Deputy Chief Medical Officer interview on The Project on 28 June 2020

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth's interview on The Project on 28 June 2020 about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Well, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, is here hopefully to make some lemonade. Nick, millions of us bought into this app but it hasn',t found anything beyond what the manual contact tracing has. Is it time to replace the COVIDSafe app with this Google and Apple collaboration?


Well Lisa, absolutely not. I’ve bought into the app, I continue to buy into the app, I think it's a great platform. What your intro just stated there was simply that our manual contact tracers, our disease detectives are really excellent at their job, that at the moment they're performing as well as the COVIDSafe app. So I think that we need to focus on the fact our IT is always going to be a part of an augmenting process of our usual contact tracing methods.

I spoke to Brett Sutton, he absolutely assured me that the app is within their workflow. He’s mentioned it publicly. The app is going to identify cases, eventually, that haven't been determined by the contact tracers. As for the Apple Google app, it fundamentally changes the locus of control, it takes out the middle person and the middle person is the contact tracer, the people who have kept us safe. There is no way we're shifting to a platform that’s going to take out the contact tracers.


But Nick if, as you say, the manual approach is so good and it has captured everyone, including anything that the app might have captured, is that just a case of saying we may as well go with that then? That's the most effective way to track this down?


Well, it's always going to be the fundamental part of that, of the contact tracing. That— what the disease detectives provide is that personal experience, that experience in talking to people on the phone, letting them know exactly what it means to have been a case, and what a contact means, and doing that sort of interview. But, as the numbers increase, Peter, if the numbers were to increase then the contact tracing app comes into its own as an important adjunct.

So we've had very few cases, and we've been able to trace — it’s approximately 10 people per case that you end up contact tracing, and the contact tracers have that well in hand. But they're using the app just to make sure, just to make extra sure that no-one else has been a potential contact.


Nick, we know community transmission is really driving the numbers in Victoria. How confident are you that they're going to be able to get on top of this?


Joel, we're really confident. Victoria's done some incredible things during the epidemic. They tested 160,000 people in 2 weeks. The fact they managed to roll out a door to door communication program last week, which was operating in 53 different languages using information technology to assist, and really that sort of logistic effort that the Victorian Government, the public health unit have done, gives us every confidence that we're going to bring this under control. We know absolutely that there are going to be outbreaks, and this is going to be a world leading example of how to get on top of an outbreak in an urban centre.


Doc, these hotspots in Victoria are pretty troubling. At least we know where they are. So, why haven't we locked down those local areas?


Well, Susie, they are a genuine concern. I think the Premier, Daniel Andrews, was very clear today when he said that all options were on the table but they wanted to see what the effect of their blitz on testing and tracing, their blitz on communication — which, as I said, has been phenomenal — what effect that has before any further decisions are made and that's a reasonable and proportionate approach to take.


As always, thanks very much, Nick. Appreciate it.




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