Date published: 
7 September 2020
Media event date: 
6 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

This is the national COVID-19 update with figures as of noon today. In the past 24 hours 76 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia, this is down from 83 new cases yesterday. It brings the total number of people who've been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia to 26,279. Sadly, another five deaths have been reported, all in Victoria. This brings the number of people who've died from COVID-19 in our country to 753. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19, and especially on this day with those who've lost beloved fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers.

Over the past 24 hours there has been one new reported case in Western Australia, in a traveller from overseas who is in hotel quarantine. There have been two new reported cases in Queensland which are both locally acquired, and both contacts of a confirmed case. There have been 10 new reported cases in New South Wales - four of these are overseas acquired and those people are in hotel quarantine; and of the other six cases all were locally acquired with four contacts of a confirmed case and two with the contact not yet identified. And there have been 63 new cases in Victoria, which is down from 76 new cases yesterday. The continuing and sustained fall in numbers is a positive and very welcome sign.             

Nationwide there are now 311 people with COVID-19 in public and private hospitals, which is 16 fewer people in hospital than yesterday, and again this is a very welcome sign. Among the people who are currently in hospital there are 26 people in intensive care units and 20 people on ventilators. Over 6.6 million COVID-19 tests have now been carried out across Australia, with 47,000 tests carried out yesterday. Please continue to get tested if you develop symptoms of fever or respiratory tract infection, wherever you are in the country.             

We've seen the Victoria plan released today, and the Commonwealth has received details of the modelling behind the plan and will be considering this overnight. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Health will be responding in more detail tomorrow.            

I express my concern for the people living in Melbourne and Victoria who have today received the news that the restrictions will be for longer than expected - I know this is a very worrying and challenging time for you all. We know that many people will be concerned about their businesses and many people will be concerned about their mental health and wellbeing, and the mental health of their loved ones as the restrictions continue.             

I note that Professor Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne, and one of the authors of the modelling used in Victoria, has indicated that with improved contact tracing the current timeframe out of lockdown could be accelerated. The Commonwealth stands ready to provide further assistance with contact tracing in Victoria, which is now arguably one of the most important tasks in Australia, if not the most important task. We know that it is essential that every single case of COVID-19 is being followed up every single day so that we can prevent further transmission and stop the spread of COVID-19. New South Wales has shown us a model of high performance contact tracing which is keeping community transmission in that state at a low level.             

The response in Victoria is a response that is not just protecting the health of the people of Melbourne and Victoria, but is also protecting the health of all people in Australia. Victorians have overwhelmingly risen to the challenge so far and will continue to do so. As a Melburnian and as a Victorian, I'm proud of you all. But I also know that many people will be feeling anxious and isolated, many will be feeling angry and frustrated and negative, and some people will be feeling depressed and despondent. It may help to recall what we all came to understand during the early periods of lockdown - the importance of staying connected with each other, even when we are physically distant.           

You have established your own ways to cope with this situation. In addition to staying connected with your friends and your loved ones, please try to keep to a daily routine which provides you with some sense of control over your daily life and the situation, and remember to do things at home each day that you enjoy. A reminder about the mental health support services which are available through BeyondBlue, through Lifeline, and through other mental health support providers across the country - and you can also reach out to your local general practitioner using Telehealth.

If you're in an isolation and are feeling anxious or distressed, please reach out for support. If you have medical symptoms that need attention, please don't neglect them, please contact your GP using Telehealth. And please look after your neighbours, especially those who are elderly and those who are isolated and living on their own. And if you're based elsewhere in Australia please reach out to your loved ones and your friends in Melbourne to offer your support and your concern for their wellbeing. Nobody should feel that they're alone at this time.

Thank you, and I'm happy to take any questions. Claire, would you like to go first?

QUESTION:

On Friday the National Cabinet was presented with definitions of a hotspot for metropolitan and regional areas. Now, no jurisdiction's signed up to that. What is the value of that definition at the moment if no one is respecting the guides that the AHPPC has set out? And what were they based on [indistinct] the public health response? And what are the measures?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So, I'm not sure if you can hear the question. The question is particularly about the hotspot definition, and would we like to see that applied particularly for children who are attending boarded- boarding school and living in other states where there are restrictions to their movement. And clearly we, of course, we're concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of young people during the pandemic, and the difficulties that some young people are having, of course, returning home because of restrictions or the quarantine requirements if they do cross across state borders. So, we hope that those young people of course will be able to get back home to their families and we hope that the states and territories continue to look at the ability for people to do so. Can I move- on the line, I think I have Tamsin.

QUESTION:

Hi. Yeah, thanks Professor. I just have two questions if that's alright.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Sure.

QUESTION:

The first one, Victoria's changed their curfew rules - today it's going to change from eight o'clock to nine o'clock, which I'm sure is going to be welcome news to some people who like an evening stroll. But, just for the- from a health perspective, what is the purpose of a curfew during a lockdown?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So, the purpose of the curfew - obviously the curfew is a decision by the Victorian Government - the rationale behind it, I understand, is to reduce the interaction between people and the potential for COVID-19 to be transmitted between people. As we know, the purpose behind all the restrictions is to reduce the bringing together of people and the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

QUESTION:

Great, thank you. And just secondly, you touched upon mental health - obviously that's going to be a massive concern in Victoria now. What kind of modelling does the AHPPC do in terms of looking at the mental health impact? And weighing that against other further restrictions?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the AHPPC is very concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of people who are living under the restrictions, as indeed, we're very concerned about physical health and wellbeing because we know that some people have been delaying seeking medical help and assistance for physical health problems, and also for mental health problems. It is important that, as I've said earlier, that people, if they are experiencing mental health concerns, are reaching out for support. The Commonwealth has provided a very significant increase in the funding to provide support for mental health services, especially for people who are living under the restrictions. Can I move to Daniel? Daniel, are you there.

QUESTION:

Sorry. Damien from 7News, Sydney.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Damien.

QUESTION:

Michael, thank you for your time. Two questions from me as well if I can?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Sure.

QUESTION:

Just in terms of your reading as it sits at the moment on how we're travelling in New South Wales at the moment. We've had 15 cases over the weekend -known sources for all of them except two. How do you see New South Wales tracking at the moment?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So how do we see New South Wales tracking? New South Wales obviously continues to have these very low levels of community transmission but is- the public health response in New South Wales is incredibly vigorous with a lot of testing occurring, very rapid contact tracing. As I mentioned before it's so important that when we do have a new case of COVID-19 that the contacts of that person are contacted very quickly and those people are put into isolation and arrange to get tested as well so that we can reduce the risk of further transmission occurring. So it is heartening to see that even though we do have a persistent low levels of community transmission in New South Wales, this is at the moment has been kept under control.

QUESTION:

My second question was just in relation to occupancy rates in aged care homes. At the moment I see data around that they're now at a 10-year low - 89 per cent of old people defer moving into these homes after the COVID scares we've seen in recent times. Just your reaction to that data please

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So it's not a surprise that people may be delaying moving into residential aged care. We know that there's been a boost for home based aged care services in many parts of the country to allow people to stay longer in their own home with support being provided to them, and of course family members also as an essential part of providing additional care and support to their loved elderly family members. Do we have Melissa.

QUESTION:

Yeah, thank you. I'm just wondering if you can give us an understanding of how the virus reacts different? Or is transmitted in different scenarios. Can you give us a comparison of the likelihood of contracting coronavirus in a retail environment? Compared to say a restaurant or a school? What are the comparative levels of risk there?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So that's, that's quite a complex question so I'll try to- try and give a very rapid answer though too. Look, clearly people need to be adhering to all the measures which we all know about so well to reduce the risk of transmission, and to reduce the risk of, of ourselves becoming infected with kind of at 19 - or if we are infected to reduce the risk of us transmitting to other people. The different settings depend on whether people are able to maintain that 1.5 metres of physical distancing between other people, and obviously in different settings that becomes more challenging. Obviously in areas where we have significant community transmission - and right across Victoria we have people wearing face coverings, wearing masks, again as part of the protection to reduce the risk of transmission occurring. And so really it depends on the physical situation in each of those settings, Melissa.

QUESTION:

Well perhaps if I could just ask a narrower question then would it be. Would it be fair to say that a restaurant where you tend to be sitting down and near people for an extended period of time is a higher risk than say a retail store where people tend to come in and get something and leave in a shorter period of time?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, certainly limiting the amount of exposure time to somebody with COVID-19 reduces the risk of transmission. So, so you're correct - if someone is moving in and out of a retail store and is doing that very quickly, that is different to when somebody is sitting down in an area - particularly if that area is crowded. But it is still absolutely essential that people are maintaining the physical distancing between each other in whatever settings they may be in. Thanks Melissa.

QUESTION:

Thank you.

QUESTION:

Yeah. I have two if that's okay?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Sure.

QUESTION:

You mentioned that the Commonwealth is ready to assist Victoria with more contact tracing. I have a concern here they're tracing roughly the same as New South Wales, but as a whole there are, you know, obviously a lot more unknown cases. Is that your main concern there, given the exponential risk? And what extra assistance could you provide? And would that require Victoria to ask for it?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is about contact tracing. Clearly with contact tracing we are concerned where there are new infections which are being picked up and we cannot immediately link those to known outbreaks or to people who we know have been infected already, with COVID-19 and this of course is the work that the contact tracers are doing - reaching out to the contacts and reaching out to make sure that people are getting tested and going into isolation. This of course is also where the COVIDSafe app comes into its own and can assist us with, with boosting the contact tracing. What we've seen - the Commonwealth support to the contact tracing in Victoria has now been running for quite some time particularly with Australian Defence Force personnel who are supporting contact tracing, and also contact traces both here in Canberra. But also in other states and territories have been assisting their colleagues in Victoria with some of the burden of contact tracing that we've seen. We have had announced that there's going to be more automation of the contact tracing process in Victoria, and that is very welcome because it'll assist hopefully in speeding up the process as well.

QUESTION:

Just asking on hot spots. You've taken- the AHPPC has taken this definition to Cabinet. The leaders have agreed to the concept of having the definition, though not accepted the definition that you've provided. What is the next step? And do you expect that that 10 cases and nine cases over the three-day rolling average will be changed to get the other states on board and agreeing with that definition?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the questions about AHPPC and the hotspots - whether we may change the 10 cases and three cases model. Clearly through the AHPPC we continue to look at the world's best evidence of responding to COVID-19, and both looking at what's happening across Australia but also what's happening across the world. And, as you will have seen, we have modified our advice over the last six months based on new evidence which comes forward. So we'll continue to look at the evidence, and that will continue to inform our recommendations to the National Cabinet. Thank you everybody, and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

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