Date published: 
2 August 2020
Media event date: 
1 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

Good afternoon everybody. My name is Professor Michael Kidd here at the Department of Health here in Canberra. This is the national update with the figures as of noon today. In the past 24 hours 416 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. While this is more than 235 fewer cases than we saw reported yesterday, it is too early to know if this is part of a sustained reduction in the number of cases of COVID-19. Over the past week we've seen 3,352 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in our country. To date 17,280 people have now been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in Australia. Ove the past 24 hours 397 of the new cases were in Victoria. 17 new cases have been reported in New South Wales, 3 of these were overseas acquired and those people are in hotel quarantine and 14 cases were locally acquired. We've seen one case in the Northern Territory which was locally acquired and related to inter-state travel and we've seen two cases reported in Western Australia, which we understand are recovered cases involving people who were infected with COVID-19 in the past.

Sadly we have passed another milestone today with the announcement that we have had 200 deaths reported in Australia, with four new deaths reported in the past 24 hours. Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy. And these are real people not statistics. The first death from Australia from COVID-19 was exactly five months ago on 1 March, with the death of Mr James Kwan, aged 78, from Perth. Mr Kwan had been a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On May 19 Mrs Alice Bacon, aged 93, and a resident of Newmarch house was the 100th person to die from COVID-19 and today reports that 200 people have died in our country. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and with their family members and friends who grieve their loss. The people who have died in the past 24 hours were aged in their 50s, 80s and 90s. Nationwide there are now 399 people with COVID-19 in hospital, which is an additional 33 people hospitalised since yesterday and this includes many people who have been moved from residential aged care facilities in Victoria. Among the people in hospital there are now 50 people in intensive care units, which is six more than yesterday. And there are 28 people, reported to be on ventilators which is one more than yesterday.

Thank you to all our health care teams, especially in Victoria who are providing excellent care to those people who are in hospital and especially to those who are seriously unwell. Over 4.3 million COVID-19 tests have now been carried out in Australia and over 63,000 tests were carried out yesterday. New South Wales Health has today reported that the COVIDsafe app has assisted in the identification of an additional 544 people who attended the Mounties Club in the Western Sydney suburb of Mt Pritchard around the same time as a person who had the app downloaded on his phone. This includes at least two additional people who have now been confirmed as having COVID-19. This identification of these contacts and the identification of people who are infected COVID-19 could literally have prevented a spread of serious outbreaks of cases as we have seeing at the moment in Victoria. This is a timely reminder of the importance of the COVIDsfe app in assisting in the tracing and the identifying of the contacts of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. As well as identifying the people you do know, the people who share you're home and workplace, the COVIDsafe app can also identify people you do not know. People who may have been sitting at a nearby table when you were in café or restaurant, people who may have been standing or sitting beside you on a aircraft, on a train, on a bus or a tram. People who may have been standing in a queue, in front or behind you in a supermarket. If you haven't yet done so, please joining with the 6.8 million Australians who have downloaded the COVIDsafe app, and please make sure that if you have the app on your phone that it is running on your phone and please take your mobile phone with you every time you leave your home. The COVIDsafe app is part of the armamentarium which is being used to protect us all. It may assist in alerting you if you're exposed to someone with COVID-19 and in doing so will protect the health of those you love.

Now is the time for everyone in Victoria to go harder and ensure that everyone is following the restrictions that are in place. While community transmission numbers stay high, this is a risk to all parts of the community. Every time we have hundreds of cases in a day, this will be a risk to more lives over the coming week or so. We remain very concerned about the amount of COVID-19 cases in aged care facilities in Victoria. Every case of COVID-19 in an elderly person or in a person working in healthcare or aged care is cause of grave concern. The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is now coordinating the work with aged care facilities without breaks in Victoria. The Australia Defence Force personnel are supporting the response centre both on the ground and in making sure that we are connected and coordinated across governments. We have AUSMAT personnel who are also in the field including wonderful nurses and also logisticians who have flown into Melbourne from other parts of Australia to assist in the outbreaks in Victoria.

We have received disturbing reports that some people with COVID-19 who have been told to isolate in their homes have not been at home when health personal have called around to see how they are doing. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home. You may not leave your home for any reason. Anyone who leaves their home is making a life or death decision on behalf of other people. If you know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, whether it is a family member or a friend and they are in home isolation, please reach out to them on the phone, please offer your support, please drop around supplies on their doorstep, please also reinforce to them that they must stay at home. This can be the difference between continuing the spread of COVID-19 in Australia and containing the outbreaks that we're seeing at the moment.

To those in Victoria in lockdown, a reminder to please look after your own physical health and your mental health. Your healthcare does not stop just because you're in lockdown. Please if you develop a new symptom that is worrying you or if you are receiving continuing care for a chronic condition or if you feeling anxious or depressed, please reach out to your GP, please reach out to your regular healthcare providers. You can use Telehealth using the telephone or using a video call to make an initial contact with you GP and then if necessary a face to face consultation. Attending your GP or other Healthcare providers or your local pharmacy to pick up your medication is an accepted reason for leaving your home during the lockdown. But please call ahead to make an appointment, please wear your mask whenever you are outside your home and please maintain physical distancing when travelling to appointments or when you are in waiting areas.

Finally, I want to end by acknowledging the work of Dr Tony Bartone who today has stepped down and ended his term as the national president of the Australian Medical Association. I've had the privilege of knowing Tony for many years, and we've worked closely especially over the last six months. As a general practitioner working in the north-west suburbs of Melbourne, Tony has experienced firsthand the impact that COVID-19 is having on his patients and his community. Tony has ensured that the AMA has not just been an advocate in their work with government but has been an active partner in working with government to tackle the epidemic. Tony Bartone has been magnificent and tireless in his work to support the health and wellbeing of the people of Australia and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

The new president of the Australian Medical Association is Dr Omar Khorshid and the new vice president is Dr Chris Moy. Minister Greg Hunt and Dr Brendan Murphy have both contacted Omar to pass on their congratulations on his election. As a past president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, I know how hard the leaders of our professional organisations work and the great work which they do in support in the people of our country. So thank you to all of our health care professionals across Australia and a special thanks to the leaders of our associations, colleges and societies.

Thanks you very much, I'm happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Firstly, can I just clarify, you mentioned those WA cases. Are you saying that those people have been re-infected with Coronavirus. What did you mean by your mention of them?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is about the cases reported from Western Australia. These are what we call historic cases. So these are people who have probably had COVID-19 in the past, they are not infectious at the moment.

QUESTION:

And just from a health point of view, when you talk about the fact that some people are not complying with the need to self-isolate after they've tested positive, do you think there's a case for some kind of real time monitoring of those people electronically so that it can be ensured that they don't go out into the community?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is whether we should have some form of electronic monitoring of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to ensure that they stay in their homes and do not go out into the community. So this is an issue for the government in Victoria. The vast majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are doing exactly the right thing. They're staying at home, they're in isolation, they're staying at home until they're told by the health authorities that they're no long infectious and no longer a risk to other people. Unfortunately, we have seen though a number of people that have breached the isolation orders whether we need to move to additional measures and we have seen additional measures used in other countries to monitor people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 is something that we will need to consider in the days ahead.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it on a Saturday. You mentioned at the top there about the COVIDsafe app, picking up hundreds, or helping to pick up hundreds of extra contacts of those two positive cases. What sort of milestone is this for the app and what does it say about how it actually functions in Australian society? Is it now doing what it was anticipated it would do?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question is about the COVIDsafe app and the hundreds of additional people who have been tested as a result of the contacts which were picked up through the use of the app, whether this is a milestone in the use of the app and whether the app is now doing as it should be dong. The app of course has been used by the contact tracers in states and territories across the country now for many months. The report that came through and I talked with one of the senior leaders in New South Wales Health earlier today about this particular person who'd had these contacts picked using the app is very important because of the community outbreaks which we are seeing, the community transmission that we're seeing in New South Wales. And the large number of people who may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 who have now been reached out, been tested, and now in isolation and the positive cases which have been picked up. This is really important. This is the app doing exactly as it was designed to do. The app of course, will be even more effective the more people who download the app onto their phones. So please if you have been delaying that decision about downloading the Commonwealth COVIDsafe app, please do so over the weekend and then of course, take your phone with you whenever you're out of the home.

QUESTION: 

Professor, sorry if I could just ask one other one. In relation to Victoria, what is the medical advice at the moment as we sit now, just before 4 o'clock Saturday about further restrictions?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question was in relation to Victoria and the advice about further restrictions. As Premier Dan Andrews has said, the AHPPC has been meeting over the last couple of days with of course, including our colleagues from Victoria considering what additional restrictions if any may be required in Victoria in relation to the response to the outbreaks that we're seeing at the moment. That advice has been provided and of course will be considered by the Victorian government as they follow the trends in the numbers which are reported over the days ahead.

QUESTION: 

In terms – just going back to the COVIDsafe app, it has had some success as you've noted. Is it being used more by tracers since the Victorian outbreak?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. Well from a Commonwealth level we don't actually have the oversight as to what's actually happening with the app because the app is only allowed to be accessed by the contact tracers in each of the state and territory health departments. So we do get occasional reports from the health authorities from the states and territories telling us what's happening. But we don't have a day to day overview of what's happening with the app.

QUESTION:

New South Wales has recorded several cases this week that can't be sourced, how much of a concern is that?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is about the cases in New South Wales, where a source of infection has not been able to be identified and how much of a concern is that? Clearly that is a serious concern every time we have a case where we are unable to trace it back to see who infected who in the train of transmission. And the authorities in New South Wales have been doing an extraordinary job over the past weeks in working very assidulously to create those links between each of the cases. And then of course we were able to identify where the people who have been infected have travelled, the venues and facilities which they may have been in and then we were able to do further contact tracing with the people in those areas. If we suddenly have a case that appears and we don't know what the links are then it makes it impossible until we are able to identify those links to be able to go back and work out who needs to be contacted, who needs to be isolated, who needs to be tested. Again this re-enforces the value of the COVIDsafe app because if the app is downloaded on the phone of someone who we don't know what their links are. By working through the contacts on their phone with the COVIDsafe app, we can start to identify some of those links and work out where the source of infection has been.

QUESTION:

What kind of federal intervention additionally is needed or what more could be done to address the outbreaks in Victorian aged care from a health perspective?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So what additional measures can be done to support the work which is being done to tackle the outbreaks in aged care in Victoria. So over the last week we have seen the establishment of the Aged Care Response Centre which commenced operations just on Monday of this week, six days ago in Victoria. This is a joint endeavour between the Australian government and the Victorian government working closely with many other organisations and with the aged care providers and facilities in Victoria to tackle each and every outbreak when as it occurs. And as we've seen very rapidly, we've seen the deployment of clinicians, we've had the involvement of the Australian Defence Force personnel, we've had a lot of additional people going in to provide support, particularly where we've had to have staff who have been in contact with people with COVID-19 taken out of the workplace. So making sure that we get continuity of care for the residents. We've had the transfer of many residents out of aged care facilities and into hospital facilities, particularly those who have been unwell and unable to be cared for in the residential aged care facility, which is their normal home of course. We've seen improved contact with the family members, loved ones of residents in many of these aged care facilities. We've seen a big boost in the provision of personal protective equipment out into residential aged care settings right across Victoria. So there's been a very rigorous coordinated response over the past five days and that will continue to grow over the days ahead as we get each and every one of these outbreaks under control.

QUESTION:

What else do you think is perhaps needed here, I mean looking forward. Do you think it's going to be additional medical staff or defence staff, is it a supporting role? What do you see as the next steps that will need to be taken?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So what are the next steps that need to be taken in tackling the aged care response. So fundamentally the next step is the step that everyone in Victoria takes, and that is adhering to the restrictions that are currently in place. The restrictions that are protecting everybody and which are there to stop the spread. The tragedy that we see with community transmission of COVID-19, and we've seen this in countries all around the world is once you start getting community transmission, you start getting cases in residential aged care facilities, you start getting cases among other elderly people in the community, among people with chronic disease, the people who are most at risk of serious consequences of COVID-19. So these measures are measures that we all need to be taking. At the same time, we've seen a real boost in the number of defence force personnel, particularly clinicians who have moved into Victoria. We've seen the magnificent nurses and logisticians who have come in from other states and territories to support the outbreaks in Victoria and work alongside their peers. This is a very strong concerted effort between everybody involved and it's to protect the health and wellbeing of our most senior residents.

QUESTION: 

If you would you just allow one more, sorry. The advice has been handed we understand to Victoria, so what does it recommend to reduce the spread?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the advice has been handed to Victoria is the question. What does the advice recommend on the spread? I'm sorry, that is advice which will have to wait and hear from the Premier of Victoria as he considers the advice which has been provided. Thank you all very much and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

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