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

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Now, Victorian health authorities are hoping a new non-invasive saliva test being rolled out today will mean more residents in hotspots agree to getting screened for coronavirus.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth joins us now from Canberra. A very good morning to you, doctor. These world-first saliva tests, how accurate are they?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, they are nearly as accurate as the nasal swab, Ally. I mean, the thing to remember is once it gets to the laboratory, it's the same test, it's a PCR test. This is just a method of collection that is obviously more pleasant and tolerable than having the throat and the nose swabbed, particularly for children where it can be very difficult when you have to do those nasal swabs. I've had the COVID-19 swab now a couple of times, it's not that pleasant, but then again, it's only about 10 seconds. The nasal swab and throat swab remains the best specimen that we can get, but if people really don't want to have that specimen, we'll do the saliva test. And the Doherty institute and the Melbourne public health labs are monitoring the results very closely to make sure they're comparable.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Well 30 per cent of Victorians returning to the State have refused any test for COVID-19. I mean, how on earth is that an option considering we've had to shut down the entire country?

NICK COATSWORTH:

David, the first thing to say is that the 14 days' quarantine is so effective that even amongst those people who refused a test on exit, there hasn't been any onward transmission of COVID-19. The second thing to say, of course, is that Victoria have been the leaders in introducing day three and day 11 test for quarantine, and now we're making sure that people still have the option towards the end of quarantine, if they refuse a test, they don't have to have it, but they'll be staying in quarantine for another 10 days.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And you've got to think that's going to ensure that people do take it up. But we've been told, Doctor, this spike that we're seeing now, that it's just been referred to as outbreaks, not a second wave. What does a second wave look like exactly?

NICK COATSWORTH:

So, second wave is an interesting term, it's not really a public health term but one that was applied to the Spanish flu, where there was a noticeable decrease in the number of cases and then they increased worldwide with increased mortality, increased hospitalisation. So if anything, worldwide we're still in the first wave, and in Australia, we're just seeing a localised outbreak, within a city, within local government areas. So it's different to what we would think was a second wave. This is [audio skip] sort of outbreak situation we knew we were likely to have with the amount of COVID-19 that's around in the world at the moment.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Obviously it's very natural for people to want to point fingers and the blame game starts very early in this. First it was the protesters, then it was families, and now the finger's pointed at young people in Victoria. What measures are you trying to make to make sure, in this case, young people and millennials treat this seriously?

NICK COATSWORTH:

David, the first thing to say is that it is critically important that we don't blame during COVID-19. Each outbreak is different. You have the cruise ships outbreaks, you've now got outbreaks in younger communities, and it's important that we understand the outbreaks to get them under control, but there's no case where there is a hospital or aged care facility or in the community to be apportioning any blame.

We need to engage young people, we need to remind them that even though they're less likely to be severely affected, they can still be severely affected, but most importantly, passing it on to their parents or grandparents could be fatal. So it's critically important that young people practice - I'm talking about young adults - practice the same sort of social, physical distancing and excellent hand hygiene that we've talked about for so long.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Doctor, we saw 49 new cases confirmed in Victoria yesterday, 41 the previous day. How confident are you that the steps being taken now, with the military being called in, door-to-door testing, how confident are you that within a week or two weeks' time, we'll be on top of these outbreaks?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Ally, those numbers are of genuine concern to all of us, which is why we have supported the Victorian Government, why senior public health professionals are being sent down there and the Australian Defence Force. The measures they've put in place are really unprecedented. Door-to-door communication with communities in those affected Local Government areas, being able to switch that on with the rapidity that they have is going to make a really significant difference to getting things under control. So we are confident that those measures they're putting in place will bring these numbers down. And we are obviously very interested in the coming days to see if there's any early effect we can see from those measures.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Alright. Dr Coatsworth, thank you for your time this morning.

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