Date published: 
22 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL KIDD:

This is a national update as of 12 noon. 12,428 people in Australia have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This is in the context of the global pandemic where over 14.6 million people have been reported as COVID-19 positive and over 607,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. We remain deeply concerned about the number of new cases being reported in Australia. In the past 24 hours 388 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This includes 374 people in Victoria, 13 new cases reported in New South Wales, one overseas acquired and in hotel quarantine and the others locally acquired, and one person in Tasmania and this is a locally-acquired case in an interstate traveller in quarantine.

In the past seven days, less than two per cent of new cases of COVID-19 in Australia have been overseas acquired. There have now been 126 deaths reported from COVID-19 in Australia. Sadly, there have been an additional three deaths in Victoria over the past 24 hours and our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. There have been 2,192 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia in the past seven days. Nationwide there are 183 people with COVID-19 in hospital, 174 of those people are in Victoria. Among those in hospital, 38 people are in intensive care units and 22 people are reported to be on ventilators.

To date, over 3. 5 million COVID-19 tests have been carried out in Australia and more than 56,000 tests were carried out in the past 24 hours. We continue to urge everybody in Australia with any symptoms of fever or cold or flu to please arrange to be tested. A reminder that testing is available for free at any of the Commonwealth GP-led respiratory clinics or any of the state and territory fever clinics or pop-up clinics, particularly in the areas of community transmission.

Today I want to speak to those of you who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, isolation is mandatory. It is essential that you follow the instructions of your state health authorities and you remain in isolation in your home. You must remain in isolation until your public health authority has advised you that it is safe to leave. You should keep a distance from other people in your home to avoid infecting others.

The majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 will not require hospitalisation but I do recommend that you reach out to your general practitioner using telehealth either by telephone or by video call and advise your GP that you've been diagnosed with COVID-19. Please then remain in regular contact with your GP until you've recovered and been released from isolation. It is especially important to reach out to your GP if your symptoms get worse, particularly if you develop fever or if you start to have difficulty breathing. In some cases, your GP will have been notified about your diagnosis by the laboratory which carried out the test or by the facility where you had your test done, but in other cases your GP may not be aware that you've been diagnosed so please be proactive and reach out to your GP, let them know what's happening.

We continue to remain very concerned about the outbreaks that we are seeing in residential aged care facilities in Melbourne. All aged care staff working in residential aged care facilities or providing home care support in the areas under restrictions in Victoria must be wearing a surgical mask whenever they're at work. This is mandatory in the areas under restriction. As we continue to reinforce, masks must be used by workers in residential aged care and in homecare in addition to the other measures of physical distancing, of hand hygiene and of cough and sneeze etiquette. And most importantly, no aged care worker, no homecare worker should be attending work if they have any symptoms, no matter how mild. It is essential that we are all doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable Australians.

A final word about masks, the AHPPC fully supports the decision of the Victorian Government to require, from tomorrow evening, that all people living in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire must wear a mask or other face covering whenever they leave their homes. To the people of Melbourne, this measure will help keep you, your family and other members of the community safe from COVID-19. I know that it may seem odd to have to wear a mask and that the first time you wear one you may feel a little uncomfortable, but please be assured that you will very quickly become used to wearing a mask as millions and millions of people have right around the world.

A reminder for a mask to be effective, it needs to be properly fitted and it needs to be covering your mouth and your nose at all times. You should avoid the temptation to touch your mask while you are wearing it and please wash and sanitise your hands before you put on a mask and when you take a mask off. Single-use masks can generally be worn for up to four hours before they have to be replaced, and please dispose of these properly in a bin. Cloth masks made of three layers of cotton can be reused but must be thoroughly washed and dried at least daily. And please remember that while wearing a mask it is still important to continue to do the things that we are all doing to prevent transmission of COVID-19 - maintaining physical distancing from other people at all times, washing your hands and practising good hygiene.

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

QUESTION:

Should people in New South Wales be wearing a mask in public?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Certainly for people in the areas where we're seeing community transmission in New South Wales, it would be wise for people to be wearing a mask, particularly in situations where physical distancing is not going to be possible, and this may include, of course, being on public transport, going into the supermarket if it's crowded, going into elevators in high buildings. Also very important for people who are at increased risk of COVID-19, people who have chronic health conditions or elderly people who, if they were infected, are at risk of becoming much more unwell.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, has the Melbourne lockdown had the response in terms of tempering the spread of COVID-19 that the AHPPC had anticipated?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Certainly, what we have seen with the lockdown in Melbourne - and it's now been in place for just under two weeks - is we haven't seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases each day. We are seeing still very high levels of cases but they're not dramatically increasing. We would like to see those numbers obviously start to come down over the next few days or weeks, but at the moment, they're not continuing to escalate.

QUESTION:

So, you would say that the lockdown is working but it may take a couple of days to find out if there will need to be further restrictions?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, we are seeing further restrictions. So, the introduction tomorrow evening of everybody being required to wear masks when they're outside of their homes in the lockdown areas in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire is additional restrictions.

QUESTION:

I mean, what people are talking about, about Stage 4 restrictions basically not being allowed to basically leave the house for about 14 weeks- I mean, 14 days I should say. You don't- right now, do you think the current lockdown is doing enough to contain the spread, that that won't be necessary?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So clearly with the AHPPC, we are discussing with our colleagues in Victoria each day about the restrictions which are in place and about the response which is happening. Clearly it's a decision for the Victorian Government if additional restrictions in addition to the requirement of wearing masks are to be introduced.

On the phone. Steph?

QUESTION:

Hi Professor Kidd. I just had a question on vaccine. There have been some promising results published today about the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine. What steps is the Government taking to ensure that we resource adequate supply of any successful COVID-19 vaccines? And how much money has been set aside to purchase those vaccines if, and hopefully when, one becomes available?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, thank you. I'm not sure if everyone can hear the question, but the question is about the vaccines and the reports that we've seen overnight about some promising trials in the UK and what are the plans to secure vaccines for people in Australia.

Clearly this is still very early days in the development of vaccines, and while it's very encouraging to see the results that we've seen overnight, and that is to see that some of the trial subjects are having an immune response, which results in the development of antibodies to COVID-19, there is still a long way to go with those trials to see if that response is maintained over an extended period of time, whether the vaccines themselves are going to be safe to distribute widely through the population, whether the vaccines are going to be able to be mass produced and once they are mass produced, how these vaccines are distributed. We, of course, have vaccine developers working in Australia, and also, we are working in partnership with many of the groups around the world including with the group that's announced the vaccine trial results today in the UK.

QUESTION:

Is there any worry that any particular countries might try to monopolise the vaccines?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well certainly, with the vaccine, it's going to be really important that the vaccines are going to be available widely all around the world, because while we still live in a world with COVID-19, we will continue to have the risks of outbreaks, and even if we vaccinate the entire population, as we know, in some people, vaccines last longer than others and sometimes the vaccine effectiveness will decline and people may require additional vaccinations and so forth. So it is important that once vaccine developments do start to move to the point where we're going to be able to have mass vaccination occurring that this actually becomes something that happens globally, not just in individual countries.

QUESTION:

Are the current case numbers in Victoria what you were anticipating at the beginning of the lockdown? Were you expecting those high 300 to 400 numbers?

MICHAEL KIDD:

I think what everyone was hoping with the lockdowns is that we would see similar change that we saw the first time around when we went into lockdown. So, the decline over the first few weeks and certainly over the first month with declines in numbers. So as I say, I think we've got to wait and watch just for another few days to see what happens and see if we do actually turn down the curve with those numbers.

QUESTION:

So just to clarify, you don't think we will be able to see if the lockdown is working, is able to get that decline you were hoping for, for at least another couple of days? It's still unclear whether this has worked?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So, the lockdown requires three incubation period of the virus. Each incubation period is two weeks and that's why the initial decision about the lockdown in Victoria is for a six-week period.

QUESTION:

Are you pleased that the Batemans Bay outbreak doesn't seem to have spread?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Obviously we're always pleased when we see that we appear to be getting containment of outbreaks which are occurring anywhere in the country, but we do have to remain really vigilant. And anybody of course who's been into any of the venues which have been identified as hotspots in New South Wales needs to arrange to get tested and needs to go into isolation for two weeks to ensure that we don't see further spread from occurring. The thing that we worry about is having community transmission which is not being picked up, and that's why we continue to emphasise the importance of anyone with symptoms, no matter how mild, getting tested and particularly for those who have been in areas where we know there have been outbreaks occurring.

One final question. Steph, you're alright?

QUESTION:

Yes, thank you Professor Kidd.

MICHAEL KIDD:

We're good. Thank you all. Thank you very much. Thank you to our interpreters. Thank you.

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