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

MICHAEL KIDD:

In the past 24 hours, 337 people have been diagnosed as new cases of Covid-19 in Australia. This is a significant reduction since 10 days ago, when we reported 747 new cases. But tragically, we've seen another 19 deaths reported in the past 24 hours in Victoria. This is the single highest number of deaths in a single day from COVID-19 in Australia and brings the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in our country to 313. It's only 10 days ago that the number of people who've died from COVID-19 in Australia passed 200, and now we've passed 300. This, of course, is an agonising day for the members of the 19 families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 today. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives and with families and friends and other loved ones.

The deaths that we've seen today, of course, reflect the high levels of community transmission which we saw seven to 10 days ago. As community transmission continues to fall, we hope that we subsequently see a fall in the number of people who pass away. Over the past 24 hours, 322 new cases were reported in Victoria. Fourteen new cases were reported in New South Wales; one of those cases was overseas acquired, and that person is in hotel quarantine. The other 13 cases are locally acquired. And there's been one new case reported in Queensland, again, overseas acquired, and that person is in hotel quarantine. Twenty-one thousand, three hundred and ninety-seven people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. There have been 3152 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last seven days. Over 12,000 people are reported to have recovered from COVID-19 in Australia.

Nationwide, we now have 664 people in hospital, both private and public hospitals; that's an additional five people hospitalised since yesterday. Among the people in hospital, there are 54 people in intensive care units, which is four more than this time yesterday, and 39 people are reported to be on ventilators. And over 4.9 million tests have been carried out right across the country, and thank you to everybody with symptoms who is arranging to get tested to make sure we can bring COVID-19 under control. We are seeing the first promising signs of a sustained reduction in daily numbers of cases, but it is too early to be certain. We need to follow the numbers very closely over the coming week. While it's heartening to see the declining number of cases being reported each day from Victoria, and we've seen that over the past five days, while we still have hundreds of cases being reported each day, we will continue to have people admitted to hospital and people becoming gravely unwell. And sadly, some of those people will die. We will also continue to have significant risk of COVID-19 infection affecting senior Australians receiving care in both residential aged care facilities and in their homes. This is the tragedy of COVID-19 and the tragedy of the high numbers which we've seen in Australia over the past few weeks. COVID-19 has been having a devastating effect in several aged care facilities. The people affected are much-loved parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and the dedicated staff who provide excellent care and support to the residents each day. Even the best run aged care facilities are susceptible to outbreaks of COVID-19, and this is because you can have staff and visitors to the facility who are infected but who are not showing any symptoms. People can introduce the virus into aged care settings and spread can start to occur before anybody knows that this has started to happen. If an infected staff member has no symptoms, even the strongest screening processes introduced at the front door of the facility may not be able to prevent coronavirus from getting inside. The only absolute way to prevent possible outbreaks of COVID-19 in our aged care facilities is to control community transmission. The Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne are achieving this control of community transmission across the city. Contact tracing also continues to be essential. We must ensure every new case of COVID-19 is being followed up every day, and I acknowledge the work of our colleagues in Victoria in ensuring that this happens.

But everyone has a role to play in bringing down community transmission and keeping the levels down. And this means adhering to all the COVID-19 restrictions in your state and continuing to physical distance, continuing to practise good hygiene, continuing to wear a mask where you're instructed to do so, and continuing to stay at home and getting tested if you have any symptoms, no matter how mild. We're also very concerned about the reports of cases of COVID-19 among colleagues working in healthcare and aged care settings in Victoria. It's imperative that people have access to the personal protective equipment they need to do their job safely and to have access to support from colleagues to ensure that they're using the personal protective equipment appropriately. The Commonwealth will continue to meet all requests from states and territories for masks, both surgical masks and respirator P2/N95 masks. The National Medical Stockpile now has over 280 million surgical masks and over 70 million respirator masks. To date, over 14 million respirator masks have been distributed by the Australian Government to states and territories, especially to Victoria, as well as to general practices and other community-based health settings through the nation's primary healthcare networks.

Thank you. I'm very happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, if I can just take you back to the death toll, you were saying we went from 200 deaths 10 days ago to over 300 now. Given the rise in cases we've seen over the past two weeks in Victoria, what would you expect to see with that death toll in the coming weeks?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I don't want to predict what is going to happen. But we are now at the end of the first week of this stage four restrictions in Victoria. And so what we hope we will see over the coming week is the number of new infections each day, which will continue to decline. As I say there is a 7- 10 day lag between the daily reports of numbers of cases and people dying, some people sadly die very early in the course of COVID-19, but for many people it is a week or more after they have been infected that we see people who are gravely unwell.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, why is it the AHPPC is only provided the aged care sector with specific advice on just three occasions over the course of the pandemic and why did it take six weeks between 19 June when it said restrictions on visitor access could be loosened and 3 August to update advice to the sector despite the skyrocketing number of cases in Victoria over the same period.

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question, just for those who can't hear it, is about the advice provided from the AHPPC to aged care facilities. And the period of time when that advice was being provided. Can you repeat the last part of your question?

QUESTION:

So why did it take six weeks between 19 June when it said restrictions on visitor access should be loosened and 3 August, to update advice to the sector despite the skyrocketing number of cases that were sort of booming in Victoria at that point?

MICHAEL KIDD:

And a question about a delay of six weeks between providing advice earlier when restrictions were coming off, and then increasing those restrictions again.

So the AHPPC meets every day and continues to look at what is happening in the pandemic right across Australia. Obviously we are all very concerned about what has been happening in residential aged care facilities. The guidance provided by AHPPC provides advice, of course, to the National Cabinet. But there are many other mechanisms which are in play in determining what the response is to what is happening in the aged care sector. This, of course, includes the establishment by the Australian government and the Victorian government of the National Aged Care Response Centre, which has now been running for two weeks and is working very hard to make sure that residents in each of the affected aged care facilities in Victoria are being met. And that family members are being advised about what is happening with their loved ones. The advice that is produced by the AHPPC, once it is cleared, goes up in the Australian government website; health.gov.au. But of course the advice which is being provided in jurisdictions is the advice people need to follow. And the advice on what happens in aged care facilities in Victoria, of course, has been in place since we started to see the rise in community transmissions. On the phone, we have Nour.

QUESTION:

Thank you, professor. I did just have a number of questions. Firstly we- the Aged Care Royal Commission have been told that these are the Commonwealth Health Department nor the aged care regulator had a specific plan to deal with infections in the aged care sector. Given we knew quite early on through international cases that elderly people are most at risk, why wasn't there a plan specifically for that sector?

MICHAEL KIDD:

I'm not sure if people could hear the question, but the question is a report that the aged care commission has been told that the governments did not have plans in place for the aged care sectors in response to a pandemic. Actually, every residential aged care facility in Australia under the accreditation requirements is expected to have infection control measures in place and to have plans for when a pandemic occurs. And, of course, in the past we have seen the influenza pandemic, which occurred a decade ago, and so this is the base of the plan, which each of the residential aged care facilities had as a basis for when COVID-19 first appeared in Australia. And, of course, ongoing advice was then provided about the specifics needed for dealing with this particular infectious agent. Do you have a further question, Nour?

QUESTION:

Yes, I do just have another question. The AMA wants a nationwide policy for healthcare workers dealing with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to wear N95 masks or P2 masks. Do you agree with that?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question is the AMA has put out advice; calling for all healthcare workers across the country to be wearing respirator masks when working with people with COVID-19. Or are suspected of having COVID-19. Is that correct Nour?

QUESTION:

That is right.

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the advice that has come out from the AHPPC is very clear. This comes from the infection control expert groups, which are the experts in infection control in the country, who have come together to provide advice to the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The advice is that people should be wearing masks, of course, in areas of community transmission, and wearing respirator masks in circumstances where people are working with people with COVID-19. So I have to have a look at the advice that the AMA has put out and see if there is any difference between that and the national advice.

QUESTION:

Thank you.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Do we have any additional questions?

QUESTION:

Just further to what Nour was asking about; what was said in the Aged Care Royal Commission today, are you refuting that there was the gap between when the advice was given? Because that was said in the Royal Care Commission today and obviously that's going to be a key concern for people in aged care, the AHPPC was potentially not providing advice to the aged care sector. And earlier you mentioned the advice was on the AHPPC website, are you relying simply on aged care providers going to the website to find that advice?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question is about advice given to the Aged Care Commission today. I'm sorry, I'm not across the testimony which has been made to the Aged Care Royal Commission today so I am not able to provide further responses there. One more question?

QUESTION:

Yes, thank you, Professor Kidd. I'd like to ask about medicine prices. The new five year pharmacy agreement, signed by the Commonwealth and the Pharmacy guild, how does this protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for medication and how are those five charges warranted?

MICHAEL KIDD:

I'm sorry, the question is outside the terms of reference of the press conference we're giving today. I will have to get back to you with a response on that. Thank you, thank you very much and thank you, thank you to our interpreters. Thank you very much.

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