Deputy Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 16 July 2020

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd's press conference about COVID-19 on 16 July 2020.

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Here is the national update as of 12 noon: 10,810 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. This is in the context of the global pandemic where 13.5 million people have been reported as COVID-19 positive, with over 580,000 deaths all around the world; 330 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia in the past 24 hours; 317 of these cases have been in Victoria, and as we've heard from Premier Dan Andrews, this is the highest daily number of cases reported in the state.

There have been 10 new cases reported in New South Wales, 4 overseas acquired among people in hotel quarantine, and 6 locally acquired. There have been 2 cases in Western Australia, again both in people in hotel quarantine, and 1 case in South Australia. In the past 7 day,s only 3 per cent of cases in Australia have been overseas acquired. There have been 113 deaths from COVID-19 in Australia, sadly there have been additional 2 deaths in Victoria over the past 24 hours.

While 8,036 people are reported to have recovered from COVID-19 in Australia, we did hear today that there are 2,200 active cases in Victoria. Nationwide, there are 114 people in hospital with COVID-19, 109 of these people are in hospital in Victoria. Among those in hospital there are 29 people in intensive care units in Victoria, and 22 people reported to be on ventilators.

Almost 66,000 tests were carried out across the country yesterday including 22,000 tests carried out in Victoria. And we continue to urge all people right across Australia with symptoms no matter how mild to please get tested for COVID-19.

We remain very concerned about the outbreaks in residential aged care facilities in Melbourne. All aged care staff working in residential aged care facilities or providing home care support in Victoria in the areas under restrictions, and where community transmission is occurring, must be wearing a surgical mask while at work. This is mandatory in the areas under restrictions.

Surgical face masks, as we know, provide an additional physical barrier to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to older Australians receiving aged care. As we continue to reinforce, masks must be used in addition to the other measures of physical distancing and hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette. Most importantly, no aged care or home care worker with any symptoms no matter how mild, should be attending work. People must be staying at home and arranging to get tested. This way we are doing all we can to protect these vulnerable Australians.

Following a request from Minister Hunt and Minister Robert, the AHPPC is now also recommending the disability support workers and other people working with people with disability wear face masks when working with their clients with a disability in the areas under level 3 restrictions in Melbourne and the surrounding regions in Victoria.

Where possible, it's also wise for people with disability to wear a mask while receiving services in their homes. The Australian government provides advice on wearing masks safely and using masks appropriately at This includes a video from Alison McMillan, the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.

Over the past week, the Australian Government has provided 4 million additional masks to aged care facilities and home care services in the hot spot areas in Victoria, and an additional 1 million masks to general practitioners, community pharmacies and allied health providers working in those areas. An additional half a million masks have been available to residential aged care facilities in the areas where we've seen community transmission in Sydney. And today, an additional 1 million masks will be made available for disability support workers in the affected areas in Melbourne.

I'd like to highlight the particular risks and challenges facing people with disability from COVID-19 and the important work that's being undertaken across the health and disability sectors and across all levels of government.

About 20 per cent of people in Australia are living with a disability. There are 2 reasons why people with disability on the whole are at greater risk from the COVID-19 virus. The first is that people with disability and particularly people with intellectual disabilities have higher rates of chronic disease, which is a significant risk factor for COVID-19. The second is that many people with disability rely on support from family members, from carers and support workers, and they may require close physical contact with a number of people each day which puts people at greater potential risk of exposure to the virus. The health and disability sectors continue to work closely together to provide communication and support to people with disability, their families, carers and support workers, to help address this higher level of risk.

On 16 April, the National Cabinet endorsed the COVID-19 Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, and this sets out the measures which governments are working to implement. An advisory committee, comprising experts from a range of backgrounds, including people with lived experience, carers, service providers, and government agencies have been meeting regularly to develop and revise the plan and oversee its implementation, and I thank everybody who is contributing to the effort.

Infection, prevention and control training for carers has been available online since 16 March and it's being supplemented with information on the appropriate use of personal protective equipment and guidance on planning for outbreaks in disability settings. Over a million people have completed the online training in infection control provided by the Australian Government and this includes many disability support workers and carers.

Health informed guidance material in a range of accessible formats has progressively been made available including an easy read in Auslan and in braille. And the Australian Government Disability Information Helpline for people with disability, including their carers and supporters to provide COVID-19 related advice, is available at 1800 643 787.

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented level of cooperation across sectors and jurisdictions to help ensure that people with disability, their families, carers and support workers have the right supports in place to minimise the risks from COVID-19.

I want to say thank you to everyone working in aged care, everyone working in disability care, everyone working in home care in the lockdown areas. Thank you for doing all you can to support the people who you're providing care and support to.

Finally, we have received some additional advice from New South Wales about at least 1 person who appears to have become infectious within 24 hours of being infected with COVID-19. The advice from infectious disease experts on the AHPPC is that while this is unusual, it is not implausible. There is a wide distribution in the incubation period for COVID-19 and the time that people become and remain infectious. People usually develop symptoms within 5 to 7 days of infection, but may be infectious 1 or 2 days before their symptoms develop. As we see larger numbers with COVID-19 infected, in Australia, we are starting to see examples of people with early infectivity.

That is all. Thank you. Happy to take any questions.


Why is it that that change of advice to disability support workers has been made now? Is that something that should have been considered earlier?


Certainly, the advice has been there right from the start as part of the disability action plan but we have reinforced this given the community transmission that we're seeing in Victoria and given the outbreaks that we've seen in aged care facilities, and also among some home care services. So this applies obviously to people in aged care, but also people with a disability.


Just on the case in New South Wales, is there any evidence that the virus has developed a shorter incubation period or is this considered an unusual case?


Yeah, so we think it's unlikely that the strain has changed. What we think is happening is how it's expressed in individual people.


Federal Parliament is back in a couple of weeks. In your opinion should Victorian politicians be coming to Canberra, and if so, what should they be doing?


That's clearly an issue for the health advisors in the ACT and for the advisors to the Parliament.

On the phone, Dana?


Thanks professor. Just a question about interstate truck drivers. They are exempt from border closures but we've seen that they can carry the virus with them. Should they be subject to some additional public health orders saying that they can't go to pubs or crowded venues or something like that?


Thanks Dana. So I'm not sure if we could pick up the question, but it's about interstate freight drivers, the people driving trucks delivering goods across the country who are currently exempt from border closures, and should they be subject to public health orders banning them from going to pubs and other venues if they have been to Melbourne. Dana, my understanding is that the Prime Minister has asked the AHPPC for some advice on this and so we expect that we will be discussing this tomorrow.

Thank you. Tamsin?


Thank you. Just on aged care in Victoria, given how many outbreaks we have now seen across different facilities, should workers be stopped from working across multiple facilities? Would this do anything to stop the spread?


Thanks Tamsin. So again, the question is about the outbreaks in residential aged care facilities in Melbourne and should workers be prevented from working across facilities in Melbourne at this time. Thanks Tamsin. My understanding is that that is currently being considered by the authorities in Victoria. Clearly, each residential aged care facility has its own plan for dealing with the pandemic and for protecting the people under their care. And I know that a number of the facilities are looking at ensuring that their workers are only working in one site at this time while we are in lockdown with serious community transmission. But whether there will be broader requirements I think is something that we've got to wait and hear from our colleagues in Victoria.

Any final questions? That's great- sorry, Tamsin yes?


If I can just further on that, is that something that the AHPPC is looking at? Are you giving advice to Victoria on that issue?


It's certainly something that we'd be happy to discuss with our colleagues in Victoria if they would like AHPPC to do so.


Thank you.


Thank you. Thank you all and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you all very much.


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