Deputy Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 14 July 2020

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd's press conference about COVID-19 on 14 July 2020.

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Good afternoon everybody, my name is Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer here at the Department of Health in Canberra. Here is the national update as of 12 noon.

Today, we've passed another national milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, with over 10,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Today, we are reporting that 10,251 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This is in the context of the global pandemic where over 13 million people have been reported as being diagnosed with COVID-19, and with over 571,000 deaths having been reported right around the world.

284 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia in the past 24 hours; 270 of these cases are in Victoria; 13 are in New South Wales; 2 of those are overseas acquired and people who are in hotel quarantine; 11 are locally acquired cases. And there has been 1 case in Western Australia, again a person who was diagnosed in hotel quarantine.

In the past 7 days only, 4 per cent of cases in Australia have been overseas acquired. There have been 108 deaths reported from COVID-19 in Australia, with no additional deaths reported as at noon today. There are currently 1,803 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.

Nationwide, there are over 90 people with COVID-19 in hospital, and 85 of those people are in hospital in Victoria. It's important to note that some of the people in hospital in Victoria with COVID-19 are people who have been moved out of residential aged care facilities as a precautionary principle. Among the people in hospital, there are 26 people in intensive care units in Victoria and 21 people are reported to be on ventilators, again in Victoria.

Almost 44,500 tests were carried out across the country yesterday, and that included almost 22,000 tests carried out in Victoria. We continue to urge all people, no matter where you are in the country, if you have symptoms of fever or flu or cold, please arrange to get tested.

The Australian Government continues to provide active and extensive support to the response in Victoria. The Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria today have announced that there will be an additional 1,000 highly-trained Australian Defence Force personnel who will be deployed to Victoria to support the coronavirus response. This is in addition to the over 400 Australian Defence Force personnel who are currently on the ground in Victoria supporting testing and checkpoint control.

Due to the evolving situation in Victoria, the additional ADF support will be deployed in a number of areas. These will include people working in the State Control Centre doing planning, logistics and intelligence reporting, people supporting the public health response focusing on contact tracing, data management and analysis and on information flow, as well as on the allocation and tracking of tasks and the on boarding of staff to undertake contact tracing interviews.

Support for supply and logistics to ensure that physical care packages such as food and other essential supplies are being provided to public housing residents in Melbourne. Support focusing on COVID-19 testing in metropolitan, regional, rural and tourist locations in Victoria. Assisting relevant agencies with community engagement, focusing on community awareness and outreach, particularly in high-risk areas as well as supporting the critical infrastructure and regional workplaces. Partnering with Ambulance Victoria paramedic response crews to expand Ambulance Victoria's response capabilities by providing personnel to act as a second crew member, to support paramedics at the scene and when they drive back to hospital.

Compliance checking to support Victoria Police's enforcement of the Chief Health Officer's stay-at-home orders, and surge capacity as required in relation to vehicle checkpoints. It's expected that these measures will see the current contingent of over 400 ADF personnel remain in Victoria for at least the duration of the stage 3 restrictions, which are currently set to conclude on 19 August. The extra 1,000 ADF personnel will begin to deploy in the coming days.

The Prime Minister has today confirmed that the Commonwealth Government will continue to work with Victoria to support the state's response to this deadly virus. We will help Victoria with whatever it takes to save lives and to save livelihoods. The Commonwealth has also released this week an additional 5 million masks from the national medical stockpile and these will be supporting workers in aged care, in home care and in primary health care, including general practice, community pharmacy and allied health services in Melbourne and the surrounding lockdown areas. The Commonwealth through the national incident centre along with colleagues in each state and territory is also continuing to support the contact tracing processes in Victoria.

We all remain very concerned about the outbreaks that we are seeing in residential aged care facilities in Melbourne. We recommend that all staff working in residential aged care facilities or providing home care support in Victoria in the areas under restriction where community transmission is occurring must be wearing a surgical mask when at work. Surgical face masks provide an additional physical barrier to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to senior Australians receiving aged care. They must be used in addition to hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette and physical distancing. Most importantly, no worker in aged care or home care should be going to work if they have any symptoms, no matter how mild. To do so is putting lives at risk.

In New South Wales, we have seen 28 cases linked to the cluster associated with the Crossroads Hotel in Casula. A reminder that if you were at the hotel between 3 July and 10 July, you must get a test. And even if the test is negative, you must isolate yourself for 14 days. And thank you to the many people who have stepped up, who were at the hotel and have arranged to get tested. Again, you are making a major contribution to stopping spread of COVID-19.

To those in the lockdown areas in and around Melbourne, if you are a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you are in isolation at your home, or if one of your family members has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is being cared for at home, please reach out to your general practitioner. Let her or him know that you are now COVID-19 positive so your GP can provide you with support and check in with you each day using telehealth to ensure your symptoms are stable and not getting more serious.

To the rest of the population in Melbourne and the lockdown areas around the city, we encourage you to wear a face mask whenever you leave your home, and especially in circumstances where physical distancing may be difficult, including when you are shopping for essentials or if you are on public transport travelling to and from work, or from school.

A reminder though that masks are not a substitute for the other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Australian Government provides advice at on how to wear a mask and how to do so safely. This includes a video with the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan.

I want to finish by especially thanking the people of Melbourne who have found themselves back in lockdown over the past days. I know this has come as a shock to many of you. I know this is causing a great deal of concern and distress. Please continue to look after each other, please know that the rest of Australia supports you and we are grateful for all that you are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19. By following the restrictions in place in Victoria you are protecting the health and wellbeing of yourself, of your family and of everybody in our nation.

I would also like to thank everybody who has stepped up to provide support to the people of Melbourne and surrounding areas which are in lockdown. Your contributions are greatly valued.

I’m happy to take questions.


How concerned are you by the hospitalisation rates in Victoria and the number of people on ventilators and how do you expect that to change?


Thank you. So as I've said, some of the people who are in hospital in Victoria are people who have been moved from residential aged care as a precautionary measure. But we are very concerned about the number of people who are in intensive care and the number of people who are on ventilators.

Clearly, if we continue to see community transmission, we will see more older people, more people who are at serious risk if they contract COVID-19 being hospitalised. Clearly everything that we are doing is to prevent that from happening and to save more lives.


There is a piece in the Medical Journal of Australia today arguing that current guidelines for the protection of health workers are inadequate and those treating COVID-19 patients should have respirators. What's your view on that?


So the guidelines on health care workers are put together at a national level and approved through the AHPPC by the states and territories and by the Commonwealth. They are available on the website. We expect that those regulations– sorry that advice is being followed by all the health care settings in Melbourne and the surrounding areas which are in lockdown at this time.


Queensland is refusing entry to people who have been in a number of Sydney hot spots, is that an effective way of preventing spread in Queensland and do you expect other states to follow?


Clearly that is a decision for the Government in Queensland and for the Chief Health Officer in Queensland.


You mentioned 19 August as the Victorian lifting of the lockdown, is that remotely realistic now given what has happened with these clusters they've got in Melbourne?


So the 6-week period is 3 incubation cycles of COVID-19, and we saw the first time that we went into lockdown right across the country, that this was the length of time that was required to dramatically suppress transmission of the virus occurring across the country. Clearly that will be monitored over time and the decision as to whether that date is extended is obviously a decision for the Victorian Government.

On the phone, Dana.


Thanks, professor. Could I just ask for an update on how the COVIDSafe app the going? Has it been accessed anymore in this outbreak and is it being useful?


So, the question is about the COVIDSafe app and its use in the outbreak. Currently we have 6.5 million people who have registered and downloaded the app. Clearly the more people who download the app the better.

So, if you have not yet downloaded the app please do so and of course please keep the app running on your phone and please take your phone with you when you are leaving your home. The reports that we've had from the states and territories is that the app is useful, it is picking up cases that the contact tracers are also picking up. But clearly, we need as many people to have the app downloaded as possible if we are going to be able to pick up those people who people do not know. And this of course is where the app comes into its own. It is picking up the people who may have been standing beside you on public transport, the people who may have been with their back to you when you were in a restaurant or cafe, the people who may have been standing in a queue with you at the supermarket or elsewhere. So please, I urge everybody to download the app. It is an important part of our public health measures in tackling COVID-19.

On the phone, we also have Nikita.


Yeah, Nakari Thorpe from SBS News. I just wanted to follow up on the COVIDSafe app effectiveness. We have been very critical of the app in terms of not solely identifying cases, in particular New South Wales and Victoria, where we are seeing surges of cases. Do you still believe that it is successful? Can you just talk about the effectiveness also in multicultural communities?


Yes, thank you. So the question was about the effectiveness of the app and particularly the effectiveness in multicultural communities. The app is available in a number of languages. It has been released in Arabic, in Vietnamese, in Korean, in Cantonese, in Mandarin. It is an important measure for everybody, and we encourage everybody to use it.

Clearly, where we are picking up contacts of immediate family members, these are people that the person who has been diagnosed is being infected already knows are contacts. As I say, the great utility of the app comes when people are outside of their own homes and mixing with strangers. Now, clearly, in Victoria, at this time, we hope that most people are staying in lockdown and are only moving out of their homes for the 4 essential reasons which have been outlined.

But in New South Wales in particular as we have seen some community transmission occurring in the western suburbs of the city, very important that people have the app downloaded and active on their phones.

Do we have any final questions?


With the outbreak can I ask, is it still the case that there haven't been any examples where the app has been used where the contact tracers didn't pick that up from the manual searching?


So, from the Commonwealth level we don't have details of how the app is being utilised by the contact tracers. That's something you'd need to ask the state and territories.

That’s great. Thank you very much everybody. Any thank you to our interpreters.

Thank you.


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