Date published: 
21 August 2020
Media event date: 
20 August 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

Good afternoon. My name is Professor Michael Kidd, National Chief Medical Officer here at the Department of Health in Canberra. Here’s the National COVID-19 update with figures as of noon today.

In the past 24 hours, 246 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This is slightly up from 228 people yesterday but we are continuing to see a sustained reduction in daily numbers of cases in Victoria. 24,236 people have now been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in Australia. Nearly 18,000 people are reported to have recovered from COVID-19. But tragically we have had another 13 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, all in Victoria. This brings the number of people who have lost their life to COVID-19 in our country to 463. This is a terrible time for those we have lost loved ones and my thoughts are with the families and friends of the deceased.         

Over the past 24 hours, 240 of the new cases were in Victoria. Five cases have been reported in New South Wales, two of these are overseas acquired and those people are in hotel quarantine. The other three cases are locally acquired. And there’s one new case reported in Queensland which is currently under investigation. Clearly contact tracing of all these cases remains absolutely 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 in particular, in ensuring and making sure that this happens.

Nationwide there are now 642 people with COVID-19 reported as being in hospital. Among those in hospital, there are now 51 people in intensive care units which is one less than this time yesterday. And 33 people are reported to be on ventilators.

Over 5.5 million COVID-19 tests have now been carried out in Australia. A reminder, if you have symptoms, no matter how mild, please get tested and then isolate at home while you wait for your results. We continue to see people with mild symptoms attending work and then later being diagnosed with COVID-19 which, of course, puts other people at risk of infection. We must all remain vigilant wherever we are in the country.

We continue to closely follow the COVID-19 vaccine developments in Australia and around the world. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the signing of a letter of intent with UK based drug company AstraZeneca to supply the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Australia. Under this signed agreement, should trials prove effective, successful and safe, Australia will manufacture and supply this vaccine.

The Prime Minister has also released Australia's COVID-19 vaccine and treatment strategy, developed under the guidance of an advisory group of medical and industry experts, chaired by Doctor Brendan Murphy and they are providing advice to the Australian Government on the purchasing and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Clearly we welcome any developments towards a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. In the past week the World Health Organisation has reported that there are 29 vaccines in clinical evaluation, 138 vaccines in preclinical evaluation. The Australian Government continues to monitor all vaccine candidates in clinical trials. We continue to follow our rigorous regulatory procedures in Australia to ensure vaccine candidates are effective and safe for use.

Thank you very much. I am happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission conducted just 63 unannounced visits to aged care home since March. Is that a sufficient level of regulatory oversight given we are in the midst of a pandemic?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So for those who can’t hear the question, the question was about the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission which has conducted 63, I am told, assessments and visits of residential aged care facilities across the country between March and now. And a question about whether that is an adequate number of assessments. Clearly the work of the safety and quality commission on aged care is absolutely essential and I understand there is a rolling process of accreditation visits to ensure that each of the facilities is meeting the requirements under the legislation and ensuring the safety and well-being of the residents of each of those facilities. I cannot comment on the actual schedule because I am not across that or planned future numbers of visits.

QUESTION:

To further the broader point then maybe how can the Commonwealth and health officials such as yourself be confident that aged care homes are prepared when there is such a low number of unannounced, so they can’t prepare for the visit, happening during a pandemic. Would you like to see or are you considering further measures to make sure aged care is prepared?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is following up, would we like to see further measures to ensure that aged care is prepared during the pandemic. And I think it’s really important to understand that under the establishment by the Australian Government and the state of Victoria, of the Victorian aged care response centre, the Aged Care Response Centre has overview of all of the residential aged care facilities in Victoria which have reported outbreaks. There is a case manager for each of those facilities, working with the staff of those facilities to ensure that the response and to ensure that the well-being and the safety of the residents of all of those facilities. There are a number of ways that we are ensuring that residential aged care is providing safe support for their residents.

Can we go to the phones to, Josh?

QUESTION:

Thank you, Professor. I wanted to ask about AstraZeneca. It has been reported internationally that the company is asking for indemnification from potential side-effects in the countries it is making agreements in. I wanted to ask you if AstraZeneca has asked Australia to agree to or if we have agreed to similar conditions around indemnification? Would we agree to conditions like this?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Josh. So the question is about whether AstraZeneca has been asking for indemnification of their product and whether that has been part of the agreement with Australia. I am sorry, I have not seen the letter of intent which has been signed so I am unable to provide any advice on its content.

QUESTION:

On another issue if I may.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yea, sure go ahead.

QUESTION:

Today New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, described that only one hotel quarantine security guard has contracted COVID as a, quote: miracle. Obviously it’s good news, but are you concerned that our last line of defence is perhaps miracles? That we just hope for the best? That it does not spread beyond this one incident?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question is about the one incident of the hotel quarantine security person contracting COVID-19, in New South Wales. Clearly hotel quarantine in seven of the eight states and territories around Australia has been incredibly effective in preventing COVID-19 from coming into the Australian community. Thousands of Australians have returned to the country and have been in hotel quarantine. There have been significant numbers of people infected with COVID-19 and have been detected while in quarantine so we have prevented those people from transmitting COVID-19 to other people around the country. It is absolutely essential that we have very rigorous infection control procedures support and supervision of the staff who are working in those quarantine hotels. Clearly we have the inquiry under way in Victoria and it will be very important to learnings and lessons, I am sure, coming out of that inquiry which will be heeded and picked up by states and territories around the country.

Anna.

QUESTION:

Thank you, Professor. If you can bear with me, there are two questions from me, please.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Great can you ask them one at a time? Thank you.

QUESTION:

There are about 19,000 Australians who want to return from overseas. What is the AHPPC’s advice on whether those caps on international arrivals could be lifted to allow more of them to come home.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is around Australians overseas who are wanting to come home and where the AHPPC has provided advice on caps on quarantine. So the AHPPC has not been providing advice on the caps, these are determinations which are being made by each of the states and territories based on what, I understand, they feel is a safe number of people able to come into the country and be monitored and supported, in hotel quarantine. So we do have reduced numbers at the moment and clearly with the outbreaks in Victoria, we saw Melbourne stopping receiving people into Hotel quarantine and that has had a significant impact and has created a backlog of people overseas. But we are aware that there are many Australians, of course, who do wish to return to the country, to return to their families. Second question, Anna?

QUESTION:

Thank you. Qantas has today said it can’t see international travel resuming until midway through next year. What do you make of [indistinct] and how important will a vaccine be to that actually happening?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. So the question is about Qantas announcing they can’t see international travel resuming until sometime next year and whether this is linked to the vaccines. Look, clearly we can’t predict what is going to happen with COVID-19 over the months or, indeed, over the years ahead, Anna. We just have to continue to plan and prepare as well as we can. We do not know when international travel is going to be possible for people from Australia and we do not know when a vaccine is going to be available which is safe and effective and able to be distributed widely across the country. So we just have to wait and see what happens over time which, of course, is incredibly difficult for everybody including for industries like Qantas.

Final question?

QUESTION:

So National Cabinet meeting tomorrow I understand there will be receiving advice based on what has been learned from Victorian aged care. What other issues has the AHPPC prepared advice on?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So the question is what advice is going forward to the National Bacinet meeting tomorrow. I’m sorry I’m not able to pre-empt what’s going to be on the agenda for the National Cabinet tomorrow. That is up to the Prime Minister and the premiers.            

Thank you, everybody and thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

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