Date published: 
28 July 2020
Media event date: 
27 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

In the past 24 hours, 549 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This is the single largest daily number of diagnoses of COVID-19 in our country. The previous highest reported daily number of new cases was 502 cases 5 days ago. The figures are very concerning. We will need to be working together to get these numbers down. 14,935 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. Over the past 24 hours, 532 of these new cases were in Victoria, and 17 new cases have been reported in New South Wales – 8 overseas acquired and in hotel quarantine, and 9 locally acquired in New South Wales. There have now been 161 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Australia. Sadly, there have been an additional 6 deaths reported in Victoria and our thoughts are with the families and other loved ones of those who've lost their lives to COVID-19.

The people who have died in the past 24 hours were aged from their 50s to their 90s. The tragedy of COVID-19 is that we know with the number of new infections that we have seen today, that there will be many further deaths in the days ahead. There have been 2,884 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia in the last 7 days and we now have approximately 4,500 people currently infected with COVID-19. Nationwide, there are now 259 people with COVID-19 in hospital, which is an additional 18 people hospitalised since yesterday, and 245 of these people are in Victoria. Among the people in hospital, there are now 49 people in intensive care units, which is 3 more than yesterday, and 44 of those people are in intensive care units in Victoria. 24 people are reported to be on ventilators, which is 2 more than yesterday.

The rise in hospital numbers, the rise in the number of people in intensive care is a continuing reminder about the very serious impact that COVID-19 has on the lives and health of many people. Over 3.9 million COVID-19 tests have now been carried out in Australia, and more than 55,000 tests were carried out yesterday across the country.

We remain deeply concerned about the outbreaks in Victoria, and especially in residential aged care facilities across Melbourne. As Premier Dan Andrews advised earlier today, the number of cases in Victoria aged care facilities has now risen to over 600 people, including both residents and staff of facilities. Community transmission continues to drive the cases that we are seeing among aged care staff; 5% of all cases of COVID-19 in Victoria since April have been among the residents of aged care facilities. And 4% of all cases in Victoria since April have been among the staff working in aged care.

The aged care response centre has been established over the weekend and commenced its operations today. This promises an additional measure to our aged care response in Victoria and around the country. The aged care response centre will ensure that every residential aged care resident who needs care, receives care.

The aged care response centre is being led by senior clinicians with expertise in aged care, and by senior emergency management people, and also brings Commonwealth and state resources together, including the Australian Defence Forces, who are providing expertise in logistics and workforce deployment.

The work of the aged care response centre includes ensuring the workforce requirements of each affected facility are being met, that each outbreak is being responded to, the hospital transfers are arranged when residents require that, that all staff are provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and supported in ensuring infection control in their work with every resident, the testing of residents and staff in affected facilities prioritised, and that family members are kept up to date about what is happening with their loved ones.

Every case of COVID-19 in an aged care facility is a cause of grave concern. The people affected are much-loved parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and the dedicated staff who are supporting their needs every day. I thank everybody involved in the response to bring these outbreaks in aged care rapidly under control.

Clearly the figures today provide a strong continuing reminder to us all that we must all be doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. The message for us all remains the same. The biggest contribution the people of Victoria can make is strict adherence to the requirements to stay at home, to physically distance whenever outside the home, and to avoid crowds. Please continue to wash and sanitise your hands every time you touch a surface or an object which may have been touched by another person. Please cough and sneeze into your elbow or a handkerchief. Please wear a mask covering your nose and mouth whenever you leave your home in the lockdown areas, and in other areas where we are seeing community transmission. And please stay at home if you have symptoms, no matter how mild, of cough or flu or fever, and arrange to get tested.    

Please take all of these requirements seriously. Please don't try to dodge or avoid these requirements. If you do so, you put your own health at risk, you're putting the health of your family at risk, and you're putting the health of the community at risk.

Finally, on a personal note, today the nation's general practitioners are grieving the death of Dr Harry Nespolon, the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who lost his battle against cancer overnight. Dr Nespolon has been leading the members of the nation's largest medical college in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic up until last week, including providing very strong support for the need for telehealth to allow the people of Australia to have their health care needs met during lockdown.

People will speak about Dr Nespolon's many contributions and his legacy over the coming days. I want to say that Harry Nespolon was a remarkable leader, an inspirational to many of us, and a valued, loved and respected friend and colleague. Our thoughts today are with his wife, his children and his loved ones. He will be deeply missed. Thank you all. I'm happy to take questions.

QUESTION: 

Professor, given the outbreak in Victorian aged care system, what changes were made to support the aged care system in dealing with the pandemic after Newmarch House and the lessons we learnt in New South Wales?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, so, very good question. What lessons have we learned from each aged care facility outbreak, and how are these being applied as we continue with the pandemic in Australia? It's absolutely essential that we continue to learn as the pandemic progresses, and what we have seen in recent times? We've seen a very rapid response occurring whenever we see outbreaks occurring or single reported cases amongst residents or aged care facility staff in facilities in Victoria.

We've seen the provision of personal protective equipment, masks, and the requirement that aged care workers are wearing a mask in the areas of community transmission, whenever they're working with a resident in one of these facilities, or when they're providing care to people in their own homes.

We've seen the continued working together of different parts of the healthcare sectors. So, the aged care facilities working with the Commonwealth, with the Commissioner for Safety and Quality in Aged Care, and with the State Government in making sure that we're responding.

We've seen that each residential aged care facility needs to be treated in its own way, because it is unique in its own way, in the way that it is structured, in the infrastructure which is available and the staffing which is available. We've seen measures to prevent people from working across multiple facilities to reduce the risk of transmission between facilities and much, much more.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, this morning the Prime Minister said New South Wales was doing, quote: a lot better than Victoria at containing its community transmission. What exactly is New South Wales doing so much better than Victoria?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, of course, New South Wales, we're seeing smaller numbers of new diagnoses of COVID-19 each day. Each of those cases is being followed up very quickly, and their contacts are being followed up very quickly and being tested. Requirement in New South Wales, particularly for people in a number of the facilities where we've seen outbreaks is there's been a call for people who've been to each of those centres to arrange to get tested, but also to stay in isolation for a 14-day period to prevent further possible transmission to other people occurring within Sydney and in other parts of the state.

QUESTION:

And just following on from that then, today there were only 2 cases in New South Wales under investigation. The number under investigation in Victoria is close to 3,000. How likely is it that a lot of those cases under investigation in Victoria now, that it's been too much time to really be able to effectively isolate contacts?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Very important that we're following up the contacts of every single new diagnosis of COVID-19. This is why the Commonwealth has brought the Australian Defence Forces into supporting the contact tracing measures, and particularly the logistics of managing the contact tracing of such large numbers of people. We now have over 1,400 members of the Australian Defence Forces based in Victoria supporting the response. Again, the establishment of the aged care response team, particularly involving staff from Emergency Management Australia and Emergency Management Victoria, will be managing each of the outbreaks that we see occurring in residential aged care and make sure these are dealt with very swiftly as well.

QUESTION:

Professor, on some of these mask videos from Melbourne, people seem to be reading, I guess scripts are being provided, sort of anti-lockdown, anti-government groups on Facebook and other sort of platforms. I know this is a problem that you've been dealing with for quite a while. I know it's not strictly a medical question, but what more can be done? What more can a government or authority do to kind of address this sort of misinformation? If she's undermining messages you're trying to put out right now.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Clearly for people, you need to listen to the messages which are coming from Government. And the single source of advice, or the single source of truth, is health.gov.au. Please go to the Government website. Use this as your source of credible information. Please don't listen to the myths that you're hearing on social media.

QUESTION: 

But considering, I guess, a lot of these groups are gathering around the fact that they actually don't trust the Government, they don't trust health authorities for whatever reason – obviously misguided – what more can be done to actually address this sort of...

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

We are dealing with a pandemic. This is putting everybody's health and wellbeing at risk. People may not be happy with some aspects that they're seeing, but their health is at risk, Their parents' health is at risk. Their grandparents' and great-grandparents' health is at risk as well. We all need to be working together to tackle any of these myths which we're seeing, but most importantly by addressing measures which I've outlined earlier.

QUESTION:

Professor, given that we've seen changes to the protocols in aged care facilities – increased PPE and training and stuff – how is COVID-19 still getting into these facilities?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

So, we're still seeing extensive community transmission occurring in Melbourne. We hope that this will start to turn around very quickly with the physical distancing measures, with people staying at home, people now wearing masks as required when they're outside of their homes, the further heightening of the use of PPE in those aged care facilities, and the support which is being provided now through the National Response Centre. So, we hope that this is going to see a turnaround in the numbers that we've seen over recent weeks. We have some questions on the phone.

QUESTION:

Yeah, thanks, Professor. Just a couple of aged care questions. So, providers say they're struggling to deal with this – with a lot of workers isolating. Does the surge workforce being provided by the Federal Government need to be expanded or more support brought in from interstate? And just on St Basil’s aged care home, the families are still saying that they're not able to get information about their loved ones. They want the whole service to be shut down and residents transferred out. Do you have confidence that they're still able to manage that facility?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you. The questions from Dana were about the surge workforce for aged care and about the concerns being raised very legitimately by family members of residents in facilities where COVID-19 infections have occurred.

Surge workforce is continuing to be provided to support people in Victoria and you are right Dana, this is coming not only from surge workforce from within the state with people stepping up to provide additional support, but also from outside the state with people travelling into Victoria.

We have had, amongst the Australian Defence Force personnel and many clinicians who have been deployed to assist in the response in the state. The support to the family, again, this is one of the measures which is a top priority for the new aged care response Centre. It is very important that family members and loved ones are kept apprised of what is happening with their family member in each of the residential aged care facilities where we have seen cases occurring. So this is a priority. We have also on the phone, I think, Jordan?

QUESTION:

Hi, Professor Kidd. Thank you. Just following on from that question about the interstate surge capacity, is there any risk that by bringing people into Victoria that they won't be able to be redeployed to their home states if there are further outbreaks, and is their capacity there to allow for that?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks Jordan, the question is about people coming in as surge capacity from other states and then does this pose a risk in being able to respond when we get outbreaks or if we get outbreaks occurring in other parts of the country, and certainly we have surge capacity available right across the country.

We have lots of healthcare workers who are putting up their hands, we have many people who had recently retired, particularly as nurses but also as doctors who have put up their hands to come back and be part of the workforce. And thank you to all the people who are committed to providing care to Australians at this time of national emergency. The workforce capacity obviously in our states and territories is very high, but the challenge that we have in Victoria is with the number of infections that we have seen amongst health care workers including aged care workers and people needing, if they have been in contact, needing to go into isolation or into quarantine, means that we lose a significant proportion of our workforce and those people need to be backfilled in the short to medium term while people go through their period of isolation or quarantine.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, the positive test rating in Victoria is about 3% at the moment. Does Victoria need to be doing more testing to get down to a lower number and what is the maximum capacity for the amount of tests that could be processed, in a day?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you, a question about what Victoria is doing and particularly around testing. We are already seeing record levels of testing being carried out across the country and particularly in Victoria, and that is as it should be. We have to make sure that we are not overwhelming the capacity to actually provide results from those tests in a timely way, so that people know whether they have been infected or not. Because that obviously impacts on what happens next for each of those people. We need to continue to have all of the contacts tested and to see whether people have been infected or not.

QUESTION:

Do we have the top threshold though. There have been 42,001 day and 18,000 the next, what's the capacity?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, so we are currently at a very significant number with over 55,000 tests being carried out in the last 24 hours, we have seen more than 60,000 tests being carried out across the country so there is still a little bit of capacity still built into the system.

QUESTION:

Professor Kidd, given that what we've learnt as you described from Newmarch House, why was it only a couple of weeks ago now that we saw masks mandated for aged care facility workers especially in Victoria, given that the surging deaths and cases that we've seen there?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

So what we are seeing is an incremental approach to all aspects of the pandemic. We continue to learn; we continue to respond as the pandemic rolls out. This is the first time that we have dealt with a situation like this in Australia in over 100 years as you are aware.

QUESTION:

Given what we have seen and Newmarch House, though and the importance of PPE why was it not mandated earlier.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

I think that the measures that were recommended from Newmarch House, we have seen rolling out incrementally across Victoria and the residential aged care facilities. Each residential aged care facility in Victoria and across the country as required to have its own COVIDSafe plan.

Many of those facilities have been using masks very early in the pandemic in order to protect both their residents and their staff. Many of them have been making sure that visitors have to be screened before coming in, their workers are being screened before coming to work. So there are a lot of measures in place. What we have seen though with the very substantial community transmission in Victoria is additional measures are now required in that state.

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

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