Date published: 
4 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, joins us from Canberra. Doctor, thanks for your time. We've been told there's no Plan B. How much is riding on this?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Alli, this is a hugely significant measure and I know people have said what happens after afterwards, but what we have – if it doesn't work – but what we have to remember is that we'd already got to a point where the basic reproductive number was about 1. So, on average, 1 person was infecting 1 other in Melbourne. But those numbers were too high; stubbornly high at between 6 and 700, and so these really significant measures have to be put in place but they will bring the basic reproductive number down.

It's just the way the virus works and what we need to do now is, over the next 1 to 2 weeks, get some runs on the board for Victorians. I think, when I talk to my friends down there what they want to see is numbers going down; some sign of that hope and what we know is that with those movement restrictions that will happen.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Talking of movement restrictions, there has been a little bit of heat put on the travelling between Melbourne and Sydney at the moment via plane, and then going into voluntary accommodation and quarantine. Do you think that that's wise that people are still coming in and doing it on a voluntary basis?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think you know, that's– it's Australia's busiest travel corridor. There are reasons why people still need to travel and, by and large, they're dealt with individually by state health officers. So the amount of travel though, Karl, has significantly decreased – of course it has – just like the movement in Victoria now, so it's far less of a risk. But provided those people stay in home quarantine then that risk is mitigated. Yeah.

ALLISON LANGDON:

That's the issue though, isn't it? We're relying on people to do the right thing and unfortunately we've already had too many examples where people don't think the rules apply to them.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Alli, I agree. We are relying on the whole community – that's what combating COVID-19 is all about. What can we do when people don't obey the rules? Well, you know, there's significant penalties; there're criminal – people end up with a criminal record – Alli, they could end up in jail. So anybody who's contemplating that sort of thing, you just got to ask yourself, is it really worth it both for you personally and for the whole of the Australian community?

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I know, people just seem to have a real problem, don't they? Some people. I mean the majority of people are doing the right thing but some people seem to have a real problem.

I noted with interest last night on A Current Affair, when you were talking to Tracy, about some of those trigger point numbers that you're looking for in the next couple of weeks. For Sydney though, and for Brisbane – to a lesser extent Brisbane – but for Sydney particularly, what are you hoping to see there before they look at greater restrictions?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I'm hoping to see the numbers go in the right direction and then get it under control of course. So the concern becomes when there's unlinked people, people who don't have an obvious link to someone else who had COVID-19. And by and large that's being kept at around about 1 per day in New South Wales, which of course is a phenomenal effort for the public health service.

If that starts to increase, that's a concern. We've already seen though for regional outbreaks even that they can be brought under control as was the outbreak in Bateman's Bay. So it all depends on the context, the location of the outbreak, and, how many of those unlinked community cases there actually are.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. So just in relation to that, and sorry for my very rudimentary questions, but for a layman looking at this from the outside what do we see to know that those restrictions have got to come into play?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well they're never rudimentary, Karl, they're really important questions. And it will be listening to the Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant obviously, because she's got the closest eye on this. But what we don't want to see is when we start getting more and more cases of unlinked community transmission.

The reason we don't have a number on it is because if they are all in a single place then you think you've got a fair chance of locking down the transmission chains. And I know it's difficult when we don't give a number, a threshold, but it's because the public health units have to make that decision. But if that number is increasing, it's a concern.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And just very quickly I want to talk about Queensland before you go, because I think it was about this time last week we we're really concerned. There were the 2 young girls who crossed the border, they travelled through a lot of different businesses. To see zero new cases recorded in Queensland yesterday, how relieved were you?

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Well I think we just have to be really careful how we calibrate that relief. I love seeing zero new cases in Queensland, so does Janet Young, but we need to wait for several weeks before we can come off alert.

And that means as an individual in Queensland, we still need to get tested. If we're unwell in those – in that south east Queensland area or indeed across the whole of Queensland – if we've got friends and family who are unwell and they haven't got tested, get them out there to get tested. That's what's going to keep those case numbers under control.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Nick, thank you so much for being with us again today. We appreciate you're working a lot of hours and our audience really appreciates it.

DR NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks, Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thank you.

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