Date published: 
14 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

… In the past 24 hours, 55 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This is in the context of the global pandemic where over 28 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. And this brings the number of people who've now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in our country to 26,565. Sadly, another nine deaths have been reported, all in Victoria. This brings the number of people who've died from COVID-19 in Australia to 797. Globally, over 900,000 people have now lost their lives to COVID-19. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19.

Over the past 24 hours there have been two new cases reported in Queensland. Both locally acquired and both contacts of a confirmed case. There have been 10 new reported cases in New South Wales. Six of these are overseas acquired and these people are in hotel quarantine. Of the other four cases, all are locally acquired with three contacts of a confirmed case and one with a contact yet to be identified. And there have been 43 new cases in Victoria which is down from 51 new cases yesterday. 16 of the new cases in Victoria are contacts of a confirmed case and the other 27 are under investigation. It's very welcome news to see the continued and sustained reduction in numbers in Victoria.

Nationwide, there are now 162 people with COVID-19 reported to be in our public and private hospitals, which is 33 fewer people in hospital than yesterday. And, again, this is a very welcome sign. This time last week, there were 357 people in hospital with COVID-19. Among the people currently in hospital, there are 18 people in intensive care units, and 12 on ventilators. And over 6.9 million tests have now been carried out across Australia. While Victorian numbers are heading in the right direction, we know there is generalised fatigue felt by many people in the state due to the sustained restrictions. It is essential that people do not become complacent, and that people continue to get tested if you develop any symptoms. Please, if you have any symptoms of cold or flu or fever, please arrange to get tested for COVID-19.

 It's essential that we do all that we can to reduce the time from the onset of symptoms to when a person is diagnosed and in isolation and to when their contacts have been identified and followed up. This is the way that we stop the spread. Contact tracing is one key component of the public health response, but driving down the infection rate also relies on the population getting tested. It relies on rapid turnaround of pathology results. It relies on your GP knowing you have been tested and found to be positive, so that your GP can provide you with ongoing care at home. It relies on people adhering strictly to isolation. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we all need to do our part in ensuring that we are stopping the spread of COVID-19 in this country.

Today, leaders of the contact tracing process in Victoria and New South Wales have been meeting, along with Australia's Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, to share experiences and ideas about how measures can be streamlined even further in both states. Tackling COVID-19 requires a dynamic and comprehensive response. And this has been the hallmark of the response to COVID-19, both at a national level and in each of our states and territories. I note the improvements which have been announced by the Victorian Premier in the contact tracing process in that state and I wish to commend everyone who is involved in the public health efforts in Victoria for their dedication and commitment to bringing this second wave rapidly under control.

Finally, I want to highlight once again the importance of people focusing on their own health, especially those living currently under restrictions in Victoria. If you develop a new medical problem, please reach out to your GP for advice using telehealth, and then arranging a face-to-face appointment if required. If you're receiving care for a chronic health condition, please ensure that you continue to receive care from your GP, your consultant specialist or your allied heath provider. If you're receiving mental health care, please continue to remain in contact with your therapist and receive your ongoing care. And if you're due to have a preventive health check or a member of your family is due to have a check, this may be childhood immunisations for your family or it may be cancer screening for yourself or other family members, please don't delay in getting these preventive measures addressed. Please do so today. It's imperative that we don't ignore symptoms and we don't ignore our continuing healthcare needs during the pandemic. If you act today, you may be saving yourself and your family from serious yet preventable further medical problem, so, please, look after yourselves.

Thank you. I'm happy to take questions and I have on the phone, Dana.

QUESTION:

Thanks, Professor. I have two questions.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks Dana.

QUESTION:

Firstly, with the Aged Care Response Centre in Victoria, just a question about the transition plan for the Victorian Government to take over the operations. Are you confident that the State Government will be able to manage the aged care sector going forward once the federal support is withdrawn? And secondly-

MICHAEL KIDD:

[Interrupts] Thank you. Can we just do the first question first?

QUESTION:

Yeah. Sure.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yep. Thank you. So, happy to speak to that one. So, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is going to continue to function and the Commonwealth will continue to be part of that centre, and indeed, centres have been established or are being established between the Commonwealth and each of the states and territories. The Aged Care Response Centres have a fundamental role to play in preventing outbreaks in aged care services, right across the country; in preparing our aged care services, in case we see community transmission start to occur in other parts of the country; to coordinate the response, if we do get outbreaks again, occurring in aged care services anywhere in the country; and also to assist in the recovery measures after an outbreak has ended. So, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is obviously continuing, and they'll continue to be a partnership with the Commonwealth.

The second question, Dana?

QUESTION:

Just about Yale University's open source saliva test for COVID-19, which is much more reliable apparently than previous saliva tests. Do you see this as something that will become useful in Australia?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, certainly there is a lot of interest in saliva tests. At the moment, the gold standard for testing for COVID-19 in Australia are the nasopharyngeal swabs, which many of us are now familiar with. The Public Health Laboratory Network, which is one of the subcommittees of the AHPPC is currently looking at this new saliva test and will be providing further advice once they've completed their analysis.

Thanks, Dana. Do I have Paul on the line?

QUESTION:

Yes, you do.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Paul.

QUESTION:

Yesterday the Northern Territory announced they'd be open to Greater Sydney on 9 October. I was wondering what are the risks to the Northern Territory and New South Wales from doing this? And has there been any federal input into this decision?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So, no, there hasn't been federal input that I'm aware into that decision. But I'm sure that many people around the country will be heartened to hear that some of the borders which have been closed within the country are starting to open up. It's very important, though, that travel of people between jurisdictions is done in a COVID safe way and that we're not risking the transmission of COVID-19 from one jurisdiction to another. I look forward to further discussions with the Chief Health Officer in the Northern Territory about what their plans are.

Did you have a second question, Paul?

QUESTION:

Yeah. Just a follow-up question to that. What do you think are the most compelling arguments for a hotspot approach, such as what the Northern Territory is running?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So, as you'll be aware, coming out of the National Cabinet meeting last Friday, the National Cabinet has asked the AHPPC to do some further work, looking at hotspots. Hotspots are areas where community transmission is occurring across the country, to see if we can get some further consistency between the decisions which are being made about saying that a particular geographic area is an area which is deemed to be a hotspot.

Thank you. Thank you, Paul.

If there are no further questions, thank you, everybody and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

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