Deputy Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 1 September 2020
Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd's press conference about COVID-19 on 1 September 2020.
This is the National COVID-19 update. In the past 24 hours, 85 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This brings to 25,819, the number of people who've been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in our country. There are currently 2,700 active cases of COVID-19 infection in Australia. Tragically, another five deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours - all in Victoria. This brings the number of people who've died from COVID-19 in Australia to 657. This remains a terrible time for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, and my thoughts are with those who've lost their loved ones.
Over the past 24 hours, 70 of the new cases were in Victoria. There were 13 new cases reported in New South Wales. Two of these were overseas-acquired and those people are in hotel quarantine. The other 11 cases were locally-acquired. And all contacts of confirmed cases or linked to known clusters. We've also seen two new cases reported in Queensland which are currently under investigation.
In the past week we've seen 771 new cases of COVID-19. This compares to the week before, when we saw 1,288 new cases. The week before that, with 2,076 new cases. The week before that, 3,040 new cases, and the week before that, 3,465 new cases. This has been a dramatic fall in the number of new cases over the past month as a consequence of the restrictions in place, the state wide response and the personal actions of the people of Melbourne and Victoria.
Nationwide there are now 450 people in hospital with COVID-19, which is 31 fewer people than this time yesterday. And among those in hospital, 26 people are now in intensive care units.
Over 6.2 million tests for COVID-19 have now been carried out. In Australia. There were over 41,000 tests carried out in our country yesterday. But it is essential that testing continues around the country and that people do not become complacent. If you have symptoms, no matter how mild, please arrange to get tested, then isolate at home while you wait for your results. Even with the consistent fall in new diagnoses, contract tracing remains essential. We must ensure that every new case of COVID-19 is being followed up every day. And I acknowledge the work of our colleagues in Victoria to ensure that this is happening, and the support being provided by contact tracers around the country. We remain very concerned about any cases of COVID-19 in aged care services. It's heartening to see the decline in the number of cases among residents and staff of aged care facilities in Victoria.
The Australian Government yesterday announced more than half-a-billion dollars of additional investment to increase support for the aged care sector's response to COVID-19. This includes funding for enhanced infection control capability in every aged care facility in the country including an on-site clinical lead in infection control. Funding will also support aged care workers to reduce the number of people working across a number of residential aged care facilities. And funding will also improve communications with families and improve visitation arrangements. All these measures will enhance both the quality and the safety of our nation's residential aged care facilities and our home care services for the elderly.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the sacrifices which have been made and which continue to be made by people across Australia, but especially by the people of Melbourne and across Victoria. There is hope on the horizon but we cannot afford to become complacent. Thank you, and I'm very happy to take any questions. I think I have on the phone Dana?
Yes, thanks very much. The Aged Care Minister yesterday announced that the new extended funding for providers would have a condition attached that they would have to employ on-site infection control officers. However, there hasn't been any timeframe given to that requirement and I haven't seen any materials where providers have actually been advised that they have to do that. Is that actually- is that going to happen, and why is there no, sort of, concrete requirement? Is it because of staffing issues, workforce issues? Is the concern that there won't be enough specially-trained staff to actually perform those roles?
Thanks Dana. So the question is about yesterday's announcement and the requirement that every aged care facility have an on-site clinical lead in infection control to make sure that we are enhancing the infection control capability of each of the aged care facilities but also to ensure the protection, obviously, of every resident and every staff member and the visitors going into aged care facilities across the country. Dana, the details are still being worked out about how this is going to be operationalised in each facility across the country. It is important to note, though, that this is required to be someone who is actually on site. It can be a clinician - so a clinical lead - who has expertise in infection control, who takes the ownership and the responsibility for infection control in each of those facilities. We'll wait and hear further details of exactly how this is going to be operationalised over the coming few days.
Can I move to Claire?
Yeah. Thanks, Professor Kidd. On aged care, I have two questions. One is, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission stopped doing unannounced visits to sites during the pandemic based on health advice that it would be a risk of spreading infection. So did the AHPPC give that advice? And how was it not possible that the regulator was able to conduct these important visits in a COVID-safe way?
And secondly, are you convinced that relying on phone and online surveys for those critically important checks during the pandemic were sufficient given the failings that we've seen later in July and August?
Thanks for that, Claire. So the question is about the temporary cessation of on-site visits by visitors from the Quality and Safety Aged Care Commission and about the surveys being carried out. Look, it's absolutely essential that we continue to learn from what's happened in the aged care facilities, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, throughout the pandemic. We've had a lot of additional learnings particularly through the establishment of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre - established now a month ago now between the Commonwealth and the Victorian Government to oversee what was happening in the responses in all the facilities where COVID-19 cases were diagnosed amongst staff and/or residents over the past month. It is really important that continued accreditation happens. I'm not aware of the AHPPC being asked for advice about whether there should have been any cessation of visits by the visitors from the Quality and Safety Aged Care Commission. It is important though, as you're alluding, that visits do take place in person so that people are able to see for themselves that each facility is doing everything that it can and should be doing to protect the health and wellbeing of the residents in those facilities.
Do we have any further questions? No? No? That's great.
Yes. I actually had another one, if possible…
[Talks over] One more?
Sure Claire. Yep.
With the extra funding announced yesterday, it did include more money going towards ensuring that workers aren't moving between aged care facilities, extending that from eight to 12 weeks. The Minister said that the Government doesn't track that movement of staffing in terms of real-time data. Is that something the AHPPC would work on? Or how can we be sure that workers are not moving between facilities and increasing that infection risk?
Thank you. So the National Cabinet has established a subcommittee of the AHPPC, the Aged Care Advisory Committee, which has started meeting over the past week and is looking at a whole range of measures to improve the safety of all of our residential aged care facilities and other aged care services across Australia, and the issue of the movement of workers between sites is one of the issues which that group will be assessing.
Thank you, everyone. Thank you very much. And thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.
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