Deputy Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 31 July 2020
Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd's press conference about COVID-19 on 31 July 2020.
In the past 24 hours, 651 people have been diagnosed as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This is the second largest daily number of diagnoses of COVID-19 in our country, only preceded by yesterday when we reported 747 new cases. The level of new diagnoses remains concerning. Eight days ago, we had over 500 cases reported for the first time and the trend continues to be upwards. 16,905 people have now been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in Australia. Over the past 24 hours, 627 of these new cases were in Victoria. 21 new cases have been reported in New South Wales, two of these are overseas acquired and these people are in hotel quarantine, and 16 cases have been locally acquired. One case has been reported in Western Australia which was overseas acquired. One case has been reported in South Australia, which was locally acquired and related to interstate travel. And one new case in Queensland which is currently under investigation.
There have been 196 deaths reported from COVID-19 in Australia. 113 of these deaths have been in Victoria. Sadly, there have been an additional eight deaths reported by Victoria over the past 24 hours. Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy and our thoughts are with the family members and other loved ones of those who have lost their lives. The people who have died in the past 24 hours were aged in their 50s, 70s, and 80s. There have been 3329 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia in the past seven days, and only one per cent of the new cases were overseas acquired.
There are now well over 5000 people currently infected with COVID-19 in Australia. Nationwide, we have 366 people with COVID-19 in hospital, and this is an additional 36 people hospitalised since yesterday. There are 349 people in hospital in Victoria, many of these of course are people who have been moved to hospital from residential aged care facilities. Among those in hospital, there are 44 people in intensive care units which is four more than yesterday. And 27 people are reported to be on ventilators, which is seven more than yesterday. Again, these figures reflect how serious COVID-19 disease can be among infected people and reflects the human consequences of the spread of this virus. Over 4.2 million COVID-19 tests have now been carried out in Australia, and in the past 24 hours there were over 75,000 tests carried out across the country.
This has been a very difficult week and there will be more difficult weeks to come as we continue to live with COVID-19. My advice to you is that things will get better but it won't happen overnight. Australia is not like many other countries where COVID-19 is currently out of control. We are working together. We are taking strong measures to tackle each and every outbreak of COVID-19. The Australian and Victorian governments are working together as one team. We're working together on the analysis of the points of community transmission, and the additional measures that may be needed to bring this outbreak further under control. We are working together on the response to the outbreaks which have occurred in residential aged care facilities and we are working together with the people of the Australian Defence Forces who are supporting the response in Victoria. We all know that our best defence is to stop community transmission, and this is where everybody has a role to play.
While the percentage of new cases among the residents of aged care facilities remains low, every case in a resident is a cause for serious concern. The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has now been functioning since Monday. The centre involves the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Commonwealth working together with a large number of aged care and other support organisations to respond to the very serious outbreaks that we've seen amongst residential aged care facilities in Melbourne.
Thank you to everyone who's dedicating so much time, so much energy to addressing these outbreaks, protecting residents and staff, keeping family members informed about each of their loved ones. We need to continue to support our aged care workers who are critical to the wellbeing of so many senior Australians and who are essential to our success in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The Australian Government is deploying additional AUSMAT clinicians to provide leadership in clinical care, in nursing, in infection prevention and control, and the use of personal protective equipment in residential aged care facilities where infections have occurred.
The Aged Care Response Centre will ensure that every residential aged care resident who needs care will receive care. The work of the response centre includes ensuring the workforce requirements in each affected facility are being met, that each outbreak is being responded to, that hospital transfers are being arranged when required, that all staff are provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and supported in ensuring infection control, the testing of residents and staff in facilities is a priority, and that family members are kept up to date about what is happening to their loved ones.
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. And the message for us all remains the same. The biggest contribution the people of Victoria can make is strict adherence to the restrictions in place. Stay at home, wear your mask and physically distance when you are outside your home or in the work place. Avoid crowds, arrange to get tested if you have symptoms. And if you have symptoms, stay at home.
Finally, it's essential that if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home in isolation until you are told otherwise by the state health authorities. You must not leave your home. Please take these requirements very seriously. There is no excuse for failing to adhere to these requirements. If you do so, you are putting at risk the lives of other people.
Finally, today is a very special holy day for Muslim people - Eid al-Adha, and if you're celebrating today, please do so in a COVID safe away, please follow the restrictions in your state. Thank you, I'm very happy to take questions.
Professor Kidd, just on the issue of masks, do you think masks should be mandated in Sydney hotspots?
Thank you. So, the question is whether masks should be mandated in Sydney hotspots. At the moment, the advice from the authorities in New South Wales is recommending, as the Commonwealth does, that people wear masks in areas of community transmission, particularly where physical distancing may be difficult, and also particularly if you are a person who is at increased risk if you are to be infected with COVID-19.
You mentioned strong measures though, would you consider changing this advice given the situation in Victoria and the threat of spread in these particular clusters?
Certainly. So, again, we are working very closely with the authorities in New South Wales and supporting the measures which have been put in place in New South Wales at the moment. We are seeing the continuing small numbers of reported cases of community transmission, particularly occurring on a number of areas across Sydney and also some other areas in New South Wales. Again, we will support the New South Wales government in the decisions they make.
What about the situation now that you've got Woolworths saying that we're recommending customers all over New South Wales and Queensland and the ACT wear masks, even in areas where there are no- where there is no transmission? Does that public health message sort of get maybe diluted? Do you have any input into that sort of announcement? Is it welcome or helpful?
Thank you. The question was about the announcement by Woolworths recommending that people wear masks in their stores including in some places where there is no community transmission at the moment. Each business, each facility in Australia is required to have a COVID-safe plan, and that plan looks at what are the risks to the staff of that business, and to the customers of that business. In this case, the people who do their shopping in that particular supermarket. Each business as part of their risk mitigation will be making their own advice to their employees and customers about what they are recommending.
At the moment, the advice from the AHPPC is not around wearing masks in area where there's not community transmission, unless people will feel comfortable doing so, particularly if you find yourself in areas where physical distancing may be difficult. And as we know, supermarkets can be one of those places where large numbers of people are coming together and there may be times when it may be difficult to physically distance from others.
We have on the phone, Tom?
Thanks professor. I just wanted to ask you about- you talked about obviously the work that's being done on potential further restrictions in Victoria. Obviously, workplaces have been identified as a big driver of the transmission. I was just wondering if can give us a sense, is the AHPPC looking at an industry by industry taken transmission and whether restrictions apply to different industries in different ways or do you envisage more potentially sweeping style of measure that we've seen in New Zealand for instance?
Thank you, so the question was about possible further measures in Victoria and whether the AHPPC has been looking at this industry by industry or whether there are more, the approach is more of a sweeping style of measures as we saw in New Zealand. Advice that has come from AHPPC does break down, especially for the stage three restrictions at very high levels four different industries. And this may be, for example retail industries, and for others. So we don't go right down to individual workplaces. Obviously as I said before, each workplace is required to have in place there COVID safe plan and the measures they are doing to mitigate any risks for their employees.
As you rightly point out Tom, there are some industries where we have seen significant outbreaks occurring in Victoria. One of those areas is among abattoirs and meat workers. And clearly a lot of work is going into ensuring that those people are being protected in their workplace, looking at what happens in those workplaces that puts people at increased risk and ensuring that we are not seen people working in a particular industry then returning home and putting their own family members at risk as well.
And we also have on the phone, Katie?
Thanks professor. Early on in the pandemic we were told that mask wearing could induce a level of complacency. Given we have got Woolworths telling customers in Canberra that they should probably wear a mask if they want to come shop there. And we have had no new cases of the virus here in three weeks. How can we guard against that level of complacency given we're being told to wear masks when there is not that level of community transmission?
Thank you, the question is; are we still concerned about a level of complacency when people wear masks and whether the decision, particularly about the supermarket and supermarkets in the ACT are recommending that people may wear masks when they are in those shops. So look, the concern about complacency is more around when people wear a mask, making sure that people are aware that just because you're wearing a mask does mean that you can stop the physical distancing. So if you're wearing a mask, please continue with the physical distancing measures, please continue with the hand hygiene measures. Please continue to avoid crowds and please, if you have symptoms, do not go out wearing a mask, stay-at-home and arrange to get tested.
So you're quite right, Katie, we cannot afford to become complacent anywhere in Australia, in response to ensuring that we are not seeing the spread of COVID-19 occurring. In the supermarkets, as I say, there will be many people who will feel more comfortable wearing a mask, including in the ACT where currently we don't believe we have any community transmission but of course, the border is open between the ACT and New South Wales where we do have community transmission occurring at this time. And so people may feel more comfortable wearing a mask in those crowded situations.
Just on Victoria again, if further restrictions are introduced as the Premier flagged today, does the clock reset in the sense of you know, how we were halfway through this initial six-week period? Does start another six-week period or however long, you're effectively looking at nine weeks' lockdown for parts of the economy there? And what does success look like given how rampant the virus is in the community? Elimination is probably going to be very difficult, if we had that as a strategy. What does suppression now look like at the end of this process?
So clearly what we are aiming for is to see no community transmission occurring across Australia and this of course is the situation in a number of the states and in the Northern Territory at this time. We would like to see the rest of the country move back to that position of having no community transmission taking place. We recognise we may still get cases of COVID-19 in Australia because we still have people coming into the country, people repatriating back to be with their families, other people who are involved in importing and exporting goods in and out of our country. And so we hope that we will be able to move back to the position of no community transmission occurring in Victoria and indeed in Queensland and New South Wales as well.
And the time, the clock resetting, are we sort of looking at a longer period of [indistinct]?
So the question about whether the current lockdown. In Victoria, in Melbourne in particular, may need to be extended is obviously going to be a question for the Victorian government. And we're going to have to see what happens over the coming weeks with the impact of the measures which have already been put in place. Remember the compulsory mask wearing only been in place for a week and so we need again to give that some time to have its impact. But also additional measures were put in place yesterday.
That's great, thank you everybody and thank you to our interpreter. Thank you.