Deputy Chief Medical Officer interview on The Project on 3 August 2020.

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth's interview on The Project on 3 August 2020 about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Well, Deputy CMO Dr Nick Coatsworth is on the frontline of Australia's fight against COVID-19, and he joins us now. Nick, do you think these measures will be enough to turn things around for Victoria?


I do, Carrie, and there's a good reason for that. They are severe restrictions on people's movements, and the virus doesn't move, of course. People carry it around. We've seen that these measures have been successful in New Zealand. It is- you know, my heart goes out to Victorians who have to experience this. It's not going to be easy. But I can tell them, if it's some reassurance tonight, that we're confident that this will decrease that basic reproduction number well below one and start to get this under control.


I hope so, Nick. You mentioned New Zealand there. They started their lockdown with a fifth of the number that we have and it took four weeks, I think it was, to get that under control. Is six weeks ambitious given the numbers that Victoria is starting with?


I think six weeks is a pretty reasonable target. At the moment, obviously, it's very hard to see what this will do until we've had the measures in place for one to two weeks. And we will start to see numbers becoming under better control. Do we need it to be perfect before we lift restrictions again? We just need it to be- we need to know where COVID is in Victoria, who's got it, and what we're going to do about it. And once we know those things, and we know those things essentially on day one of diagnosis, then we can move towards relaxing things a little bit.


There's going to be a lot of people in the next six weeks beyond losing their livelihoods here. That's going to impact them in all sorts of horrible ways. As health experts dealing with the pandemic, do you weigh up the mental health costs associated with pulling triggers like this?


We absolutely weigh up mental health costs as well as a whole range of other costs. This is going to have a significant mental health impact. It's going to have impact on other non-COVID related health outcomes. We have to remember that we can still keep in touch with each other. We can do the same thing as we did in the first wave. It's going to be harder this second time around, but we have to use telehealth to be in touch with our GP. We have to avail ourselves of the mental health services that are available. And for those people in our community who we know are isolated because they're our neighbours, we need to reach out to them and make sure that they're okay. We have to do all those things.


Nick, you mentioned New South Wales. A couple of the other states, South Australia, two new cases today; New South Wales, 13. South Australia has brought in some more restrictions, and New South Wales is now talking about masks. Is South Australia jumping too quickly, and should NSW actually make mask-wearing mandatory?


You know, this is the fine balance that Chief Health Officers have to weigh up. Now what is South Australia doing? Well, they've had about nine cases in the past ten days, I think. And they're reducing the number of people in household gatherings. That's a critically important measure that all of the Chief Health Officers have recognised from the Victorian experience as an important way to limit spread early on when you've got low numbers of cases.

From the New South Wales perspective, I think the PM had his mask on, I think it was, today. We're strongly encouraging it. Why do we strongly encourage and not mandate it at 13 cases? Because when you mandate mask use, you have to have a whole enforcement apparatus around that. What we New South Wales people to do, particularly in Sydney, is to get used to wearing masks now in public places. It is something that people need to get used to. It is a cultural shift for Australians. It's time to do it in New South Wales to help limit any further spread.


Well as always, thank you for helping us unpack it all, Nick. Thanks for your time.


Thanks, Carrie.


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