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

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Now, as we said on the news Victoria is experiencing a steep increase in new coronavirus cases, recording 75 fresh cases in just one day.

ALLISON LANGDON:

What's even more concerning only one case came from hotel quarantine, meaning the rest are spreading within the community. We're joined now by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd. A very good morning to you.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Good morning, Ally. Good morning, David.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Now, to hear numbers have skyrocketed yesterday, just how alarmed were you?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So we're obviously very concerned about the situation which is happening in Victoria, but we're also very heartened by the vigorous response which we're seeing in Victoria with the blitz in testing, particularly in the Local Government Areas which have been designated as hotspots; the very extensive contact tracing which is currently underway. And as you are probably aware, the Commonwealth has committed 200 Defence Force personnel to assist with the response in Victoria. And just overnight the Commonwealth has agreed to send an additional 800 people down to Victoria to support both with the increased testing, but also that very important contact tracing so we make sure we are picking up everybody who is infected with COVID-19, making sure they're in isolation and quarantine so that we can stem the infections from occurring and spreading further.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Well Professor, we are being warned it will get worse before it gets better. So what are you planning on here? What numbers?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So we're not projecting what numbers are going to happen. Obviously we want to see as much testing occurring as possible. So it may well be that we see further days like we saw yesterday, with the numbers of people being diagnosed. That is a good thing, it means that we are picking up the people who are infected and then we're able to do the contact tracing. Obviously as contact tracing becomes more and more extensive the potential is to pick up more people. One of the challenges with COVID-19, of course, is that some people may not have any symptoms but many people have very mild symptoms. And that's why it is so critical, especially for people in Melbourne, that if you or a member of your family has even the most mildest of symptoms of a cold or a flu, please stay at home and please arrange to be tested and stay at home until you get the results. It may not be COVID-19, but it's really important that we're picking up everybody in Melbourne at this time.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Professor, as you know, last time we saw numbers like this in the early stages of the pandemic, most of them were return travellers – they were picked up in hotel quarantine. You've now got what we're looking at is COVID-19 spreading throughout the community. So has the horse bolted? And why are we not talking about- or seriously talking about locking down these hot spot suburbs?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So as we live with COVID-19 of course we are expecting continuing outbreaks to occur. And of course, we're not seeing the transmission occurring that we saw before the borders were locked down between Australia and the rest of the world – this is a different pattern. But we're very prepared for this with the blitzing that we're seeing in testing, and the contact tracing, and making sure that people are in isolation or quarantine if they're infected or while waiting for results. So this is part of the new normal which we'll be living with as Australia and the rest of the world continues to adapt with COVID-19. So obviously, each day we need to follow what's happening with the situation here in Melbourne. The AHPPC is meeting every day, getting briefings from the Chief Health Officer in Victoria, and Victoria obviously is continuing to manage this response. The response is very vigorous and totally appropriate.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

These new saliva tests that are being rolled out, we know Victoria is the first in the world to use them. They're cheaper, maybe easier for some people – we know the original COVID tests are uncomfortable for ten seconds – but they're not as accurate. So why use them?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, so clearly there are some people where it is difficult to do the gold standard test which are the throat and the nose swabs – and this may be particularly in very small children or in elderly people. The other thing about the saliva test, and particularly when you're doing testing of very large numbers of asymptomatic people, is there is less personal protective equipment required for people who are carrying out the testing, because obviously someone is not testing by putting a swab in somebody's nose and throat, they are handing over someone a cup which a person spits into. So we're looking at this very closely. Of course, the saliva tests have only been rolled out over the last couple of days, we're very keen to see how useful they are, and the results which come out from these tests as well. So we're following it closely.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Professor, what went wrong here? How is it we find ourselves in this situation now?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So I don't think anything has gone wrong. I think that what we've seen is people of course with COVID-19 continuing to come into Australia, Australians being repatriated from overseas. We now have the 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving into Australia all over the country. It appears that there may have been some breaches of infection control in some of those quarantine hotels and then some of those workers going back to their families. So it's really important that we all remain vigilant, that we cannot afford to let our guard down. We are dealing with a very serious infectious disease.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Are you worried about an outbreak north of the border? In New South Wales?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I'm worried about outbreaks occurring in all parts of Australia. But if we do get outbreaks occurring in other parts of the country, we will see the same vigorous response that we've seen happening in Victoria over the last week.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And Professor very quickly, the Queensland Premier will make a decision on borders today. You never wanted them closed. Does the outbreak in Victoria change that?

MICHAEL KIDD:

That's a decision obviously for the Premier in Victoria [sic] and her advisers.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Alright. Professor Michael Kidd, thank you for your time today. Good luck.

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