Deputy Chief Medical Officer press conference about COVID-19 on 5 August 2020

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd's press conference about COVID-19 on 5 August 2020.

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General public


Here is the national update with figures as at noon today. In the past 24 hours 739 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 exceeded by 30 July when we reported 747 new cases. 19,444 people have now been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in Australia. Over the past 24 hours there was 725 of these new cases in Victoria. 12 new cases have been reported in New South Wales, one of these was overseas acquired and the person is in a quarantine hotel, the other 11 are locally acquired. One case has been reported in Western Australia, again overseas acquired and in hotel quarantine and one case has been reported in Queensland, which is still under investigation.

Given the upward trend of infections in Victoria over past days, the number of reported cases today is not a surprise and reinforces the importance of the Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and the expansion of the Stage 3 restrictions in the rest of Victoria. I hope it won't be the case, but it may be, that the numbers will go even higher over the coming days before they start to come down as a result of the impact of the restrictions and the changes in behaviour among the population. Everyone in Victoria must be following the restrictions in place. While we continue to see such high levels of community transmission in Victoria this poses a risk to everyone in the state and especially to older Australians and people with chronic health conditions. Every time we have hundreds of cases being reported in a day, we know we will see more people being hospitalised and the risk of more people losing their lives to COVID-19.

We have seen another 15 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours, all in Victoria. I'm sad to report that this is the highest number of deaths in a single day to COVID-19 in our country. It brings the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Australia to 247. The people who have died in the past 24 hours included four people aged in their 90s, six people aged in their 80s, four people aged in their 70s and one man aged in his 30s. This is a stark reminder that while most of the deaths from COVID-19 are in older people, COVID-19 infection can be fatal to anyone at any age. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and to their grieving family members and friends.

There have now been 3,891 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia in the past seven days. Nationwide there are now 566 people with COVID-19 in hospital. 538 of these people are in public and private hospitals in Victoria. This is an additional 83 people hospitalised since yesterday. This includes many people who have been moved from residential aged care facilities to private and public hospitals in Victoria. We thank the dedicated health care workers who are providing care to all of these people. Among those in hospital there are 51 people in intensive care units which is seven more than yesterday. 36 people are reported to be on ventilators, which is three more than yesterday. Over 4.5 million COVID-19 tests were carried out yesterday across Australia. Thank you to everyone who attended for testing. Please if you have symptoms of fever or cold or flu, no matter how mild, please to get tested wherever you are in the country.

We have received further reports that some people with COVID-19 who have been told to isolate in their homes have not been at home when health personnel have come around to check up on them. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home. You must not leave your home for any reason. You must remain in isolation until your public health authority has told you that you are free to leave isolation and leave your home. Please take these requirements very seriously. If you fail to do so you are putting at risk the lives of other people.

We know that the majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 will not require hospitalisation but if you are infected with COVID-19 and you are now in home isolation I strongly recommend that you reach out to your general practitioner using telehealth either by telephone or video call and let your GP know that you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and then remain in regular contact with your general practitioner while you are in isolation. This is especially important to reach out if you notice a change in your symptoms, particularly if you start to spike a fever or if you start to have increasing difficulty with your breathing. A reminder that in some cases your GP will have been notified by the laboratory which conducted your test that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but it may be that your GP has not been notified, so please don't assume that your general practitioner knows you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please be pro-active and reach out to her or to him.

To all those who are in Victoria in lockdown, we stand with you at this very challenging time. Please continue to look after your physical health, please continue to look after your mental health, please continue to look after everyone who is sharing your household with you. To those in other parts of Australia, please take the time to reach out and offer your support to your family members and your friends in Melbourne and in other parts of Victoria. A surprise phone call, an email, a video catch-up, even a card or a letter with positive messages of love or support can make a big difference to our family members and our friends in Victoria who find themselves living under the restrictions in Melbourne and in other parts of the state at this time.

Thank you, I am happy to take any questions.


Today Queensland closed its borders to the ACT and the remainder of New South Wales. Their health Minister actually said the entirety of Australia was now experiencing a second wave, is there any evidence that anywhere other than Victoria is actually experiencing what you would deem a second wave and what is the medical reason for closing the borders to the ACT which has had no community transmission?


Thank you. So the question is about the closure of the borders of Queensland to people from New South Wales and the ACT. Is there evidence outside of Victoria that we are seeing a second wave in Australia and what is the rationale for closing the border, particularly with the ACT where we don't have community transmission. So thank you.

The issue of - of Queensland closing its borders to New South Wales and ACT residents is, of course, a decision for the Queensland Government. At the moment, we are certainly seeing very serious resurgence of COVID-19 in Victoria. We are seeing a smaller resurgence occurring in New South Wales. We continue to see the number of new cases in New South Wales being in the teens rather than continuing to rise and that is very encouraging and is a testament to the excellent work that the contact tracers and the public health authorities are doing in New South Wales to try and keep the outbreaks under control. We have, of course, seen additional measures between New South Wales and Victoria announced today as well. The justification for including the ACT in the termination by Queensland is obviously an issue for the Queensland Government. The challenge, I imagine, is because of the open border between New South Wales and ACT. There is nothing at the moment to stop people from moving between those two jurisdictions.


There are earlier reports this afternoon that Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will be stepping down from that role. Is the AHPPC been made aware of that or are you able to provide any clarity on his position?


Thank you. So a question about the report that Professor Brett Sutton may be stepping down from his role in Victoria. I am not aware of those reports. I am not able to make any comment at the moment.

I have on the phone Josh.


Thanks, Professor. The Prime Minister spoke this morning at a security conference about vaccines, of how a vaccine might be distributed around the world if one particular country makes a breakthrough first, is there anything that can be done now or is being done to kind of reserve Australia's place in line to get supplies of potential vaccine if and when it is available, like are we or can we make deals at this stage with anyone. And on a related note, a second question if I may, the WHO chief said this week there may never be a vaccine. Do you believe that is a viable possibility at this stage and what might Australia eventually look like if we don't ever get a vaccine for coronavirus?


Thanks, Josh. I will just repeat the question in case it can't be heard. The question is about vaccines and what we are doing to ensure that if a vaccine does become available that it is available to people in Australia and the report from the Director-General of the World Health Organization that there may never be a vaccine and our views on that position? So clearly there is a lot of work going on both in Australia and overseas looking to have a vaccine against COVID-19. A lot of the world's greatest bio medical researchers are involved in this quest. There is a lot of collaboration between researchers in different countries. Australia has been reaching out to many of the vaccine developers both within Australia and also overseas to offer our support and also to ensure that once vaccines are available they will be available to our population. Of course, in order for Australia to open up our borders once a vaccine becomes available it will need to be available to everybody in the world, not just to individual countries. So it is really important that the vaccine developments that take place are going to be providing solutions which are going to work for everyone in the world and that the vaccines will be available in all countries around the world.

The issue about what if we don't get a vaccine, the Director-General of the WHO highlighted that we may of course be living – continuing to live – with COVID-19 for a significant time and we are aware that we may all be living with COVID-19 for many more months. This may even be years, until an effective and safe vaccine has been developed and is able to be distributed and administered to people right around the world. So we do have to be preparing to live with COVID-19 for as long as possible. Clearly the aim in Australia is that we will continue to drive community transmission levels down to as low as possible to allow the people of Australia to get on with their lives.

Any further questions?


Yes, so-


Sorry, [indistinct] yes.


It's just regarding mental health; Professor Kidd were you, even prior to the pandemic viewed mental health was a big concern, indeed we are already seeing some reports of increased reliance on services like Lifeline for example. I wanted to find out from you if you think there is a case to be made on a mental health basis for exams year 12 [indistinct] to be delayed or even cancelled for this year?


So the question is about mental health impact of COVID-19 and particularly the impact on youth mental health and whether there may be a case for delaying examinations, particularly for year 12 students who are under a lot of stress, particularly in Victoria at this time. Clearly the decisions around examinations in Victoria are an issue for the education department in this state. We are aware that year 11 and 12 students are under a lot of stress, particularly in Victoria and particularly now that we have seen young people who had started to go back to school over the last few weeks who have now gone back to doing their studies at home. We do know that their teachers are doing a spectacular job supporting these young people in their final years of education and in their examination preparation. So we will leave to it the authorities in Victoria to determine about what happens with examinations. But the important point that you make about mental health both for young people and for everybody, we do know that people who find themselves under these stage 4 restrictions in Victoria, many people are going to be feeling very anxious and fearful about what's happening. Many people are going to be feeling very angry and frustrated and many people are going to be feeling quite isolated and despondent.

So please, if you are experiencing mental health challenges please do reach out. Reach out to the telephone services through Lifeline and Beyond Blue which are available to you. Reach out to your general practitioner using telehealth. We have the availability of mental health plans which can provide sessions of counselling for people who are experiencing mental health concerns, particularly for those in the areas in Melbourne and in Victoria which are under these current restrictions.


Professor Kidd, today New South Wales announced that Victorians who travel to the state will have to undergo hotel quarantine. Did the AHPPC provide any advice to the state when making that decision and either way, is it in your opinion a proportionate response to the risk of Victoria's COVID spreading over the border?


Thank you. So the question is about New South Wales imposing a requirement that people returning to New South Wales from Victoria will be required to go into two weeks of hotel quarantine I believe from this weekend. This was not a decision of the AHPPC, this is a decision of the New South Wales Government taken in response to concerns about cases of COVID-19 which have come into New South Wales from Victoria. The border measures are obviously in place to prevent the movement of people between the two states and from New South Wales obviously into the ACT as well. And obviously it is up to each Government to make determinations about what measures they think are most appropriate to protect their population from COVID-19.

Last question, Steph?


Just lastly if I may, today a number of states have made big decisions, changes and backflips to their policies, are you concerned that as this drags on and politics becomes more of an issue between the states, within the states, that some premiers will end up making decisions that aren't necessarily led by health advice? And would you like to see them more forth coming with what that advice, that modelling, actually is that's informing these border closures?


So the question is about the decisions we've seen made by a number of premiers today and whether we'd like to see those decisions being made based on health advice as we move forward. Clearly each premier is looking at the situation in their state. They are taking advice from their chief health officers who are all members of course of the AHPPC and as I said are responding in the way that they think is most appropriate to protect the public health in their own state. It is not surprising that we're seeing a significant number of changes because the levels of community transmission in Victoria continue to be high. We have seen obviously the bringing in of the Stage 4 restrictions, which underscores just how serious things are in Victoria and obviously the Premiers of other states are looking at what's happening across the border in Victoria and are wanting to make sure that we don't see further community transmission occurring between the states.

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


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