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

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:

New saliva tests will be rolled out in Victoria today to help avoid further COVID spikes. The state has now followed New South Wales in implementing extended quarantine periods for return travellers who refuse to be tested. Those arriving from overseas will be swabbed using the conventional test on day 11 of their hotel isolation; if they refuse, they will have to stay for a further 10 days. The saliva tests will be carried out in hotspots as well as hotels from today.

And for more, I'm joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. Good morning to you, Nick. Is it time for another city-wide lockdown in Melbourne, will that stop these further spikes?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the important thing is, Edwina, that the Victorians have taken unprecedented measures, going door to door in some of those affected local government areas to communicate with people in the community who might be at risk. So, it's important that we take time to see what the effect of those measures have been.

Premier Andrews has been very clear that further restrictions based on local government area may well be on the cards, but it's very important to see what the effect of those measures has been. 49 cases in Victoria in the past 24 hours, and we'll see what they have to announce today, but they really are doing a magnificent effort down there to get this under control.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:

Some returning travellers are refusing to be tested, it sits at about 30 per cent, which I think is a figure that shocked a lot of people. Now their quarantine period will be extended if they don't take the test, but should that have been the policy in Victoria all along?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the Victorian policy was nation leading, it was in fact the Victorians that had the early test, the day three test, and then the exit test at day 11 or 12, and that has been adopted now as a nationwide policy. People had refused, that's true, but there hadn't been any cases of COVID-19 that were transmitted because someone had refused a test. Now, of course, if you- you have the choice to say no to a test before you leave quarantine, but you'll just have to stick around in quarantine for another 10 days.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:

There's also new test, this new saliva test. Is it going to be as accurate as the current nose and throat swabs?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, the important thing about the saliva test, it is still the same PCR test in the laboratory. By the time it gets to the laboratory, run exactly the same way as the nose and throat swab, it's just a more comfortable specimen to be taken of course. It's slightly less accurate than the nose and throat swab. Look, I've had the nose and throat swab, Edwina, and whilst it's uncomfortable for about 10 seconds, it's not that bad. It's still the preferred way of getting the specimen; but if it's something that you really don't want to do, then a saliva test is an option.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:

And particularly for kids, they're saying too. Let's talk about the app, the COVIDSafe app, only working a quarter of the time for some devices. Has it been a waste of money, can it be successfully used to track this Victorian outbreak?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Oh, it's definitely not been a waste of money, Edwina. When we released the COVIDSafe app on 26 April, it was functioning then and it's gone through stages of iterative improvement. So, some of those issues have been and are being ironed out. The importance of the COVIDSafe app is that it is being used in Victoria at the moment - I've spoken to Professor Sutton about it, it's an important part of the workflow down there.

But the reality is that our contact traces are so good at the moment, that during their initial phone conversation with the affected patients with COVID-19, they're picking up most of the contacts. There's about on average 10 contacts per patient. And they're picking up the same contacts as the app, so that just means they're doing a fantastic job.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW:

There's certainly a lot of good work being done. Thank you very much Dr Nick Coatsworth for joining us.

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