Date published: 
17 November 2020
Media event date: 
16 November 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

JULES SCHILLER:

Yes, on a day where a coronavirus cluster was announced in Adelaide. It's been called the Parafield Gardens cluster. It's been caused by a leak from hotel quarantine. At the moment, 18 people are caught up in the cluster. Nicola Spurrier spoke earlier and they’ve been testing throughout the day. And up to 2pm, they hadn't found another case. Of course, that might not be the case tomorrow. They'll be testing well into the night. So, we are in a little bit of a precipice here in South Australia. But at the moment, the news is reasonably positive. Let's talk about the federal response with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd. Welcome, Michael.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Hi. Thanks, Jules.

JULES SCHILLER:

How concerned are you about what's happening in Adelaide today?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, clearly, we are very concerned with the outbreak that's happened in Adelaide, but I want to start by just saying a huge thank you to the people of Adelaide who have been advised, if they've been to a number of the venues where we've seen the people who've been infected have been to, those people who are queuing up and getting their testing and isolating and doing the right thing. So, thank you to everybody for playing your part.

JULES SCHILLER:

Now, I know there was an emergency meeting of the AHPPC today. What happened at that meeting and what support has been offered to South Australia, Michael?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah. So we had an emergency meeting today. Obviously, we had a report from the Chief Health Officer of South Australia, Nicola Spurrier, about all the details of what has happened so far and what we know and the restrictions which have been put in place. Also, the response is occurring in other states and territories in response to what's currently happening in South Australia. And also, we talked about the Commonwealth support, which is being provided to South Australia at this time.

JULES SCHILLER:

Was it recommended that other states shut their borders to South Australia today, Michael?

MICHAEL KIDD:

There’s not a recommendation from the AHPPC, but obviously, each state and territory is making up its own mind during the pandemic about when to open and close its borders to people from other states and territories. So, what we did find out today was what the approach was going to be in each state and territory.

JULES SCHILLER:

That makes it difficult for Australians to travel interstate over Christmas, don't you think, Michael, if states shut their borders with virtually no notice?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, obviously, this is going to be very disappointing if border closures remain in place for a prolonged period of time. I know there's a lot of people across the country have been looking forward; families coming together over the holiday period. I'm looking forward to going and spending time with my family in Adelaide over Christmas. I hope that we get this under control quickly and the borders stay open.

JULES SCHILLER:

Was there a request for more Defence Force personnel today?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So the Premier in South Australia has asked the Prime Minister for more support from the Australian Defence Force. So that support is being provided. Also, the Australian Government is providing the offer of additional support for contact tracing, using contact tracers based in the Department of Health in Canberra to back up the contact tracing, which is being done by the authorities in South Australia. We're looking at the PPE requirements for hospitals, for residential aged care facilities, for general practices in South Australia to make sure that the supply is there to protect our health care workforce and our aged care workforce. The South Australian Aged Care Response Centre is up and running, which is a joint initiative between the Commonwealth and South Australian Government, and that's working with the aged care facilities across Adelaide to make sure that they're all well prepared. And as you know, we've had two of the people who've been diagnosed, people who've worked in one of the aged care facilities. So, full support is being provided to that facility to make sure that we're doing absolutely all we can to protect the residents of that facility and to protect the staff.

And we have the testing facilities. The Australian Government has set up a number of general practitioner-led testing clinics in Adelaide. They're running at full capacity at the moment. They are able to test people, whether you have symptoms or not. And they're able to test people whether you have a Medicare card or not. The testing is free, as it is in the public hospital-run clinics across Adelaide as well. So, please, if you do have any symptoms, really important that you isolate yourself away from other people, but that you do get tested and do that straight away. And for people who are particularly vulnerable in Adelaide, please isolate at home, avoid any unnecessary travel. If you have a loved one who is vulnerable and they need their shopping done, do the shopping for them. Let them stay at home where they’re safe. While we work out over the next couple of days whether this outbreak is just confined to the family group where it's currently been diagnosed or whether we've had further community transmission occurring.

JULES SCHILLER:

You’re listening to Professor Michael Kidd. He’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer. We're talking about this latest outbreak in Adelaide, which I'm sure you're aware of. Professor, can I ask about the hotel quarantine program for international travellers? This is the second time the virus has leaked out of that program into a CBD. Is it time to review the way that that program is being conducted?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, firstly, you have to remember that we've had over 100,000 Australians who’ve been able to return home to their families because of the hotel quarantine program being run all around the country. And so, we've had tens and tens of thousands of people who've come through this program. We have amazing people who are working in that hotel quarantine program right around the country. We've just had a national review of the hotel quarantine carried out by Professor Jane Halton, who's the former Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health, and she's reviewed the quarantine arrangements in each of the states and territories. We've also had a review by Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist, looking at the contact tracing arrangements in each of our states and territories, and Alan Finkel gave a very strong message of support for the arrangements which are in place in South Australia to follow up people who've been tested and to make sure that we're able to do that contact tracing very rapidly. And I think we've seen an example of that over the last 24, 48 hours where the South Australian public health authorities have been incredibly vigorous in following up the contacts. But we all need to do our own part as well. So, as I said before, if you have symptoms and you're in Adelaide, please arrange to get tested.

JULES SCHILLER:

As more people come back from overseas as we approach Christmas, Michael, and looking at the infection rate overseas, you’d imagine the percentage of travellers returning to Australia would- there’d be a higher percentage of them having COVID-19, so are you resigned that, from time to time, this infection is going to leak out into the community from hotel quarantine?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, what we know is that the rest of the world is now experiencing the start of their second wave, and we’ve seen very concerning rates of COVID-19 transmission, and, of course, when you get high levels of transmission you start to get deaths occurring as well. And we’re seeing that occurring across Europe at the moment, in the UK and of course the continuing cases in the USA, but also many other parts of the country where Australians are coming back from, in South America, in the Middle East, in South Asia. And so, we expect that we are going to continue to have people who are infected with COVID-19 coming into the country, fortunately we have the hotel quarantine barrier there, but we need to maintain that barrier, and make sure that we don’t continue to get any leakage from there. So, I know that we’re still- in South Australia, the authorities are still looking to see exactly what happened to lead to lead to this outbreak over the- picked up over the weekend, but as a consequence of what they find, we’ll be looking at the measures right around the country.

JULES SCHILLER:

Is- have you thought about moving hotel quarantine into more remote areas, Professor Michael Kidd? Regional areas, to stop this leakage?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, we have got- some of the quarantine is occurring in more remote areas, for example the emergency repatriations flights from India and from Europe are flying in vulnerable Australians, so young families, to come back and be with their families, these flights are going into Darwin, and those people are going into quarantine at the Howard Springs facility, which is outside of Darwin. But the hotel quarantine in the cities has been working well, apart from the single outbreak that we saw occurring in Victoria and now, as we say, we need to find out what’s happened here in South Australia.

JULES SCHILLER:

Phil has called, from Woodside, on 1300 222891, hi Phil.

CALLER PHIL:

G’day Jules. Yeah, I’d like to know what’s happening with the COVIDSafe app, because we’ve had it for six months, and I deleted mine last week after the police commissioner said it was good as useless- they haven’t actually found anyone with it. And I’ve actually turned my location services on with Google, because they’re probably a better spy than the COVIDSafe app is, but yeah, we haven’t heard anything about it.

JULES SCHILLER:

Professor Michael Kidd?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah, no, thanks Phil. And thanks for raising the issue of the COVIDSafe app. So, I’ve said a million people in Australia have downloaded the COVIDSafe app, but we know the time that the COVIDSafe app comes into being useful, is when we start getting community transmission of COVID-19. And we saw examples of it being incredibly useful, particularly in New South Wales, with the outbreaks that we’ve seen there over recent months. We had one example where someone had the app on, we were able to pick up over 450 people who he was not aware that he had been in contact with, and two of those people were subsequently diagnosed as having COVID-19. So, these are people who wouldn’t have been picked up otherwise, and as we know, it only takes one person to lead to a very serious outbreak of COVID-19. So Phil, my advice to you with what’s happening in Adelaide today, and to everyone else in Adelaide, if you’ve had the app either turned off or you’ve deleted it from your phone, today is a really good day to put it back on your phone, and to turn it on and make sure it’s running in the background, on your phone. So that if you do come in contact with somebody, it’ll get picked up.

JULES SCHILLER:

Professor Michael Kidd, you mentioned a federal- sorry, a federal aged care response. What does that entail?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, so, following on from the lessons that we've learnt from the outbreaks in New South Wales aged care and then in Victorian aged care, each state and territory has been supported to set up an aged care response centre in partnership with the Australian government. And those centres are, if you like, the nerve centre in each state to work with the residential aged care facilities and with the home-based aged care services to make sure that everyone is prepared for the potential risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 that everyone has in place the preventive measures to protect the residents. And then if we do start getting community transmission, there are a number of measures which will be swung in which will help to protect the people who are living in those facilities. And so, for example, today, the government in South Australia has initiated that we're going to restrict visitors into aged care facilities in Adelaide, people who are visiting and going to be required to wear a mask. The staff working in the facilities in Adelaide have already been trained up on wearing masks and wearing face shields so that if anyone is infected but asymptomatic, and happen to be coming into a facility, we dramatically reduce the risk of them transmitting COVID-19 to the very vulnerable people living in the facilities. So, there's a range of measures which are in place and the aged care facilities in Adelaide will be doing- will be putting all this into place as we speak.

JULES SCHILLER:

Alright Professor Michael Kidd. Thanks for your time this afternoon, appreciate it.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks Jules, thank you.

JULES SCHILLER:

That’s Professor Michael Kidd, he’s the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at a federal level, talking about the response to this Adelaide outbreak from Canberra.

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