Date published: 
16 February 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:         

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, joins us now in Canberra. Professor, how can an operation like this happen while also containing any risk of the virus escaping? How are they going to do this?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, fortunately the authorities are very experienced in moving around people who either are infected with COVID-19 or are at risk of having COVID-19. So, I'm sure this will be carried out very carefully and appropriately, making sure that all the appropriate security measures are in place to make sure that we don't see any transmission of COVID-19 occurring while these folk are moved from one hotel to another.

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

It reminds us, I guess, of how tenuous sometimes safety can be in these quarantine facilities.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, it does. I mean, my understanding is the hotel in Melbourne has had problems with its water pipes - I guess that can happen in any facility anywhere in the country. But, really important, they're acting very quickly to move people to a place where they'll be safe and secure.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:         

Let's look at Victoria, because there's only a handful of cases but the entire state is in lockdown. Does that have to happen? Or is there some kind of compromise that you can do?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, we're still learning a lot about COVID-19, particularly these new variants which have been occurring around the world. What we've seen in Victoria, as of yesterday there were 17 cases of COVID-19 reportedly linked to that initial case in the Holiday Inn out at the airport. The big concern, of course, was where people had been moving to - during the period when they were at risk of being infectious to others and that of course included someone working in Terminal 4 at Melbourne Airport - very large numbers of people going through the airport.

So, the five days has provided a circuit breaker, if you like, to make sure that there's not going to be further transmission; give people time to follow-up on all the contacts; make sure everybody has been contacted, tested and we have their results; and we know whether the outbreak is more further afield than just in the workers and their families.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:         

Right.

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

So, I guess everyone in Melbourne this morning will be waking up going, is this going to end? There is some indication from Dan Andrews that he hasn't made the decision yet - he may be waiting on the latest data, or in the next couple of days at least. Do you think Melbourne is ready to come out of the lockdown? Can it do that now?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well again, that is a decision of course for the premier and for his advisors, but I imagine the premier is looking very closely. We'll obviously – I’m unsure if they've announced whether there's been any additional cases diagnosed overnight, but if there have obviously that will weigh into the decision, as will looking to see what the progress has been on following up on all those contacts to make sure that we haven't got more widespread transmission.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:         

Now, here is one that has come out of left field. Billionaires Lindsay Fox and John Wagner, offering to establish separate camps in regional Victoria and Queensland. What do you think about that?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, what we've seen is the hotel quarantine system. Yes, there have been a couple of- well, a few outbreaks occurred related to hotel quarantine, but it has allowed well over 200,000 Australians to return home and be with their families throughout the pandemic. We've also seen the camp facility at Howard Springs which has been very successful as a site for people returning back to Australia, particularly on the chartered flights. The advantage of the Howard Springs facility is it is still very close to the Royal Darwin Hospital and to other essential services if people become unwell while they're at their facility. So, if we're looking at other facilities it is going to be really important that people are still able to access urgent health care services if and when they're needed.

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

Yeah. But, Toowoomba is a good option and the Wagner's have a massive runway there and plenty of space. Look, just before we go, I know the vaccine rollout, the first jabs in arms are expected next Monday. Also coming out of the UK today, the knowledge that we will be living with this for some time. So, even the need for quarantine services outside hotels maybe, and we'll need that for a lot longer. Are you confident we can stick to that schedule, first of all? And what difference will it make for us in terms of living in Australia?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

So incredibly exciting news yesterday with the vaccines arriving in the country, and we're anticipating the first doses of the vaccine are going to be administered to people on Monday of next week. What we do know though is that it's really important that even if people have received the vaccine - and of course, you have to get two doses in order for it to be fully effective.

But, people are still going the need to adhere to the public health measures that we have in place. There are still many things we don't know about the vaccine - whether people who have been vaccinated can still transmit COVID-19 to other people even though they don't have symptoms, and we don't know how long the immunity from vaccine is going to last - these are things we're going to discover overcoming months. And as always, it's the research and the evidence which is driving our public health policy and helping to keep us all safe.

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

Professor thanks for talking to us. Appreciate it.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:         

Thank you.     

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