launched a new advertising blitz, reaffirming how easily the virus can spread, as you've been explaining, and how severe the impact is. Why is this especially important for young people to see?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it's so critically important for young people in- around Australia - but particularly those who aren't in Victoria, this ad won't screen in Victoria, it's obviously a different situation down there. But everywhere else where we're out socialising, which is fine, Kochie, but we've just got to remember how easily the virus spreads. And that imagery of that fluorescent virus going onto a hamburger or your coffee, and then you're acquiring it, and then the next thing, your mum's in ICU, I think that that's a pretty powerful image to send to all Australians, not just young Australians.

DAVID KOCH:

Yep, absolutely. And it reinforces, we've all got to take personal responsibility on this. Queensland's border is expected to remain shut until there's no community transmission in Victoria and New South Wales, how realistic is that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think it's certainly a realistic proposition in New South Wales at the moment, that target is going to be a long way away in Victoria. I respect the role of the Queensland Premier and Chief Health Officer to make that target. What I think we do need to remember though, is that there's people on border towns that really need medical care, amongst other things. So, any time we have a border closure, those two states on either side of the border need to work really hard to make sure that medical care is being given in the right place at the right time, for people who don't have COVID.

DAVID KOCH:

Are they doing that?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, they know it's an issue, but we still hear on a daily basis that, whether it's the South Australian border or the Queensland border, that there's people who are finding it difficult to access their traditional medical care, which often times in those border towns is across the border. It needs to be an absolute priority.

DAVID KOCH:

Dr Nick Coatsworth, always appreciate your time. Thank you.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID14114, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officer-interview-on-sunrise-on-18-august-2020)

View contact